UPDATE: Disney Vacation Account savings program is ending on September 27, 2017. For more information read here.
What are the Benefits of a Disney Vacation Account?
Disney quietly introduced a vacation savings program last year, but is just now slowly starting to promote it. On my last trip to Disney World I noticed some flyers tucked in the resort packet and this week Disney Parks Blog posted an article referring to it as their ‘newest program.’ Odd that they took so long to start rolling it out, but maybe they wanted to get feedback and make a few tweaks before launching it on a larger scale. So, just what is this Disney Vacation Account and what’s in it for you as a future guest?
What is The Disney Vacation Account?
The Disney Vacation Account is a set of tools for planning your Disney vacation budget and creating a savings plan to meet your goal. When it’s time to book your trip you can use the money in your account to pay for park tickets and/or resort room reservations. You can also convert your savings into Disney gift cards to use on your trip to pay for meals, merchandise, or even room charges. There are many diehard Disney fans, like myself, who already create their own separate savings accounts or spreadsheets to track progress towards the next trip, so it makes sense that Disney would try to tap into this market.
How Do I Use The Disney Vacation Account?
The first step is to create a budget, though the budget tools aren’t quite as helpful as they could be for setting up an estimate. For example, you select the Hotel category but all it gives you to go on is a link to their resorts page. You need to know at least what resort class to start with and when you are going since prices can vary from as little as $100 to over $500 per night easily. You’ll need to calculate all of that, plus figure in the taxes, on your own. Same for tickets, which is easier. You can also add on dining and shopping, but keep in mind those items would have to be paid with gift cards or refunded cash from the plan. Airfare is an option and can be booked through Disney Travel, but it is often easier to do this yourself with all the available carriers and flights.
Once you have your budget set, the next step is to set up your savings plan. Input your travel date and when you want to reach your savings goal (up to 5 years in advance). This is an important step since reservations can be made as far as 180 days before your vacation for things like dining. Then decide if you want to contribute weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. (You can also add one-time payments). Once this info is entered it will calculate your payment amount. Currently, the program is limited to contributions made through credit/debit cards and Disney Gift Cards, so you’ll need a debit card if you want to contribute directly from a bank account. Up to $25,000 can be set aside in your account.
After your account is set up you can sit back and track your financial progress with a handy chart. At any time you can change contribution amounts, stop contributions, change payment methods, or stop payments. The next phase is paying for your vacation.
What Can I Do with the Money I Saved?
When it comes time to spend your hard earned Disney money, you can book a vacation online, by calling (407) 939-7734, or through a certified Disney Travel planner such as our Jenn Greene. Adventures by Disney vacations can only be paid for by phone. The funds in your account can only be used to directly pay for your tickets, resort room, and in some cases airfare. Up to $1000 in remaining funds can be requested as Disney gift cards or refunded to the source with which you made your contributions. You can also leave funds in the account to get your next vacation off to a good start.
What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of the Disney Vacation Account?
So, is this just an elaborate scheme by Disney to funnel your money into their pockets or are there benefits for guests too? Well, a little bit of both.
- You’ll be eligible for a $20 Disney Gift Card for every $1000 you spend on qualified vacation purchases with your Disney Vacation Account prior to December 31, 2017 (date subject to extension), up to a total $500 in Disney Gift Cards. Account must be active for 120 days first.
- Disney Vacation Account is free to set up and there are no fees.
- Good way to budget and track progress for an expensive vacation.
- Your money can be refunded in full at any time (3-4 days processing)
- Not able to link account directly to your Disney reservation to pay for incidental items like dining and merchandise when you use your MagicBand/room charge.
- Disney does not pay any interest as opposed to a regular bank savings account.
- Difficult for first time Disney guests to get a handle on how much to estimate for their budget with the tools provided.
Who Should Open a Disney vacation Account?
If you’re looking for an easy and fun way to save towards your next Disney vacation, the Disney Vacation Account provides a decent option. If you want to retain easier access to your money, you can always open a separate savings account in your current online banking and also make a bit of interest at the same time. Until Disney adds the ability to link your Vacation Account directly to your reservations and giving you the ability of paying for everything during your trip I can’t recommend this as a better option over a traditional online bank savings account. We’ll have to wait and see if Disney offers any other incentives besides the gift cards, such as the early booking opportunities offered to Disney Visa card holders or special discounts.