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Mike Scopa

Deciphering Disney's “Magic” Tricks

Walt Disney World's Magic Your Way Packages 101

Friday, February 18, 2005
by Mike Scopa, staff writer

In my last article, we looked at Walt Disney World's new Magic Your Way tickets (link). But those were just the beginning. Along with the new ticket program comes the Magic Your Way packages. The question on everyone's mind is, just how good are these packages? Are they right for you? They are a good value?

In this session, I look at the three top packages and compare them to an a la carte approach. By the end of this session, we will be in a better position to determine whether a Magic Your Way package is right for you.

Before we get started, it's probably a good idea to toss in a caveat that says that prices on these packages can vary depending on what you elect for ticket options and resort class (Deluxe, Moderate, or Value). Therefore, what we discuss here are ballpark figures—a travel agent or the Disney Travel Company can best give you specific costs for your package.

Introduction to the Packages

On January 2 Walt Disney World began offering the following three new packages:

Disney's Magic Your Way Package – includes accommodations at an on-site Disney resort hotel, Magic Your Way base tickets, and a Walt Disney Travel Company luggage tag (woo hoo).

Disney's Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining – includes accommodations at an on-site Disney resort hotel, Magic Your Way base tickets, and a dining plan that offers two meals and a snack per person, per package night at more than 100 restaurants throughout Walt Disney World, and lest we forget, a Disney Travel Company luggage tag (bestill my heart).

The Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • 1 table-service meal of appetizer, entree and non-alcoholic beverage and gratuity/service charge
  • 1 counter-service meal of entree and non-alcoholic beverage
  • 1 snack, such as novelty ice cream, box of popcorn, or medium soft drink at select counter-service and snack-cart locations

Disney's Magic Your Way Premium Package – offers accommodations at an on-site Disney resort hotel, Magic Your Way premium tickets (which includes the Park Hopper and Magic Plus Pack option), as well as:

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner plan per person, per night at over 100 participating Walt Disney World table-service and counter-service restaurants, Disney dinner shows, character dining, and signature dining experience restaurants (includes applicable gratuities/service charges, excludes alcoholic beverages; certain other limitations apply)
  • Unlimited selection of recreation, including golf, guided fishing excursions, water sports, tennis, and more (restrictions apply and advance reservations may be required)
  • Admission to the Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba (one admission per person)
  • Admission to Disney children's activity centers at a select Disney resort (ages 4-12). Certain restrictions apply.
  • Unlimited admission to Magic Kingdom tours, including Disney's Family Magic Tour, Disney's “The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains,” Disney's Keys to the Kingdom, Mickey's Magical Milestones, Epcot Tours-Gardens of the World, The “UnDISCOVERed” Future World, Hidden Treasures of World Showcase; Disney's Animal Kingdom Tours-Backstage Safari, Wild By Design (restrictions apply to selected tours, subject to availability and schedule)
  • Admission to all Grand Gathering experiences. Must have 8 or more in the party. Advance reservations required and subject to availability
  • Official Walt Disney Travel Company luggage tag (I know… you were worried)

Before we go any further, here are some noteworthy items that you may not have known about these Magic Your Way packages:

  • All guests in the same party on a package must select the same ticket and options. You can't have Mom and Dad with some options and Junior and Sis on others.
  • All children in your party ages 3-9 must order from the kid's menu, if available.
  • Guests staying in the same room have to all be on the same package.
  • The length of the ticket does not have to correspond with the number of nights you are staying at a Walt Disney Resort hotel unless you are doing the Disney's Magic Your Way Premium Package: The length of Magic Your Way passes must equal the number of nights of the resort stay plus one day.
  • There is no longer a minimum length of stay for a package. Previously you had to stay a minimum of three nights.
  • The Magic Your Way packages do not include the Swan and Dolphin hotels.
  • These packages designate three distinct guest groups: adults (18 and over), juniors (10-17), and children (3-9).

If you are seriously considering one of these packages, take note of all these requirements and also understand that meals and extra are not refundable.

More simply, if you don't use it you lose it.

The Jones Family

Let's look at the Jones family. We have the parents, June and Ward, and then there's 15-year-old Len who is—that's right—a junior in WDW's eyes, and of course, there's 8-year-old Lilo. June and Ward want to go on a 6 night/7 day vacation and they have started looking at the packages. They plan to go in April.

