Ever since I was a child, I have been completely obsessed with Disney movies! I mean what’s not to love? The love stories, the songs, the villains, and above all- the magic.
After my kids were born, my husband and I started planning for their futures. College funds, car funds, wedding funds, and of course a Disney World vacation fund! We thought it would be 5 or 6 years of saving before we could go.
My son was a few months shy of two years and my daughter was six months old, and my husband and I were getting antsy, and decided to plan a spontaneous trip to Disney 3 years ahead of schedule.
We wanted the vacation bad, and we definitely thought we deserved it. We needed to make it work.
So here is how we planned a Disney vacation while taking every opportunity we could to save money, and you can do the same thing!
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First things first we needed to book a hotel. Although it would have been nice to stay at a Disney resort, we knew that was going to be out of our price range.
We also decided that with how many things there were to do around Disney world, we probably wouldn’t be spending too much time at the hotel anyways.
After some research we found a very nice hotel that offered a 3 room suite for only $57 a night. Yup, that’s right only $57 a night. And get this, they had free transportation to the parks, and a HUGE water park. This was a deal we could not refuse!
2. Plane Tickets
Okay, so we had a place to stay, next we needed to figure out how we were traveling across the country. Now when it came to airfare there was not a good deal per se. However, I did find out that it is cheapest to fly on a Tuesday. Who would have thought?
We did make a mistake here though. We booked the cheapest flight, but what we did not know was that with this airline, checking baggage was very expensive. Other flights were more expensive, but checking baggage was cheaper. We should have done more research on the overall costs. When booking a flight you should make sure to look at all of the extra fees.
3. Park Tickets
So next we needed to buy tickets to the parks. There are a lot of deals out there. With most deals the more days you buy tickets for, the cheaper they are. We decided to go to three out of the four parks, and the tickets were much cheaper than buying them individually at the gate.
Many vacation planning sites will give great deals for booking hotels, and buying tickets together. One great company for this is Orlando Vacations.
We avoided the park hopper passes, because of the additional cost. I’m very happy we made this decision. We arrived at every park early, and planned our day. Not once did we think about leaving.
If we were going back and forth between parks, we would have wasted a lot of time. The park hopper passes could be beneficially for someone staying in Orlando for over a week. But on a shorter vacation, you really have no time to waste.
Alright so now to the good stuff!
4. Disney Gear
Before we left I thought about buying the whole family Disney shirts and gear. But then I thought do we really need this? Sure, it would make for good pictures, but we really didn’t need it. We saved the money, and brought items we already had at our house.
A few days before we left I grocery shopped online through Instacart and had it delivered to the resort. This saved us time, and a lot of money!!!
We ate breakfast before we left in the morning. We also packed a lunch and a ton of snacks to get us through the day. For the most part I bought the same things I would have bought for lunch and snacks at home for the week.
We did of course eat out a few times, because let’s face it- cooking dinner in a hotel with only a microwave is difficult. When we did eat out, we did so outside of the parks because it was a lot cheaper.
We brought our own water bottles. More specifically we brought camel backs to put in our backpacks. This was one of the best ideas we had for our trip. We each carried 2 liters of water with us. So when we had to park our stroller to wait in line, we still had plenty of water to go around, without worrying about carrying sippy cups and water bottles.
More importantly than that, we didn’t buy any drinks in the parks! Every restaurant and food cart will give you free cups of water. Yeah we probably looked a little silly dumping cup after cup into our camel backs, but hey it worked and we didn’t pay a cent!
If you have children and need a stroller, bring your own. Most airlines will check a stroller at no extra charge. The rentable strollers at Disney world are expensive. The strollers also look very uncomfortable. My kids were very comfortable in their own stroller.
8. Photo Pass
Do not get the photo pass. The parks have photographers scattered throughout the parks to take family photos for you for an $80 charge.
You can scan through the photos on the My Disney Experience App. We scanned through our photos, and realized we took the exact same pictures as the photographers, and decided not to buy the photos. Just use the camera on your phone.
9. Autograph Book
Do not buy autograph books at the park. We knew we needed an autograph book, because we planned quite a few character meets, and knew that was going to be our sons favorite part of the trip.
Buy an unlined journal at dollar store. Only $1. The autograph books at the park are $20!!
Now this one is tricky…buying souvenirs. We have two kids under two, so saying no is easy. Buy souvenirs outside of the parks, everything in the area is Disney themed. Our kids are so young, they do not know the difference.
It might be a little bit more difficult to tell older children no, if they find something they really adore. Some tips for this:
- Avoid the souvenir shops all together!
- Give them a price limit, and stick to it- do not let them go over.
- Buy small cheap items. We bought my son a Mickey Mouse bracelet and a Mickey Mouse toy car for a total of $10 dollars. He was just as pleased with this as he would have been with a $50 toy.
Related: Tackling The Terrible Twos
Kids are only kids once. As parents we only have a short window where our children will be completely infatuated with the magic Disney World has to offer. If your family wants to take a trip, do what you have to to make it happen. Cut corners where you can. Kids will not remember the lunch they ate at the park, and toys will end up in boxes or even the garbage. What they will remember is all the quality family time that was spent, and all of the fantastic memories that were made.
Do you have any other ways to save money when going to Disney World? Please share in the comments!
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