December 17, 2003 -- Disney is a world. DisneyWorld alone is big enough that many people can spend a week there every year and never get tired. It's popular enough that we have a full online guide (www.frommers.com/destinations/waltdisneyworld) and publish eight different books to help you get the most out of the world's greatest theme park. And that's not counting Disneyland, Disneyland Paris or Disneyland Tokyo.
Disney magic ain't cheap, though. Enter Mary Waring, creator of MouseSavers.com (www.mousesavers.com) and probably the world's greatest expert on saving money at the Disney theme parks. Waring's vast, continually-updated site is a treasure trove of money-saving information, and the perfect companion to a Frommer's guide. We'll tell you where to go. She'll give you the most up-to-date ways to save money doing it.
Two Big Ways to Save at Disney
Waring says the two big-ticket items Disney-goers struggle with are park tickets and hotel rooms. Disney virgins are often shocked to find that tickets cost even more than lodging, she says. But she knows ways to soften the blow.
"Disney will tell you there are only two places to buy tickets, Disney and AAA. In reality they have contracts with a number of ticket brokers," she says.
While the shorter, 4-5 day tickets are cheapest from Disney and AAA, different AAA regions sell the tickets for different prices, she says.
For hotels, official Disney discount codes (similar to the Amtrak codes we like to write about) can knock hotel rates down by 35-45%, she says. Anyone can use these codes -- they're publicized -- just not well-publicized. Waring's site tracks these codes on a day-by-day basis.
"You could potentially save $1,000 on a trip" with the codes, Waring says.
Beware the apparent savings of staying in off-park hotels, she adds. Because of the price of tickets, "you're paying a lot per minute" to see the parks. Wasting your time on long shuttle bus rides to and from a distant hotel "may not be worth it to you," she says.
An Accidental Mouser
Nowadays, Waring heads down to Disneyworld four times a year and makes her living off of merchandise sales through her site. But it wasn't always thus.
Back in 1996, Waring had to be "conned" by her brother into going to Disneyworld; she returned for her honeymoon in 2000. A self-proclaimed "discount diva," she kept stumbling across deals in her research, eventually making a private Web page that she pointed a few friends to.
Friends told friends, and one day Waring looked up and "realized I had 23,000 visitors in six weeks," she says. Realizing the power of Disney discounts, "I kept finding new information and adding to it." Eventually, she quit her job to update the site full-time.
Nowadays, MouseSavers gets a million hits a month. Just under 60,000 people are signed up for Waring's monthly newsletter on Disney deals, and another 12,000 get daily emails listing site updates. They'll be happy to hear that Waring says she's just getting started describing Disney discounts.
"If you think the site is crammed full now, I have tons more material," she says.
Have you used MouseSavers successfully for your Disney vacation? We'd love to hear about your trip. Just click here to post your tale.