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MouseStation 296 - Saving Money on Your Disney Resort Vacation with John Papas

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In today's show, Mark is joined by our third Listener of the Month, John Papas, who talked about his strategies for saving money on travel to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, plus more Twitter/Facebook polls

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Thanks to our sponsors

Today's show is sponsored by:

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center. A luxury hotel one mile from Walt Disney World, where special MousePlanet rates ALWAYS get you at least 15% off the normal rates available for the property, and right now you can get rates as low as $129 per night – that's about what you'd pay for a Disney moderate resort!

Advantage Vacation Homes. A great vacation home rental company that gives you a place to stay with lots more space than a regular hotel room for a lot less money.

Feature: Saving Money on Your Disney Resort Vacation with John Papas

John started by talking about how Disney provides him with a respite for work and how he got into planning trips, thanks to a sad story of a friend that had a big problem due to a lack of planning.

John's key tips on saving:

  1. Always budget and stay within it. (John also has a reputation of being the most cost conscious when on company travel.)
  2. Start early. John starts in September for his August vacations. It's part of the fun!
  3. Use the Web. John uses Kayak and Sidestep to compare travel costs. He checks MousePlanet, AllEars, and other Disney sites to check for news of discounts.
  4. John goes to the Web sites and direct phone numbers of hotels. The Swan & Dolphin (his family's favorites) have great rates for AAA, teachers, etc.
  5. Go during non-peak times. John travels in late August for Walt Disney World and holidays and vacation time that California doesn’t have (i.e. "Jersey Week") for Disneyland. This will save you the most money. John uses blockout dates to judge the busiest times to avoid. Disneyland is great in late August because they don't have hurricanes.
  6. John uses Priceline for deals on hotels (because he has a family of 5 and they usually go for two rooms) and rental cars, but he always has a backup.
  7. John generally finds Disneyland cheaper due to the hotels off-site with free breakfast.
  8. Practice saving money for friends on their trips – sometime John makes them feel bad if they've already booked.
  9. John usually uses annual passes and the Disney Dining Experience (now Tables in Wonderland) to get two vacations in one year and lots of discounts during his trips.
  10. Make friends with the Disney phone people - they will help you in planning.
  11. Call back and ask for a lower rate if available. Watch MousePlanet's Walt Disney World Resort Update for discounts.
  12. Negotiate: some non-Disney hotels will lower the price if you call directly.
  13. Meals: use buffets for your big meals. Eat off-property. Downtown Disney Resorts have cool character meals. Bring your own snacks.
  14. Make kids part of the saving process – They can enjoy the parks without money, ie masks in Epcot. Kids are much smarter about money than we think. John's kids understand that it's easier to get another trip to Disney when they save money on souvenirs.
  15. Autographs are great souvenirs and don’t cost much.
  16. The most important is to have fun. Enjoy everything and try not to stress out. If the work necessary for intensive savings are not for you, you can do fairly well without stressing by using a package.

John and Mark also chatted a bit about Owner's Locker. John was looking for a comparison between the cost of shipping stuff down and back vs. keeping it in a locker. The comparison is on a page on the Owner's Locker blog.

Send us your money-saving tips!

We also got the full story on John's tip about not expecting conversations in a foreign language at Disney to be private, as some of the many international travelers may understand what you're saying.

Twitter/Facebook poll questions

We're continuing our new trial of spending the Thursday Listener Feedback time reviewing the responses to some questions that Mark was asking on Twitter and Facebook last week. If you'd like to get in on answering these questions in the future, you can follow Mark on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.

First, a listener-suggested question: Virgin Megastore at Downtown Disney closes in a couple of months. What should Disney put in there?

