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How we spend 1/3 of the year at Disney for just $1,495

Updated: Oct 10

Making the most of a vacation rental pass most people don't even know exists



It’s no secret that Disney vacations are EXPENSIVE. Lodging is a good chunk of that with value resorts starting at $113 a night and luxury resorts starting at $417 (Magic Guides, 2023). Personally, I’m not trying to spend that, and you don’t have to either.


We've gotten our nightly price down to just $18.50!


In the past 4 months, we’ve taken 5 Disney vacations (3 of these have each been a week long) without breaking the bank. In fact, lodging has only cost us a grand total of $1,495 (+ taxes & cleaning fees)...


And for the next 8 months, it doesn't have to cost us a dollar more.


In total, we can spend 1/3 of the year here, meaning 4 entire months right next to Disney for that one fixed price...and a pretty affordable one at that!


For that price, you might imagine we're staying in some dingy small room somewhere, but that's definitely not the case. We always book a 2 bedroom house at a resort, haven’t had to use any time off of work because we use the extra room as an office, and we bring our pup with us too! (So no expensive boarding fees to worry about either!)


No credit card points needed, no timeshare presentations, no gimmicks. Just smart planning and getting the most out of a brand new “all you can stay” pass that most people don’t even know exists yet.


Check out these drive times from where we stay!


Google maps showing drive times. 9 minutes to Hollywood Studios, 12 to EPCOT, 12 to Magic Kingdom, 14 to Animal Kingdom
Google map compilation of all the drive times to the Disney Parks

I feel like we cracked the code for an affordable & convenient stay at Disney. In this guide, I’ll show you how you might be able to do this too.


Here’s everything I’ll cover:

Bonus 🎉

Let’s get right into it.


looking up at the Disney 50th celebration castle
The 50th Celebration castle - Breana Wallace

 

About the “All You Can Stay” Cabin Pass

In August, a company that I was super familiar with from our RV travels (Thousand Trails) created “The Cabin Pass”. It allows you to stay a week at a time in cabins, tiny homes, yurts, and glamping tents at 125+ different locations all around the country (currently it’s sitting at 134 locations) for an entire year for just $1,495.


One of those locations is Tropical Palms, and that’s where we stay for our Disney weeks. It’s just 9 minutes from the entrance of Hollywood Studios!


Obviously, people close to the rentals will find it easier to take advantage of it more often but there's plenty of options.


Here’s a look at all their locations:


Map of cabin pass locations, 134 current locations sprinkled across the country
Map of all cabin pass locations

The rules for booking

We can book 7 days at each location, and we just have to spend 14 days out of the system before booking another 7 days at one. We can have 2 reservations on the books at a time, and we can book 60 days out.


1 week at a rental, 2 weeks at home. Rinse & repeat.


Update: Since we purchased ours, a few high-use places like their tiny homes in the Florida keys now require 28 days out of that location before booking in that specific location again, but you can still book other spots after the standard 14 days out of those high usage places. I’m not sure how this will change going forward.


Complete price breakdown

The Cabin Pass itself was $1,495 and with taxes it came out to $1,659.45 (we're in Florida). For any of our trips, I haven’t ever been charged any resort fees or taxes when I make reservations.


If we keep using it how we do, by the end of the year our nightly price will be down to just $18.50!


A huge benefit that’s worked really well for us is that many of the locations have pet-friendly rentals, which has saved us a ton on what we would have needed to spend on pet sitting. At the place we stay, sometimes they tack on a pet fee of $50 for extra cleaning once we check out, but that’s the only add-on I’ve ever seen. If you don't have a pet or don't want to travel with them, you'll never see this extra add-on.


 

Other uses for the Cabin Pass outside of Disney

This is a really cheap way to get Disney vacation lodging in, but we’re also excited about being able to try some of the other places that our pass gives us access to. I’ve already got a tiny home booked in the Keys for January. Here’s a few other locations on our wishlist for the coming year:


Places we can't wait to stay:

  • Mt. Hood

  • Colorado Springs

  • Seattle



These are our top picks for parks we’d go back to, that we’ve already been to in the RV during our East Coast Trek back in 2020:

  • Williamsburg

  • Hershey (My favorite park overall 💕)


Collage of our time at Hershey & Williamsburg

Coming Spring 2023: Pairing the cabin pass with the “Go Wild” Pass from Frontier (an all you can fly pass) that’s been all over the news lately should be an interesting way to try and get a ton of affordable and frequent vacations in. Stick around to get updates on pairing these 2 programs together once that flight pass goes live in May!



 

My personal experience using the pass

We're 5 trips in, with 2 more on the books. Here's everything I've experienced so far.


How much we’ve saved

Since we’ve been using it, I’ve kept track of what we would have paid retail for these rentals so that I could see how much it was worth it for us to buy the pass.


So far, we’ve booked $8,185.70 worth of them! My personal goal is to hit $20,000 in bookings, and I plan to keep you guys updated.


