Good Morning everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having this spring! It has encouraged me to get out there and do more outside: gardening, sitting in our lawn chairs in our beautiful yard, and getting the fire pit ready to use this year. Another benefit to these warmer temperatures is that it has made me long for our upcoming vacation.
This year, we have decided to take a week-long cruise on Carnival. I’m excited about the new ports of call we will visit and our excursions we have planned (as well as the massages we’ve booked!), but I’m a little sad too. I’m sad because we won’t be going to Disney World on our vacation this year. You see, it’s been a couple of years since we’ve stayed in Disney World for our bigger vacation of the year and we had previously been going there every other year for several years. So I decided that next year is THE YEAR…I’m already planning our vacation to Disney World for next year’s big vacation.
Tips for a Disney World Vacation Your Family Can Afford
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But the key to being able to stay there for at least a week is to find the savings! You see, we always stay in one of the Disney World Resorts when we go there on vacation, and we get the Park Hopper passes and include the Dining Plan. In other words…we go all out when we stay at Disney World. But the only reason we do all of that is because I’ve learned over the years how to find the bargains and make the most of them. So while I’m combing through all of the tricks and tips for saving money on your Disney World Vacation, I wanted to share some of the best ones with you too. I hope you enjoy this list of Tips for a Disney World Vacation Your Family Can Afford:
Savings Tips and Tricks:
Food and Beverage Costs-
- Take advantage of the Disney Dining Plans. There are several options offered through Disney World, and you will get to eat at the most popular Disney restaurants on the plans, including the all-you-can-eat buffets.
- Watch for Disney’s “Free Dining” discounts to get a fabulous deal on your meals. We’ve taken advantage of this discount several times and it’s always worth it. There are a few different dining packages available, so read through the description for each one to see what will work best for you and your family.
- Bring a filtered water bottle with you. This will keep you from having to buy drinks while you’re walking around the parks because they not only have water fountains everywhere, but you can also ask for free ice water at any snack kiosks or Quick Service Dining location in Disney World.
- Bring snacks or drinks with you when you visit the parks. You may not be able to bring a cooler into the park, but they will let you bring in some snack food and beverages.
- Pick up some food staples at your local grocery store and take advantage of the mini fridge and microwave in your room. Even if you don’t have a full kitchenette, you can still save money by keeping drinks, snacks, and some breakfast foods in your room to cut down food costs.
- Enjoy a nice meal at a non-Disney restaurant. There are a lot of nice restaurants in every price range in Orlando that you can enjoy that will help to keep the costs down on eating out while still enjoying treating yourself to a nice meal out.
- Try to plan one big meal during the day so you can eat smaller, less expensive meals the rest of the day. Look for a buffet or family style restaurant in the later afternoon that will carry you through the evening.
- Enjoy a character meal at the optimal time. Check into a character breakfast with Winnie the Pool and Friends’ or a character lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table for more reasonable costs.
- Look for cheaper meals in the Disney parks. You can check out costs for the restaurants online by visiting their menus and plan out exact costs for your meals. A couple great restaurants to keep in mind are Animal Kingdom’s Flame Tree Barbeque, Disney Springs’ Wolfgang Puck Express or Earl of Sandwich, Epcot’s Tangerine Café, and Magic Kingdom’s Columbia Harbor to enjoy great food at reasonable prices.
- Enjoy a free sample at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop at Disney Springs for a sweet treat!
- Use your rewards points and airline miles to save money on your flights. This can create some amazing savings – just be mindful of blackout dates when you’re planning.
- Drive instead of fly to Disney World. I know what you’re thinking…how can you survive 13 hours in a vehicle with the kids?? Well, I’m here to tell you that we did it and we survived! When my entire family went to Disney World in 2012 we drove from West Virginia to Florida with a 3 year old, an 18 month old, and a very pregnant sister. One tip for driving: consider cutting the trip into 2 days and stay halfway on the way down and back. If you find a nice, inexpensive hotel to stay in it won’t add that much to your costs but it’ll help you to keep your sanity and not be so exhausted when you get to Disney World.
- Take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express. If you’re flying to Disney World and you’re staying in a Disney Resort, Disney offers Magical Express where they pick up your bags and drive you to the resort. They also drive you back to the airport when you’re ready to head home.
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Resort and Hotel Costs-
- Shorten your stay to just 5 days instead of 7. This will still allow you enough time to take advantage of a lot of the activities and parks that you want while helping to cut the costs of food and hotel.
- Watch for Disney’s “Room Only” discounts to get those deep discounts on resort costs. An additional benefit to these discounts is that kids under 18 stay FREE!
- Look for Disney’s vacation packages that include shorter stays and park passes. Especially if you’ve been to Disney World before, these discounts can help you enjoy a short 3-day stay to unwind and still visit a park or two.
- Look for Disney’s value seasons when you book your stay. Disney has several different seasons when staying at a resort, so focus on the off-season dates to get great discounts on resort prices.
- Check into Disney’s Value Resorts. These are very budget-friendly options when you want to stay in a Disney Resort and you get the benefits of the Disney transportation to all resorts, parks, and Disney Springs.
