We've traveled to Florida for the last few years. When I told friends we were heading back to Florida this year, they asked how we could do it with the Canadian dollar being so low. There are a few things to keep in mind: 1 - We save hard, we don't travel any other time of the year, we save for this trip the whole year. 2 - We limit gift giving (Christmas/birthdays, etc) in favour of this - I love the idea of giving "experiences" instead of "stuff". We've embraced this concept wholeheartedly.
When we started our trip planning, we began by identifying a few different vacation destinations, and I kept a running spreadsheet, and compared prices between all of them.
One piece of my planning that I found very helpful was signing up for travel alert emails. Some people find this annoying because you get emails, a lot. The advantage is that I often got emails about some great sales and promotions. I wound up securing a flight for a great price because of one of these promotional emails - a week later the very same flight I booked was selling for double!
We have always stayed offsite when we travel to Disney. The downside? No Disney transportation, and it often means you have to rent a vehicle. But there are many positives.
First advantage, price. Depending on where you stay, the savings can be significant. When deciding where to stay, there are a few things to consider - your group size, distance from the parks, and the types of facilities you're looking for in a property.
There are lots of hotels that offer shuttles, water parks, and other fun features. There are condos/villas that have similar features. Or you may even want to consider renting a house/villa that isn't attached to a resort. We have done both resort and non-resort properties.
If you like privacy, non-resort properties offer the most privacy - usually private pools/spas, but it also means that you're entirely on your own - no business center, staff to offer directions, etc.
Resort stays can still be pretty private, but usually mean sharing pools, etc.
We love both, but you need to decide what works best for you.
When searching for properties, we've used Vacation Rental By Owner, but you can also take your chances doing just a general internet search. You can also find some properties on sites like Expedia.
My tips for finding a good property? READ THE REVIEWS! I can't stress that enough. Pay attention to what people complain about - paint colour? Not a big deal. Mold or bugs? Bigger issue. If there are no reviews, you're taking a gamble.
As for rental cars, book as close to your trip as possible - the closer you get to your trip, generally, the cheaper the rental price. However, if you are renting during a busy season - like Christmas - and if you need a specific type of vehicle, book earlier. A simple internet search can usually help you find some good coupon codes for major rental companies too. Beware of the small print! If you and your spouse plan to share driving duties, look for the fine print - additional driver charges can be substantial. Some companies, like Budget (at the time of publication) do not charge for spouses as an additional driver. Also be sure that you know your insurance options - do you have insurance through your credit card? Does your regular car insurance have a provision for additional coverage for a rental? All things to consider beforehand.
I have many more tips to share, so I will post Part 2 soon, but in the meantime, have your own tips to share? Post them in the comments! I may share some of your suggestions in my upcoming post!