  • Virgin Megastore is huge. Hard to think of something to fill it. Maybe they can divide the space up. A superb restaurant maybe. I know some people are saying they hope they put Adventurer's Club there, but I know that'll never happen. Well, it is defintely prime real estate. What WDW needs is more GOOD restaurants.
  • A belt shop. Someplace that sells belts.
  • Several shops, like a mini-mall.
  • An Apple Store would keep the boss happy.
  • It should be the new home of the Adventurer's Club. Kungaloosh!!!!!
  • Replace the Virgin Megastore with a Mouse Planet/Mouse Station Megastore if Disney nixes that then a Disney Memorabilia Megastore.
  • Whaaaaat???? Why? I love that store! Ack, this is terrible! Well, maybe Adventurers Club would be acceptable, but where am I going to find all my hard to find Disney movies and foreign music?
  • ADVENTURER's CLUB!
  • A store with nothing but Disney books, music, and videos? Yeah, I know, I'm dreaming. I guess an Apple Store would work - at least I'd have something to play with while Suzy goes shopping...
  • I was wondering if this would happen, because they are closing the one in Times Square. :(
  • An expanded Adventurer's Club. (OK, I know that's not gonna happen, but it had to be said.)
  • A Mega Starbucks?
  • Every Disney Park needs a Starbucks. We are addicted, we need it. Now. Really. Coffee. Now.
  • Agree...starbucks!
  • The response offered by Ron Rowe, the reader that suggested the question: Turn it into The Disney Museum. It has enough space to put some of the larger items (an original monorail car, or ride cars), they could have different sections (movies, parks, animation, art, Disney Legends, etc.), and of course it could be another way for Disney to keep people in the resort area while making some money (souvenirs, admission, etc.). I for one would probably want to visit at least every trip since most museums change the main themes pretty often.

John would love to see the various Pleasure Island clubs set on different levels. Mark thinks that it might be a place to do a "Yester World" attraction to cater to the folks who miss the extinct attractions from years past. The last rumor that Mark heard was that it would be an ESPN Club, moved over from the Boardwalk.

Which Disney animated feature are you most looking forward to: Up, The Princess and the Frog, Toy Story 3, Rapunzel, or Cars 2?

7 - Toy Story 3
6  - Up
3 - The Princess and the Frog
3 - Cars 2
2 - Rapunzel

John's kids are crazy about Cars, so he's say Cars 2. Mark is really anticipating most of them and is having trouble picking just one.

WDW's Buy-4-Get-3-Free offer ends 8/15 (reserve by Sunday!). What should follow? More of the same? Free dining? Something else? Nothing?

  • What should follow buy 4 get 3....hmmmm... how about all Disney Podcasters get in free for life?
  • Anything but free dining!! I think the free dining is the second thing that ruined the food at WDW. The dining plan being 1st
  • Free dining would be the "traditional" late summer/early fall WDW promo - too bad we can't take advantage.
  • Whatever they do, I hope it extends through WDW MA so our teams get cheap rooms!
  • My guess is free dining from 8/16 to 10/2 or so. There have already been some personal promotional PIN codes for Free Dining for the dates I mentioned; as well as the fact that residents of the UK could book it last fall...but only Disney knows for sure!
  • From your mouth to Iger's ears. I'm goin 8/20-30....It will be SO much better for my budget. I'm looking through the couch cushions for change!
  • how about an offer of buy-4-get-3-free plus free dining.

John would like to see a "buy five day pass, get a free kid's ticket" or some similar deal. Since Mark usually stays on DVC points, he really doesn't have much of an opinion on this one, though indications are very strong that it's going to be free dining from 8/16-10/3.

Again, if you'd like to get in on answering these questions in the future, you can follow Mark on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.

March of Dimes

Mark was recently named the top walker for the March of Dimes Northeastern New York region for 2008, and second overall in Upstate New York (above the counties of Westchester and Rockland). MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners helped Mark to raise over $5,000 for the worthy charity. We're looking to beat that this year and raise $6,000! Just go to Mark's fundraising page and help to provide a better chance to prevent prematurity and to help those babies that are born prematurely.

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MouseAdventure at Walt Disney World, November 14

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Wrapping up

We've put together a new listener survey to help us learn more about you and what you like most about this podcast. This one is much more targeted than the old Podtrac survey. Please take a few minutes to fill it out and let us know what you think.

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Thanks to our audio engineer and sound editor Steven Ng.

Thank you for listening!

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The MouseStation crew (@MouseStation) currently consists of Mark Goldhaber (@MPMark) and Mike Demopoulos (@MPMike).