The Cheap Girl’s Guide to Disney Planning
Check out The Cheap Girl’s Guide To Disney Planning. These tips will save you major big bucks so that you can enjoy your vacation without stressing over the cost of your family vacation.
My family has always called me a penny pincher and my friends call me “ole cheap butt” (but they use a more crass term that I won’t say on a family blog-lol). So, it comes at no surprise that when we started planning our first Disney trip, I researched and read everything I could to find out how to do Disney as cheaply as possible. Since that first trip, we have been on half a dozen Disney vacations as a family and I have about a dozen under my belt total. I have learned so much about how to keep the spending down while keeping the fun quotient HIGH. Instead of making you do the research too, I’m giving you my cheat sheet below for saving money at Disney.
Instead of booking that flight, think about driving instead. Yes, I said drive to Disney. The first time we went to Walt Disney World, we booked flights because we had a wedding to attend that would cut into our vacation time. That flight cost the three of us about $1,200! The next time we went, we rented a car and drove to our happy place. Even after paying for a hotel half way down to Florida, factoring in the cost of the rental, gas and eats on the way down and back, we still saved a solid $500+! Now I don’t know about y’all, but I can think of a LOT that $500 can buy at Disney or back home. If you can drive your own car, that will save you even more money. If you need to rent a car, Priceline usually has an option for you to bid on a car class of your choice. You can also check out employee perks to see if your employer offers discounts on car rentals. As a teacher, I found some great deal and discounts on the NEA website!
If You Must Fly…
If you simply can’t see driving as an option, then look for ways to save on a flight. My first recommendation is to book in advance. Do not wait until a month before your trip to book a flight, as those prices will not be economical. Also, book with a discount airline if your local airport has them. Airlines like Jet Blue and Frontier can save your family some major moolah if you can book through them. If you are considering booking with a discount airline, it is wise to check on the extra charges they add that are not included in the fare such as fees for checked baggage and compare the price plus the added fees to airlines that include those fees in the price of booking.
You can also use websites that help you track deals such as Travelocity’s FareWatcher. Travelocity has an option for you to track flight prices by going to the “flights” tab and then to the “low fare alert” and then click on “get email alerts”. Once you sign up for the flights you are looking for, it will email you when a flight price has come down so that you can book. There is also a site called Yapta.com. This site is great for those of you who have already booked your flight, because it will alert you when the price on your flight has gone down. Then you can contact your airline to see if they offer a program that will allow you to receive a refund or credit with their airline.
Finally, do not forget to use your points to help discount your flights! Many airlines have a frequent flier program that can really help reduce costs on flights. There are also many airlines that offer credit cards with great sign up offers. Then you can use the points/rewards to receive a discount. I recommend Southwest and the Chase Disney Visa.
Speaking of the Chase Disney Visa, this little gem can save you some cheese in the parks too. Not only can you cash in your rewards on flights, you can also request that they go to a gift card that can be used all over the parks. The only place that I found that wouldn’t take it was a random small kiosk in Epcot. It was accepted everywhere else I wanted to use it. The Disney Visa can also be used to save you 10% on any purchase you make at shops that total over $50 before tax. Just present your card and ask if they will apply the 10% discount. The Disney Visa can also help you score discounts at select table service restaurants. We received 10% off of our Hollywood and Vine dinner on our last visit, and that saved us a solid $15.
Landry’s Select Card
Speaking of dining, if you like to grub at T-Rex, Rainforest Cafe, or Yak and Yeti; then you need to sign up for a Landry’s Card. The initial cost is $25 but it is a one time fee for the life of the card. The great thing is that as soon as you purchase it, they give you a $25 credit to use on future purchases. Once you sign up, you can enter your birthday and you will receive a $25 voucher to use at any Landry’s location. I have a birthday in May, but I actually signed up for June because that is the month we typically vacation. The birthday certificate is good for one use anytime during your birthday month and fifteen days afterwards. Also, you earn points each time you give them your card when you pay (1 point for every dollar spent on pretax amounts). After you earn 250 points, you will receive another $25 credit to your card. The best part is that you can stack the discounts/credits! The last time we went, I used my birthday credit and the $25 credit and our $100 meal was instantly half the price! Man, I love saving money. I have included a little screenshot of my current account so that you can see how those rewards really stack up.
