HELP! Room Only vs Package

I am planning our first (and maybe only, given the price!) trip to WDW in November of 2018. Our party includes 2 adults (my husband and myself) and our 3 kids (ages 5, 8 and 9) at time of travel. My parents will also be traveling with us (65+). I’m really trying to stretch our dollar, but have a question about rooms-only vs. package pros/cons.

I currently have a room-only reservation at Art of Animation (2 standard rooms). I am also in touch with a Disney agent who has been highly recommended to us, but I have not officially booked anything through her. I’m trying to decide if I should use her to change my room-only to a package so that I can tap into her advice and help planning.

Currently, it looks like booking room-only and buying tix through boardwalkticketing.com saves me $129. So, pro’s to room-only + tix separately: 1) $129 cheaper, 2) I can cancel 1 day prior (or not show up) and it only costs me one night stay, which is $230. Pro’s to using the recommended agent: 1) her advice and help. Cons: 1)Lose full package price if I cancel 1 day prior or don’t show up. 2) Costs $129 more.

If we were to cancel anywhere from 1-3 days prior, it would be because of something totally unexpected (i.e. health issue). So I don’t really see that happening. Is the advice from an agent worth the $129? Also, could I get a few “extras” if I convert to a package that makes it even more attractive?

I was all ready to book a la carte, but the savings of $129 is far less than I thought it would be. Unless I’m missing something, it seems like $129 to have a hand in the planning and reservation making would be worth it.

Not to mention the possibility of a discount coming out. I know discounts don’t apply to A of Animation. But if I have a package deal, could my agent explore availability at applicable resorts without me losing my Dining and FP+ reservations that will already be made?

My dates are locked in (7 park days + 2 travel days), so I don’t foresee modifying my reservation unless discounts were released.

I appreciate any and all advice. This is OVERWHELMING!!!

Are you getting anything for the $129 and the package beyond the Travel Agent’s advice? A free water park day? Mini golf? Something you would use? How much do you need the advice? If you’re a first timer it may be valuable to have some handholding if nothing beyond piece of mind.

I will say the last time we went we booked a room only plus tickets through a travel agent. i.e. we didn’t need to book a package to get the advice. In general she was mostly useful in sending reminders, etc. and things to think about for us, but we had been to WDW several times prior and preferred to do our own ADRs/FPs anyway.

In general I’d say Travel Agents are most useful if you’re saving money rather than costing you some simply for advice. If the TA can get you a room discount like MVT etc., I’d be more interested personally…

If you haven’t already seen this, take a look at the different rules between a room-only and vacation package:

You can always keep checking for a package deal that may eventually be offered for your dates and then change to that if it is cheaper than doing everything separately.

I would say that you will get more and better advice here (for “free”) than you would get from even an experienced TA. Not knocking TAs because they can make all of the planning one-stop-shopping (air, room, tickets, DDP, in some cases even book ADRs and make FPPs. But if saving money is your goal, any one of these things you can do for yourself - it just requires some time and persistence.

In all of my trips, I have never used a TA and I have never booked a package. I am retired military, so I either stay at a resort with a military discount, or if none are available, at Shades of Green. I get Military Salute tickets on base before I go. Using these two discounts, I can stay 6 nights at a Value and have a 5-day PH for under $1000. Not bragging, but I use this as an illustration of how finding separate room-only and ticket discounts can really work you your benefit.

I agree with @bswan26, there is no need to pay extra for what you can learn here and on chat for free. I only book room only, last time we had a package was 2011 and we go at least every year if not multiple times a year. The only time I use a TA is when MVT (Magical Vacations Travel) has their exclusive discounts. Even then, they just book it for me and make changes as needed. I do everything else like ADR’s and FPP. Still room only though, never a package.

