This week, I've put together that list for you, with links to websites where you can check airfares, hotel rates and theme park ticket prices. These include all major U.S. airlines, hotel and theme park chains, as well as direct links to airlines (such as Southwest) and hotels (such as Disney World's) that don't show up on the big industry-wide search sites.
If you want to get a sense for whether airfares will be going up or down between your home airport and your dream destination, visit:
If you are considering staying at an on-site hotel at either the Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando resorts, you'll want to check prices and availability directly on their websites:
Disney's hotels rarely show up on industry-wide hotel search forms and Universal often offers perks on its website that are not available through other sites.
Speaking of perks, you migt just want to go ahead and click directly to each resort's special deals pages:
We have a special section on Theme Park Insider devotes to reader ratings and reviews of hotels in and around major theme parks:
If you are looking to search for a wider variety of hotels, including all major chains, you should search the major hotel search engines:
Many people book discounted hotel rooms using services such as Priceline.com, where you can bid for hotel rooms, not knowing the exact hotel where you would stay. For theme park trips, I've found Priceline and such services less useful, since proximity to the park is so important to me. Again, if you don't mind staying what might be a bit of a drive away from the park, go ahead and give Priceline a try. But visit BiddingForTravel first to learn effective strategies for bidding for hotel rooms on Priceline, if you've never done that before.
If you decide to book a hotel at Disney World or Universal Orlando through those parks' websites, do still check their ticket prices first through these pages. I have found cases where those resorts' hotel booking page did not offer me the best deal I could get on tickets from their ticket-only pages. You can book the room only on the hotel reservation page, and the tickets on the tickets page, if that gets you a better deal.
Major chains and multi-park resorts:
Other individual parks:
Don't forget to look at annual passes. Six Flags and Cedar Fair [Cedar Point, Knott's, Kings Island, etc.] annual passes are good at all parks in those chains. Some Busch Gardens/SeaWorld passes are good a multiple parks in that chain, as well. If you are planning to spend more than a single day at a particular park or chain, an annual pass might offer you a better price per day than buying individual tickets. In most cases, you do not need to live nearby a park to buy its annual pass.
Remember, theme parks have gotten more aggressive about offering deals through their own websites, so don't assume that discounters offer the lowest prices.
Finally, once you've got some numbers from these websites, remember to plug them into our spreadsheet to estimate the cost of each trip you are considering.
If you have a specific question about family vacation planning, and how to get the most for your budget, please e-mail Theme Park Insider editor Robert Niles via themeparkinsider - at - gmail.com or this form. He will select questions to answer in a future column.Tweet
Many, if not most, of those booths and fronts you see for "discount" tickets require you to sit through timeshare presentations, IME, so my thoughts on them apply.
Went to DC this past June, roundtrip from Seattle on Airtran (hated it) and the tickets were still pretty spendy. Again, I wonder if it has anything to do with the distance?
I've been leery to use priceline.com because it appears you have to pay for your ticket without knowing who you're flying through, how many layovers, and what time. Too many unknowns for me.
Another avenue to pursue if you want to book an ALL Disney trip is one of the authorized Disney planners like Small World Vacations. They do an excellent job of getting you the best out of Disney for your buck. There is no extra charge for their assistance, but you should make sure you are serious about a vacation (and do some of your own research) before using their service.
On a side note: rumors are circulating (www.touringplans.com) that some bargain basement, room-only discounts will be offered at WDW this week. Keep an eye out for them....
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A couple of things that I would add: If you want the good deals out of Chicago (like Jetblue for NY) its Airtran from Midway Airport. Did it once, not too luxurious, but cheap cheap cheap!
Also, and I do not think that this can be stressed enough,BE CAREFUL WHO YOU BUY TICKETS FROM! Esepcially for Disney and Universal, there are many stands outside the Disney Grounds offering ultra cheap tickets. Do not buy them! The tickets might be unauthorized and Disney will not accept them! If you want cheaper tickets, pretty much looking through AAA is your best and sometimes only best bet. Outside of Disney, I do believe the Flex ticket for the other Major Theme Parks are still around. The game with Disney is to decide how many days you plan on going and then buy said tickets. Disney reduces the price per day if you buy more.