Monday, January 27, 2014

Disney Magic 2.0 Day 1: Savings, splurges and getting there

Trip Summary:

We are a family of 5 who loves vacationing with Disney, especially on Disney Cruise Line. We recently returned from a week-long vacation in Florida and The Bahamas. We spent one day at Legoland, four nights on the Disney Magic, and one night at Disney's new Art of Animation resort. My kids are 9, 6 and 3. This was our 3rd Disney cruise, and our second cruise on the Magic.

Trip Savings:

*  The single biggest thing we did to save money on this trip was to book an off-season cruise. We pulled our kids out of school for 4 days (they had MLK day off school). The price of an off-season cruise for our family of 5 is about 50% or more less than a summer or holiday cruise. Approximate savings: $2500

We also booked a "dummy date" future cruise on board our last Disney cruise, which we then moved to this ship and date. This saved us 10% off the cruise fare and provided us with a $100 on-board credit from DCL. Approximate savings: $350

*  We booked using a travel agent (Travel On A Dream) that gives on-board credit to clients and referral credits. Savings: $100

* We used Southwest Airline Rapid Reward miles to fly for (almost) free from Dallas to Florida. We just had to pay $5 per tickets for taxes. Last year, I applied for a regular and business Southwest Airlines credit card and gained a companion pass (see this post--thanks Million Mile Secrets!). We used only 42,000 miles to get our entire family of 5 to Florida. Southwest also does not have baggage fees. Approximate savings: $1000+

We stayed on the ship for the Nassau port instead of going on a shore excursion. We enjoyed exploring Nassau in 2012 while on our Disney Dream cruise, but during that cruise we felt like we didn't have enough time to enjoy the ship amenities. Approximate savings: $50-$700 depending on the excursion

We used coupons for Legoland. The Lego Club magazine had coupons for free child admission with an adult admission, so we got 2 of our 3 kids in for free. We purchased our remaining child ticket online at a discount, and also purchased parking online in advance for a discounted rate. Savings: $171

We used Marriott Rewards points for 2 nights of free hotel prior to our cruise. My husband travels for work and tries to stay at Marriott hotels, and he also opened a Marriott Rewards credit card last year to accumulate some bonus points. We stayed at a Marriott Springhill Suites near the airport that included breakfast and had sleeping space for 6 in a room. Approximate savings: $200

We booked our airport parking in advance and used an online coupon. Savings: $15

Trip Splurges:

* We stayed one night at Disney's Art of Animation resort after the cruise. Even though we were lucky enough to get a 40% off discounted rate, with taxes a suite still ran us almost $200 for the night. We figured it was worth the splurge because we just wanted to explore a new resort and enjoy Downtown Disney after our cruise, and if we stayed on-site we wouldn't have to rent a car or figure out airport transportation since those are included with the resort. This was also a great way to test out a new resort to see if we would like to stay there on future trips.

* We dined at the adults-only restaurant on the Disney Magic, Palo, twice. This restaurant is the only one on the Magic with an up-charge of $25 per person, but it was totally worth it.

Trip Report Day 1--Getting There

Saturday, January 18, 2014:

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of my 3-year-old daughter singing and talking in the baby monitor. She kept saying, "Oh no, a catastprohe!" She must have gotten that phrase from one of the shows on Disney Junior. I drifted in and out of sleep until 7:00 a.m., when our 6-year-old son burst into our room with a huge smile and exclaimed that today was the day of our vacation.

We didn't have to leave for the airport until 11:00 a.m., so we had plenty of time to shower, eat breakfast, walk the dogs and clean up. We got everyone and everything loaded in the car and headed down the Dallas North Tollway to Love Field airport. Except we didn't watch the news to realize that the southbound lanes of the tollway were completely CLOSED for the day! I guess nobody else knew about it either, because we were all exiting off the tollway right before it closed. We had to weave around traffic and take a local street the rest of the way to the airport, but we still arrived in plenty of time to take our flight.

On the parking lot shuttle heading to the airport terminal
Dallas Love Field airport was completely renovated last year, and it looks great. I hadn't flown out of this airport in years, since it's not the main airport anymore and it is mainly used by Southwest. There is a huge sculpture that hangs from the ceiling of the food court, it goes around in a big circle. There are birds, planes, bees, etc. flying through it.

Sculpture on the ceiling in the foot court

The food court itself is clean and bright, with several restaurant choices.

The concourse also had a mini art museum. And the airport is much less congested than DFW airport.

Looking at our airplane
Southwest does not have assigned seats, and I checked us in 24 hours before our flight to get our boarding passes and boarding numbers. We received boarding numbers in the low B group. However, we were able to board after the A group because Southwest allows families with kids age 4 and under to board early. We had no trouble getting seats together.

Southwest does not fly directly from Dallas to Orlando, but we did not have to change planes during our layover in Houston. Total flight time was about 4 hours.

Waiting on our baggage at the Orlando airport

Waiting for our rental car

Since we planned to drive to Legoland the next day, we rented a car from Avis, where my husband rents for his business travel. We rented a full-size car, but had the choice to upgrade to an SUV or minivan for free. With 3 kids, we decided to take a minivan.

Our hotel, Springhill Suites Orlando Airport, was just a few minutes away. We arrived around 7:30 p.m. This is our preferred Marriott chain when we travel as a family of 5. Some of the standard rooms come with two queen-size beds and a sofa bed.
Bedroom area

Sofabed/office area
We were STARVING since I forgot to load our snacks in our backpacks and Southwest does not offer food for purchase during flights. So we dropped off our bags in our room and headed to Chili's around the corner for dinner. Unfortunately, since it was a Saturday night, we had to wait about 30 minutes to get seated. Not so fun with 5 hungry people! We felt better after getting some food in us, although I am doing my best to forget all about this restaurant experience, especially the major squabble between two of my children over an orange crayon!

We made it to bed around 10:00 p.m. The first night of vacation in a shared hotel room with all the kids is always somewhat challenging to get everyone to sleep.

Up next: Our day at Legoland, and meeting some of our cruise-mates!

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