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

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.