I usually like to use this column to reflect on recent happenings at Walt Disney World, or pass on some advice I’ve learned from the trips I’ve taken to Orlando. However, this time I’d like to discuss a first for me…planning a VERY last minute trip to Walt Disney World.
Last week, I was literally a click away from going to Walt Disney World within a week’s notice. Weekend One of Star Wars Weekend was just around the corner, and I wanted to go after much deliberation and rationalizing on my part. I had never been to the Studios during Star Wars Weekend and thought this was the best time to go. I figured out how I would juggle my work, my responsibilities, and managed to convince myself I could catch up with whatever was due when I got back. Besides, what was wrong with taking few days off, right?
With a clear conscience and a solid determination to make it happen, I set out to do the unthinkable: go to Walt Disney World in short notice without breaking the bank.
The first thing I looked for was a room to stay in. The problem with waiting until the last minute to go to Walt Disney World, especially during the summer months, is that rooms on property are not likely to be plentiful. I was expecting to find only outrageously expensive DVC resort rooms and one or two bedroom suites. The outlook, I thought, was not good. I picked up the phone and called Disney Reservations about five or six days before my potential check-in date. I told them bluntly that I was planning a very last minute trip, that I was looking for something reasonable, and that I was an Annual Passholder. I expected to hear chuckles or sighs in disbelief on the other end; surprisingly though, and much to my liking, the cast member was extremely helpful and sympathetic. He began a sweep of the rooms available on property.
In less than a minute, the impossible happened; two rooms were available at two Value resorts. My mouth fell to the floor. I had my choice of a standard room at All Star Music or a preferred room at All Star Sports. Not caring about a preferred location, I choose the All Star Music wanting to save the $12 per night on my room cost. The cast member also mentioned that with my annual pass discount, the room would only cost about $75 per night (plus tax). I have never said yes to a reservation so fast before in my life.
I was set. After having to shell out a night’s deposit to hold my reservation, I was committed. Being five days from my check in date, I could not get a refund if I decided not to go. Once I hung up the phone I was a man possessed. I was determined to get to Orlando!
Advance Dining Reservations
One would think that the next logical step in my quest would be plane tickets. Well, not in this case. If I was going to Walt Disney World, I wanted to be sure I could have a couple of table service meals. With all of the people there for Star Wars Weekend and due to the booming popularity of the Disney Dining Plan, it was essential that I find a place to eat.
Once again, I picked up the phone and called Disney Dining Reservations. I explained my situation, and the cast member did her best to find what I was looking for. Foolishly, I asked if there were ANY openings at ANY time at Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot. I was willing to eat at 9:55 pm if I had to. But of course, being an extremely popular restaurant (that is on the small side) nothing was available. Oh well, I thought, I cant win them all.
I came back down to reality, and made a lunch reservation over at Mama Melrose’s (I love the chicken parmigiana) and a breakfast ADR at the Kona Café (Tonga toast anyone?). With my stomach settled, I decided to tackle the biggest problem…plane tickets.
For those of you that don’t know, I live in Honolulu, Hawaii. Getting ANYWHERE from here costs an arm and a leg, which makes going to places like Walt Disney World a rare event. However, this time was going to be different! Or at least, I tried to convince myself that. Literally minutes after I made my dining reservations, I hit the online travel sites to get price quotes from flights from Honolulu to Orlando. If I wanted to make it before the Studios opened (or make it shortly thereafter) on Friday morning, I would have to leave on a Thursday afternoon. It was much harder (and more expensive) than I had anticipated.
Flights from sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Priceline were well over a thousand dollars. Going to the airlines directly provided even more ridiculous prices…on one airline’s site the estimated cost was $2200! I was crestfallen. For the next three days, I thought of every single possible combination from here to Orlando in order to take advantage of cheaper airfare on airlines like Southwest and AirTran, but to no avail. No matter what I tried, or where I went…I could not find a flight cheaper than $1200. In fact, the longer I waited, the higher the prices went. It was becoming more and more apparent that this trip was not happening.
On Tuesday May 29th, 2007 I finally gave up on my trip to Walt Disney World.
So what did I learn from my brief frolic into the land of last minute travel? Well for one, I learned that if I ever want to go to Walt Disney World in the future, my pocketbook can only afford trips planned WAY in advance in order to take advantage of the much lower airfare. I also learned how much it hurt to give up a deposit for an entire night’s stay at a resort (I still weep to this day). I also learned that I’m going to have to make Tonga toast on my own, at least until my next trip in August.
However, looking on the bright side…for about three days I was this close to Walt Disney World. I enjoyed planning and digging for bargains, and was proud of myself for getting as far as I did. My only slip up was the airfare. I think for anyone who is fortunate enough to live closer to the World than I do, it would have been entirely possible to do the same thing and not spend a disgusting amount of money to fly there. So for those of you out there thinking of planning a last minute trip, just remember that no matter how impossible it might seem…with the proper know how and a little luck you could be enjoying Walt Disney World at a moment’s notice.
Do you have any experience planning last minute trips to Orlando? Have any tips? Please email me! Until next time!