It is time for another Disney Friends Blog Hop! The theme for this month is “Disney Tips”. Once you read our article you can continue on to check out more blogs with some other great tip themed articles. (See bottom of article for more details.)
A trip to Disney can be an amazing but expensive experience for many people. We find that we like to enjoy ourselves on vacation, but also like to be financially conscious as well. We figure the more money we save here or there means more trips in the future (or being able to splurge on a really special experience once in awhile!). We have come up with 10 ideas to share of ways that we personally save money on trips that could work for you as well. Get ready to start saving!
1. Travel During Slower Times
The first big step in saving a lot of money is to choose an off-peak time to travel. Depending on the time of season many prices can fluctuate. Hotel rooms will be cheaper. Airfare will be cheaper. We have seen flights to Florida during spring break for over $400 a person, versus a random week in January may be under $100 each way. Those savings add up! Park tickets are also priced based on season, but note if you are buying several days anyway, this won’t really matter. The other huge advantage to finding the right time to travel is you will also experience quieter parks.
The busiest times at Walt Disney World tend to be the week of Christmas, spring break, and summer. The value times tend to be January/February, late spring and early fall. There are times in between these that would be in the middle of the two. Because we don’t have kids we are lucky to not have to travel around a school schedule, but we know plenty of people that will pull their kids out of school as well. Disney is super packed with educational experiences anyway right?
2. Stock Up on Gift Cards at Warehouse Stores
If you belong to a club/warehouse type of store keep your eyes peeled for Disney gift card packs. At places like Sam’s Club or BJ’s you can find them for about 5% off. That may not seem like a lot at first, but added up over a large amount and all of the sudden you have some free meals on your hands. We know many people choose to stockpile Disney gift cards this way and will also earn credit card reward points while doing so. You can use Disney gift cards to pay for anything through Disney to include tickets, food, souvenirs, etc. This is a great way to pre-pay for your trip in the months leading up to it instead of coming home to a credit card balance.
3. Save on PhotoPass
One of the best things about a Disney Vacation is the memories! We love getting fun pictures and Disney’s Photopass service offers a wide variety of locations and magic shot options that preserve those moments. You can purchase images individually but what usually makes the most sense is to purchase a Memory Maker package that gives you access to all pictures taken during the duration of your trip. You can end up with hundreds of pics for one package price. One of our best tips is if you think you are going want lots of professional photos make sure to buy the Memory Maker in advance for only $169. If you wait until the time of your trip it will be $30 more at $199. Just make sure to do this before the week of travel. See more info HERE.
4. Get a Disney Visa Card
You will hear of Annual Pass Holders and Disney Vacation Club members getting tons of discounts while visiting the parks. One way for just about anyone to also get some discounts at Disney is to be a Disney Visa Rewards Card holder. While this credit card has rewards, they honestly aren’t the best compared to others. You earn 1% reward dollars back in the form of Disney gift cards. With that being said it is still great to get this card simply for some of the benefits:
6 months of 0% financing on Disney Vacations
10% off at many Disney restaurants
10% off at the Disney Store
Access to other special Disney experiences
If interested in learning more about the card and to receive a $200 statement credit CLICK HERE.
5. Bring Travel Essentials from Home
This can be a big one! Most everyone is familiar with the sting of a “convenience fee”. Whether at the airport, a hotel gift shop, or in the park you will find essentials like sunscreen, pharmacy items, and clothing will be much higher priced than your stores at home. Make sure to think about essentials you will need while on your trip. We have made the mistake of not bringing heavy enough clothes and having to buy layers in the gift shops. Another big one we like to mention is rain gear. It is Florida and more likely than not it will rain. Instead of getting stuck in a downpour and having to dish out lots of money on overpriced plastic ponchos for your whole party, make sure to bring your own. You can pick up small foldable ponchos at Walmart for a couple bucks, they may not have Mickey Mouse on them, but you will save so much money. And we always say it is better to pack them and not need them, and hope for more sun!
