This post was written by one of our wonderful Points to Neverland readers, Becky. Today she is going to share how her family afforded a stay at the Disney Aulani Resort and Spa. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Becky.
Luxury Resort, With a Side of Magic
The Disney Aulani Resort and Spa is in one word (or a long sigh), Ahhhhmazing! In terms of Disney hotels, it’s right up there with the Grand Floridian and Grand Californian. In terms of luxuries, location, and amenities, it far exceeds them both. This resort literally takes your breath away the minute you walk into the jaw dropping lobby. Aulani offers exquisite architecture, a serene beach, and the amazing Waikolohe Valley pool area (which is like a water park in and of itself).
It’s unlike most other Disney destinations because it isn’t attached to a theme park, but you don’t feel like you’re missing any of the Disney magic. Our family felt like we were experiencing an entirely different facet of Disney’s magic, presented to us in the true Hawaiian fashion of aloha. Having stayed at three different 5-star Disney Resorts, we were blown away by the level of customer service. They took the Disney customer service experience to a whole new place. It’s for this reason and many others, that the Disney Aulani Resort and Spa was awarded the Travel & Leisure World’s Awards 2015 Best Family Hotel and Beach. Of course a resort this incredible comes at a cost and a high cost it is. However, there are ways you can prepare and plan that will yield some savings. In this post, I will outline ways our family saved to make this trip possible.
How We Saved
Flights were our biggest area of savings. We were fortunate to have accumulated a ton of travel miles on our Alaska Airlines card. Because of this, we were able to fly two of us completely on points, one on the companion pass for $99-plus fees (a perk of the Alaska Airlines credit card) and the fourth, we paid the full round trip price. You have to pay full price for one in order to use the companion pass with Alaska. When all was said and done in fees, it was about $1,032 total for the four of us to fly to Oahu. Which in terms of airfare to Hawaii, is a pretty great price for four people. I watched the flight prices on Alaskan like a hawk and took advantage of a buying point’s promo they had to seal the last few thousand we needed to get two of our flights free with points.
Disney Timeshare Broker
The second biggest area of saving is renting a Disney timeshare. For those of you not familiar with this, here is a brief overview. Disney has timeshares you can purchase; however, it’s quite pricey and in my opinion, not worth the cost. A wonderful alternative to buying the timeshare is to rent other people’s timeshares. There are several companies that work as brokers for this type of thing. One we’ve used is: David’s Disney Vacation Rental. We’ve rented a timeshare through his site for the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, paying a fraction of the cost for a room. Aulani doesn’t offer a ton of deep discounts, so this is a great option, especially if you are traveling with a big family and need the space that the villa sized rooms offer. These timeshares are hard to get and book up fast at Aulani. If you are planning to go this route, do it early. You can go on David’s website to read more about when and how to book. We really found the savings to be substantial!
Another way to save on room cost is through Disney’s military discounts. Did you know that Disney offers room discounts for active duty military? It’s true and the savings are significant. These discounts have a range, but at the Aulani, we were told it was about 30% off rack rates. The only challenge with it is that you don’t get a lot of choice in room type or available dates. It’s sort of a get what you get situation. Also, you have to show your military credentials when you check-in.
The final way to save on room costs is through Disney promotions. Disney is really trying to pull people to the resort in the non-peak times. The time you choose to go can have a significant impact on your price. We chose to go a week before our children’s Thanksgiving break. Yes, they had to miss some school, but it literally saved us thousands, so it was completely worth it. I’ve seen some incredible deals for the month of September. This could be great too, if you have younger ones not affected by school schedules or if you home school. We took advantage of one of the deals ourselves and booked a 35% off a 5-night stay and $150 resort credit. This was better than the military deal, especially with the $150 credit. We also stayed on regular week days to avoid the higher weekend prices. Our room average was $221 a night in the Deluxe Studio Villa. The $150 credit can be used towards any incidentals. We took advantage of it and booked a character dining experience (something we would normally never do because of the high price). With our credit, we paid $0 and even had money left over. We used the remaining funds towards food costs at the quick service counters by the pool area.
My last area of savings was on food. If you are familiar with Disney, then you are familiar with the high costs of food. This is no different at Aulani. The room we stayed in had a mini-fridge, sink, microwave, along with some utensils and serving ware…and we took full advantage of this. Across the street from the Aulani is an ABC store, which stocks all kinds of food. We purchased breakfast, lunch, and snack foods there to save money on those meals. Without this option, I can’t imagine what we would have spent on food.
When we broke it down, we realized our trip to Aulani cost about what we spent on our Walt Disney World trip a few years ago. Instead of paying for expensive park hopper tickets, we paid for some airfare. Instead of paying for Disney Dining, we paid a little more a night for our room. Instead of buying expensive park food, we ate in our room. There are ways to make it work and honestly the work is worth it. Aulani is an entirely different Disney experience that I think all Disney lovers like myself should experience. It was a little piece of heaven on earth.
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