The Magic Your Way Package will cost them:

  • $1,500 at a Value resort
  • $1,800 at a Moderate resort
  • $2,500 at a Deluxe resort

Since the tickets are Magic Your Way base tickets and they know they are going to park hop, they should add another $149.12 (four Park Hopper options at $37.28 apiece) to these prices.

Let's look a bit closer at the Deluxe resort price tag, now pegged at $2649.12 with the Park Hopper option. Tickets and room for that amount at the Grand Floridian? Sign me up. Oh wait, there's some fine print. That $2,500 price tag is only for Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge.

Oh well, they've always wanted to stay at the Wilderness Lodge.

The total cost of their 6-day park hopper passes is $942.55, which leaves $1706.57 to cover the room, or about $290.47 per night.

If you go to Walt Disney World's Web site at www.waltdisneyworld.com and look up a standard room at the Wilderness Lodge for 6 nights, the quote that comes back is for $1,599, tax included.

Hmmm, that's $107 less than the package. Where does the difference come from?

Oh I know… it's the luggage tags. They must go for about $26.75 apiece.

Of course, I'm joking. However, unless my abacus is on the fritz, it seems to me that a 6-night stay (calculated here using rack rates) at the Wilderness Lodge, along with four 6-day Park hopper passes (3 adults and 1 child) comes to $2,541.55. Take away the Park Hopper option, and the price tag is $2,392.43.

The Magic Your Way package comes to $2,500 without the Park Hopper option and $2,649.12 with the Park Hopper option:

 

Magic Your Way Package

A La Carte

Difference

Without Park Hopper

$2500.00

$2392.43

$108.00

With Park Hopper

$2649.12

$2541.55

$107.57

These are based on regular season prices, so we are comparing apples to apples.

However, what about Annual Passholder deals?

If this vacation was being planned for 6 days for a peak season month for the Wilderness Lodge, the Jones would have the option of using the Annual Passholder specials for that month.

Of course this would mean that Ward would have to purchase an Annual Pass at a cost of $428.60. Add that to the $696.53 cost of the 6-day Park Hopper passes and admission cost now totals $1125.13.

The current Annual Passholder special this month for the Wilderness Lodge is $156 for a standard view. My estimate with taxes makes that $176.28 per night, with a 6-night stay costing $1057.68, making the total for tickets and room at $2182.81. Let's revise that table:

 

Magic Your Way Package

Annual Pass Special

Difference

Without Park Hopper

$2500.00

$2070.97

$429.03

With Park Hopper

$2649.12

$2182.81

$317.19

On the surface, it looks like I'm pushing everyone to purchase an Annual Pass. I'm not. I'm just pointing out that if you really break down the cost of these packages then you may find that they may not make good use of your vacation dollar.

About This Dining Plan

The Disney dining plan that comes with the Disney's Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining and Magic Your Way Premium Package could work for some but may not work for all. Ask yourself these questions:

How much do I eat when I'm in Walt Disney World? This question can help you decide if you would get your money's worth out of the Premium Package. Some guests prefer to have one or two sit-down meals a day. Remember, if you don't use it you will lose it. Do you want to pay for something you may not use?

It would make sense not to waste any of your plan meals on breakfast. Why? Well you'd probably get your money's worth out of the plan if you paid for your breakfast out of your pocket and used that sit-down meal for dinner. Dinner is probably a higher cost than breakfast.

How much time do I want to spend eating? How valuable is your time in Orlando? Many people have told me they start off with a light breakfast, have a late lunch, and then finish off the day with a light snack here and there. This helps them make the most of their day. A light breakfast gives them energy to start the day, and if they get a little hungry before lunch, they grab a snack at a counter. A late lunch fuels them for late afternoon and evening, while late snacks can fill any hunger they feel at night.

Will I use a car? OK, what does this have to do with the dining plan? The flexibility of a car offers you better use of your transportation time. There are 100 restaurants in this plan. Limiting yourself to WDW transportation also means limiting yourself to only a handful of restaurants because of time.

These are just a few things you should be thinking about when considering the Dining plan. If food is the focus of your WDW vacation then this Dining Plan is for you.

The plan offers some flexibility. Guests can “exchange” meals. For instance, if you go to one of Disney's “Signature” restaurants, like Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian, Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge, or the Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot, you can exchange two table service meals for one signature meal. You can also exchange two table service meals for a dinner show like Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian or the Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness.

Premium Package Scenarios

Before starting this section, I need to confess to everyone that at first my intention was to gloss over it. However, after looking at the details I thought otherwise. It's really important to understand what this particular package is all about.

