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Taking questions on trip planning and budgeting

Written by
Published: October 30, 2008 at 9:51 AM

Next week I am starting a series on Theme Park Insider to help people plan their 2009 family vacations.

Next year is shaping up to be a tough one for many families, when people will need to be extra careful with their spending. Some will skip vacations completely, while others will write off the possibility of visiting someplace like Orlando, believing it to be too expensive.

I've been visiting theme parks, as well as many other top tourist destinations around the country, for decades. And, trust me, with a degree in journalism, I understand working in low-paying jobs with little money left at the end of the month for travel.

Plus, I know a lot of other smart people with experience in trip planning, too. So... starting next Thursday, I'l be writing to offer advice and answer questions to help people plan their family vacations for 2009 and beyond.

If you have a question, or a topic you'd like me to address, please e-mail me via themeparkinsider [at] gmail.com. Please feel free to e-mail me any money-saving tips you've used that you think might help others, as well.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from many of you.

Readers' Opinions

From Deidre Dennis on October 30, 2008 at 2:50 PM
I don't know if it's really a money saving tip, but since we made family vacations a priority in 2005, we have always pre-paid for our trips months prior to departure. We usually go in June and pay for everything by January, February at the latest. We booked our trip for 11 days to WDW this month (October) through WDW travel, which is nice because it allows you to put down a deposit; you just have to ensure that the balance is paid in full about 45 days prior to your departure. We treat it like it's a regular monthly bill.

Since we're starting earlier this year, we decided to buy tickets to the other parks besides WDW each month. November we'll buy our Orlando VIP express passes; December we may skip altogether since it's Christmas; January we'll buy our SeaWorld & Aquatica Passes; February our Kennedy Space Center tickets, and so on. Any money we get from income tax return will be put into our vacation savings account or pay off the balance owed on our WDW resort vacation.

In my husband's line of employment, he receives a step increase and a cost of living increase every year. This year I was able to get a raise myself. We made a commitment to take a vacation every year and this year we went on two. For us it's important to take a family vacation together so we specifically budget for that.

The only (and best, in my opinion) piece of advice I could offer is to plan early and save up specifically for your trip, if your household budget will allow.

I probably could have saved my fingers until you actually did your post. I am very much looking forward to this topic of discussion as we are now in the throws of planning our 2009 trip.

From Dan Babbitt on October 30, 2008 at 7:39 PM
I say you get a job at Disney and Universal and all them and get the discounted tickets and accommodations! And the Cast Member gets free admission to the parks!
From Anthony Murphy on October 30, 2008 at 8:36 PM
I would say start to talk about more local parks than the ones in CA and FL. Of course, this would mostly be Six Flags Parks, but if people still want to go to Theme Parks, Six Flags is very very cheap compared to Disney or Universal. Just an idea. It would also be great to talk about doing Disney and Universal as cheap as possible. I would be interested in hearing that question answered.
From Alan Puscus on October 30, 2008 at 11:09 PM
Just wanted to pass on some savings info on SFMM. I don't know if the other SF parks offer it, but SFMM has a twicket
deal that will get you a second day for around $7.00/head.

Last July I got myself and two others in for two days for the price of $134 by buying one season pass, using a buy one get one free Coke can and buying two twickets.

Breakdown:

Day 1 admission/1 guest-season pass $60.00
Day 1 admission/2 guests-Coke can $60.00
Day 2 admission/1 guest-season pass, no charge
Day 2 admission/2 guests-twickets $14.00

Total of $134. Compare this to Disney for two days/3 people!

This maybe old news to locals, but if traveling on a budget
this may be helpful. And as this is one of SF premier parks a two day visit is probably in order for out of towners. Or at least a day and a half (using that 1/2 day to arrive and hit the park or leave early and hit the road.)
As of now, I've heard that 2009 season passes have just gone up to $69.99. You may also want to call and inquire about the twicket deal as they don't advertise it. One more
thing, if you find a buy one, get one deal tell them your intentions for using the twickets. I told them and they were cool with it. In theory, two people could get in for two days for a mere $74. Remember to call about the deal first, they've had it for years and years but things could change.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Robert, as for as tips I'd like:Ohio/Pennsylvania parks- plan of attack. I've never been. I'll keep checking in.
Sorry for jumping in there like this, I hope you don't mind. Just felt excited about sharing a good deal I enjoyed.

From Corey Romberg on October 30, 2008 at 11:34 PM
I wonder if the Travel Channel is going to replay their "Disney on a Dime" special??

Here are some tips for doing Disney World cheap:

a) stay at a Value Resort, they can be fairly cheap, but still have good amenities and very good themeing

b) if you are staying for a week or two, stay at the Ft. Wilderness Cabins; they have a kitchen, and a mini mart on property, so you can shop and cook in your room and have breakfast and sometimes even lunch or dinner in your lodging, which will save you A LOT of money

c) if you plan on eating at the parks often, get the Disney Dining Plan, it will save you money in the end if you use up all your meals and snacks

d) Get a Magic Your Way ticket package; the more you play, the more you save; as you increase the number of days on your ticket package, the price per ticket gets increasingly lower

e) If youre going in 2009, try to go on some family member's Birthday; it will save you $75 dollars very easily right away, whether it be for the free ticket, or say youre an AP holder, a $75 gift card for food and merchandise

f) Even though the Full Service F&B meals are nice, you will save a lot of money, and time, by just eating at Quick Service (counter service) restaurants...they still provide good food and lots of choice...Turkey Legs are a cheaper option and fill you up just as much if not more than a full meal

It really all depends on the sacrifices youre willing to make. For some that may be shopping less, or not shopping at all (wait, its impossible to not shop at Disney! never mind! less sounds better), for others it could mean sharing meals; maybe you can only go for one week this year instead of your usual two; or 3 days instead of 5; or if youre a family of 5, trying to squeeze into one hotel room instead of buying 2....there are lots of ways to make your Disney vacation cheaper, and Disney is fully aware of the economic situation and the effect it has on tourism, so they will have no choice but to cater to the tourists and find ways to make our vacation destination more affordable for the average family

From Bo Pedersen on October 31, 2008 at 11:04 AM
Here in the UK I am sure I am not alone Lamenting the loss of Travel City Direct (XL)

these guys have been doing some offers
http://www.ocean-usa.co.uk/ hope you dont mind the link.
I did keep calling them oceanic, which is a bit scary for us Lost viewers :)

anyway here's hoping that when I have the funds to book a vacation they have suitable offers.

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