The Disney $1,600 vacation is as cheap as it gets

Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2007 9:11 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Disney World's latest televised campaign poses the unthinkable. As a pair of children sleep through the night, their parents are online, researching possibilities for their next vacation. "It's $1,600 for a week," the mother says as she prices a deal that includes park admission and Disney resort accommodations for the entire family. "We can do that." Motley Fool's Rick Munarriz explores the value in the Disney's latest marketing message.

Read more from The Motley Fool via MSNBC.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 9:13 AM
I think there is some value in these packages, but the problem is that they rope you into very long stays to get that value. I don't mind spending $1,600 in a week (it better be a monorail resort), but I don't want to spend that much time at Disney!
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 9:28 AM
It isn't a monorail resort for $1,600 no matter what time of the year. That price is based on value resorts during the "value" season.
*** This post was edited by loriu 1/31/2007 9:38:42 AM ***
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 10:03 AM
Jeff, are you being sarcastic or haven't you priced a monorail resort.

Those monorail resort rooms run $300/night easy.

I haven't looked into this years offer but they have done a siilar offer in the past for $1,500, you could count the extra $100 over a two year period as the normal effect fo prices going up.

As loriu pointed out, its at a value resort in low season, which in and of itself isn't bad, I mean how much time to you actually spend in your room. The value resorts lack table service restaurants, room service, bellhops and other services you may expect at a resort hotel. but do have multiple pools a video arcade and a layground for recreation, oh and a gift shop, I know you are shocked they have a gift shop. :)

Trasnportation to the parks is by bus or your own car.

The deal usually goes something like this: 2 adults, a teen and a child. Which means you aren't getting 4 adult fare park passes, and making the third person under 18, you aren't getting dinged for the extra person over two in your room.

But lets ballpark a 7-day no frills adult Disney ticket at $200 x4 = $800, plus 7 days/6 nights in the hotel makes $133/night for lodging. However, you can get courtesy airport motorcoach transportation (and luggage assistance), thats worth at least $30 a person.

Not a bad deal by any means, just maybe not as good as it sounds, compared to other vacation options. If you don't go to a Disney park all 7 days, the value gets worse. By all means go for it, but just bear in mind there is a food, souvenir and incidentals to budget for. If you let them bus you to your resort for free that makes it hard to get out to a grocery and get in some provisions. If you are interested check out the board plan which adds 2 meals a day to your package for about $45 extra per day per person.

Real world case - 2 years ago two of us went to Disney, we stayed in a Moderate tier resort, 7 day park passes wll all the frills for about $1400, plus airfare and airport shuttle service. Our incidentals were another $800-$900 (Souvies, food, misc stuff)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 10:25 AM

I don't mind spending $1,600 in a week (it better be a monorail resort)

Ha ha ha ha ha ha! That's damn funny! Even in deepest hurricane season, the cheapest monorail resort room will run you almost $1750 for seven nights with tax, and that's WITH a AAA discount---the rack rate is over $2000.

That's the room only. No tickets. No food.

During our typical visit, which is during the peak spring season (only Christmas is more expensive), a AAA-discounted room for a week is about $800 in the cheapest Value room (a 240 sq ft box with two double beds), $1250 in the cheapest Moderate room (a slightly bigger box with two double beds), and a cool $2750 in the cheapest monorail-resort room. Add tickets and food.

Instead, for the same effective cost as that slightly bigger Moderate box (annual maintenance fees plus 8% cost of capital), we'll be chilling out in a 2 bedroom timeshare, located directly next to CBR. Technically, it is not on Disney-owned land, but it is landlocked by Disney property, 5-8 minutes from the MK parking lot.

We just made the purchase this past December. I'll note that the only thing that made it cost-effective was the fact that we bought resale rather than retail. A timeshare purchase depreciates much MUCH faster than a car---we paid less than 10% of retail to buy our deed.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 10:27 AM
But Dave that "better" room has other perks besides the wallpaper & better views. You're paying for a better location on the property and apparently quicker transportation as Jeff pointed out in previous podcast(s). My girlfriend & I decided to go with a moderate resort for our May trip for those two reasons and a few more.
And I'm pretty sure Jeff knows how much a monorail resort costs.

*** This post was edited by Neuski 1/31/2007 10:29:50 AM ***

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 10:30 AM
I've never understood using the budget hotels on site. The bus service is so bad that it ends up being the worst part of the you end up needing your own car to make it work. Knowing can get better accomodations off-site, for the price, and not give up your freedom to visit the other area attractions.

If you are doing it right. stay at the big boy hotels!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 10:49 AM
Neuski/Jeffrey: the moderates and Deluxes aren't much better, and are sometimes worse.

The folks who write the Unofficial Guide to WDW recently measured travel times from resorts to the parks using Disney transportation. Average time from Pop Century, the "farthest" Value to MK: 31 minutes. Average time from most moderates: 29 minutes.

Even more amusing: Average time from the All-Star resorts (Value): 29 minutes. Average time from Caribbean Beach (Moderate): 37 minutes.

What's more: Average time from the Wilderness lodge, which is a Deluxe resort that is *on* Bay Lake, but not the monorail: 26 minutes.

