by JollyFrogger Diva
When it comes to traveling Walt Disney World, there are a multitude of things I am willing to splurge on- staying at a resort on property and purchasing the Park Hopper upgrade, for example. However, in order to afford those splurges, I have to find a way to save money in other areas.
Traveling is one of those areas where I can find a way to save a little money. Technically, we live close enough that we could get away with driving to Walt Disney World, but I detest being in the car for the better part of a day. As a kid, my family drove the first 5 or 6 times we went to Walt Disney World, but after the first time flying instead, we never looked back. Like my father says, “There’s nothing like waking up in your own bed in the morning and dining with The Mouse that same evening”.
The problem is airfare can be prohibitively expensive, and there are 3 people in my family that I need to budget for. My solution to this issue is to fly a discount carrier- that way I still get to enjoy the convenience of flying without completely blowing my budget. There are several discount carriers out there, but where I live there is only one that flies to Orlando- Allegiant Air. We flew AirTrans once, when they were running out of our local airport, and they seemed pretty similar, but most of my experience pertains to Allegiant. Discount carriers differ slightly from regular airlines, so below are some points to consider when deciding if flying a discount carrier is right for you.
Nothing is Free. When it comes to looking at a discount carrier versus a regular air carrier, it’s important to remember that sometimes you get what you pay for. Since you are paying less for the ticket, Allegiant doesn’t offer any of the freebies that other carriers like Delta can afford you. There are no complimentary sodas or snacks onboard Allegiant planes- they are available for you to purchase if you choose, but it’s cheaper to buy them in the airport before you board the plane. This doesn’t present a problem for my family, because the flight is only about an hour and a half from our airport, but if you have a longer flight or are flying during a meal time, you’ll want to plan accordingly.
Another sneaky thing Allegiant likes to try to get you to pay for is choosing your seat. When you go to book the flight online, you’ll be directed to a seating chart for your flight where you are instructed pick a seat. The problem is, once you click on your preferred seat, you see that they tack on a$ 15 per seat fee for this “privilege”, and it increases if you choose one of the seats in the front row where there’s extra leg room. It takes some close reading to realize that you don’t have to pick a seat if you’re not particular about where you sit, and then you have to click several disclaimer buttons before it will allow you to skip that process. If you are traveling with a large group, like I usually do, it may be helpful to choose seats if everyone wants to sit together, but it’s important to know that fee isn’t reflected in the ticket price until you get to that step of the booking process, so you’ll need to budget extra if you are particular about where you sit.
Baggage Fees and Rules May be Different. All airlines, discount our not, have different baggage fees and rules that you need to investigate when planning a flight. Like I stated above, nothing is free on a discount carrier, and luggage is no exception. Passengers are allowed one personal item for free, such as a purse or backpack that can fit under the seat, but unlike some airlines like Delta or American Air, Allegiant charges for carry-ons. The price depends on your flight, so be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date fee list, but for my flight it would be $15 each to add a carry-on when I booked the flight. That is on top of the fee for checked bags, which is $40 for our flight if we purchase it at time of booking (it’s $50 if we wait until we get to the airport to purchase the checked bag option). Allegiant also has a lower weight limit for checked bags than most carriers do- it’s 40lbs for Allegiant while carriers like Delta and American allow checked bags up to 50lbs. I learned this the hard way on our last trip- I was over by a couple of lbs on our return flight and had to pay an “overweight” bag fee which cost me as much as it would have to check a 2nd bag. I have included a picture of Allegiant’s Baggage Policy as of January 26, 2016 but be sure to check their website for the most current policy before you pack.
You may need additional transportation. Some carriers, like Allegiant fly into Sanford International Airport instead of Orlando International Airport, which means those passengers do not have the option of utilizing Disney’s Magical Express to get between the airport and Walt Disney World. Depending on the size of your travel party, there are several options available when it comes to securing transportation- rental cars, shuttles, taxis, and limos are all viable options. Sanford’s website has a good list of companies that offer rides to and from the airport complete with contact information so you can comparison shop for the best deal. Like I said previously, I tend to travel with a larger group- usually at least 6 people. Renting a car that can accommodate that many people plus their luggage is challenging, so we usually hire someone to give us a ride. On our last visit, we had a great experience with a 10 passenger van we hired from Happy Limo.
We were even able to schedule a grocery store stop with them which allowed us to purchase bottled water and diapers so we didn’t have to worry about cramming those things in our suitcases beforehand. The van took us right to our hotel and we were able to schedule what time we wanted to be picked up for the return to the airport, which was nice because it meant we didn’t have to get to the airport too early for the flight home. The cost will obviously vary widely depending on the service you choose, but it cost us about $300 round trip (not including tip) for the 10 passenger van.
Limited flight availability. Allegiant only flies back and forth between our airport and Orlando once per day on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. Although it’s not been an issue yet, one flight offering a day could also mean we had to miss a day or stay an extra if a flight got cancelled or delayed. This wouldn’t be a deal breaker for when we’re staying at the park, but if we were trying to fly Allegiant to catch a cruise ship, that could be a huge issue. Before planning to fly a discount carrier for vacation, be sure to check the availability of flights before you make your reservations so you aren’t stuck trying to add on a day at the last minute. Last time we went to Walt Disney World, we had to try and extend our stay a day after we had made the resort reservation because there wasn’t an available return flight the day we wanted to leave. We ended up having to move resorts because the one we had booked was full the day we wanted to add, and that was a bit of a pain.
Despite the differences between a discount carrier and a regular air carrier, the savings can be well worth it. It would cost my family about $500 per person round trip for us to fly Delta whereas we would pay about $250 per person round trip flying Allegiant, including the cost of hiring a ride to get to and from the airport. For my family, the 50% savings is worth a little extra planning that flying a discount carrier requires.