Full transparency: After I booked with my pass, I'd go check the price for full retail and record it. That's where I got all the prices you'll see below for every single trip we've taken or booked.



Fun facts:

  • Most “expensive” week in total: Christmas through New Years by Disney. It would have been $2,241.63.

  • Our most “expensive” nightly stay: (upcoming) 4 days in a Tiny home on the water in the Florida Keys in January. Would have been $356.53 per night.

Here's how all of our trips have broken down:

Excel spreadsheet showing bookings. total comes out to $8,185.70.
My current bookings as of 1/12/2023

I’m not gonna lie, I thought for sure I’d get some kind of notice that I was using a single property too much or that I’d booked too many places. (Even though according to the rules, I'm using it as I should be able to)


I mean...clearly I'm using it a TON...


But that hasn’t been the case.


I have no idea how they’re going to keep this up based on how much money I’ve saved and how often I go, but I’m planning to keep using it while we can!


My thoughts on the rentals themselves - Tropical Palms

Honestly, I’m a fan of the place. During the workweek after 5, we can head out to the theme parks or check out other local stuff like Celebration, Downtown Disney, Old Town, or the place across the street that’s filled with DOZENS of food trucks.


It’s not the same type of resort like you’d find at Disney, but it’s pretty nice to have so much more privacy and space than a standard hotel while still getting a good amount of amenities. I mean, we literally book a 2 bedroom house and have had family come and join us as well…



Here’s a bit about the resort itself:


Every rental at Tropical Palms comes with some basics that you’d expect like towels, bedding, toiletries & cooking utensils.


The amenities are pretty good too, and include:

  • Giant laundry room with tons of machines that have credit card readers so you don’t have to fuss with coins or reloadable cards. So you can pack less clothing, which is a nice perk

  • Large pool area where they have bands and movies during special events

  • Separate kiddie pool splash pad with a mushroom waterfall

  • Fenced-in playground for the kids

  • Gym with a good amount of free weights, weight machines, and cardio machines.

  • Market with things that you might need during your stay like snacks and medicine.


We’ve personally always booked the 2-bedroom rentals for the office setup, but they’ve got a ton of different layouts that you’re also able to book (some including lofts), they usually include pull-out couches and can sleep up to 8 in their largest rentals.


Honestly, I bet kids would LOVE the different loft layouts! I'm always tempted 😅


A few cons I’ve found (Because I'm super honest with reviews):

  • Call wait times can be lengthy. Anytime we’ve called to make changes to our reservation or get information, we’ve been put on hold for anywhere from 20-45 minutes at a time because it’s such a busy resort. That being said, they’ve always been able to help us with our requests, just wanted to throw that out there in case you run into this too. You might very well never even need to call the resort since you book everything online, we just prefer a certain cabin.

  • The resort is located in a super busy touristy spot. Depending on the time of day, there can be traffic backups, especially as people are leaving the parks. This won't really differ anywhere in the touristy areas though.

  • We once went without hot water for 2 days, just to find out we had to flip a switch I didn't know about to turn it on. Turns out, we took those cold showers for nothing 😅. So, be aware of that if you show up and find yourself without hot water! Not really a con, just be aware so you don't suffer like we did lol.

 

Tips for your stays

Here are some tips I’ve picked up to help make your stay better and to get as much value out of the pass as possible.


Keeping track of reservations to maximize the pass

When it comes to booking, I like to mark when the earliest is that I can check in again by marking 14 days from my last checkout date. This satisfies being out of the system for those 14 days. I do this in google sheets where I log all of our travel since we’re constantly moving around and have a lot to juggle.


Here’s what that looks like:


An excel speadsheet of a calendar showing my next available checkin date
Mark your calendar 2 weeks after your checkout date to see your next available check-in day

Tip: If you don’t have a ton to manage, and don’t need a bunch of visual cues like I do, you can easily do this on google calendar by just logging when your checkout date is, and marking 2 weeks down as your next check-in window.


Getting the best reservations - Like Disney & the Florida Keys

For times and places that I think might book up early (The Keys trip I booked for January and the week between Christmas and New Year at Disney) I book that out as early as I can (60 days). I set an alarm on my phone for midnight as soon as that booking window opens up 60 days out, and snag it.


To track this on the calendar, I reverse the process above to mark when NOT to book another trip to maintain that 14 days out as I fill out that 60-day window with more trips. From the day you check in, go back 2 weeks and mark it so that you know you need to be checked out of a reservation by that date.


Here's an example:


An excel sheet showing how I track when I need to be checked out by. I locate my check-in date, and then make a mark 2 weeks before.
Marking when to be checked out of another reservation that I haven't booked yet

Honestly, I haven’t had an issue with it and I have no idea if the system would check that, but I’ve got it accounted for nonetheless.


All of this ensures that I can always book exactly as many days as I’m allotted and that I can plan around those weeks away.


