Hotel Cost, Planning, Travel, Travel Cost

Wilderness Lodge
Wilderness Lodge

We are always looking to save money when visiting Walt Disney World.  One of the primary expenses to consider when planning your trip is lodging.  Any money saved on lodging can be directed to other expenses or set aside to upgrade your lodging on a future trip.  Here are various options for getting your lodging costs down:

Discount packages

Disney will often discount the “rack rate” of the rooms at different times of the year.  “Rack rate” is the published price of a hotel room.  The rate will change throughout the year based on what Disney perceives the demand will be.  The perceived demand often doesn’t match the actual demand, so Disney will offer limited discounts to the rack rate.  These discounts will be offered to annual passholders, Disney Visa Card holders, and/or to the general public.  These will sometimes be detailed on the Disney web site.  We always look at our favorite website, MouseSavers, to see what is available.  Any reputable Disney Travel Agent should also look for and apply any available travel discounts to your reservation.

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Disney Cruise, Travel

Of course, the highs of being on the cruise always come crashing down on Disembarkation day.  We decided to carry our bags off the ship with express walk off, but still enjoy breakfast.  We left our room and headed towards Animators Palette, which is where we had dinner the night before.  Since we had late dinner, our breakfast was at a reasonable time. 

After breakfast, we collected our bags and headed off the ship to wait in the Customs line.  We were through Customs rather quickly, then onto the bus to head back to the airport.  We handed over our bags to the bus driver, who placed them under the bus.  The ride back to the airport was uneventful and we collected our bags again once we got to the airport.… Read the rest

Disney Cruise, Travel

The travel day for our Disney Dream cruise finally arrived!  We had decided to leave really early so that we could join our friends at the airport.  We could easily kill time in the Admirals Club lounge at Reagan National Airport.  We were going to get the girls from school around noon, then leave for the airport at 12:30, which should get us there at 1:00 pm.  The flight didn’t leave until 3:00 pm, so we should have plenty of time to get lunch as well. 

American Airlines Flight from Reagan National to Orlando

I thought we were getting a jump on the trip when we picked the kids up at 11:30 am.  But, that quickly went sideways.  Our youngest daughter had a slight medical issue that was going to require a trip to the doctor for some medication.  Nancy took her and headed off to the urgent care, hoping that we would be able to make it on time.  My wife was in and out of the urgent care in about an hour and a half, but that put us at about 1:15 pm.  We still had to get her prescription filled and get to the airport.  We loaded everybody in the car and headed to the drugstore.  Nancy ran into the drug store and quickly explained our issue.  It still took them a little bit to put the prescription together, but they definitely went above and beyond to speed us on our way.  We left the drug store around 1:45 pm and drove like crazy to get to Reagan National.  We parked in the daily parking and went inside.  We found a relatively empty check-in line and checked our bags.  Thankfully, we have TSA Precheck, which got us through security in less than 5 minutes.  We arrived at the gate just as boarding started.  Thankfully, our friends had grabbed us lunch so we got a chance to eat before boarding.  They were life savers!… Read the rest

Planning, Travel

TripIt

One of our favorite travel tools is TripIt.  TripIt is a web site (with associated mobile apps) that gathers details of your travel, including hotel reservations, airline tickets, cruise itineraries, rental cars, and other travel information.  TripIt then presents you with a comprehensive itinerary in a simplified format that allows you to easily view the information.  (Note: some information on these screen shots is hidden, so they may look a little strange)

TripIt Dashboard
TripIt Dashboard

 

Features

TripIt has two kinds of accounts, free and pro.… Read the rest

Credit Cards, Hotel Cost, Travel, Travel Cost

One of the best ways to earn Hilton Honors points (which can give you free rooms at the Hilton Hotels and Resorts) is to to sign up for one of the two types of Hilton-sponsored credit cards.
 
