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If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen me mention that I would be started a new series – one that will help you save money on your Disney vacation! Disney Parks are a popular destination for many families and I am happy to report that it really is possible to save (a lot of) money, not just when booking, but while actually enjoying your trip.
Believe it or not, Disney offers many ways to save money. Think outside the box to save even more. I always recommend treating a Disney vacation like any other deal you’re seeking – do the research, know what constitutes a good deal and always remember that your time has value too.
I have received a lot of great reader input on various Disney savings topics. I will be compiling that input along with my own Disney knowledge into a series of posts. I welcome you to fill up the comment section with tips of your own.
Topic #1 in this series:
Best Tips for Saving Time or Money When Booking a Disney Parks Vacation
1. Travel during non-peak times if possible. Holidays, summertime and Spring break are all chronically wall-to-wall people in Disney Parks. If you have the availability, consider traveling during off-peak times of the year. Winter time after New Year’s typically sees lighter crowds, as well as September when school-aged kids are returning to classes. Fall is also a good time to score cheaper airfare.
2. Take advantage of Disney Resort hotel discounts and free dining plan. Typically offered a couple times each year, Disney will offer discounts (usually up to about 30%) on a stay in its park resorts. These discounts will many times offer tiered savings – with the highest discount given to a stay at a deluxe resort, then moderate, then value. The Disney Dining Plan is very popular with many families. During certain times of year, Disney offers a free dining plan for each guest when you book a non-discounted stay at one of their resorts.
3. Use sites like VRBO to rent a condo or house outside of the parks. We did this one year and for about $80/night got a nice 3 bedroom townhome with 3 bathrooms, washer/dryer, etc. We were located less than a 10 minute drive from Disney’s main gate. Our savings were huge and since that trip included a couple of days at Universal Studios and a Phillies Spring Training game, our location was perfect.
4. Stay ON park property but not IN a park resort. There are a few options for staying within Disney’s main gate but not staying at a Disney resort to keep cost down. Hilton and Waldorf Astoria are two examples of hotels in this category. In 2012 we rented a condo at Wyndham Bonnet Creek from Vacation Strategy. I cannot emphasize enough how stunningly beautiful the property and accommodations were… oh yeah – and we were right across the street from Epcot Center! We traveled in March and scored a deluxe 2 bedroom condo that had a full kitchen, dining room, living room, 2 bedrooms, washer/dryer, etc. for less than $200/night. It was phenomenal and I would recommend it to anyone. The Wyndham itself is a timeshare resort. Yes, the front desk will attempt to rope you into a timeshare presentation. NO, it is absolutely NOT required. We simply did not answer our phone the time or two that they called and when we checked in said that we had to take a look at our schedule and get back to them.
5. Rent Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points from a reputable points broker. For years my cousins have gone to Disney, stayed ON park property in the Villas and saved a lot of money while doing so. We rented DVC points and saved SO MUCH MONEY on our stay in Animal Kingdom Villas! In a nutshell, DVC members might find that there comes a year when they are not going to head to Disney and use the points that they have paid for. Rather than take a loss on the points, they can rent them to a non-DVC member. Non-DVC members CAN rent rooms (studios, 1 BR, 2 BR, 3 BR) on Disney’s website – but the prices are astronomical. Instead, many people choose to rent points to save a lot of money. There are two main, reputable, BBB accredited companies that act as DVC point brokers. DVC Rental Store and David’s Vacation Club Point Rentals facilitate these rentals. They act as the go-between and match DVC members with interested renters. They do charge for this service by charging the renter several dollars more per point than they are paying the DVC member. I did not find the surcharge to be too costly – well worth the peace of mind in having assistance to book the stay.
6. Plane, train or automobile… how will you get there? Depending on how far you are from Disney, you might have the option to fly, drive or ride the rails. Research airfare versus gas prices, etc to determine the most cost effective way for you to travel. Will you need to rent a car when you arrive or are you staying at a park property where you’ll be able to use the free park-to-park transportation? If you drive will you need to spend money on a hotel en route to Disney? We typically drive to Florida from Pennsylvania. Gas + tolls + one night in a hotel room are usually similar or even a little less than flying, plus I really just prefer the road trip to flying when traveling with small kids. We can travel at our own pace, on our own schedule – just personal preference.
7. Book through a travel agent to save time, get the best deals Disney Parks are offering AND sometimes get a few perks along the way. There are some fantastic travel agents out there, many who specifically specialize in Disney vacations. (See the end of this post for some suggestions from fellow readers.) These agents think of all of the details that you may or may not even be aware of. Often times they will compile itineraries for you, help book dining (like character meals) and just provide an overall source of support to answer questions before or even during your trip. Sometimes extra incentives are offered for booking through them and using their services. I received a $100 ship credit when I booked our Disney Cruise through a Disney booking service.
8. Use credit earned with the Disney Chase Visa card. I am going to write an entire post on how much we enjoy this card and how much money it has given us to spend in the Disney Parks. But for now… if you can exercise some fiscal responsibility and use a credit card to pay for monthly expenses (like a debit card) and then pay the bill off in full each month (avoiding any kind of finance charges) this card is a great option for Disney fans. You earn rewards on the card that are redeemable for a Disney gift card that you can spend at Disney Parks, Disney Stores, etc. Basically for every point you earn on your card, you earn $1 to spend at Disney. The card comes with certain perks – 10% off Disney Store purchases of $50 or more, 10% off select Disney World restaurants, exclusive character meet and greet at Epcot with complimentary 5×7 print (you can do this each day you’re there!) and more. I even received a free $50 ship credit for using my credit card to book our upcoming Disney Cruise.
9. Book your Disney trip through AAA. A bunch of readers have suggested this! If you are a AAA member, check to see if you can save some money by booking through them. I’ve also heard several people mention that a booking with AAA also scores you a priority parking pass to use in the parks. You get to park super close – right next to the handicap parking!
Reader shoutouts! Thanks to my Facebook fan for recommending the following Disney Vacation specialists who can help you book your dream Disney trip:
Be Our Guest Vacations
Making Memories Michelle
Travel Deals by Dana