When most people think Walt Disney World, one of the first words that come to mind is “expensive”. It can be expensive; however, a Disney vacation can also be done on a budget. Here are my top ten tips and tricks for saving on a Disney vacation:
1. Set a budget and stick with it. This seems like a pretty basic thing, especially for those of us who coupon. However, vacations are often a time when many people have a difficult time sticking to their budget, especially somewhere like Disney World when your kids what everything they see in every single gift shop. Set a budget for every aspect of your trip: transportation, room, tickets, food, tips, and souvenirs and stick with it.
2. Do the math on on-site vs. off-site. This is the age old debate when it comes to Disney vacations. Most people assume that staying off-site is automatically cheaper. If you stay off-site, you will need to factor in the cost of a rental car (if you are flying) and the fact that Disney parks charge $15 per day for parking. If you stay on-site, Disney offers free transportation to and from the airport and the parks. Disney also offers Extra Magic hours to guests staying on-site.
3. Travel during the off season. This is a little more difficult for those of us with school age children. Summer is the most expensive and most crowded time to visit Disney World. Consider going during spring break or fall break instead. Between these three options, fall will be the least expensive and crowded.
4. Decide how you are traveling. If you are flying, sign up for Southwest and JetBlue’s emails and watch for discounts to Orlando. If you are lucky, you might be able to get a flight for as low as $50! If you are driving, take advantage of gas discounts such as Kroger’s Fuel Points Program and Publix’s gas gift card promotion.
5. Consider skipping the Park Hopper option. Some families love hopping from one park to another in a single day. For my family, there is more than enough to do spending one full day in each park. Opt for the base ticket option instead of the Park Hopper option if this sounds like your family as well.
6. Hire an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Many travel agents offer their services for you to use for FREE! Some of the benefits of hiring an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner include personal itinerary planning, restaurant suggestions and reservations, and discount watch. That’s right, your travel agent will discount watch for you. If a discount becomes available during your vacation dates, your travel agent will apply the discount to your account and then alert you of your savings!
7. Get a Target Red Card. You are probably wondering what a Target Red Card has to do with Disney World. Target Red Card holders receive 5% off their purchases, including entertainment cards. You can purchase a $50 Disney gift card for $47.50. You can then use these gift cards anywhere credit cards are accepted in the parks, or even to pay for the vacation. The savings really add up!
8. Get a Disney Visa Card. Disney Visa Card holders earn 1% in Disney Dream Reward Dollars on purchases made with their Disney Visa Card. So, for every $100 in qualifying purchases on the card, you earn 1 Disney Dream Reward Dollar. Many people are able to pay for a good chunk of their vacation with Disney Dream Reward Dollars! You will also receive other perks such as a special Character Meet ‘N’ Greet at a private card member location.
9. Bring your own snacks and drinks. No one likes to spend $3.00 for a bottle of water. Disney allows outside food and drinks in the parks. Keep in mind, however, that only soft side coolers are allowed and no glass bottles are allowed (with the exception of baby food).
10. Do the math on the Dining Plan. This is another age old debate when it comes to Disney World. If your family usually drinks water, splits meals, and skips dessert, then the Dining Plan probably won’t save you any money (unless you are traveling during a Free Dining promotion). If your family usually drinks soda, coffee, or tea, wants their own entrée, and always orders a dessert, then the Dining Plan is probably a smart investment for you.
Alexia is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner for Destinations in Florida. When she is not helping plan magical vacations you can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Get the best price on your Walt Disney World Vacation Package… Guaranteed! Get FREE DINING if you book a Disney Resort Package between 8/25 and 9/27 – click here for a quote!
Bringing/making your own meals for a large family would be an amazing money saver. I know a few families who opt to stay in hotels or rental homes with kitchens.