Jacksonville Special

One of the tricks I’ve described before is to look at alternate travel arrangements.  When considering whether to upgrade our tickets this summer to annual passes, I looked for economical travel/lodging arrangements for other possible trips.  We had several school breaks to consider, including a Halloween-based trip (which includes some teacher work days in November) and an early February trip (using teacher work days as well).  Since these were “quick” trips to fit into a fixed calendar, we needed to be able to fly down to Florida in order to maximize our Disney time.

The first trip we looked at was the October trip.  Since our park tickets were covered, we needed to look at transportation and lodging costs.  Our favorite flight pricing web site (ITA Matrix) revealed flights to Orlando were cheap at around $200, but I wanted to do better.  After adding other surrounding Florida airports to the search, I found a winner.  We could fly from Dulles to Jacksonville for $137 round trip on United.  For our family, that was $548.  That is a great price!

After booking the air, the next item to nail down was lodging.  We love staying inside the Disney bubble, so we looked into Pop Century, our favorite low cost Disney resort.  It was going to cost $780 to stay for the entire October trip.  We thought that was a bit too much for a “cheap” trip.  Since I had a pile of Hilton HHonors reward points, I started looking for a Hilton-brand hotel room.  We found a Hampton Inn just outside of the Epcot gate (across Interstate 4) which we could use reward points for.  That gave us a free room for the stay!  Hampton Inns aren’t fancy, but they are certainly comparable to Pop Century (maybe a bit better with two queen beds vs. the double beds at Pop).

The last part of the planning was to get a rental car.  Since we aren’t flying into the Orlando airport, Disney’s Magical Express is out of the question.  By using the Costco Travel website, we found a full size car from Enterprise for $117 for the entire trip.  Our parking costs at the park are free because we have the annual passes.  We would just have to pay for the rental car and gas costs for the length of our stay.

So, our total costs will include part of the annual passes, the airfare, rental car costs, and food while at the parks.  We will try to keep the costs of food down by shopping for some items at Target when we arrive.  Since we will have just traveled to the parks in August, we don’t expect to need many souvenirs.

The planning for our February trip is almost done.  I purchases the flight tickets (for the same price as the October trip $548) and got a rental car.  The rental car price is high at $270.  I believe the price will drop dramatically once we’re within the six month window, so I will keep checking for a cheaper price.  I found a room at a different Hampton Inn for this trip.  I didn’t quite have enough HHonors points to get the room for free, but I bought enough points to cover the rest of the 5 night stay.  The cost of the points was $196, so we got 5 nights at a Hampton Inn for $40 a night.

So, our total cost breaks out as follows:

  • Tickets: $800
  • Flights: $1100
  • Rental Car: $400 (might go lower)
  • Hotel: $196

Total Cost (Minus food and gas) = ~$2500

That cost is for two trips for a family of four, for a total of 11 days (first trip is for 6 days and the second trip is 5 days).  The cost would have been less if it had been combined into one trip (half the flight costs, lower rental car cost as well), but we’re pleased that we can do this fairly economically.

UPDATE:  After checking back in, the cost of the second rental car has dropped to $170.  So, the numbers work out like this:

  • Tickets: $800
  • Flights: $1100
  • Rental Car: $287 (might go lower)
  • Hotel: $196

Total Cost (Minus food and gas) = ~$2383



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