Who to book with? Travel agents/independent? Which sites?

SomeDayMyPrinceWillCome

Earning My Ears
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
So I'm hoping to book to go to Disney World in 2020 for the first time, and a solo visit! It'll probably be late Oct - early November, for two weeks, to get in Halloween and Christmas, and possibly the parties. (Unless anyone has any better suggestions of when to go?! I really want to see Christmas though without it being too busy).
My main question is who I book with. I'll most likely be going for an All-Star, as I want to stay on property but for the cheapest price. Obviously the easiest option is to book with Disney directly, as then you know it's all done and secure, and I think one of the perks for me would be the Magical Express as I think I'd feel a bit nervous sorting my own transfer, especially when solo.

So, do you book with a travel agent? And if so, who? Virgin seem incredibly expensive, and there are rumours Thomas Cook will go bust. I've seen some mention of a few travel agents that seem to be contactable by phone only? Are there any to avoid?

OR, do you book everything separately? And if so, how? Hotel + tickets through Disney, and flights through Skyscanner? But if so, how do you sort a transfer? And if you don't book the hotel through Disney, can you still get the early FastPass reservations at 60 days?

I want to do it the cheapest way possible really, but also feel safe and secure, and I want to know that everything is taken care of. Any help would be very much appreciated!!! Thank you!
 

marcais

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 22, 2018
We've booked it separately, pretty much exactly how you said. Hotel & tickets through Disney, find the cheapest acceptable flights through Skyscanner. You'll be able to get the Magical Express. Once you've got your flight number, get in touch with Disney and they'll pick you up from the airport and bring you to your hotel.

If you're organising it yourself you can only get Magical Express from Orlando International, not from Sanford.

Don't forget to register with a cashback site like Quidco and you'll get some cash back after your holiday. It varies, but we got something like 7% back when we last went.

You can price up the hotel & ticket now, but the flights won't be available yet.
 

gismo1554

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 11, 2005
So I looked this year for September solo and ended up booking with Virgin Holidays as it actually worked out about £500 cheaper than pricing up separately. I got this during a sale though and normal price I haven't seen Virgin ever be that cheap. You can however get Magical Express included with any Disney hotel booking so could book Disney direct and then flight only though any company. Once you book Disney you have Magical Express you just need to let them know the flight times which I did via an online website I found a link to on here somewhere (search Magical Express and I'm sure you will find it). You have to do this even if everything is booked through a TA or Disney and in fact if you book through a TA (including Virgin) they will probably add on a paid transfer you don't need so watch out for that.

I went with Coronado as I got free dining but don't think it is available at the time you are looking at. I'd probably however suggest Pop Century or Art of Animation over All Stars as the bus system to AS was a nightmare last time I stayed there.

And yes if you book either with a TA or seperately you still get the 60 day in advance fast passes.

Also going solo you might want to consider the dining plan just so that you've then factored in meal costs. I'm doing the QS as this fits better in with my plans. They are expensive but food in the parks is and if you are solo you are likely to be a little more restricted in terms of going off site etc.
 
  • Jon84

    wdwaddictuk
    Joined
    Jun 30, 2015
    The prices vary all the time. It's a fine balance between: Availability, Price, and who is better to book with in terms of service.

    There is no hard and fast 'best way' to book, I've booked Direct both as a package and room only with an AP, packages with VH and Thomas Cook. When planning a trip I always look at every conceivable way of booking and work from there.

    You could get free dining if you arrive before the cutoff date in October.
     
    Last edited:

    Jkarrows

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 6, 2012
    If you want the cheapest option then the best way we find is to book direct with each part,
    Book Flights Direct with Airlines (We use Virgin Atlantic but others have used BA or Norwegian air without issues)
    Book Walt Disney direct with Walt Disney
    Book Car Hire Direct with Car Hire Company
    We book our Universal and Seaworld tickets with Floridatix and never had an issue with them.

