Trip Coach: November 27, 2007
Mary Waring of mousesavers.com answered your questions on Disney vacations in Orlando and Anaheim.
Hackensack, N.J.: We are planning our first family trip to Disney World in late August 2008 (two adults and two children). We have received identical prices from Disney and a travel agent who specializes in Disney trips. I am not sure if I should give up control of my vacation to a travel agent when their price is the same as Disney. I like to research and plan but I am feeling overwhelmed. Any advice as to what I should do?
Mary Waring: The reason you've received identical quotes is that discounts for next August haven't been released yet. Discounts typically don't become available much more than 2 to 4 months in advance. The top Disney-only travel agencies will make a reservation for you now at regular price and then continue to monitor your reservation, later applying any discount or promotion that may become available. They usually know when the discounts are about to be released, and they are on the phone to Disney first thing in the morning on the release date. Discounted rooms and vacation packages often sell out very quickly, so it can be an advantage to have a Disney specialist travel agent working for you.
A Disney specialist agent will be able to offer you useful advice and helpful tips. In addition, some agencies will book your dining reservations for you, which can save you a lot of time and toll charges. (Disney doesn't offer toll-free numbers for its room or dining reservations.)
By the way, if a travel agency books a Disney hotel room or vacation package, there should be no cost to you, since the agency is paid a commission by Disney. Agencies that book airfare will charge a fee for that, since they no longer get any commission from the airlines. I recommend booking your own airfare directly through the airline's own web site.
In short, unless you really have a strong preference for doing everything yourself, I don't see any down side to using a Disney specialist agency. I recommend an agency on my site that I use myself.
Fairfield, Conn.: Does Disney World allow you to bring food/drinks/cooler into the parks?
Mary Waring: Officially, Disney asks that no outside food or drink be brought into the theme parks. Unofficially, this is not stringently enforced. Bags are searched, but a few items in a small soft-sided cooler (such as sandwiches, crackers, granola bars, juice boxes or bottles of water) will be ignored.
If you eat your snack/meal discreetly, without using park resources (i.e. taking up a table at a restaurant without buying anything) and you don't make a mess, no one will say anything to you.
You absolutely will NOT be allowed to bring in the following: hard-sided coolers, large coolers, glass containers, or alcoholic beverages. Also, you cannot bring any type of straws (even the little ones attached to juice boxes) into Animal Kingdom.
Providence, R.I.: Are there discounted dining options for Disney or discounts for an annual pass?
Mary Waring: There are many, many discounted dining options—too many to detail here. Among other things, you can save with the Disney Dining Experience card or the Dining Plan at Walt Disney World. There are also coupons, various membership discounts, etc.
Annual Passes are only discounted for Florida and California residents, for Disney World and Disneyland respectively.
Las Vegas, Nev.: I am taking my husband and our 2 kids (Sean, 4, and Jack, 20 months) to spend Christmas in Disneyland, California. We are celebrating not only Christmas, but having the whole family together at last. This is our first Christmas together and also their first time to see Disneyland. I am on a tight budget so how do we make the most of our trip?
Mary Waring: Christmas is a beautiful time to visit Disneyland, but expect crowds. You'll want to get up early and head straight into the parks as soon as they open. The crowds really pick up after 10:00 am, and the Fantasyland rides your children will enjoy are very slow-loading. Lines for Dumbo just get bigger and bigger as the day goes on.
Since you're on a tight budget, I would recommend booking a hotel off-site but within walking distance of the parks—there are many. This will save you money on your hotel bill and you won't have to pay for a shuttle service.
As far as tickets, be sure to buy them in advance. You'll save a lot by not purchasing Disneyland tickets at the gate. If you or your husband happen to be in the military, be sure to check with your MWR office to buy discounted military tickets, which are a great deal.