Pre-trip Report - Ontario to Orlando on a budget

I’m a long-time value shopper and over-planner (as well as a mathematician), and I have learned so many tips and tricks from this forum and other resources that I wanted to share in hopes that other Canadians might benefit. My family includes a DAS DW, and for this trip, a DS9 and DD11 who have never been to WDW before. The other (older) kids are staying in school, with Grandma and Grandpa assisting at home. They didn’t mind too much, having been there before.

Budget is normally fairly tight for the family, so our planning began a few years ago, when we signed up for the BMO World Rewards Mastercard. This has been our primary automatic bill paying card, which we then pay off at the end of each month and rack up rewards points. This card previously earned points at 2% of money spent, which bumped up our Disney ticket fund quickly. When we start over saving up points to spend on our next trip, we will be using the Scotiabank Gold American Express, as it is now the best point return rate. Once we made it over $2000 in travel rewards available, we started to plan our Disney trip. The tickets will be coming solely from credit card reward points, purchased during the annual ‘20% off for Canadian Resident’ ticket deal.

For flights, the cheapest option by far was to drive to Buffalo and fly Frontier. We were already a member of their ‘Discount Den’, so kids fly free on weekdays. DW and I were comfortable taking kids out of school for 3 days, so we scoured the Frontier BUF-MCO calendar for 6 day trips that fell over a long weekend from the children’s school, and looking from November 2019 until April 2020, came up with dates of Feb 5-11, where we would depart on a Wed night and return back Tuesday evening the next week. Plane tickets were booked approx six months in advance, allowing us to book ADRs as soon as we knew when the trip would be occurring. Even better, tickets are fully refundable up to 90 days in advance if life changes. We purchased one checked bag that we share, which will come into play later.

There were no value resorts (and no resort deals!) available when our plane tickets were booked, so we booked a refundable stay at an I-Drive resort for the length of the trip as a fallback, and waited for deals to become available. Eventually, the 25% “Give the gift of a magical stay” deal became active. There were no value resort rooms available, nor any accessibility rooms we could afford, so I called Disney to see what they could do. The best advice was just to keep trying back on Wednesday mornings. Lo and behold, the following Wednesday after I called, we were able to book a room at the Art of Animation resort, and have a ground floor room with two double beds and a wider entrance to guarantee the wheelchair can be accommodated. This was a significant amount more than the I-drive resort for the room, but when we added in cost for the Accessible car rental, the parking fees, the magic bands, and the time to disassemble / re-assemble the ECV multiple times daily, the difference in total costs was quite small, and the time we save is huge. For other individuals with disabilities who stay off-site, I would like to know what your planning and budgets look like!

My wife uses a combination of a Rollator and ECV at home. After looking at prices and ease of access, we determined that traveling with her Rollator and renting an ECV in Orlando would be the best option for us. After researching the available models in Orlando, we decided on Gold Mobility Scooters for the Victory 10 for one week at $180. It is the absolute best price for a rental with a captain’s chair, which makes all the difference for avoiding sores and stiffening when using for extended periods, so DW can stay with the family through more of the experience, rather than having to retire earlier to the hotel. We will have to meet the Gold’s rep at our resort the day of arrival, but it’s worth it to save $120 over Buena Vista Rentals.

Next step was to confirm the tickets (6-day single park). We waited for the CAD/USD exchange rate to turn in our favor, then called the rewards center to cash in the points for the tickets. BMO rewards uses the points to pay Air Canada Vacations, who then buy the tickets from Disney. It is important to note for Canadian Residents - if Air Canada Vacations is booking your trip, their standard corporate policy is to provide you with an internal confirmation number, then send your tickets/vouchers two weeks prior to your trip. This does not work for Fastpass+ reservations, so you need to make a special request to get your voucher confirmation numbers within a week. You need these to link your tickets to your MyDisneyExperience account and book the FPP at your 60 day window.

