May 9, 2012

Magic Our Way

We're a la carte when it comes to booking our vacation. We purchase everything separately - room, tickets, airfare, rental car.  And the room-only reservation is to blame.

Well, that and the Dining Plan.

Brownie Sundae at 50's Prime Time Cafe
The first time we went to WDW as a family we booked very late - just a month or so out.  We hadn't been to Disney World in over a decade, hadn't been with kids at all, had never stayed on property, so many options, so much money!  I can see why people opt to use a travel agent.  All the choices can be overwhelming.

So I called a friend of mine who is a Disney Specialist travel agent.  Kim quoted me prices for the Magic Your Way packages and mentioned the free dining promotion if we booked by June 15.

Hmm, did I mention we hadn't been to Disney World in over a decade?  In fact, we hadn't taken a big family vacation ever.  So many options!  So much  money!  We just couldn't commit.  June 15th came and went.

I know, I know.  I am hanging my head in shame, but that's just the way we are.  We had just lost the opportunity for free food, but I had to shake it off and move forward.  As it turned out, missing the free dining was a blessing.

After perusing many websites and reading my Unofficial Guide cover to cover, I decided I could plan and book our vacation.  So with a little confidence under my belt, I booked Old Key West with a room-only discount and it proved to put a little extra money in our pocket.  We saved more money on our room than we spent on food.  Granted, we ate a few meals in our room and split some in-park meals after we realized how big the portions were, but...
  1. Having a full kitchen in our hotel was an additional money-saver.  Sure, it meant we had to make a trip to the grocery store, but we actually think that's a fun Arrival Day Activity.
  2. We weren't locked into eating all those restaurant meals which we tire of after a while, giving us much more flexibility in our dining choices.
  3. We didn't have to factor in park time for breakfast and that meant we could sleep a little longer - hey, 30 minutes is critical.
  4. We started the day with a hearty meal - eggs, toast, milk, oj.
  5. The dinner advantage gave us the opportunity to wind down at the end of the day and enjoy a quiet meal, just our family.  We even played games after dinner a couple of nights.
Primo dining area at Old Key West.  Notice that balcony seating is also available!
So faced with free dining again for this trip, we opted for the Magic Our Way package (my invention).  Because we were staying in a deluxe villa, the room-only discount was 40% which more than paid for our food.  Plus, we had the choice of anything on the menu and could eat on our schedule.

We also liked the flexibility of the room-only reservation.  It requires a deposit of one night's stay and can be cancelled for a full refund up to 5 days prior to arrival.  Four days or less, you forfeit your deposit.  You can make changes any time up to 5 days prior to arrival at no additional cost.  We also asked about cancelling mid-trip and were told that you only pay for the days you're there. For example, if we had to check out three days early, they would refund the remainder in full.  Nice!

I made our reservation over the phone and wrote everything down in my spiral notebook - date, booking agent's name, deposit amount, confirmation number, cancellation rules.

Like I said, room-only fit us perfectly. Magic Your Way packages have different rules and may work better for you depending on your preferences, but a room-only is definitely worth looking into when Disney is running a special.

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