I am here at Walt Disney World preparing to attend a blog conference. Yes, even the most magical place on earth caters to bloggers. But, you probably already knew that if you have read here for a while since I was invited to Walt Disney World a few years ago to learn more about the magic (as one of the #magicalmoms).
Our family is going on a Disney vacation soon. We're going on our second Disney Cruise. On the newest ships, at that: the Disney Dream. We are unbelievably excited because of the vacation in itself. But, the first cruise we went on was amazing and we are all looking forward to enjoying our family vacation together on the Dream and spending a few days at the park afterwards.
As I started pricing out the 3 days at the resort and ticket prices, I realized that this was another mini vacation to pay for (we did the land/sea package before)! I wanted to offer a few tips to you if you are looking to try to do Disney on a dime since I've told a few people about our upcoming trip and they wanted some tips. So, here are a few ways to save a big magical dime at Walt Disney World.
Look for Disney World specials and discounts whenever possible. This is an obvious one, but Disney has specials all the time. You can find the current offers at Walt Disney World.com. At the time we were looking, we could get a family suite at a value resort, and a 4-pack of tickets valid for 2 days for.
This is our second cruise and we did get a small deal when we booked: a $25 stateroom credit. No, it's not a lot BUT it is more than we got last time! We always try to book these at least 6 months in advance.
I'm sure you may be able to get a better deal if you waited but you take the risk in not getting a date you want. And, with the Dream being the newest ship (at that time), they are completely booked until June!
Disney World Hotels
Disney has several levels of resorts to choose for your stay: Deluxe, Moderate and Value. They offer deals for all three with the specials depending on which resort you select.
You can also stay off-site as well. We have done that in the past but honestly we will probably never do it again. You get the Free Magical Express shuttle service from the airport when you fly into Orlando. Plus, the shuttles take you to the parks literally all the time. And, the monorail runs through several resorts as well. The convenience offsets the minimal savings (if you do a Value Resort anyway).
Best Way to Travel to Disney World
Since we live a gazillion hours away, we have always flown to Disney. As you can imagine, this cost the same as giving birth to my child (literally, I think we paid as much for plane tickets for the five of us as we paid to deliver Andon).
The main thing here is flexibility. Our cruise embarks on Sunday. We were originally going to fly in Sunday morning but the plane tickets kept going up, up and up some more! I was originally trying to get us non-stop flights but those tickets were ridiculous! So, we are flying in the evening before with one stop on the flight to Orlando. Coming home we do have a non-stop flight which will be nice so we can crash on the plane.
If you're driving, I would say having a vehicle that gets good gas mileage is a good thing. Do the math though to see which is more cost efficient. With gas at $3.60 a gallon and the miles it would take to drive there from Ohio with our van that gets good gas mileage, it's a lot! Not to mention the wear/tear on the bodies, the “Mom, are we there yets” and the siblings at each others' throats. I would have NEVER made it as a Griswold!
Disney World Packing List
You may not think that packing efficiently as a way to save. If that's you, then you may not be flying, with 5 people and checked luggage! Oh my word – it is esspensive!! Katie has a great list of suggested packing items and tips to consider. Thanks to Katie, I have gum and a few other items on my shopping list already! I would also purchase some inexpensive and cheap disposable rain ponchos for the kids in case you have rain during your vacation.
Disney World Ticket Prices
The last cruise we went on, we purchased a land/sea package. This time, we just got the sea package and we then decided to do a few days at the parks afterwards so tickets were included.
We went on a family vacation to Disney in 2003 and we didn't have to purchase tickets. Our family used to have a place in Florida and they had extended park hoppers. This was the most economical choice since we knew that they could be used until the days were all gone. So, we haven't purchased tickets in almost 10 years!
Plan around Birthdays or Volunteer. Consider purchasing park hoppers to get more parks in. Ask for tickets for Christmas presents as Amanda suggests. I know people who have done this for the local amusement park so this makes complete sense.
Jill drove to Disney and mentions purchasing tickets after seeing a discount listed on a billboard. They had to tour a time share and got a 20% discount no park tickets (remember you can always decline purchasing any time share if you don't have an interest).
Disney World Dining
We didn't do a Disney Dining plan in 2006 (on our first land/sea Disney vacation). But, we really should have!
During the Disney bloggers trip, we learned that the Free dining plan is typically offered between August and October. If your schedule allows a visit then, it's time to go! Plus, it's less crowded then since the Florida schools are back in session!
As I mentioned after the #magicalmoms trip, the Free dining is a great deal when it's available.