    This way we do save thousands over a travel firm but you have to do the bookings separate and it can seem daunting but once you have done it once your realise just how easy it is, you also get a lot more flexibility and are offer more room choices direct with Disney then though travel agents and you can move dates and play a lot more in your own time rather then sitting at a travel agents desk.
     

    csimon

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 20, 2018
    I've booked solo 4 times. It's a nightmare of synchronisation!

    I've booked the whole package direct with Disney UK twice - this is fine if everything you want is available at a reasonable price, but basically you're stuck with the hotels and rooms that are released and available at the time you want to make the booking. Very often, the hotel you wanted isn't available. And if it is, then the flight prices for those dates put it out of reach.

    Once, I wanted French Quarter. It was available for the dates I wanted but I just kept waiting and waiting until Virgin Atlantic released the flights (11 month window), and the day that happened, French Quarter disappeared. I mentioned this to the CM as an aside when I finally booked, and she said "why didn't you book the room as soon as it was available, you can add the flights later". But then you run the risk of the flight being expensive on that day.

    Virgin Atlantic keep cancelling flights too and rebooking me on a one a day earlier or a day later, which then screws up the hotel booking.

    My latest booking was made 2 months ago, for November 2020, so I've beaten you there! I booked as soon as the packages were released as I wanted Riverside, but have gambled on the flights being available and affordable for those dates. I'm booking the flights direct with Virgin Atlantic at the moment because I've joined their frequent flyer scheme so can get a discount on the flights.

    BTW I'm as nervous as you about going solo, and love the idea of just booking once and letting someone else take care of it, and all treansport taken care of etc. Now I've done it once, I'm much more happy, apart from this worry about synchronising the hotel and flights when you've set your heart on particular dates (to hit the Epcot festivals at reasonable times) and hotels.

    Magical Express is very easy - just go to the check-in desk on the ground level of the airport terminal, and buses run around once every half hour. On the night before you leave at the end of your holoday, you'll get a letter attached to the door handle of your room telling you when your departure bus will be picking you up at the hotel.

    If you book everything with Disney, they will take care of the Magical Express booking. If you've booked flights separately, you just have to ring Disney when your flight times are known to book it. Beware of travel agents, e.g. Virgin Holidays, who add an extra charge for their own shuttle service. You can take that of course, but Magical Express is already included if you have a Disney hotel reservation. Just ring Disney as I've said to book it. Some people have also reported problems going through third parties like Virgin Holidays when getting your hotel reservation linked in the online portal, My Disney Experience. Then again, I sometimes get that booking with Disney themselves!

    Yes, regardless of who you book with, the Fastpass and dining reservations are the same.

    And I would recommend Pop Century (or Art of Animation if you can get a cheapish standard room) over the All Stars resorts. A bit nicer, and better transportation options.
     
    Last edited:

    WelshMorgan92

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Aug 4, 2019
    I have booked through Disney and virgin in the past and had no issues..
    also done it separately through booking flights with Norwegian and hotel/ticket with Disney.
    I'd go with whatever is cheapest tbh, nobody really stands above anyone in the way of quality or customer service.
     
  • Jon84

    wdwaddictuk
    Joined
    Jun 30, 2015
    I have booked through Disney and virgin in the past and had no issues..
    also done it separately through booking flights with Norwegian and hotel/ticket with Disney.
    I'd go with whatever is cheapest tbh, nobody really stands above anyone in the way of quality or customer service.
    True, there isn't much service difference. If you're after some advice, Disney Holidays will give you better info on MDE etc. VH, TC and TUI all have noooo idea when you can link to MDE, book ADRs or start FP+ Planning!
     

    SomeDayMyPrinceWillCome

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 14, 2019
    We've booked it separately, pretty much exactly how you said. Hotel & tickets through Disney, find the cheapest acceptable flights through Skyscanner. You'll be able to get the Magical Express. Once you've got your flight number, get in touch with Disney and they'll pick you up from the airport and bring you to your hotel.

    If you're organising it yourself you can only get Magical Express from Orlando International, not from Sanford.

    Don't forget to register with a cashback site like Quidco and you'll get some cash back after your holiday. It varies, but we got something like 7% back when we last went.