I have booked package deals for the last eight years. I do this online at Disneyworld.com. I look for the special offers and book accordingly. In the fall they have a free meal plan. If you stay at a deluxe resort you get the free table service plan. If you stay at Intermediate or value resort you will get a free quick service plan. As stated earlier, a free meal plan is NOT free. You pay rack rate for your room and full price for tickets. You still save money if you use the meal plan options to there fullest. Now about Disney Travel Agents. Your going to find out that they will help you book your vacation but little else. They will NOT offer suggestions. They are trained to do this. They will NOT tell you about an upcoming vacation special if it does not exist at the time of your call. They will help you make requests such as room location and such. I have just for the first time changed my way of booking as I went to Magical Vacation Travel because of the big room discount. This is NOT always available for the date you may have in mind and only deals with the room portion of your vacation as far as a discount. You can get a max of 8 days of tickets through them with or without parkhopper and water parks and more. So the best way to get what you want is to go online and plan your own vacation. Once you have done this and the price looks right to you, either book it directly online or call and tell a Disney travel agent what you want and have them book it for you. Be prepared to wait a while to speak to an agent, sometimes an hour or more when they are busy. Also, NEVER book your airline flight via Disney Travel. There is no discount here. They will book you at the going rate on the day you make your overall reservation. Wait and book your own flight. The prices change daily and sometimes hourly.

I think you’ve already done about 80% of what the agent would be able to do for you. Keep in mind at this point, your biggest decisions are your FastPasses and any dining reservations…and the agent really isn’t going to help you much there.

Thank you so much for the replies! And such quick feedback! However, I’ll admit that now I’m even more confused. So many follow up questions…

What is MVT and should I be booking through them?

The agent I would use is a friend of a friend. I get the feeling she would offer personal advice while I plan the trip. Although, as you all pointed out, sounds like you all are a GREAT source of info, and can provide what she can in terms of advice.

If I’m room-only now, and make my Dining reservations in May 6 months prior, and then a package deal comes out for the same week of travel, can I change to a package and KEEP my dining reservations? (and FP reservations if I’ve made those as well?)

Here’s the crux of it - I chose Art of Animation because it sounds like the best of the value hotels. That said, if I can upgrade to a better hotel and get a “free” (I understand it’s not free in the end) dining plan, than great. IF (and that’s a big if) we consider any dining package, it would be the quick-service plan. We will do 2-3 sit down meals, but not one every day. We are staying 8 nights (Saturday - Sunday check out) with a 7-day non-park-hopper pass. We’ll be traveling this exact week next year. If anyone has any other misc thoughts about how to book, save money, etc - I’m all ears.

-Erin

I really appreciate the feedback!

MVT Here’s how it works. They buy packages of 10 rooms for at least a three day stay. These are standard rooms no view in particular. They guarantee Disney business dept. that they will fill these rooms and if they don’t they eat the cost. Disney gets their money either way. Because of this they can offer rooms at extreme discounts close to 50% off. They are not always available and go fast. Your APR’s for meals will not change whichever way you go. They are separate but you must cancel them if you aren’t going to use them at least 24 hours in advance of your reservation. Fastpass+ is tied to your theme park tickets. In order to make them you must have park tickets for the days you make them. If you cancel your tickets, you cancel your fastpasses as well. You said you were staying at Art of Animation. This is a value resort and you can only get free quick service meals if you have made your reservation at the time of this special offer. Usually September to early December. Check Disney Special offers online. Hope this helps

I agree with the others if you have any aptitude or desire for planning, the advice you’ll get here can save you a lot and the TA is not necessary for advice. (Although there are quite a few TAs that get a lot of love from users.)

As for ticket savings - I think you can do better than the $129 savings for 3 adults and 2 children.

I have a spreadsheet I created to help people figure out the best way to save money on reseller tickets and use them to upgrade to annual passes (APs). But, you don’t need to be in the market for an AP to use the sheet - it will also tell you the best current prices from the 4 commonly used resellers.

When I plug 2 adults and 3 children into it, the best savings among the resellers for 7 day Park Hoppers, Undercover Tourist’s price is $345.50 lower than Disney’s GATE price.

I use gate price in my sheet as opposed to Disney’s online ticket price because that is the value Disney should use when upgrading the tickets to APs. Disney’s gate price is $21.30 more per ticket.

If you factor in that you would probably buy Disney tickets online and not pay that extra charge, you are still going to be saving $239.

(FYI: Someone told me about a 5th reseller called Get Away Today that has some even cheaper tickets for some days. I’ve added them to the data chart but haven’t had time to incorporate them completely into the spreadsheet. I have not looked into the company at all beyond the prices they post, but looks like their 7 Day Park Hoppers are even cheaper right now and would save another $20 overall.)

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BTW, Another option to save money can take some more research and effort but can really pay off: My wife and I both got BarclayCard Arrival MasterCards earlier this year. When you spend $3k in 3 months on each they give you 50,000 bonus rewards points that can be used for travel reimbursements.