6. Shop for Disney Merch Before Your Trip
Souvenirs are super fun and we usually pick up a couple on a trip. But we also find there are a lot of items that we will purchase outside of the park for less. If you watch the Disney Store for sales the months leading up to your trip you can pick up great themed clothing, accessories, and bags. There are also many small shops online that provide fun items for the parks. We have even heard of parents bringing cheaper Disney toys in their luggage and surprising the kids in the hotel room to avoid paying for every overpriced bubble wand and stuffed animal at the park.
7. Consider Free Transportation
Disney offers Magical Express from the airport and bus service all around the resort. Depending on the particular trip we have rented a car or exclusively used bus service. Saving on a rental car and parking fees can really add up. You will just want to weigh the pros and cons for your particular needs. Do you want the flexibility to be on your own schedule? Be able to grocery shop or outlet shop off park grounds? You may find a car is still best. But if you don’t mind leaving some extra time to ride the buses, and not having to think about carrying car keys for a few days, the buses can be a great way to save some cash.
8. Don’t Drink Away Your Dollars
Not only should guests be sure to drink plenty of water while at the parks to stay hydrated (especially in the summer) choosing H2O can also be good for the wallet. A great piece of info to know is at any quick service location you can ask for a free cups of water. While they won't fill any bottles you have, you can easily fill them using the cups of water they give you. (Note this is counter service locations, not food carts). Don’t get suckered into paying over $4 for a bottled drink, bring your own bottle beverages or take advantage of the free cups.
9. Save on Food Costs
Food can end up being a huge expense while on vacation. We have a couple of tactics that save us a lot of money:
Bring Some Food/Drinks
Something we love about Disney is they have no issue with you bringing your own food and drink into the parks with you. We always stock up on bottled drinks, snacks, and breakfast food for a trip. While we still will eat some breakfasts, snacks, and drinks at the parks or resorts this helps balance out the overall budget. Sometimes packing some PB&J and eating it in line is also nice to not eat up park time for a sit down meal. We also find eating out for every single meal ends up to be too much after too many days. You can pack some items in your luggage, stop at a store of you have a car, or get grocery delivery to your resort.
We find that so many meals are huge portions! When in the parks you can’t really take a to-go box easily, so we are big fans of sharing to avoid waste. We also find being less full in the parks makes for a better ride experience as well (plus you can save room for must have Mickey shaped snacks!) Some examples of meals we typically share:
The Bountiful Breakfast platter at the resorts
Cosmic Rays Rotisserie Chicken platter
A sandwich combo meal or chicken tenders
Quick service meal at Epcot such as in China or Morocco
Ordering a few appetizers at a restaurant
Eat During Off Times
Another tactic of ours is to eat two large meals instead of three in a day. We find if we eat a big buffet breakfast and then eat a late lunch/early dinner at 3 or 4 we are set for the day. Overall two meals will cost less than three, and we also find eating at a slighty off time will be quieter and easier to get a reservation as well. You could also treat lunch as your big meal as it is typically cheaper than dinner and then just get snacks/quick service later on in the evening.
10. Look for Free Activities and Souvenirs
Make sure to plan a down day while on a longer vacation. Doing the parks everyday can be tiring. We always like to fit in some pool time and wandering around Disney Springs. This shopping district has shops and restaurants but also lots of entertainment. From performers, fountains, and seasonal activities, it is a great place to walk around with Disney magic without having to pay for a park ticket. The Disney resorts also have a lot of activities as well such as movie nights and free tours.
Also keep your eyes out for little free souvenirs as well. Disney gives out free celebration buttons for birthdays and celebrations. Any DVC stand will hand out free stickers too. In the Magic Kingdom make sure to check out the Firehouse on Main Street to play Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. Each day everyone can get a pack of collectible cards to keep.
We hope you found a tip or two to help your next trip. Do you have some money saving tips for a Disney Vacation? We would love to hear your ideas below! Want to read more great Disney related tips? Click the arrow to read the next article in this Disney Friends blog hop. Or check out all participating sites below: