The Cheap Girl’s Top Tips for Driving to Disney World
The Cheap Girl is back and she is giving you all of her insider tips on how to save money in The Cheap Girl’s Top Tips for Driving to Disney World.
The Cheap Girl’s Top Tips for Driving to Disney World
Hello, my wonderful Disney fans and money savers! The Cheap Girl is back and I am ready to fill you in on more ways my family saves BIG on our Disney World vacations. In The Cheap Girl’s Guide, I mentioned that driving to Disney World is one of my top ways to save money when planning our vacation. Most of the time, we can drive to Disney World for what it would cost for one plane ticket. However, simply skipping the flight isn’t the only way to be smart and save money when you drive. Here are The Cheap Girl’s Top Tips for Driving to Disney World!
1) Pack Snacks and a Cooler
This is one of the best ways our family saves money while on road trips. If you don’t pack a cooler and snacks, that means that the children who travel with you (and in my case the navigator/my husband) are going to go in at every gas station, rest area, and pit stop to spend half of your souvenir money on sunflower seeds, Sour Patch Kids, and soda.
Ummmmm, I don’t know about y’all, but this is not acceptable. I need that money for a new set of mouse ears and for bribes to make the kids ride those roller coasters. So, to save that much-needed souvenir money, this cheap girl goes to her favorite local grocery store before we leave to stock up on all the essentials at half the price. Plus, it gives you the option to pack some healthier options in the bag too, so that is a win-win in my book! Then I pack all the junk and healthier items in my neat little bag and the drinks in a small cooler and we are all set. This cuts down on the stops, makes the drive quicker, and makes this cheap girl HAPPY HAPPY!
2) Prepare for Tolls
You may be asking why is preparing for tolls part of “cheap girls driving tips” when it isn’t saving us any money. Well, this falls under the being smart part of my tips. Preparing for tolls is an important part of driving in Florida. I grew up in Alabama, where the roads are crappy and there are no tolls. Luckily, Florida roads are mostly smooth and awesome. However, those nice smooth roads come at a price. That price is commonly known as a toll. Now, you can avoid toll roads if you choose, but I’ll address the issue with that in the next tip.
I recently used Toll Smart to calculate the tolls for my upcoming drive and I found it very useful. You can download it as an app for your iPhone or Android. Find out more information HERE. Once I know an estimate of how much I will pay in tolls for my shortest route, I roll change or head to the bank to get a roll or two or quarters. These stay in reaching distance when we drive so that as I approach a toll, I can simply go to the one that says “Correct Change” and throw and go.
Now, if saving time is more important than saving money, you can always pre-purchase a Sun Pass, attach it to your windshield and breeze through without even having to pause. There is a charge for the transponder, but if you travel to central Florida more than once a year, this might be the best way to save time and well…time is money. You can find out more about Sun Pass for Florida HERE.
3) Choose the Shortest Route
This may seem like a no brainer for saving money, but let me elaborate. Those of us who are labeled “cheap” tend to choose the cheapest route versus the shortest/easiest route (quite literally in this context. ha ha!) However, sometimes that means driving a LOT of extra miles to avoid tolls. That is certainly the case on the way to Walt Disney World. If you choose the shortest route, you are going to pay tolls. To avoid them, prepare to tack on quite a lot of miles.
My family often took the cheap route back when gas was much cheaper and maintenance on our vehicle was done solely by my dad. We often used the handy feature in the map app that allows you to turn off/avoid tolls. I thought that was genius, until I realized all of those extra miles were costing me BIG in gas and mileage on my car.
After coming to that realization, I knew the smartest choice for our family might just be to take those toll roads (the horror!). Boy were we right on the toll roads being right for us. It saves money on gas and wear and tear to your vehicle, which in the end will save you even more money. So you may not be avoiding the upfront cost of the tolls, but you will save money in the long run. Oh and did I mention my favorite benefit of a shorter trip? A shorter trip means less opportunities for my children to ask, “are we there yet?”
