This summer our holiday to Greece was cancelled. A disaster, or so it felt. Having worked hard all year and with some difficult times at the start of 2016, as a family we were ready for a bit of R & R in the Greek sunshine. That didn’t work out. Our accommodation was over booked and so we had to cancel. We were all disappointed. Bitterly disappointed.

Then hit me. Turn a negative into a positive. Determined that we wouldn’t suffer the same fate next year, keen to make up for the disappointment of this year’s lack of holiday, it struck me. We could go back to Disney World.

And that would give me a full 13 months of planning!

Not one to rush into these things, well I rushed the decision that we would go to Disney, I couldn’t help that. But not one to rush into booking our holiday I embarked on one of my favourite pastimes. Holiday shopping.

I used to be a determinedly independent traveller. I have booked and organised lots of ‘independent’ traveller holidays for myself and my husband. Even after our son was born booking city break’s which included public transport and quirky apartments, in non touristy parts of town, were my forte. But recently I have also begun to appreciate the joy of a ‘package holiday’. Where I once turned my nose up at an organised holiday, deeming them only for lazy, unadventurous types, I now realise they can have significant benefits. And if you do your homework significant savings too. I always check the prices of all the elements separately on the web though just to check I am getting the best deal from a package, it’s not that difficult.

I always check with Disney first. The Disney World website disneyworld.disney.go.com is fantastic for information. It has all the ‘on property hotels’, we always stay on property, here’s why, and you can check prices of booking direct with them, including tickets. I also use the Universal website universalorlando.com to do the same thing.

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Armed with price information I can then hit the travel agents and spend time with them finding the best price available. Here’s a word of warning, some package travel companies are quite rigid in the way they approach selling holidays. Thomson’s, for example. Now that can be a good thing. If you want a standard two weeks in Disney World with one of their brochure featured hotels. If a hotel is featured in the brochure you can bet they sell mostly those resorts which helps them to get a better price. The more rooms they negotiate, the better the deal. In addition Thomson can be a good choice because they have a great fleet of aircrafts and they fly the new Dreamliner to Orlando on most of their routes. Deviate from the standard though and companies like Thomson’s can get pretty pricey.

We like to stay at both Disney and Universal Studios, the on-site perks at Universal are too good to miss, so we tend to get the best quotes from companies who can create a tailor-made holiday, like Virgin or Thomas Cook.

Now here’s a really interesting phenomenon. If you are lucky enough to live in a city where there is a Virgin travel shop, make the most of it. They are great at making the booking process feel very VIP. Here’s the surprise though, that doesn’t mean they charge VIP prices. Virgin holidays can cost the price of a second mortgage because they offer vacations in some of the most glamorous resorts in the world. When booking a comparative hotel, however, they have offered some of the most competitive rates around, especially on flights. And from a customer service point of view I have found them to be very good. As a disclaimer I just want to point out I haven’t had any freebies from any of these companies so I can recommend with a clear unbiased conscience.

So that’s us booked.

We fly out in October 2017. 392 days to go!