By this time, I had read and re-read all available planning guides (Unofficial, Official, Frommer’s, FB Groups, Dis-abilities, Mousesavers, etc.). Since you’re reading this, I assume you’re also a person who reads all available materials! I found the unofficial guide to be in tune with my philosophies on trip planning, and it (as well as these forums) have been the most valuable source of correct information I have found. So, I paid for a year membership to TouringPlans using the discount from buying the guide.

The next step was to determine which days would be spent in which park. I had booked ADRs with a plan in mind to keep it educational, going from EP to AK to DHS to MK. This is my DWs favored plan, as it fits with her teacher aesthetic. We booked ADRs accordingly. Once the Extra Magic Hours were announced for each park, and once she realized how many active hours might be involved in some of these Disney days, we altered the plan. Now, our six days are optimized for lower crowds and rest availability, going to AK, MK, DHS, MK, EP, and DHS. We know that we are dealing with Cheerleading championships the weekend while we’re there, and have planned around them best that we could, adding the DHS day on the morning we leave, as we won’t be getting on DME until the afternoon. Customized TPs have been created, but won’t be finalized until FPPs have been booked.

For food, we found that leaving from Buffalo rather than Toronto is saving us a bundle. If you fly internationally with food, there is a good chance it will be confiscated or your bag simply not allowed. Crossing the border via car allows us to carry all the ‘personal use only’ food that we want, especially pre-packaged, and put it in our one checked bag to carry items that are far cheaper to bring than to purchase, including DWs medical nutrition supplements and protein bars. Domestic US flights are not subject to as much scrutiny. A stop will be made in the states prior to plane boarding for additional food, as groceries tend to be much cheaper on the US side of the border. All perishables, fruits, etc, are currently going to be ordered with gardengrocer.com. In addition, DW is good at making friends, and may have a DAS contact in the Orlando area who can assist with a trip into town for supplies, if required.

So far, plane tickets+bag were $225 US (kids fly free!), ECV rental was $180, and the hotel room is going to be around 1050. Both kids have special experiences booked (BBB for DD11 and a Father/Son meal for DS9). We had hoped to keep the trip under 3300 C (~$2500 US), and so far remain solidly on track, because the tickets didn’t come out of pocket.

So far, our ADRs have been focused on special experiences, as DW cannot eat much, and DD also has a VERY small appetite. BoG Lunch was high on the list, as was Sci-Fi Diner in DHS for a mid-day break. We plan bigger breakfasts prepared in room, and share meal plates elsewhere to accommodate DW & DD (DS and I have an appetite, but nothing Disney can’t handle!). A Bon Voyage Breakfast (at 11:55 AM) is booked, but DW has stated she will not attend if she has to have the prix-fixe adult meal. She wants the kids and I to have the experience, but I will be calling Disney as we get closer to see what can be arranged.

We are looking forward to a memorable trip, and hope our experiences and budget-conscious travelling can assist others in making it to WDW regardless of their life’s circumstances. Thanks everyone for all of the work you put in providing information to those of us who need it, and I love reading all the trip reports as I learn what to see and avoid - things changed a lot since our last trip in 2010!

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That’s some great budgeting, and wow, the airfare price is amazing. Wish it wasn’t so far a drive for me to a US airport.

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I hope you guys have a wonderful trip! It is obvious that you have worked diligently to make the best use of your money and it sounds like you have done an awesome job. Please write a trip report and tell us how it goes!

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Thank you for such detailed pre-trip report!

We also travel from Toronto and are very budget conscious. Will be sure to use some of your tips.

Enjoy your trip!

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Wow, you did you really good on tickets. We’re driving from Ottawa to Syracuse (about 2.5 hrs) this year to fly Frontier. I paid $450 US for four of us with two bags each way and seat selection. We did the same last year and the year before made the 5 hour trek to Buffalo. It’s totally worth it to save about $1000.

Last year we signed up for the US Amazon Prime and got groceries delivered via Prime Now. It was a better deal than the other services. And I’ve found that lately the US prices for groceries are about the same at home only they’re in US dollars making the US 30-35% more expensive. Only some things are cheaper like chicken and beer.

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