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HOW TO PLAN
Scroll down to Step 4 to hear the second half of the planning proccess, Episide 2.1 The DISNEY DINKS grid.
Step 1: Pick your dates
So as DINKS, you've got one big advantage over most Disney goers. It's the NK thing. Unburdened by those little bundles of joy, Walt Disney World is your oyster! You can travel, unfettered, literally any time of year!
But wait! That, in and of itself, is overwhelming! Don't worry. Let's start with a simple process of elimination to help us hone in on our best travel times.
Rule #1: Avoid the seasons when kid-laden families flock to Disney
So, the entirety of Summer is out. Just strike June, July, and August from your list. Now, some people will tell you that late August starts to see a dramatic lessening of crowds, as many schools are back in session and those that aren't are hunkering down and buying Trapper Keepers. True. But have you even been to Central Florida in mid-to-late August? People have been known to completely liquify, their particles suspended limpidly in the wall of air-water that engulfs the entire state. So unless you're one of those rare people who thrives in the thick, wet, oppressive heat, probably skip August as well.
Next up is Spring (March-April), which is also beset with school-related traps. Notably, SPRING BREAK! Spring Breaks up and down the east coast and across the country vary so wildly that pretty much any given week during March and April has the potential of being besieged by families, teens, and/or both. Also, Easter happens somewhere in there, too. Just avoid.
Look at that--we've already crossed 5 whole months off the list!
Rule #2: Avoid the high holidays unless you're super into being at Disney for the high holidays
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's all fall into otherwise good touring months...but they also attract crowds wanting to experience the parks during these times. And for good reason. Seasonal decorations provide a festive atmosphere, and special events and parades and happenings get people in the spirit. But unless it's on your bucket list to pose under the Grand Floridian Christmas Tree or eat turkey at California Grill, it's best to skip these times as well.
So that leaves us with some nicely narrowed down potential travel pockets. All, unsurprisingly, have their own pros and cons
Rule #3: Evaluate the feasible months according to your own tastes and preferences.
September is great because the crowds are at some of the lowest levels of the year. Everybody is back in school and nobody is pulling the kids out two weeks in for ten days in Orlando. The downside is that September is still hot, and afternoon thunderstorms still roll in with sound and fury signifying your displeasure. So what you gain in crowd levels you pay for in potential discomfort. Your call.
October is more temperate than September (though it still ain't football weather in Florida), but it's also more crowded. And the closer you inch to Halloween, the more crowded things get. The first two weeks of October tend to achieve a nice mix of good, albeit still warm, weather and not-yet-oppressive Halloween crowds. We like this time.
Pre-Thanksgiving November is real nice, both temperature and crowd-wise. Put it on your short list.
Likewise, post-Thansgiving and pre-Christmas December constitutes a great between-holiday sandwich. The weather is generally sunny and perfectly pleasant, the crowds are pretty low, and you get to experience all the festive Christmas decorations. Of course, since so many people travel either for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or both), it can be hard to fit in an entire Disney World Trip between the two. But if you can swing it, you may be having your best holiday season ever.
January after the New Year's rush (which somehow lasts until the middle of the month) can be cold, then there's MLK weekend, and overall you might as well just wait until February.
That's because February offers the lower crowd levels you want along with (sometimes) climbing temperatures. But a word of caution: President's Weekend, which is President's Full-On Week in some places! SO the first two weeks of February are usually better than the last two weeks. The weather can be hit or miss, but is usually ok.
And that finally brings us to May, which is an overlooked and potentially wonderful month to visit. It's like the October of Spring, with Memorial Day taking the place of Halloween. School is still in session, it's the calm before the summer blitzkrieg, the days are halcyon and bright, and you can sneak in a trip without almost anyone even noticing! The only real caution is that May is summer in Florida, so it's going to start getting hot. Not July or August hot, mind you, but they start Spring Training in Florida in February for a reason.
So there you have it--a plethora of options to weigh, and 6 solid months, along with a few other holiday blocks, to avoid like the plague. Once you take your own personal schedules and preferences into account, you should be well on your way to picking the Disney dates perfect for your best trip evah!
Step 2: Book your resort
Now, as Disney DINKS, we certainly enjoy the finer things in life. But we’re also not dumb. So the first rule of booking your Deluxe Monorail Resort (or, you know, wherever you decide) is NEVER PAY DISNEY RACK RATES.
WDW offers significant seasonal discounts and special offers all year long. For Deluxe Resorts, this means savings between 25%-35% off sticker price, which makes them still a bit spendy, but much more palatable. Disney often excels at subterfuge (don’t get us started on DVC!), and there’s really no point in trying to divine what dates fall under what price classification (Value, Fall, Regular, Summer, Peak, and Holiday), especially because different weeks might meld together two different price categories. It’s all a bit inscrutable. Luckily there are resources out there!
Your best friend in finding the latest and greatest deals is Mousesavers.com. Specifically, follow this resort-specific link to see all current and future promotions. Mousesavers also has a handy dandy link where you can see when Disney historically announces their seasonal discounts (it’s generally the season before they will be applied). If you’re an extreme early planner and want to book a November trip in say, February, not to worry. Disney will honor room deals retroactively once they’re announced (though they will ask for their pound of flesh deposit up front). Just be sure to monitor when the deals come out, then call your friendly WDW agent and they’ll apply your discount.
Once we get the straight dope from Mousesavers, we mosey on over to the official Disney website and make our bookings right there. You can also call them (407-939-5277) if you enjoy human contact. Now, you can try for some savings gymnastics by seeing if you can combine a Disney seasonal offer with a concurrent discount from a site like Orbitz/Cheap Tickets. If that’s your jam, go for it. We tend to think the 30% off we usually get through Disney is good enough, and then booking right through Disney makes everything easier—because that’s also your home site for dining reservations, Fast Pass Plus, and checking and updating your daily itinerary. Time is money, and this streamlines the booking process for us.
If you book through a third-party site, you’re going to have to do a bit more juggling, so decide if the extra legwork is worth it to you to justify whatever (if any) savings you can find.
Anyway, now you've got a place to lay your head! What's next?
Step 3: Purchase your park passes
You’re excruciatingly close now to making your Disney vacation oh-so-real. And when it comes to getting your park passes, you only have to answer two questions.
1) Single-park or Park Hopper?
We pose this as a question, but there’s only one answer for the Disney DINK. If you’re committed to adulting Disney with the best of us, you’re already staying at a Deluxe Resort on the Monorail, you’re already rope-dropping every day and taking advantage of all the Extra Magic Hours. You're going to eat high on the hog at Signature Restaurants. So why on God’s green earth would you limit yourself to a single park per day? It’s almost an insult to even pose the question. So just get the Park Hopper for however many days you’ll be touring. The cost is negligible, and most days you’re going to be hitting at least two parks. You can also play fun and nerdy games like seeing how many days you can hit all four parks. Just like second place is the first loser, a single-park pass leaves us feeling sad and forlorn.
2) Do you purchase from Disney or from a third-party broker?
This answer depends on how much you’re willing to pay for convenience. In pretty much every case, you can score a deal on Park Hopper tickets using a third-party site. Our favorite is undercovertourist. They are 100% legit, and they include all tax and shipping in their prices. For a 5-day Park Hopper ticket, the difference between booking straight through Disney and getting your tickets separately from Undercover Tourist is about $90 (or $15/day).
So what’s the advantage of booking through Disney? It’s easier and more streamlined. You just add the tickets to your room during the check-out process and you’re done. No fuss, no muss. You don’t have to visit another site, go through a whole other transaction, fill in your contact and payment info, compulsively check the mail and make sure your partner/roommate doesn't throw out the envelope, etc. Also, your tickets are automatically linked to your My Disney Experience (MDX) account if you book through Disney, which is what you want.
On the other hand, in order to get your tickets loaded onto your MagicBand, you have to manually link them on the MDX website once you receive them. And to us, that’s just one more thing that can potentially go wrong. The last thing you want is a fresh new MagicBand that doesn’t recognize your tickets.
So, in true DINK style, we choose convenience over minor savings and get our tickets through the Disney site. You follow your heart and do what’s right for you. It’ll be fine either way.