Booking strategy to make the most of your weekends

We used to check in on Sunday, and check out on Sunday. This made sense to us because we’d be able to start the workweek at the cabin. However, this also meant that we were spending our Saturday night at the end of the reservation packing, and our Sunday morning getting up early to head out. Not really ideal.


So we switched it up to maximize our time enjoying the parks and relaxing on the weekends instead.


Now, we book to check in on a Monday, and don’t have to check out until Monday of the following week. So we get our stuff packed for the rental Sunday night, work Monday at home, and head out to the cabin afterward. When it comes time for checkout the following week, we have all of Saturday to enjoy, all of Sunday, and then we pack our stuff up Sunday night and head back home when we're ready to go.


If you’re local, this works especially well. Technically we get one less day that we’re actually using, but the setup works better for us when we’re working and gives us more full weekend days to enjoy rather than them being taken up by moving around.


Here’s an example:


An excel sheet showing a checkin on Monday and a checkout on Monday rather than a weekend day.
2 full weekend days to enjoy the rentals by checking in and out on a Monday

Maximizing Annual Passes for a super cheap trip

The Cabin Pass definitely takes care of the lodging aspect of an expensive Disney trip, but another way to save some serious money is to pair this with annual passes. Single-day tickets are CRAZY expensive, and definitely put a rush on you and your family to fit everything in at the parks because of that hefty price tag you pay each day to be there.


If you're a Florida Resident you've currently got access to purchasing the lowest tier pass, the pixie pass. (As of me writing this on January 12th, 2023 the other 4 passes are not for sale). The pixie pass is good for weeknights and comes with some blackouts. This can still definitely be worth it when you compare it to the price of a daily ticket, and you can always choose to add in passes for other local theme parks like the Universal or Seaworld parks if you're dead set on hitting up some theme parks on the weekends.


 

Conclusion: Would I buy the pass again & who is it a good fit for?

This has been an absolute no-brainer for us, and I jumped on the chance to grab it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. For anyone that loves Disney (or travel in general), I’d highly recommend it based on our usage.


I was honestly pretty skeptical that I’d be able to do everything they said I would and was worried they’d pull it early because of too much usage. It seemed like TOO good of a deal for what I knew I’d be able to use it for. For that reason, I haven’t shared much about it until now because I wanted to have a good amount of trips under my belt before suggesting it to anyone else.


I’m happy to report, it’s met all of my expectations and then some!


This entire article has been pretty specific about how I’ve used this pass to get an insanely low rate for Disney lodging, but there are TONS of other locations you can pair this with!


Stick around for more recommendations and travel ideas from the locations we've personally been to over the past few years with the RV that now offer vacation rentals!


 

How to get the best deal on your Cabin Pass

Alright, so that’s everything I’ve learned about maximizing this pass to get your nightly stays at Disney down to a CRAZY affordable rate. (ours is just $18.50 a night!)


The good news is that these passes are available for anyone to purchase! You don’t need to be a previous member of Thousand Trails, or a resident of a certain state (like most theme park passes). They’re always for sale on their website. That’s what I did.


BUT I wouldn’t suggest that, here’s why.


Since we’ve been going to Tropical Palms, I’ve spent a good amount of time talking to the sales rep (Jennifer) to learn all the ins and outs of the pass and the parks before passing it along to you guys.


Sometimes, the company runs promotions that are only available through the sales reps like:

  • Lower prices

  • Free gift cards with purchase

  • Other promotional giveaways


With this being new (it just started 4 months ago), we don’t have a ton of data on if they’ll run sales on it etc. but Jennifer’s able to help make sure you get the best deal and that you get any freebies that might come along with it that you wouldn’t if you bought it on your own. She’ll also help you make your first reservation at this super popular park, and walk you through the system so you can make your own reservations in the future!


You’ll never pay extra for going through her, but you might get some freebies and you’ll definitely get some personalized intro info for that first reservation.


Also, if you want to mention my blog or my name when you reach out to her (Breana Wallace - Always Chasing Freedom) I’ll get a small commission as well. If you found this article useful and you’d like to support me in continuing to make more helpful guides like this, I’d truly appreciate it!


If you’re interested in getting the Cabin Pass for yourself, you can sign up to chat with her here:



Thanks for reading!


Keep chasing your dreams, keep chasing your freedom! 💕

- Breana


 

BONUS: Get my entire cabin week packing list: theme park edition - totally FREE 🎉


I always get so stressed packing for trips, so I’ve started making these for every type of trip I go on. I make it once, and then get to reuse it every time after. Each time, I add more things I forgot, or ideas I have along the way for what to bring next time.


It makes the packing process MUCH easier!


Check out my entire packing list here so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything ever again! You'll also be able to fully customize it for you and your family!



 

I hope you found this helpful, and I’ve got tons of new content coming out in the next few months about all different types of affordable travel. If you’re interested in getting updates about more things like this, you can sign up here.


Check out my favorite travel & adventure gear here


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