Disney World on a Budget
Pre-buy all your souvenirs! We actually did purchase Disney Hats (with their names on the back) and the autograph book at a Disney Park. We still have both items and the kids can take them this year. Well, T may not since he's older now and will likely think it's not cool :-)
The online Disney Store always has great sales and clearance to get Disney stuff super cheap! I'll also hit up the Dollar Store before we depart to find any Disney-related items. Even a generic pirate sword would be applicable, and I'm sure Andon would love it!
Don't fret at all that your merchandise wasn't purchased at Disney. I mentioned before that shirt that I still have from 2009 was at Disney AND at the Airport. It's not that exclusive. The ears and autograph books are worth the money since they are a treasured memory. This week, I might get a blinged out Minnie headband. It's Disney, I don't care WHO you are, it makes you giddy and want to wear mouse ears!
Joey's suggestion was a good one as well. Allow the kids to have one Disney-bought souvenir. When the kids have to be more selective about their trinket, it's a little different than mom and dad are just on a buying spree!
Disney World Food and Snack Ideas
Pack non-perishable snacks! This was an overwhelming suggestion when I asked for Disney Savings Tips on Facebook! Rachel is a Floridian so it definitely makes sense for her to pack a family lunch. She and others suggested eating at Cosmic Ray's in Magic Kingdom.
Many people also suggested taking drink packets to pour into water. Since you can take water in, just add a drink packet for a flavorful drink. Also making sure your hotel room has a fridge allows to keep perishable items fresh longer and keep your water nice and chilled!
We will be using a shuttle to take us to the resort. I'm sure we could ask the shuttle service to stop at Walmart, but I doubt we will have the energy to run through and grab everything. Plus, I'm sure they would charge us for the stop. So, we will be using the service this year. I love that they have produce available too!
Free Stuff at Disney World
Christy at Southern Plate has a great list to help with enjoying and saving at Disney. One of the suggestions she shared, and many others have suggested, is to purchase the Disney Passporter book. Along with several great Disney planning tips and hints, it has a list of the free activities for kids to do! Great idea, right?!
Katie also has a great list of Free Disney stuff you can get too! Seriously, there is a lot of ways to enjoy Disney for cheap or Free that spending a fortune in the park isn't necessary! Peggy's tip to avoid the park offering a special during the time you are there to avoid with the crowd issues.
Of course, there are several experiences like the boutique for little girsl and the pirate adventure for the boys. My nieces are doing the boutique this year and I would love to go myself but we aren't. I thought possibly doing the pirate day for Andon and Caleb but decided against it. We'll be on a ship for 4 days, there's not much more pirate you can get than that (and we get to see the Pirates of the Carribbean Ship at Castaway Cay!).
If you do any of these, Autumn has a tip to purchase the glitter and dresses at home rather than at the boutique. It's just one way to save plus the kids won't be pressured to make a fast decision the day of.
BYOE, that's “bring your own equipment.” This one is specific for the cruise but I'm sure it's applicable for the parks too. While there really is not a lot that you do need, when you stop on the excursions, you will get to do many things. Our FAVORITE stop was Castaway Cay. We are SOOOO looking forward to this again this year since it's the best of both worlds: a cruise with fabulous entertainment, food and anything you could possibly want with your own private island at your desire.
Maria went on the inaugural Disney Dream cruise and she suggested we bring our own snorkels since the rental rate is rather high. Rentals typically are charged per hour so this makes sense. Most of our boys will want to use them, and Daddy will too. I can get a snorkel really cheap so I'll be packing that this year! Plus, the boys will use it throughout the summer here at home. It's worth the small purchase.
Disney Stroller Rental Alternatives
This may seem counter-intuitive to saving since you can likely take your own. We always took our strollers in the past. However, with our kids getting bigger, they aren't really stroller-age. But, they are little and will likely wear out with walking so much in the parks. We aren't sure which rental we will do yet but we will be leaving our stroller at home on this trip.
When it all comes down to it, planning CAN help you save more. Even though our cruise was a big expense, we have been planning for this for nearly two years (yes huh, I mentioned it in my first Disney post in 2009!).
Disney World Fast Passes
While the Fast Passes aren't a money-saver, Fast Passes are a huge time saver so I can't go without mentioning those. Our last trip we found the rides that offered fast passes and walked to as many close by to grab our passes. By the time we got the other passes it was time to go back and ride the first ride.
You get the idea. Lots of time saved and getting all of the memories in without missing a thing!
Cheapest Time to go to Disney World
There are so many great sites to check for more tips and advice to have the best Disney vacation ever! Some I've checked personally and others are suggestions. Here are a few: AllEars.net, Disney World Moms Panel Forum, Passporter, and DISBoards.com to name a few.
Do you have other tips to help save on a Disney World Vacation?