Disney World. Kids big and small love it. Boys want to be Jack Sparrow and girls go gaga over Elsa and Anna. And let us not forget about a mouse named Mickey. I still remember going as a kid, and how excited I was to meet the characters and get pictures with them. And the RIDES. NO ONE does theming like Disney. It really is magical.
We currently live 20 minutes from Disney World. Where people travel a whole day or more just to get to Disney, we can pop in for a few rides or dinner and come home. We know we are lucky. Since we are so close we are season passholders. Our son has already been on It’s a Small World and pulled Mickey Mouse’s nose in person. I have a feeling all theme parks after this are going to disappoint him. Lol
It is no surprise then that Disney knows what they have going and it is EXPENSIVE to visit. A 1-day pass to Magic Kingdom is now over $100 a person. And let’s not even talk about how much a hamburger costs once you are at the park. Families save years to take their once upon a lifetime trip. And let’s not forget the PLANNING that goes into a Disney World trip. After all, when you are shelling out that much moolah you want to get your money’s worth. So for as much fun as it is for the kids, it can also be a major headache for the parents. What is one to do?
People have come up with some unique ways to get to Disney. There is the coupon to Disney family. Click here for how this family literally takes the money they save from using coupons to fund their Disney vacation account. And then there is MouseSavers.com, a clearinghouse for scrimping Mouseheads. She has found and posted more than 300 pages’ worth of coupon codes and money-saving ideas, and is one of the premier Disney Saving blogs out there.
So without further ado, here are a few of my best $$$ saving tips for families:
Go during off season
Magic Kingdom will always be busy. But fall is one of the best times to visit. The humidity has dropped, the kids are back in school and prices at resorts will be at some of their lowest prices of the year. Disney’s “Value” rooms start as low as $85 a night in low season, which is typically late August, September, and January. This is also the time period when Disney offers their “Free Dining Plan” with their vacation packages. I know it is hard to pull kids from school, but if you can, you will save $$$ if you really wish to stay on Disney property and not deal with major crowds.
Purchase your “souvenirs” ahead of time
For families with kids who are Pin Traders, buy pins on ebay before you leave. Kids trade away the pins they have, so what they start with shouldn’t be their favorite. The goal is to trade and find favorites. Also, before you leave for you trip, buy small souvenirs at Walmart and Target when you see them on sale. If you see a small Mickey stuffed animal, buy it and toss it in your luggage. Leave this for your child “from Mickey Mouse” in the hotel room. Get one small surprise for every day of the trip and leave them for your kids to wake up to every morning. These will keep your little ones from salivating over every toy in the gift shops. They will love their gifts from Disney Pals and you will save tons on souvenirs. Look for shirts, sunglasses, small toys, and stuffed animals.
Plan dining reservations for lunch time
Menu prices are often lower at lunch than dinner. And you will need the break. Eat at one of Disney’s Deluxe resorts (at magic kingdom you can take a boat or monorail to most of them). You get to check out their amazing facilities while munching on great food that costs less than it would if you eat IN the park itself. Plus the parks will be less busy during dinner time so since you are still full from lunch you can just munch on a granola bar while riding Space Mountain for the 4th time. You also can then get a prime spot for watching the electrical parade and fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, which are both most do’s during your visit.
Skip the Park Hopper Pass
While it might seem like visiting more than one park a day is the best way to get the most bang for your buck, in reality the opposite is true. This ticket upgrade allows you to visit multiple parks in one day, but it’s an additional $40 to $60 or more. That’s a lot! Trust me, there’s plenty to do in each park without having to jump around between parks in the same day. At WDW, the theme parks are not all that close together, which means that if you really want to make the most of your time, you won’t want to waste an hour or more in travel time between the parks. Plus what’s the point of having a hotel pool with a lazy river if you never get to use it? Remember, this is vacation. RELAX a little.
FREE Water in a cup
Back when I first started taking trips to Disney World, I had no idea that I did not have to keep refilling water bottles at drinking fountains every time I got thirsty. Any Quick-Service restaurant will give you a large cup of water free of charge if you ask for one. If you are one of the many folks that love carrying water bottles, but hate Disney drinking fountain water, you can always get a cup of free water and refill it in a restroom.
Stay Off Disney Property
It can be very tempting to get an all-in-one vacation package with a room at a Disney World resort, a meal plan, and your tickets. However, I’d skip this if you are trying to save money.
First, the Disney World resorts are really expensive. They’re nice, and you do get some perks like extra magic hours and bus rides to all the parks, but you are paying for it. There are amazing places to stay just a few minutes from Disney World that offer a shuttle to the parks and even some that have a view of Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks.
If you are a Hilton, Marriott or other hotel brand loyalty member, now is a great time to use those points. Orlando is a MECCA for many big name hotels and they have huge resorts in the area. Most have amazing pools and some are set up like mini suites with kitchens. Take some time to research your lodging options.
Another option is camping. Disney does have a large campground at Disney World called Fort Wilderness, but slots there start at $50 a night. It is a far cheaper option than the resorts and cheaper even than some of the off-site hotels, but you’ll need to bring camping gear with you. They do offer some cool perks like nightly smores and outdoor movies, but remember at the end of the night you have to be willing to sleep in a tent. In Florida. With no air conditioning. Maybe do this in winter not summer.
There you have it. Some basics to get you planning your very own mousetastic vacation. It really is an amazing place to visit and worth the time and money it takes to plan a trip. Good luck and say hi to Mickey for me when you are there.