Buy Gift Cards in Bulk
Many people know about this tip, but I would rather go ahead and share it just in case someone out there doesn’t know about it. Buy gift cards in bulk at your local discount grocery store like Sam’s Club. It’s pretty typical to get a three pack of $50 Disney gift cards for $143. I have bought these to pay off my trip, give us spending money, and for gifts. It’s a huge price saver! You can also use your Target Red Card to get a discount, but this one has gotten a little tricky over the years and requires a bit more effort than just buying them at Sam’s Club.
Skip the Park Hoppers
I know some of you really enjoy the park hopper option so that you can go to any restaurant you like. Some of you love it so that you can have a morning at one park and then catch your favorite fireworks at different park. However, the freedom to roam comes with a hefty price tag. For a one day ticket, you are looking at over $35 extra per ticket. For a two day or three day ticket, you will see the price go up to over $52. Any ticket with four days or more will cost you almost $64 per person. Now if you are a family of four with five day tickets, you can save over $250 by skipping that park hopper option and just planning your days out a little better. Oh, and did I mention you won’t be quite as exhausted from all of that travel? That’s a win for my family!
Skip the Special Parties
I know, I know. I am taking all the fun out of your trips, but skipping those expensive hard ticket parties can really save you some money. Think about it.. one party ticket to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party can run you anywhere from $72 up to $105! With a family of four, you are looking at up to $420 just for a party! Now don’t get me wrong, I love those hard ticketed events as much as anyone. They offer some of the best parades and gorgeous fireworks as well as lower crowds. But let’s face it, if you need to penny pinch, then hard ticket parties are not the best value for your family. Instead, enjoy the activities around your hotel that are free or head to the parks during a regular day at a much lower price point.
Take a Day Off
Yes, I said it. Take a day off from the parks. I am terrible at taking my own advice, but I finally did this last year and I will now ALWAYS schedule a pool/resort day. This can save you about $12 per person per day, but honestly it will mostly save you sanity and save your feet too. My kids are always begging for more pool time and this gave us a day to try a new restaurant, have a leisurely day at the pool, and sleep in! When I asked my kids what their favorite part of that trip was, the answer was Space Mountain and the pool! So there you have it, go ahead and schedule that day off from the parks. You can leave me a comment when you get home to thank me. 😉
Book a Value Resort
Booking a value resort can save you a LOT of money. Most standard value rooms can be reserved for around $100 per night. Compare that to around $200 or more for a moderate resort and up to $600 a night for deluxe resorts. By booking a value resort, you can save so much money. For most people, the resort is just a place to rest and shower. If that’s the case for your family, book a value resort and take the money you save to the bank or use it at the parks.
Cut Food Costs
When you are ordering quick service meals, ask the cast member to hold the sides. By ordering only the burger and asking them to hold the fries, you will save a dollar or two here and there. You can save yet another couple of dollars by asking for a cup of water or by bringing your own water in the parks. If we are on the Disney Dining Plan or If we do want the fries or sides for a meal, my family will often split a meal. This helps us to curb our desire to overeat and saves us money. Plus this helps us spread our dining credits a good bit when we choose the Disney Dining Plan.
You can also cut back on cost by sharing meals at table service locations.The only place this won’t work is a buffet. You can also order an appetizer and dessert if you aren’t on the dining plan. I find that the appetizers and desserts are often the best things on the menu and ordering the two together keeps me from overeating and having tons of leftovers.
Finally the best way to cut costs on meals is to skip them all together and simply snack. I kid you not, snacking in Walt Disney World is the crown jewel in dining. My family planned only two sit down meals one trip and the rest of the vacation we snacked. To this day, that is still my favorite trip because we didn’t have to stop in the middle of all the fun to make it to a dining reservation. Instead, we stopped every few hours to grab a snack or two that we shared with everyone and then we went straight back to the fun. It was inexpensive and we made so many memories that trip.
The Cheap Girl’s Guide to Disney Planning
There are so many more tips that I would love to share with you to help you save money, but these are the ones that I think you can use the most. At Walt Express, we truly want to help you find a way to make your dream vacation come true. If you are here, then it means that Disney is likely that dream. Chime in with your own money saving tips below and join our Facebook group Disney Express Lane Facebook Group to discuss this and many other Disney related topics.
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