Let's say that the Jones family wants to see if the Magic Your Way Premium Package would work for them. They decide to look into how much this package would cost if they stayed at a Value resort like Pop Century.

They look at the 6-night/7-day Magic Your Way premium package. The cost for such a package is $1,382 per adult, $1,121 per junior, and $811 per child. The total cost—and remember, this does not include the cost of airfare or rental car—is $4,696. That is not a typo. And remember, we are talking value resort, so you know the price is higher in other resorts.

This package presents a challenge: How too make good use of your time to ensure you get the best value from it.

Let's try to estimate what those $4,696 get for the Jones, individually, at full prices:

4 Magic Your Way Premium tickets

$1136.22

6 nights at the Pop Century during Regular Season

$662.40

4 tickets to La Nouba

$300.00

1 trip to DisneyQuest

$140.00

1 visit to Typhoon Lagoon

$140.00

1 Hidden Treasures Tour.

Of the tours that come with the package, only this Epcot tour can accommodate all family members. I am obviously making an assumption that they would want to take a tour as a family. Age restrictions make this tour the most appropriate tour for our scenario.

$240.00

4 for Hoop Dee Doo Revue, since they might as well take this $176.09

Sub-total:

$2,794.71

Our subtotal of $2,794.71 means that we are $1,901.29 short of the cost of the package.

Now let's focus on our meals.

We still have 64 meals left on our plan. We started off with 72 (four persons eating 3 meals per day on the plan for six days, which equals 72 meals). We used up 8 of those meals for Hoop Dee Doo.

If we can fit in another 16 meals before we leave, each meal would go for about $29.71 each. Of course, if some of those meals are breakfast meals, then that would call for an expensive breakfast, especially for 8-year-old Lilo.

I think you're catching my drift here.

If you plan to keep a close eye on your budget, it will be hard work to get the proper value out of this package. I'm not saying it's impossible, just hard work. In this particular case, we have only 6 days to work with so finding the time to make use of everything on the package is quite challenging.

We haven't even mentioned things like golf, tennis, or other options that this package offers.

I'm sure there are some people who will find these packages quite convenient and can map out a vacation itinerary that works towards getting good value out of their package dollar.

However, the big obstacle with the features-filled Premium Package is time. Do you have enough time in your vacation to do everything this package offers? Remember, if you don't use it you lose it.

My goal is not to steer you away from these packages but to make sure you realize what it takes to get the true value out of these packages.

I have to admit that I am a bit cautious when it comes to any vacation package.

The $700 Man

Back in 1992 a friend came to me and asked that I help him plan a week in Walt Disney World for his family. The vacation was to include my friend, his wife, and their 6-year-old son. He wanted to stay at the Polynesian.

We sat down and worked on all the line items. I came up with a cost of $2,800 for a week at the Polynesian, and that included airfare, admission, room, and meals.

It was an a la carte plan—not a package—securing the components piecemeal.

I gave him complete details on how to get the discounts and he thanked me for spending the time and said he would look into all I had put together for him.

The following Monday he came up to me and told me he was all set. He had gone to a travel agency and had booked a package; deciding it was easier to do that than all the stuff I had discussed with him the previous Friday.

The cost of the package was $3,500—a whopping $700 more than my original estimate (and I was estimating high).

His package did not include a car rental but did give him a few meals and such options as those old “Fun and Sun” deals like golf, sailing, and horseback riding, none of which he ended up using during their vacation.

He wasn't concerned about the price, though. He commented on how much work it would have taken to get all the discounts I had pointed. For him, convenience won out over cost.

Today's Magic Your Way packages are similar—providing convenience for a lot of WDW guests, such as first-time visitors who are confused by terms like Park Hopper, Priority Seating, Early Magic Hours, and other WDW lingo, as well as those who just want to experience WDW and prefer convenience to economy. They welcome these packages, which make for an enjoyable vacation unemcumbered by a lot of meticulous planning.

I know that my $700 man was pleased when he came back. He didn't use all his perks but he was happy. And I'm sure Walt Disney World was also happy he didn't use all his perks.

If you are interested in any of the Magic Your Way packages, my suggestion is to get a quote from your travel agent or the Disney Travel Company. Then do a little research and see if putting together your vacation a la carte provides you with significant savings.

Next Time

Remember that letter to Al Weiss with all those suggestions? Yeah, I did send it to him. In our next session, I'll tell you what resulted from that letter.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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