Yes, I did that on purpose. No, I don’t feel bad that you’ll be humming Do You Want To Build A Snowman? all day. I’ve been singing the catchy tune ever since I settled on the title for this post!
Here’s the thing – I’ve thought about this article for a long time. Never one to rush out of the gate like the proverbial hare, I’ve been making notes, conducting research and trying to collect my thoughts. Because it’s hard to tackle the subject of land AND sea vacations, and if you’re going to plunk down the money to do it, I want to present it in the most rewarding way possible.
Now, please take note of the words “most rewarding”. And realize that most rewarding may not equate to least expensive or least amount of planning. This post, simply put, is for my Canadian readers who have decided they are open to – or looking for more information on – booking a tandem vacation at Walt Disney World and aboard Disney Cruise Line, and want my advice on the best way to do it.
And to those, I say… read on, Disney lovers, read on.
First, let’s make two assumptions. Let’s assume that you have budgeted for airfare or gasoline charges to get to Orlando. I’m a firm believer of watching airfare prices long before you’re ready to book your tickets and striking when prices are low. On our recent trip, I found direct flights from Buffalo for just $74 USD per person each way, allowing my entire family to fly for just $769.60 CAD, return. But, I also stalked flight prices every day for no less than three weeks before I stumbled on a seat sale. (An awesome one, too!)
Let’s also assume that you’re willing to book each facet of the trip – flights, your Walt Disney World Resort vacation and Disney Cruise Line vacation, separately. Now, I know that Disney vacation specialists or travel agents are happy to combine the three and take the stress of planning off your plate. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea of coordinating the details, jump ship now (not literally!). They will sprinkle your planning process with pixie dust and poof! – vacation awaits.
However, I crave control and love finding ways to save money – especially when I can reallocate those savings to make my experience more enjoyable. (Money saved on park tickets = extra money for souvenirs. It’s basic math!) When you book on your own, you can take advantage of special offers and savings on park tickets, resort hotel rooms and more, which normally cannot be combined when you book your vacation as one package. So, it’s for this reason we’ll go at it solo. Without further ado –
1. HOW LONG? The most common question I’m asked is, how long should be spent at the parks, and how long should be spent at sea? There’s no set answer for this, because it can vary greatly based on how much vacation time you have and how big your budget is. But for most folks, especially those taking a land and sea vacation for the first time, I would recommend 4-5 days at Walt Disney World with a 3-4 night Disney Cruise Line vacation taken in the middle or added to the end. This will yield a total vacation of 7-9 days.
So, why start at Walt Disney World? Visiting the parks before your cruise allows you to experience the magic of Walt Disney World right off the bat. From the endless enchantment of Magic Kingdom to galactic encounters at Hollywood Studios, there’s no better way to create lasting memories. Since most families will try to fit in as much as possible, the pace can be much quicker than your average sightseeing holiday. That’s why I like to get the pavement-pounding stuff out of the way before I step aboard the cruise ship, where I can enjoy the remainder of my vacation at a much slower pace, giving my body and mind a chance to rest and rejuvenate.
Of course, I also like to recommend sandwiching a cruise between Walt Disney World visits; after 3-4 days on the cruise ship, I’m rested and ready to take on more of the magic at Disney theme parks. Plus, to be completely honest, I could do with a day or two of intense walking to help with some of the weight I’ve gained (and yes, I always gain weight on cruises!).
HOW CAN YOU SAVE? Take advantage of the Canadian Resident Ticket Offer – now extended until May 20, 2017 – where you can save up to 35% off the price of 4-day or longer theme park tickets. This special offer is not available at the Walt Disney World ticket sales window, so be sure to purchase your tickets online.
2. WHERE TO STAY? This is one of those instances where you really do want to stay on resort. First, Disney’s Magical Express will transport you from the airport to your Resort hotel at no extra cost, freeing up some funds for transportation fees to the port (more on that later). Second, Walt Disney World’s complimentary network of buses, boats and monorails can take you between Disney Resort hotels, theme parks, water parks and shopping venues – allowing you to get where you need to be in a timely and efficient manner.
Staying at a Resort hotel (above, the majestic pool at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort) will also grant you other perks, including early Access to Disney FastPass+ planning (up to 60 days before you arrive) and complimentary MagicBands. And, since you’ll be all about making the most of your limited time there, each day, one of the parks offers extended hours, so you can enjoy select attractions with Extra Magic Hours.
HOW CAN YOU SAVE? Check out the Special Limited Time Room Offer – save up to 25% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels, valid for stays most nights April 9 through June 10, 2017 (subject to availability; book through April 29, 2017). You can combine this offer with the special Canadian resident ticket pricing, so now’s the perfect time to play, stay and save at Walt Disney World Resort!
3. WHEN TO CRUISE? Great news! There’s no bad time to take a Disney Cruise :) Selecting which month is best for you is a personal choice that depends on your preferences and when you and your family are free to travel. Although the options may seem overwhelming, the Disney Cruise Line website is extremely user-friendly and will allow you to find the right cruise for your land and sea vacation. Simply select the month you’d like to travel and check off Port Canaveral as your departure point. You’ll find a simple-to-follow list of all the cruises available to you.
Weather-wise, hurricane season in the Caribbean is from June 1 to November 30, but don’t let that deter you. Your Disney Cruise ship captain has a wealth of experience out-maneuvering storms and the ship will detour to ensure a safe path. If you desire less crowds, avoid itineraries during summer and winter holidays, including cruises during spring break, which tend to be the most popular.
HOW CAN YOU SAVE? If your schedule is flexible, off-peak times, such as during the fall months, offer greater options and best-value pricing. No matter when you sail, making your reservation further in advance will give you the best rates for that sailing. And while on board, if you can’t wait to do it all over again, take advantage of their future cruise discount! We did – and saved 10% (and received a $100 onboard credit) on our next cruise.
4. WHAT TO REMEMBER? Here’s where I break it down for you:
– Book your Disney Cruise Line vacation first, as sailing dates are set in stone; everything else can be scheduled around your cruise.
– Take advantage of offers and discounts when you book your resort hotel and park tickets.
– You’ll need to find your way to Port Canaveral and back to the resort or airport; you can book your own taxi/ shuttle or take advantage of Disney’s transport. Budget $70 USD per person for round trip transportation through Disney.
– If you’re thinking of purchasing vacation insurance, you may have to secure separate plans for land and sea. Don’t forget to check your credit card to confirm the coverage limits.
– For some, it can take a day or two to regain their equilibrium after disembarking. If you’ve never cruised before, play it safe and tack on your Walt Disney World vacation before your cruise; roller coasters and post-cruise vertigo do not mix!
– While your meals will be covered on the cruise ship, you should consider the Dining Plan or budget for food accordingly while at Walt Disney World.
– Remember, booking separately will save money… but contacting a travel agent may save your sanity. Your most rewarding vacation is the one that doesn’t cause stress!
5. WHO CAN HELP? So many people, including me! Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email if you have questions about building a perfect land and sea vacation. You can also call Walt Disney World at (800) 951-3532 or contact your travel agent.
Is this the year you embark on an award-winning vacation experience unlike any other?