How I’ll Get to Port Canaveral – TouringPlans #Everywhere

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Photo by Nick Mitchell
Photo by Nick Mitchell

I’m heading to Port Canaveral to get on the Disney Dream on Sunday, October 12, and – once I’m on the ship – things seem pretty easy since there is plenty to do: I’ll eat, swim, play shuffleboard, etc. As I wrote in April, the challenge for me is getting to Port Canaveral. Over the past three months, I’ve made a few decisions, and I want to walk you through my calculations. The Internet is a place where people freely mock others’ ideas and decisions, so I welcome your thoughts.

Decision 1: When to Arrive and Leave?

I am going to arrive in Central Florida on the day before my cruise. Everyone recommends this, and since it’s a requirement of my job to get on the Disney Dream on time, I’ll minimize my chances of literally missing the boat, even though it will cost an extra $100-200 for a hotel room and food on Saturday.

After my cruise, I’d love to extend the magic by visiting Walt Disney World for a few days. Even though I have a Tables in Wonderland card that expires on October 31 that I’m tempted to exploit for more “value,” after running the numbers I couldn’t pull this off at a price I’m willing to stomach. If I stayed at Disney World for 4 days/3 nights after my cruise, it would run me roughly:

Tables in Wonderland Card
Alas, not used as an excuse for a Disney World trip
  • $300 for a discounted Value Resort room
  • $888 for 4-day base tickets
  • $100 additional travel expenses (airfare difference or rental car/fuel costs)
  • $450 for food
  • TOTAL: $1,738

Although I could go cheap on food or the hotel to lower the price further, that’s not how I want to vacation (even though it might be wise to eat lightly after a cruise), and a price of over $1,700 for less than 4 full days simply isn’t worth it to me right now. Plus, we miss less work, and my son misses less school. While I’m no Guy Selga, I’ve been in theme parks about 45 days over the past year, and I’m going to Disney World again in December (when I can stay longer and reduce my per-day costs), so I’ll survive.

Decision 2: When to Arrive at the Port

Disney Cruise Line BusThis turned out to be a minor decision. One part of me would like to have the “Disney experience” of taking one of those snazzy, porthole-laden DCL buses from the airport and have my luggage magically appear in my room. But another part of me wants to rush on to the ship to enjoy it for as long as possible. For reasons mentioned below, I am driving to the port; given that I’m in control of my destiny, I’ll arrive early and get on the ship as early as possible. I have an 11:00-11:15 am port arrival time scheduled.

Decision 3: Fly or Drive?

Direct flights to Orlando are about $200 round-trip from where I live in Virginia (although they’re currently around $250), and I have to drive about an hour to get to the airport. I calculate the costs to fly as:

  • $600 for airfare for 3
  • $61.60 in driving costs (110 miles at IRS’s $0.56/mile)
  • $42 for 6 days of airport parking
  • $210 for transportation for 3 to cruise terminal (I could do this cheaper by doing two 1-way car rentals, but I don’t want to spend the time acquiring, installing/removing a car seat in/from, refueling, and returning two rental cars.)
  • $80 for 1 night at a hotel with airport shuttle near Orlando Airport via Hotwire
  • TOTAL: $993.60

Total travel time on both ends would be about 7 hours each way, door-to-port, for this $1,000 journey.

I previously mentioned driving as an alternative, about 11 hours driving each way, so probably around 13 hours each way with stops for fuel and meals. Here are the costs:

  • $200 for car rental (I only need to install a car seat once, and I can do it at home)
  • $160 for fuel for the 1,600-mile round-trip journey (assuming 35 mpg and $3.50/gal gasoline, both of which are conservative estimates)
  • $75 for parking at Port Canaveral (I could do this for about $50 after driver tips by parking off-site, but I want to leave as quickly as possible after the cruise.)
  • $52.73 for a hotel room in Daytona via Hotwire
  • $100 for extra meals due to the longer driving time
  • TOTAL: $587.73

With costs around $600, I’ll save roughly $400 by driving instead of flying, and I’ll spend an extra 12 hours or so of my life on the road. In my particular case, that is ameliorated somewhat by the fact that my wife will save about 10 hours of travel time because of a work trip she has in Georgia just prior to the cruise.

After weighing the two options and listening to “Holiday Road” a couple of times, I settled on the road trip. We’ll save money and spend some quality family time on our nation’s fine highways.

An unexpected freedom I gain by driving is the power to stay overnight somewhere other than near the Orlando Airport or Port Canaveral. I initially thought it would be best to book a “park and cruise” deal where I could stay at a hotel near the port, leave my car at the hotel, and take a shuttle to and from the port, but that was not cheap: at most hotels this costs around $185 for my dates, and many had a shuttle upcharge for more than two guests (I have a party of 3). Staying at a $50/night hotel off I-95 in Daytona (about 1 hour away from the port) and paying $75 for Port Canaveral parking costs $125, so I’m saving $60 by driving the last hour on my departure date. Plus, I need to get on the road back home swiftly after the cruise is finished, and being able to walk to my car will help with that (as compared to waiting for a hotel shuttle).

Now What?

With my travel details in order, I can move on to planning what to do on the ship. As part of our TouringPlans #Everywhere celebration on Sunday, October 12 (my embarkation date), I’ll be meeting folks at Vista Café in the evening for conversation. Keep reading this blog and following @TouringPlans on Twitter for details!

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