I'm going to Disney World

Our expert advises readers on the best Disney packages, the cheapest Tokyo-London flights and finding that authentic tamale south of the border.

Published July 29, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

We're bound for Disney World. How can we get the best deal on a package?

Getting a Disney World deal that's right for you depends on what you want -- when you want to travel, for how long, where you want to stay and what you're willing to pay. There are certain travel agencies that can offer better packages from Disney, either because they have "preferred supplier" agreements or sell a lot of Disney vacations. American Express is one, AAA is another.

American Express has a Disney section under "Vacation specials and cruises," including package descriptions. The AAA site directs you to its nearest office, where you can inquire about Disney packages.

Quite a few sites offer Disney hints and ads from companies promoting Disney deals, including Destination Disney. The site has a section on discount travel tips.

In any case, if you want to get the best deal, you're going to have to do some homework. A little research will give you something to compare with any package that an agency offers. There are many publications that can help you do this, including the book "Fielding's Walt Disney World & Orlando Area Theme Parks," by David Swanson (Fielding Worldwide, 1997). It has an especially revealing chapter called "By Package Tour," which illustrates the steps you need to take to ensure the best deal.

Among other guides:

  • "The Cheapskate's Unauthorized Guide to Walt Disney World: Time-Saving Techniques and the Best Values in Lodging, Food, and Shopping," by Michael D. Lewis and Debbi Lacey (Citadel Press, revised 1999).

  • "Econoguide '99: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, Epcot, and Other Major Central Florida Attractions (Econoguide '96)," by Corey Sandler (Contemporary Books, 1998).

    How can I get from Tokyo to London as cheaply and quickly as possible?

    Try STA -- Student Travel Association, a network that specializes in student travel but also can book for others. STA has four Tokyo offices. (Click on "About STA Travel," then "STA Worldwide Offices.") Even if they can't help you with a student ticket, they'll know the current lowball airfares and, with luck, can advise you on where to get them. STA has more than 200 offices in over 40 countries.

    Tokyo-London is a very busy route and besides sale fares, it's prime territory for consolidators -- the discounters that help airlines fill empty seats. The most thorough consumer source of information on these consolidators, including where they fly, is the book "Fly for Less: The Ultimate Guide to Bargain Airfares," by Gary E. Schmidt (Travel Publishing Inc., 3rd edition 1998).

    For each consolidator the book provides a history, tells which airlines it has contracts with and reports on destinations and toll-free numbers from within the United States. More than 20 consolidators work with airlines that fly into London, including AESU Inc., Trans Am Travel and Tickets Direct.

    We've eaten "Mexican" food in the U.S. all our lives, but for a trip to Mexico would like to research what authentic local food is so we know what to look for. Suggestions?

    Who hasn't found themselves in this position -- sitting down at the table in a foreign restaurant and rolling the dice on what to order, especially if the menu is in the local lingo. And often you're not sure what it is even after it's steaming there in front of your face.

    Guidebooks and Web sites often have a food section or mention local specialties, but a few series are now devoting themselves to cuisine and dining intelligence, including one called "Eat Smart" that includes the book "Eat Smart in Mexico," by Joan and David Peterson (Gingko Press, 1998). It includes sections on the historical cuisine, regional foods, shopping in Mexican markets, helpful phrases and a menu guide. The book is in stores or available by calling (800) 626-4330.

    Other books in the series cover Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia.

    Then there's the "Hungry Traveler" series, which also includes Mexico, by Marita Adair (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1997). Other books in the series include France, Italy and Germany.

    Another is "The What Kind of Food Am I?" series, which so far includes "Eating & Drinking in Spanish" and "Eating and Drinking in Italy," by Andy Herbach and Michael Dillon (Capra Press). These books are dominated by translations of food names, but also include some regional advice such as this for Le Marche (the Apennines Mountain Region): "Truffles (tartufi) are a specialty here and summer peaches (pesche) and plums (susine) are some of the best fruits you will ever taste. Vincigrassi (baked lasagna dish), olive all'ascolana (large stuffed olives), porchetta (roast suckling pig) and rabbit (coniglio) are popular. Brodetto di pesce (fish soup) is found along the coast. In Ancona, brodetto contains 13 varieties of fish." These guides are available in bookstores.

    Revisiting a previous Travel Advisor Q&A:

    A recent column about customs regulations brought this amusing account from reader A.K.: The customs rules on importing Iranian carpets are obscure. The Customs Service site says -- we think, having read it twice -- that you can only bring in $150 worth of Iranian goods and NO carpets ... heavens knows why. Mind you, it may mean you can only bring in rugs for less than $150 or it may just be kidding; nobody seems sure. I know someone who had a good Persian rug bought in London confiscated by Customs. Anyway ...

    A bunch of us are in Iran, and one of us buys a very expensive Caucasian carpet. He gets a dishonest receipt for $150 and figures he has a three-fold strategy: It's less than $150, it's not really Iranian and he'll put in the bottom of his luggage. Whatever.

    We come back via Frankfort -- you can't fly directly to Iran from the U.S., of course. While there, he buys a German sausage to munch on the plane. Arriving in customs in the U.S., he is stopped and vigorously rousted: They are questioning his sausage, because of fear of Mad Cow disease. In vain, he protests that German cows are sane and anyway it's a pork sausage. Customs sticks to its guns. He surrenders his sausage, they walk away happy and he waltzes through with his rug in the bag.

    I have no idea of what the moral is and I still don't know what the customs rules are. But he has his rug.

  • By Donald D. Groff

    Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

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