If you use them to their best advantage, you can get at least $600 worth of travel credits out of those points on each card.

It turns out that ticket sales through the Undercover Tourist code as “travel”, so you can use the credits on those. We did so and saved $1,200 together on our park tickets.

If wrote a detailed forum post on the process:

I personally hate the fact that planning a WDW vacation is like planning a trip to the moon.

For the first timer - I may suggest going with a travel agent. There are some AWESOME ones and some really bad ones. If you are a control freak and want to know everything and want to have flexibility - I do however suggest doing it on your own as you may get frustrated with going through someone.

As others have pointed out there are all sorts of travel cards etc. I did write about how I saved ~$5,000 on a recent trip - Saved $5000 on recent trip

I personally like the flexibility of a la carte. It is almost always cheaper and you have flexibility to change / cancel up to the very end. Not knowing what you are paying for AofA - I may suggest staying OFF SITE (I know - outside the bubble - YIKES). However you may be able to get a house or a larger suite etc. It all depends on what you find important. Also - you MAY want to consider swan / dolphin for the price. I know I have a not so great review - but lots of people like it.

It is crazy that WDW requires a lot more planning than other places. Remember this though - TIME is MONEY when on vacation. WDW is expensive - but also plan things so that it is CONVENIENT for you.

I agree. I kind of miss the old days when you just went to WDW (which was only the MK) and the only “touring plan” was to be there when the park opened and to go to Space Mountain first. No FPPs to sweat over and no ADRs to book. The only two places that you needed a “reservation” for were the Diamond Horseshoe and King Stephan’s Banquet Hall (now CRT) and you signed up for them the day of, after you got into the park. No character meals, and no “staged” M&Gs with lines; you just met random characters as they walked through the park. I understand why they had to make the changes that they did, but I think a bit of the “Magic” was lost…Maybe it’s the difference between being a teen back in the 70s and being an adult now, but back then it just seemed to be more “fun”, and less like completing a checklist with primary and secondary objectives to meet.

I love the planning! It is almost more fun to plan the perfect trip than actually go for me. Well, maybe not more fun, but seriously I love the planning! If you are looking for minimal planning, try Disneyland. We go in 2 weeks and I have done nothing other than book a hotel and make 2 ADR’s, plus buy my family tickets with Maxpass (I have an AP). Easy peasy, no stress.

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I agree that the planning process is kind of fun and sometimes feels like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But I do sometimes resent, while I’m there, that things can be so structured and lacking in spontaneity For my next trip I’ll make ADRs and get FPPs, but that might be the extent of my pre-planning. My “TPs” may be simply “Get there for RD and do things I don’t have FPPs for first”…

Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the planning and LOVE the hunt of a good deal. However I think the planning CAN get WAY to intense. We have traveled a lot and I love the planning as it provides a lot of information to me on that area. We are very A type personalities - but vacation is our one time we like to turn it off and go “I don’t care - what do you want to see” and just be lead by our noses a bit. STOP HAVING FUN over here - we are LATE for having fun OVER THERE!!! @bswan26 I agree - I loved the “planning” back then. Get there at rope drop and run to space mountain. Do you also remember making Dining Reservations for World Showcase via FUTURISTIC VIDEO CONFERENCING at the bottom of Spaceship Earth?!?

Absolutely! I was actually going to mention that in my last post, but I was kind of rambling…

The $129 is for the base ticket and not buying at the gate. So $129 really is the biggest discount I’ve found so far.

I enjoy planning, but definitely feel the pressure to make this the “perfect” trip, since this may be the one time we go with our small kids. As for the friend/agent, part of me thinks it would be nice to have someone to bounce things off of while planning, but I also know if I turn over the planning to her, I’ll wonder if I could have done it better. :wink:

At the end of the day, I’m most interested in how I can take advantage of a future deal (i.e. dining). If I’m booked at AofA with a room-only, and have my dining reservations - can I change it to a package and potentially move hotels 2 months prior to going without having to cancel my hotel (thus losing my reservations I assume) and rebooking.

I want to basically insure that I don’t lose reservations, because I’ve hear the horror stories about how hard some of them are to get.

I appreciate all of the responses. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of time on this forum over the coming year! :slight_smile:

I’m sorry, I didn’t see the “non-” in your “non-park-hopper”!

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