The following is a guest post from Karen Herman of MouseTales Travel.
Like many of you, I’m a busy mom. I work full time outside the home and I like to save money whenever and wherever I can. If your family is like ours, you dream of vacationing at Disney World but don’t know how to fit it into your budget.
Last year my family decided to make a trip to Disney World happen – you can, too! Here are some tips for saving on your trip both before and during your trip.
Before Your Trip
Be sure to plan your trip carefully to maximize your savings even before you go. Here are a few ideas:
Disney Value Seasons
If your travel dates are flexible, plan your trip around Disney Value Seasons. During Value Seasons (which are typically mid-September and very early spring), hotel rates can be almost half the cost of peak season rates. Often Disney offers the free dining plan in addition to Value Season, making this a great time to visit Disney World.
Disney Vacation Planning DVD
Request a free Disney vacation planning DVD for a great memento of your vacation. This is a fun way to preview all the best of Disney World or announce to your kids that you’re going to Disney World. You can request one from your travel agent.
Stay on Disney Property
If you stay on Disney property, you’ll get free transportation to and from Orlando airport via Disney’s Magical Express motor coach service. This is a huge savings over renting a car for a week. The buses are clean, air conditioned and comfortable, and they’ll also take care of your luggage and bring it to the hotel along with any purchases you make at the parks.
Determine Length of Stay
Oftentimes the longer you stay, the cost per day per person will drop. If you can, plan to stay at least 4 or more days. Be sure to check ticket prices as there are times when a longer multiple-day ticket is cheaper than a shorter one.
Disney Rewards Visa
Besides getting cash back at DisneyStore.com, you can also book your trip on a Disney Rewards Visa and have 6 months at 0% interest to pay off your vacation. Add up the cost of your trip, divide by 6 and pay that amount each month.
Many young children are thrilled with anything that has a Disney Princess or Cars image on it. During the months leading up to your trip, scour garage sales, discount stores and drug stores for souvenirs and fun items to pack in your children’s backpacks for the plane or car ride. Follow sales on DisneyStore.com and combine the sale with the discount from a Disney Rewards Visa.
During Your Trip
Once you’ve booked your trip, there are plenty of low-cost or free things to enjoy at Disney, not to mention ways to save on necessary expenses.
Pack carry-on suitcases only and plan to wash clothes once or twice at the resort laundry rooms to save yourself the $50 per bag fee with the airlines.
Saving on Food
Pack a cooler bag with snacks and sandwiches for your visit to the parks. You can also order sandwich fixings, breakfast foods and beverages from area stores that will deliver to your room at the resort. Eat a few breakfasts in your room during your stay and carry your own snacks in to the park. Disney restaurants will also give you a 21-oz. glass of ice water for free; just ask!
When at Disney World, load a small amount of money on a gift card for your children to purchase their own selections. When the card value is gone, shopping is done and this will help limit impulse buying.
Disney parks and hotels now have free WiFi, and there are many Disney apps you can download to your phone to monitor wait times for rides and restaurants.
Things to Do and See
There are lots of fun, free things to do and see at Disney. If you are celebrating a special event or making your first visit to Disney World, stop by the welcome center at the entrance to the park and get a free “Happy Birthday” or “First Visit” celebration button.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a very fun (but also expensive) outing for little girls. As an alternative, stop and get “pixie dusted” at Castle Couture, right outside Cinderella’s Castle. Bring your little girls to have pixie dust (glitter) sprinkled on them as they make their enchanted wish. It’s fun and it’s free!
Epcot Scavenger Hunts
Older children can participate in a free scavenger hunt at Epcot; just ask at the welcome center when you arrive. Kids are given a paper to hunt for all of the hidden Mickeys in the World Showcase, and prizes are awarded if they find them all.
If you have a Lego lover in your house, be sure to visit the Lego Store at Downtown Disney where you can stay as long as you like while your children have fun playing with all kinds of fun Lego shapes and Lego racing cars.
Main Street Confectionery
Stop by the Main Street Confectionery at Magic Kingdom and you might find a cast member walking around with a tray full of samples for guests to try. Add this store to your list of places to visit if you’re looking for a small sweet after your lunch. The Ghirardelli Store in Downtown Disney also has a greeter who gives out free samples of chocolate.
Pool or Recreation Day
To save money on the cost of Disney Park tickets, cut one day off your ticket length and plan for a pool or recreation day where you can just relax and swim at your resort or enjoy Downtown Disney for a day. Disney parks also have splash zones and playgrounds that are great for a free, fun place to relax.
While you’re walking around Disney with your children, cast members will hand them a sticker or two, usually Mickey Mouse but sometimes Cars, Princesses or Tinkerbell. These are fun and free souvenirs of your trip that you can save along with a collection of park maps and guides to have the makings of a great vacation scrapbook.
Not many people know that you can trade pins with Disney cast members. You can buy a wide selection of pins on eBay for a reasonable price, then trade them with cast members throughout the parks. This is especially fun for older kids.
And of course, use a travel agent! We monitor Disney deals daily and will rebook your reservation automatically and apply the savings to your balance. In addition, we provide services such as complimentary custom park itineraries, dining reservations, and advice on which rides to visit first, which ones are closed for renovation, and which park to visit on each day of your vacation.
Enjoy your trip to Disney World!
Your turn: What tips do you have for saving at Disney World, both before and after your stay?