And, it depends on where you want to go. The Grand Floridian is only one 6-minute monorail stop away from the MK (though it is 20 minutes coming back). However, it is 39 minutes, on average to Epcot. The farthest "Value" resort to Epcot? The All-Stars, at 36 minutes. Pop Century is only 27.

The place is just big, and nothing is fast.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:07 AM
Those are some good numbers to know.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:13 AM
I've seen the TV commercial for this deal a gazillion times. The fine print on that TV ad says the price is good for Value, Summer or Regular season..I think. Just seems to be in contrast with the article.

Also like the article's use of 'captive audience' - the same term we use to describe SF concerning the no re-entry policy.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:16 AM
Yeah, I know you can't get a monorail resort for that price, and that was kind of my point.

This is why I continue to spend liberally at Universal Orlando. Between cheap 15-month annual passes, nightlife within walking distance, parks within walking distance, restaurants within walking distance, some degree of exclusivity for queue management as a resort guest, a very nice hotel for $150/night, girly drinks at the pool, and things that hold my interest (coasters, Blue Man Group, dinosaurs), I have a leisurely time without fighting tens of thousands of people.

I don't deny that Disney has some fantastic stuff at their parks. I mean, they don't screw around in most cases, and have wonderful attractions. But if you're going to force me to do it all to reach a certain level of value, and there by force me to spend more, forget it. I'll go hang out with Spidy, Emeril and The Mummy.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 1:46 PM
My rule of thumb?

For the next 8 or 9 years I am probably relegated to Disney while the kids are still young. Once they hit that magic age (or height) then I'm sure I will spend much more time at Universal...unless Disney comes to it's senses and builds a thrill park by that time.

Jeff's points are valid. Universal is more accessible both financially and literally as the crowds are thinner more times of the year and it is contained in a much smaller area. If I were the folks at Universal, Sea World and Wet 'N Wild I would consider building a monorail or other transporation system in cooperation to make things even that much more enticing to guests.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 3:54 PM
Jeff, I'd be right there with you, but my kids are also squarely in the Disney demographic. We'll be there for another several years, after which time the Universal parks will see a lot more of our business. Once I get there, we'll probably go with the 10 day non-expiring Disney tickets, and spread their usage across 3 or 4 trips, spending the bulk of our time elsewhere. Still decent per-day pricing, without the per-trip commitment.
Thursday, February 1, 2007 2:39 PM
Universal is ALWAYS goning to be the poor cousin to WDW till they decide to put some money into the parks they have and add more. Since they were bought by GE they have added nothing new (Mummy was already in progress when it was purchased).
I like Universal and its offering, but till they spend big money adding numerous attractions to its parks it will only be a 2 day diversion for us, with most of my family's time spent at WDW. Which us why one park is very busy and the other is not bust.
Friday, February 2, 2007 1:47 AM
Just because it's more fun playing devil's advocate...

I'm your typical just-past-teenager thrillseeker who seems pretty geared towards what Universal has to offer, but when I go to Florida, Universal gets one day of my business and nothing more. Even with the two-park pass, I was able to get everything I wanted (including rerides) done in less than the full day and still be scrambling for stuff to do before the bus came to take me back to the Mouse House.

Compare that with my days at Disney. Several parks, most notably MK and MGM, are multi-day parks, and while I still haven't spent more than one day at AK, Epcot gets at least a day and a half to it as well.

The reason? I just don't feel like Universal offers enough to make it a long-stay resort option, but it also isn't really a radically great deal for the one- or two-day guest either. For the most part, it hasn't been added to or renovated since IoA opened, and the Studios has essentially turned into a ghost town for much of the year. For the hotel cost (which can be made roughly the same), I'd rather spend my time in a resort with enough options that I never feel bored.

Friday, February 2, 2007 9:23 AM
See, I tend to want to relax. A lot. Part of that is not spending time on trains and buses, and part of that is knowing I can take a mid-day break at the pool. That's not practical at Disney.

I will agree that Universal is not spending adequate money to really bring some new things to the table. There is something new in the pipe for IOA, but it's hard to say what kind of impact it will have.

In all fairness, I was able to do all of the things I wanted at Disney parks in short spans of time as well. My first day in December, we did all of Animal Kingdom, the big rides at D-MGM, and several of the majors at Magic Kingdom. That left a lot of time the next two days to take our time. I don't think that's any different than the experience we had at Universal.

Monday, February 5, 2007 10:35 AM
One can easily spend nine days at WDW and not get to everything-as evidenced by my own WDW trip in late August/early September. We never set foot inside either water park, unfortunately, and spent very little time ar Downtown Disney. We stayed at Wilderness Lodge, and as long as you have a plan for each and every minute that you're there, the transportation isn't bad. If you go during that time of year, you're getting value season prices with peak season weather and park hours. Plus, your chances of being upgraded to a better room are much better-just by saying we were celebrating our 5 year anniversary (which we were), we got upgraded to a pool/geyser view room on the fourth floor.

For 8 nights, tickets for 2 adults, and the Disney Dining Plan (more food than any human could ever possibly need), it cost us around $2300 including tax. And while I consider IOA to be my favorite park in the world, I couldn't see spending more than a day and a half at Universal Orlando. Perhaps if you go during the busy season you'd need more time, but every time that I've been in January and February I never waited more than 15 minutes for anything.


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