My wife and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary on the 23rd of January, and thanks to her awesome planning, we were able to take our longest and cheapest per day trip to date…
When we got married, we had to decide between Asheville, NC and Disney World. We set our hearts on going to Disney. But as it got closer and we needed to decide if we actually going to go, we decided to go to Asheville, based on what we could afford on at the time. We were a little bummed that we couldn’t make Disney work then, but we had an amazing time regardless. After we got back, we decided that we wanted to go to Disney, and so we began to save…
We went to Disney World in September of 2011, just under 2 years after getting married. We arrived on a Sunday, and left Saturday. We both love animals, so we made sure we could stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We were also lucky enough to get a Savannah View room. Waking up to see giraffes and other animals outside your balcony is something words cannot describe. When all was said and done, we spent approximately $3500 for the week on the room, dining plan, souvenirs, flight, etc.
We had such a fun, romantic, and relaxing time that we started planning our next trip back the day we got back to NC. We set the trip date for our 3rd anniversary in January of 2013. We chose Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa this time, since we were going with another couple. We also wanted to try a different area of Disney property. The proximity to Downtown Disney was awesome, and not as noisy as I thought it would have been. We got a 1-bedroom Villa, and also purchased the dining plan. With everything, we spent approximately $3500 from a Wednesday through a Wednesday.
When we started talking about what we wanted to do for our 5th anniversary, we both decided that we would like to go back to Disney. It was the only choice we could agree on. We do not have children at this point in our lives, so it is just the two of us.
Before we got married, I had been to Disney as a senior in high school (I’m 31 now), as well as twice for 3-day conferences with my previous employer. We stayed at Hilton Lake Buena Vista, as well as Hilton Bonnet Creek. Both of these hotels are amazing, and great options for non-Disney owned hotels. Although I was able to experience Disney with these trips, I was never able to immerse myself in what Disney had to offer for adults. As most of you that are reading this already know, Disney for adults is amazing! Until I experienced it with my wife, I never knew how much fun Disney could be.
When we decided to go back, the Diagon Alley expansion had just started. We both love Harry Potter, so we decided that we wanted to visit both Universal and Disney within this trip, and allow for a day or two off to relax. We started to look at everything that we wanted to do, and very quickly realized that in order to get everything in one trip, it would be two weeks. We were very excited at the idea of spending two weeks at Disney. We were not, however, excited to see the potential price tag that a two week Disney vacation with Universal included would cost.
The first thing we did was set a budget. We set a preliminary budget for $4,000, and decided we would work within that budget to make sure we could experience all we wanted to do, where we wanted to stay, etc. Our main goal was to stay in the Magic Kingdom area this time, and specifically Bay Lake Tower, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, or the Grand Floridian. We knew right off the bat, that if we wanted to stay within our budget, staying at one of those 4 hotels for that many days was almost impossible.
We did some number crunching and came up with an idea. We decided that we still wanted to go the same length, but instead of staying on Disney property the entire time, we would split up with an off-site hotel, and drive (9.5 hrs) instead of fly. I have a rewards credit card with Hilton HHonors, and get points on stays and money spent. Luckily, I am doing more traveling with work, so I was able to use that card for points. So many in fact, that I earned 4 free nights at Hilton hotels, that we used for this trip. We also decided to forgo any presents to each other this past year. We also asked for gas cards, Disney gift cards, and Visa cards from our friends and family when they got us gifts.
Even with this, going by the rack rates of the hotels we were wanting to stay at, it was going to be hard to stay within budget. Until we stumbled across another way to get rooms in Disney. We were watching a few back episodes of the DisUnplugged on YouTube, we heard something about staying on DVC points, and decided to look into it. We looked at Dave’s DVC, and decided to give that a shot. We were not disappointed! We were able to get a lake view studio at Bay Lake Tower for 8 nights for cheaper than 6 nights in the room at Animal Kingdom Lodge and 7 at Saratoga Springs!
One of the biggest debates we had, was if getting the dining plan was worth it to us. The dining plan is great, but for us personally it is too much food. In our previous trips, we had the dining plan, and got meals we may not have gotten if we did not have the dining plan. Meaning, the meal had too much food, or the cost was more than we would have normally spent, etc. We opted this time to skip the dining plan, just because we believe it isn’t beneficial for us to get it.
We just tallied up the cost of for this trip, and the gifts we have received over the year helped tremendously. This trip was our longest trip ever to Disney, but was also the cheapest per day we have ever done. All in all, we ended up spending out of pocket for this trip the same as our last two trips. Considering this trip included 2 extra days in Disney Parks, and 3 days at Universal, I’d say we did pretty well to stay within our budget. We love Disney, and will continue to go back as many times as we can. We love the planning and seeing what we can do with what we can afford. We have received a number of great money saving tips and tricks for our trips from the DisUnplugged, DISboards, as well as wdwinfo.com, and they helped us plan a great 5th anniversary trip!