    You can price up the hotel & ticket now, but the flights won't be available yet.
    Omg I didn't know that about the ME, thank you so much! I've never done cashback so I'll have to look into it.
     

    SomeDayMyPrinceWillCome

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 14, 2019
    So I looked this year for September solo and ended up booking with Virgin Holidays as it actually worked out about £500 cheaper than pricing up separately. I got this during a sale though and normal price I haven't seen Virgin ever be that cheap. You can however get Magical Express included with any Disney hotel booking so could book Disney direct and then flight only though any company. Once you book Disney you have Magical Express you just need to let them know the flight times which I did via an online website I found a link to on here somewhere (search Magical Express and I'm sure you will find it). You have to do this even if everything is booked through a TA or Disney and in fact if you book through a TA (including Virgin) they will probably add on a paid transfer you don't need so watch out for that.

    I went with Coronado as I got free dining but don't think it is available at the time you are looking at. I'd probably however suggest Pop Century or Art of Animation over All Stars as the bus system to AS was a nightmare last time I stayed there.

    And yes if you book either with a TA or seperately you still get the 60 day in advance fast passes.

    Also going solo you might want to consider the dining plan just so that you've then factored in meal costs. I'm doing the QS as this fits better in with my plans. They are expensive but food in the parks is and if you are solo you are likely to be a little more restricted in terms of going off site etc.
    Oh wow, I've never seen Virgin be cheaper. When did you look this up? Do you know when they put sales on?
    No Free Dining isn't, but I'm not too worried about that as I barely eat anything (in fact I'm a bit worried about portion sizes and will probably just eat from the child menu for most things) and I'd rather stay in a Value to save money. Thanks for the tip about AS - I would love to stay in Art of Animation but it's a £500 difference, which seems a bit much to me!!
     

    gismo1554

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 11, 2005
    Oh wow, I've never seen Virgin be cheaper. When did you look this up? Do you know when they put sales on?
    No Free Dining isn't, but I'm not too worried about that as I barely eat anything (in fact I'm a bit worried about portion sizes and will probably just eat from the child menu for most things) and I'd rather stay in a Value to save money. Thanks for the tip about AS - I would love to stay in Art of Animation but it's a £500 difference, which seems a bit much to me!!
    I know it was a shocker! This was in April 2018 for September 2019 and had free dining. I think they are due a sale in September but not sure on dates. And yes £500 seems a huge difference. Did you check Pop Century? Last time I stayed it was only around £50 more than AS and has a much better transport route so less queuing. That said I liked it as much as AS its just the transport that made it worth it.

    Also with Virgin you can get a discount if you have a Virgin account of any kind from what I've seen including their random competition type app "Virgin Red" which is free to sign up to. This helped making it cheaper too as got a discount from this. I've always ended up booking separately before but haven't had any major issues with this holiday apart from the fact that they tried to add on transfers for £16 at least twice lol I just kept asking them to remove and there was no problem.
     
  • Jon84

    wdwaddictuk
    Joined
    Jun 30, 2015
    Oh wow, I've never seen Virgin be cheaper. When did you look this up? Do you know when they put sales on?
    No Free Dining isn't, but I'm not too worried about that as I barely eat anything (in fact I'm a bit worried about portion sizes and will probably just eat from the child menu for most things) and I'd rather stay in a Value to save money. Thanks for the tip about AS - I would love to stay in Art of Animation but it's a £500 difference, which seems a bit much to me!!
    Virgin is regularly cheaper, Whenever they have a Holidays Sale, and Virgin Atlantic have a Flight Sale, theres some good prices!
     

    gismo1554

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 11, 2005
    Virgin is regularly cheaper, Whenever they have a Holidays Sale, and Virgin Atlantic have a Flight Sale, theres some good prices!
    This is good to know as I had assumed it was a fluke cause everyone I know always said they were more expensive - and I'd never spotted them being cheaper.
     