3) Fill Up Outside of Orlando
Do not even think about waiting until you arrive at your destination to gas up. Like all major tourist areas, the gas prices in Orlando tend to be a bit inflated. It typically isn’t too much higher than in other major cities, but it’s a very good idea to check the price per gallon before you start pumping. If it is not displayed, make sure you check. There is one gas station in Orlando that is notorious for price gouging.
My family saves in two ways when filling up. One is that we typically fill up in Alabama, because prices are almost always a good ten to fifteen cents cheaper per gallon than anywhere in Florida. Two, we use the Gas Buddy app to check the lowest prices for gas in our area. It works in most areas in the U.S. and Canada. Use it anywhere, not just when on vacation to Disney World. Check out the website HERE or download the app from your smartphone.
4) Fill Up Using Rewards Cards or Gift Cards
Another way we love to save money is by using rewards cards and gift cards to pay for gasoline. Until recently, our local grocery store had a program called Fuel Perks that gave you 5 cents or more off of your next fill up. Many other grocery stores offer some time of rewards program like this, so ask the next time you are shopping.
Also, don’t forget sites like My Points, Swagbucks, and many others. Those sites give you points for buying things you normally would online. The tradeoff is that you simply need to login to their site first and go through the links they provide. Every year, I redeem some of my points for one of the gas station rewards gift cards they keep stocked. Also, anytime I have a little extra money in our grocery envelope, I will buy a gas gift card and store it away for our trip. Every little bit helps!
5) Service Your Vehicle
One of the best ways to save money when it comes to driving is through prevention. Keeping your car maintained and running well will keep your family far away from those driving horror stories. You know, the ones about tires blowing out going down the interstate or the engine making a strange sound around the halfway mark.
Before you leave, schedule for your oil to be changed and have any tune ups done you may be neglecting. We also have our tires aligned and rotated because we live in the middle of nowhere. We seriously have pot holes that would swallow up our children if they fell in. I mean these things are deep enough to fill up for a little “pool” party. I’m only halfway kidding, but seriously people, do the maintenance on your vehicle as recommended. You know what they say, “an ounce of prevention…”
6) Pack a Roadside Safety Kit
Speaking of prevention and being prepared. how about also making sure that your vehicle has a roadside safety kit? In my book, that would include everything I need to fix a flat tire (yes, I know how to change a tire-remember the pot hole talk above?). It also includes things like flares, a blanket, a flashlight (try changing a flat at night without one of those…), a few bottles of water, non perishable snacks, jumper cables, gloves, and a few other items. The one we keep in our car can be found HERE. I love that one because it has EVERYTHING that I need and it all fits nicely into a small bag so things aren’t loose in my trunk. Feel free to find one that works for you. No one should ever be on the road without a roadside safety kit.
7) Don’t Trust Your GPS
There is something about driving in Walt Disney World that has my husband and I spinning in circles. I can not tell you how many times that I have entered the name of a resort or park into my Maps app and it took me to the wrong entrance or parking lot.
To keep from turning into cast members’ parking areas or some other restricted area, I always recommend simply following the signs once you get to World Drive. The few times my husband and I tried to use the Maps app have been quite the disaster and cost us quite a bit of time. Even better, stay onsite and take the bus or resort transportation so you don’t have to sweat it. Check out all the reasons for staying onsite HERE.
There you have it, my friends. The cheap girl doesn’t just know how to save money, I know you also need to be prepared. After all, I’ve been down this road before a time or two (pun intended).
Did we forget some great ways to save money or some essential ways to prepare for a drive to Disney World? If so, we would love for you to leave a comment below or you can join the Disney Express Lane Facebook Group to share your ideas and also discuss many other Disney related topics.
Even More Savings
Are you looking for even more fantastic ways to save? Don’t forget to check out other great ways to save money during your Disney vacation with these blogs:
The Cheap Girl’s Guide to Disney Planning
How to Save Money at Disney Parks
10 Tips to Save Money Inside Walt Disney World Parks
Photo credits and special thanks also to Brandi Perryman and Angela Farmer West
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