Hilton Family
Hilton Family
American Express Hilton Surpass card
Credit card rewards with the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
 
One Hilton-sponsored card is the American Express Hilton Surpass card.  It has a $75 annual fee.  There is usually a sign up bonus offered with the card; the bonus varies from 60,000-100,000 Honors points, which are credited to your account after you spend a certain amount within the first 3 months of card membership.
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Credit Cards, Hotel Cost, Travel, Travel Cost

One of our favorite hotel credit cards is the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card from Chase, which is affiliated with the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) family of hotels including Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, and other hotel brands.  If you do a lot of paid travel with stays at IHG properties, you can really enhance your paid and free stays with this card.  The card is currently issued as a MasterCard, with a $49 annual fee (the fee for which is currently waived for the first year).… Read the rest

Disney Cruise, Travel

During our recent 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Star Wars Day At Sea cruise on the Disney Fantasy, we decided to try Disney Cruise Line’s Onboard Airline Check-in.  This is a program that Disney Cruise Line has that allows you to receive your boarding pass and check your luggage for your return flight home while onboard the ship. 

Onboard Airline Check-In Documents
Onboard Airline Check-In Documents

In order to participate in this program, you must purchase Disney Cruise Line ground transportation from the ship back to Orlando International Airport.  You must also sign up for the program.  I don’t know the deadline, but we signed up when we boarded the ship at the Port Terminal.  You must be flying from the Orlando Airport after 11:30 am on one of the following airlines: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Jet Blue Airways, or United Airlines.… Read the rest

Disney Cruise, Shopping, Travel

Disney cruises are one of our favorite ways to vacation.  One of the few issues we have experienced while on the ship (and travel in general) is how to keep all of our electronic devices charged up.  As a family of four, we have a multitude of cell phones, iPads, and Kindles that need a recharge.  We used to travel with a bag full of wall chargers and cables that went everywhere.  This was a real problem once we boarded the cruise ship, since there are a limited number of wall plugs available.… Read the rest

Disney Cruise, Travel

Planning | Travel | Boarding | Sea | Sea | Tortola | St. Thomas | Star Wars Day | Castaway Cay | Go Home

January 13, 2017 finally arrived and it was time to head off for our Star Wars Cruise!  Our plan was to pick the kids up from school, let them get changed, then head off to the airport.  Once we had the house squared away, a friend drove us from our house to Reagan National Airport.  We arrived at the airport really early (as we always do), around 5 PM.  We dropped our bags off with American Airlines and headed through security.  Our experience with TSA Security is usually fantastic thanks to having TSA PreCheck!  Everyone has TSA PreCheck in our family except our youngest daughter (who now has Global Entry).  

Headed from Reagan National to Orlando
Headed from Reagan National to Orlando

Since we had arrived at the airport so early, we decided to head to the Admirals Club Lounge, which we have access to thanks to our Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard.  The card has a steep fee, but we always stop in the Admirals Club Lounges when we travel.  We also take advantage of the free checked bags we received when fly on American Airlines.  The Global Entry fee of $100 for our youngest daughter was also paid for with a credit from the Card. 

The Admirals Club lounge at Reagan National was extremely crowded on this evening, but we managed to find some seats and settle in for a while.  The kids each did the homework they were assigned for the 3 days of school they would miss the next week.  We all got some light snacks and drinks and waited around.  We had a celebrity sighting when I noticed Richard Kerr of Travel Hacking 101 in the lounge. 

View from the Admirals Club Lounge Entrance
View from the Admirals Club Lounge Entrance

As the time got closer for our flight, we headed out of the lounge and down towards our gate.  We grabbed dinner and sat to wait until boarding was called.  The flight went off without a hitch: it boarded on time, the flight was fine with no issues, and we landed in Orlando in about 2 hours. 

Gate 31 at Reagan National
Gate 31 at Reagan National

Once we landed in Orlando, we had to take the mini monorail from the gates to get to the main terminal, where we could collect our luggage.  We then headed back upstairs to the Hyatt Regency.  The Hyatt Regency is located right next to the Security Checkpoint for Gates 70-129.  The lobby/check in for the hotel is actually located on the fourth floor, so we went there with our luggage.… Read the rest

Travel

Planning 1 | Planning 2 | Planning 3 | Travel | Disneyland  (1234) | Arrival | Surfing | Aulani | Excursion | Hyatt

It was finally time to leave Aulani.  We had been at the resort for a total of six days.  I think perhaps we stayed at the resort one or two days longer than we should have without leaving.  We still had two days left on Oahu staying in Waikiki.  We decided to take a tour of the island and see some additional spots!  We had to check out of Aulani and couldn’t check into our next hotel until 4 pm, so we had a lot of time on our hands.… Read the rest