Disney on the Cheap: How We Saved Money While Having a Great Time
There are a BUNCH of ways that we saved money in Magic Kingdom. Some will get their own posts. But off the top of my head, these were the biggest ways that we pinched our pennies:
:: We used our Disney Chase Visa Rewards card for much of our spending (food, souvenirs, character meal, etc) in the Disney Parks. This card is a credit card that you earn $1 to spend at the parks or in Disney Stores (also online) for every $100 you charge. We used the card similarly to how you would use a bank debit card for the past year – charging everything (gas, groceries, etc) and paying the bill in full every month. This resulted in several hundred dollars on a Disney gift card for our vacation.
:: We used VRBO.com (VRBO= Vacation Rentals by Owner) to find a vacation home. I know that many Disney fans swear by staying in the parks – that gets you free transportation to the parks, exclusive extra park hours and more, but since Disney Parks were only half of our trip, we decided against staying in the parks this time. We found a rental house on VRBO in a private, gated community in Kissimmee – 10-15 minutes from Disney Main Gate. Private townhouse, 3 bedrooms, 3 (full) bathrooms, living room, kitchen and community amenities (pool) for less than $600 (including all taxes and cleaning fees) for 7 nights. Split between our fam and my dad/stepmom, it came down to $40/night for each of us. That’s less than the cheapest, fleabag hotel in Orlando and we had a full kitchen (saved on meals by bringing food from our stockpile!) and Lily Bean had her own room – great for naptime. Don’t make me recount the tale “Stuck in a Cruise Ship Cabin with a Baby ’10.”)
:: We brought our own food into the parks. While we did buy some food in the parks, we also brought our own snacks and drinks. A couple of days we even packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat for lunch. Even quick meals in the park can easily total $20+, so cutting out several of those meals saved us a lot.
:: We used reusable filtered water bottles. It was like having a Brita pitcher in our backpack! We were able to fill up our bottles with fresh water from bathroom sinks and water fountains. The water was clean, filtered and had a good taste.
:: We bought Disney Park Multi-Day Park Hopper passes. It’s pretty simple – the more days you buy, the more you save. “Hoppers” allow you entrance into any of the Disney parks on any given day. You can also save on parking when you visit multiple parks in one day – pay for parking once at the first park you visit ($14), save your ticket and use it for free parking at any additional parks you visit that same day. This came in handy, not just when we hopped from park to park, but some days we returned home in the afternoon so that Lily Bean could get in a good nap. Refreshed and full of more life, we hit the parks at night for parades and fireworks – it was nice to avoid paying for parking a second time!
:: We brought souvenirs from home. Each night when we returned home from a park, a new souvenir was waiting for Lily Bean. Did she notice that we brought it from home and had purchased it on clearance or another sale? Nope. Did she love each new item? Yup.
:: We grabbed cheap costumes during Halloween clearance (plus Lily received her Belle dress from Nana and Poppy for Christmas!) Let’s face it – kids LOVE to dress up in Disney. Whether a little girl wants to dress the part of a princess or a boy wants to play the pirate while riding Pirates of the Caribbean, taking costumes can add to park excitement. Be sure to stock up on deeply discounted costumes after Halloween. Bonus: you bring home the costumes and end up with some cool additions to the family dress-up box!
:: We bought other souvenirs and supplies OUT of the parks. It just so happens that there is a huge Wal-Mart right down the road from the parks (as well as about 500 other souvenir outlets). Stop there to load up on your must-haves: autograph books, pens, shirts, blankets, towels, POSTCARDS. You will spend a fraction of the price for your Mickey-laden goods.
:: Check those receipts! Reader Maribel let me know that the WDW restaurant receipts offer 10% discounts at select Disney stores throughout the park.
:: I did my research before hitting the parks. I picked up some fabulous Disney World travel books after borrowing a friend’s copies (thanks, Jenny!). I got mine cheap from Amazon – but most local libraries will have these too. These books helped with everything from booking various dinners, getting around the parks, maximizing our time once we arrived and more.
:: Use hotel promotions to score freebies and discounts on future trips. This one is not Disney specific, but it certainly worked in our favor. When we drove to Texas in the fall, we stayed at several Country Inns and Suites along the way. We like this hotel chain a lot anyway, but even more of a lure was the promotion they were offering – stay M-Th and get 15,000 rewards points – which is enough points for a FREE one night stay at many of their hotels. We took advantage of this and ended up with enough points for THREE free nights to use on a future trip. We used two of these on the way down to Florida – which saved us well over $200.
I’m sure there are more, but those were the biggies. We saved (literally) hundreds of dollars by following the tips above.
And now it’s your turn! Fill up my comments with your OWN money-saving tips and tricks! They do not have to be Disney-specific – general vacation moneysavers are welcome too!