- Don’t stay in a Disney World Resort. I know, it pains me to say this one too because I LOVE staying in the resort. But you will save a lot if you look for a hotel that is close to the parks. Many of them will even have kitchenettes so you can make some meals in your room or bring food with you to cut down on the cost of eating all of your meals out. You can even look into renting a house to share with other friends or family members to split the costs and keep them low.
- Check into taking advantage of AirBNB or HomeAway when staying with a large group to cut costs.
Parks and Entertainment Costs-
- When purchasing your park passes, plan your arrival and departure days to be non-park days. This will keep the cost of your park passes down and allow you a little down time to enjoy the amenities at your hotel or resort.
- Take advantage of the amenities offered at your hotel if you’re not staying in a Disney resort. It’s always nice to enjoy a lazy day poolside, and it’s free!
- Plan some fun activities that aren’t in Disney World, like miniature golf and a trip to an aquarium or zoo.
- Take advantage of the free activities in Disney World, like exploring Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). You can shop at amazing stores, eat in some fabulous restaurants, hear great music or visit the comedy club, and the kids can ride the carousel or have a blast at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Build-A-Bear, or the Lego Store. You can also visit Disney’s Boardwalk Inn & Villas and enjoy all of the entertainment on their boardwalk, go to the Polynesian Resort and lounge at their beach, or even visit Animal Kingdom Lodge and check out the savannah with all of its animals.
- Pick up park passes for multiple days up front can save you some money for park passes instead of buying single day passes.
- Look for discounts on park passes through AAA, work discount programs, and large group discounts to save even more when purchasing your park passes.
- Make a plan of what you want to do during your Disney vacation. There is so much to do that it can be overwhelming if you try to squeeze everything in without planning it all out first. And even if you make a plan of what to do each day, you can still be flexible and switch things around if you just need a day at the pool instead of walking around a park. You also want to be realistic in what you can accomplish as a family in your stay, so start off listing everything you would like to see or do and then edit it down. Make a final list of what is actually critical and what are “like to” activities if you have the time. This way, you won’t miss out on what’s truly important to your family.
- Have the family watch some YouTube videos of Disney parks and attractions to see what everyone really wants to do on your vacation. This will help when you’re making that plan we talked about above.
General Saving Tips-
- Plan your trip in advance. By starting to plan early on, you are able to save up monthly toward the vacation since the deposit required to book the trip is only $200. Even if you book your vacation through the Disney website or a Disney Vacation Planner, you can still make installment payments on your vacation cost.
- Make sure you pack everything you may need to cut down on purchases you need to make in Disney. If you forget to pack a raincoat or umbrella, you’re going to pay a fortune if you have to pick one up in a Disney store (speaking from experience here!). Also be sure to stock up on sunscreen, bug spray, band aids, and toiletries beforehand. We ran out of sunscreen on vacation one year and wound up paying $25 for a regular size spray bottle!!
- Pack your own Disney souvenirs to bring with you to give to your kids during your stay. We all know how expensive it can be to buy souvenirs during your stay. Instead, pack some Disney World shirts, a princess dress, or even a stuffed Disney character and you can hand them out during your vacation. Make it even more fun and leave them out as surprise gifts when they wake up or when you are returning to your room.
- Look for Disney gift cards at discounted prices. Sites like GiftCardGranny and eBay can help you find discounted gift cards. You can also watch for discounts at Costco for multi-packs of gift cards.
- Kids under 3 eat, play, and stay for free at Disney World.
- Set a budget for your Disney World vacation and stick to it. It’s easy to get pulled into spending thousands of dollars on a Disney World vacation. If you set up a detailed budget for every cost for the vacation and you stick to it, you’ll be able to save a lot of money.
- Give your kids a budget during your vacation and help them to stick to it. This not only helps cut back on the constant requests to “buy me” something, but it also helps teach them to be responsible with their money.
- Create a savings plan that works for your family. Look for ways to make extra money to put towards your Disney World vacation: have a yard sale or sell some items on a Facebook yard sale site, look for short-term or part-time jobs like mowing lawns or weeding gardens and flower beds in the spring and summer and shoveling snow in the winter. Make sure to include everyone in the family in your savings plan.
- Look for websites that make you money. I highly recommend sites like Ebates and Swagbucks where you can get money for shopping, taking surveys or watching videos.
Great Sites to Use-
- Mousesavers – This is my go-to site! They have FABULOUS information on everything dealing with Disney World vacations!
- Undercover Tourist – This is another great site that offers tips and deals for your next Disney World vacation.
- Authorized Disney Vacation Planner – This is another great option for finding savings for your Disney World vacation.
- Disney World Website – If you sign up at Disney World’s official site, you will receive announcements about special offers directly from Disney World.
I hope this list has motivated you to start planning your family’s Disney World vacation – it’s definitely motivated me! I’d love to hear what tips and tricks you have found as well, so please comment and share your money-saving tricks below. And don’t forget to share this post on your social media sites so your friends and family can take advantage of these deals as well!
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