Sunday, February 14, 2010

REVIEW: What I learned from MICKEY MOUSE: Disney Social Media Moms Conference (PART 1): Get There If You Can!

In this post, follow my quest to get to the Disney Social Media Moms Conference without losing my shirt!

The Disney Social Media Conference: A Cheap Woman's Dream
I just got back from my first blogger conference. When I started blogging, I did not know that blogger conferences existed, so to be invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Conference at Walt Disney World was wonderful. Since I am frugal (cheap!) I would never have thought a conference at Disney World would be in my budget, but Disney greatly discounted this conference so that the mom bloggers could stay at the luxury Disney Polynesian Resort, listen to great Social Media speakers, be part of the media at the Disney Press Conferences, visit the theme parks, and experience the Disney resort with our families. So, it was a cheap woman's dream come true!

What I learned from Mickey Mouse - a lot!
This event was attended by 200 mom bloggers and their families from all around the country and was a wonderful networking and social media opportunity. I learned and experienced so much during trip that I could not possibly review it all in one blog post. So I will be writing a series of articles over the next month on FREEISMYLIFE called "What I learned from Mickey Mouse" and believe me, I learned a lot from that 80 year old rich mouse, so make sure that you read the whole series.

Getting From Here to There - Painful, but Educational
This blog post deals with the process of just getting to Disney World. Although Disney discounted the conference, the conference fee did not include airfare. So, I was forced to do something that I don't do very well - research cheap airfare. Since I don't travel by plane very often, this is one area that I have limited experience in doing "on the cheap".

My initial plan was to fly from Detroit to Orlando on Wednesday morning since the conference started on Wednesday at 5pm. I used to get the price of tickets on all the major airlines. The last time I went to Disney World 2 1/2 years ago, I only paid $160 per plane ticket. I figured plane tickets for this trip to Orlando should be roughly the same price. Boy was I wrong. Because the conference was so close to Valentine's Day and Winter Break, the price of the tickets were over $310 a piece (OUCH!) I could not believe it. The more I tried to find cheaper prices to fly out on Wednesday, the higher the ticket price got as the date grew nearer. I was really getting panicked that I would have to pay this outrageous price!

I found out that if I flew out a day earlier, the price of the tickets went down to $210 a piece for a savings of $100 per ticket. I could not believe how much I saved just flying out one day earlier. Flying out one day earlier also meant we got out of Detroit just before a major snow storm hit with 10 inches of snow!

Disney Value Resorts - No Frills, but Cheap!
The next problem was to figure out where we could stay for cheap for one night since we were flying out a day early. I had stayed 2 1/2 years ago for one night at a Disney Value Resort so I had some history with them. The Disney Value Resorts are cheap, clean, motel resorts with minimum bells and whistles. They have swimming pools, laundry facilities, and cafeteria style dining. If you want luxury, don't stay at a value resort. If you want affordability, this is your place. The cost of our room was $92 a night. While there are cheaper motels off Disney property for around $50 per night, the Disney resorts come with a great perk: Free transportation from the Airport to Disney and Free transportation to Disney properties.

Disney Magical Express - A FREE Ticket to Ride
Disney World is a 40 minute drive from the Orlando Airport and a cab ride from the airport to Disney can run $50-$60. But Disney includes free transportation from the airport when you stay at any of their resorts, including the value resorts. The service is called Disney Magical Express. When you book your room, they ask you for your flight information. A package will arrive at your home with your vouchers and tags for your luggage. When you get off the plane, you go directly to the Disney Magical Express counter on level 1 of the Orlando Airport. If you have checked bags, Disney will claim them for you from Baggage Claim - no need for you to even bother. Just give them your Transportation Voucher, board the bus, and Disney takes care of all the rest. When you get to your resort, your luggage will arrive within two hours to your room.

To save the cost of checked luggage, we only took carry-on bags, but the convenience of the Disney Magical Express was worth the extra $42 difference of staying off property and cheaper for us than taking a cab.

FREE Disney Transportation System
Another great benefit of staying at a Disney resort (including the value resorts) is that it includes free transportation between Disney properties. The Disney buses run between the resorts and all the Disney theme parks. We actually took the free Disney bus to get from the Disney Pop Century value resort to the Disney Polynesian where the conference was being held.

While Disney does not provide transportation between two Disney hotels, my plan was to take the bus from the Pop Century to Disney Magic Kingdom, which is close to the Polynesian, and then take the free monorail from the Magic Kingdom to the Polynesian. When we boarded the bus with our luggage, the Disney bus driver asked me where we were going. When I told him my plans to get off at Magic Kingdom and then take the monorail to the Polynesian, he told me he would take us directly to the Polynesian! Now that great customer service saved us about 30 minutes and hassle of rolling our luggage to the monorail. Thanks Disney!

Getting It Even Cheaper -
Now I thought that the $92 that I paid for the one night at the Disney Pop Century was a good price, but I found out from another Mom at the conference that she paid $62 a night for the same type of room at the same Disney value resort by going through Now that is one great deal so I suggest that you check first before calling Disney directly to book a room at any of their resorts.

What's Next??
Since I have told you about how we got there, my next blog post will go over some of the things I saw and did once I got to the conference. So stay tuned for my next blog post in this series "What I learned from MICKEY MOUSE (PART 2): Mickey Mouse vs Harry Potter".


  1. Jackie - great information even for me and I've been there multiple times! It was definitely a great event and it's so fun reading everyone else's experience. I'm looking forward to more!


    PS: I think we shared a few buses together :)

  2. Isn't it amazing how changing the date you fly by even one day can affect the price so much. And how wonderful that it got you an extra day in Disney.

    I love the Disney Magical Express taking you to and from the airport and the shuttles and monorail taking you to the resorts. You save a lot by never paying for cabs the entire time.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the conference. I had a blast too.

  3. Wasn't it such fun at the conference? I loved it....even us frugal families can visit Disney!! :-) Hope we can visit again next year (wink wink, fingers crossed)!

  4. What an awesome post! I am subscribing so I don't miss any more. :) Wish I had been there. Maybe next year.

  5. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to go to Disney, can't wait to read the rest of the series. :)

  6. We took our first family trip to Disney the week before the Disney SM conference - I sooo wish I'd of been there when you all were! Great tips to incorporate with my own frugal finds for next time!

  7. This is so helpful and informative... I come from a family of huge WDW fans and have become an avid blogger. Just recently I found our that these such conferences exist and I would LOVE to be invited. How does one even begin to get on the sacred bloggy mommy list for this event. Your blog is wonderful by the way and I look forward to following along!
    beneath the acacia tree