    Disney Frenhines

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 28, 2013
    I would not recommend TAs, but, if you are uncomfortable booking online then go to all the local ones and get quotes, making clear what your needs are.
    I went into my local ones a couple of years ago when I was planning my first Double Header, both DL and WDW in one trip.
    Thomson (now TUI) were useless, didn't even have anything or any clue about DL and they only fly into Sanford, no good for non drivers.
    My local one, shall remain nameless, sorted out an itinerary, but, instead of being close to Disneyland, like walking distance as I had clearly stated, had come up with a hotel 10 miles away and the WDW side decided that I-Drive was on Disney property, as for transportation, clueless.

    I decided to do it myself online and for DL used Small World Vacations, who were excellent, I had to book my own flights, but, VA are easy to book with and the internal flight was with AA. I used the Disney site for the WDW. All it took was an evening of research with a cup of tea.

    By the way, I went again in 2015 did it all myself and had no problems. And in 5 weeks about to do it all again. The only issue was AA changed my LAX to MCO flight because of the 737 max groundings, but, sorting it out was quite easy apart from the AA agent not realising the seat number on the new flight wasn't an exit seat, but, got sorted with another phone call.

    Anyway, all you need to be prepared to do is some research and get quotes online. I now always use Disney's own travel company, but, if you are looking for a package then Virgin Holidays are good too, be mindful that WDTC cannot add flights until 12 months out, but, you can book the room and add flights later. I find them excellent and they also have a freephone number to call and the CMs are excellent.
     

    Disney Frenhines

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 28, 2013
    If you haven't already and you plan to use Virgin for the holidays or just flights, then join the Flying Club. My flights for next month's trips were £550 flying out to LAX economy and coming back MCO upper class. I was hoping to do both ways, but, they had no seat availability for LAX UC, those seats go quick.
    VH can be cheaper, just compare with other companies.
    BTW, Thomas Cook didn't do Orlando trips for solo travellers. It may have changed, but, some years ago I tried to get a quote online and nothing came up when I only put one person in. I contacted them and their pathetic excuse was that there are no single rooms on Disney property. My response was incredulous.
     

    Jkarrows

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 6, 2012
    I've booked solo 4 times. It's a nightmare of synchronisation!

    I've booked the whole package direct with Disney UK twice - this is fine if everything you want is available at a reasonable price, but basically you're stuck with the hotels and rooms that are released and available at the time you want to make the booking. Very often, the hotel you wanted isn't available. And if it is, then the flight prices for those dates put it out of reach.

    Once, I wanted French Quarter. It was available for the dates I wanted but I just kept waiting and waiting until Virgin Atlantic released the flights (11 month window), and the day that happened, French Quarter disappeared. I mentioned this to the CM as an aside when I finally booked, and she said "why didn't you book the room as soon as it was available, you can add the flights later". But then you run the risk of the flight being expensive on that day.

    Virgin Atlantic keep cancelling flights too and rebooking me on a one a day earlier or a day later, which then screws up the hotel booking.

    My latest booking was made 2 months ago, for November 2020, so I've beaten you there! I booked as soon as the packages were released as I wanted Riverside, but have gambled on the flights being available and affordable for those dates. I'm booking the flights direct with Virgin Atlantic at the moment because I've joined their frequent flyer scheme so can get a discount on the flights.

    BTW I'm as nervous as you about going solo, and love the idea of just booking once and letting someone else take care of it, and all treansport taken care of etc. Now I've done it once, I'm much more happy, apart from this worry about synchronising the hotel and flights when you've set your heart on particular dates (to hit the Epcot festivals at reasonable times) and hotels.

    Magical Express is very easy - just go to the check-in desk on the ground level of the airport terminal, and buses run around once every half hour. On the night before you leave at the end of your holoday, you'll get a letter attached to the door handle of your room telling you when your departure bus will be picking you up at the hotel.

    If you book everything with Disney, they will take care of the Magical Express booking. If you've booked flights separately, you just have to ring Disney when your flight times are known to book it. Beware of travel agents, e.g. Virgin Holidays, who add an extra charge for their own shuttle service. You can take that of course, but Magical Express is already included if you have a Disney hotel reservation. Just ring Disney as I've said to book it. Some people have also reported problems going through third parties like Virgin Holidays when getting your hotel reservation linked in the online portal, My Disney Experience. Then again, I sometimes get that booking with Disney themselves!

    Yes, regardless of who you book with, the Fastpass and dining reservations are the same.

    And I would recommend Pop Century (or Art of Animation if you can get a cheapish standard room) over the All Stars resorts. A bit nicer, and better transportation options.
    I have flown with Virgin Atlantic around 50 times and never once have I had a flight moved, we have flown out of Heathrow and Gatwick without issues every time all over the world.

    Not heard of people getting moved either before.

    Booking Magical Express is so easy, a single call to a UK number it takes no more then 2-3 minutes to sort, never a big issue and you can book this upto 7 days before you arrive and if your flight is delayed, not a problem, never an issue always glad to help you.
     

    SomeDayMyPrinceWillCome

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 14, 2019
    I know it was a shocker! This was in April 2018 for September 2019 and had free dining. I think they are due a sale in September but not sure on dates. And yes £500 seems a huge difference. Did you check Pop Century? Last time I stayed it was only around £50 more than AS and has a much better transport route so less queuing. That said I liked it as much as AS its just the transport that made it worth it.

    Also with Virgin you can get a discount if you have a Virgin account of any kind from what I've seen including their random competition type app "Virgin Red" which is free to sign up to. This helped making it cheaper too as got a discount from this. I've always ended up booking separately before but haven't had any major issues with this holiday apart from the fact that they tried to add on transfers for £16 at least twice lol I just kept asking them to remove and there was no problem.
    That's brilliant, thank you! Hopefully that would mean the September sale would be for November 2020 onwards. I've just had a look now and they only have ASSports, for ~£1500, AoA for ~£2000 and PC is actually just slightly more than that! I'd just rather use the £500 difference for the Halloween and Christmas parties I think.

    Ah I didn't know that either, I'll have to do that then! Thanks for all the great advice!
     

    SomeDayMyPrinceWillCome

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 14, 2019
    If you haven't already and you plan to use Virgin for the holidays or just flights, then join the Flying Club. My flights for next month's trips were £550 flying out to LAX economy and coming back MCO upper class. I was hoping to do both ways, but, they had no seat availability for LAX UC, those seats go quick.
    VH can be cheaper, just compare with other companies.
    BTW, Thomas Cook didn't do Orlando trips for solo travellers. It may have changed, but, some years ago I tried to get a quote online and nothing came up when I only put one person in. I contacted them and their pathetic excuse was that there are no single rooms on Disney property. My response was incredulous.
    Thanks for the advice! The fact Thomas Cook gave you that excuse is ridiculous - and prejudice!!!! I'm sure value resorts only sleep 4+ so by that logic there would be no couples allowed!!! I don't get that at all.
     

    csimon

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 20, 2018
    I have flown with Virgin Atlantic around 50 times and never once have I had a flight moved, we have flown out of Heathrow and Gatwick without issues every time all over the world.

    Not heard of people getting moved either before.
    Well...I've flown three times with VA to WDW, and twice I've been moved. First time, Feb 2018, the return journey was moved back a day. I'd booked the whole package with Disney, who rang me and asked me what I wanted to do. I was able to extend the hotel reservation by one day, so that was OK, I just had to pay for the extra night. It was Pop Century so not too expensive, and the park tickets remained good for the extra day.

    Second time VA moved the arrival flight forward a day. This time, flights booked separately with Virgin for Feb 2019. This was more awkward as my booked Disney hotel was no longer available for the extra night so I had to book a different resort for the extra night. Also, my dining plan and park tickets weren't extendable to that extra day as it was at that beginning of the holoday, not the end. Tickets now have a fixed start date when you book, but remain valid for as many days as necessary.

    My flights are between Manchester and MCO.

    Perhaps because I'm a single traveller I'm a target for moving as they find it easier to move me to free up two seats together, although once I noticed the whole flight had been cancelled anyway. But it's incredibly awkward when they do this, and there is no route to compensation or whatever, they are allowed to do this.
     



    Connect

    Disney News and Updates

    Get Daily Email Updates

    DIS INSTAGRAM

    Top