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By:  Tangled Diva

Afford Disney 4I have to admit, I am a borderline cheapskate….okay, okay, I am a cheapskate.  Anybody that knows me knows that I never, ever pay retail…EVER.  So, initially, Disney was hard for me to get on board with, because as you know it is not cheap.  But, there are practical and easy ways to save for your Disney vacation without having to go into debt just to be able to go (Dave Ramsey, remember this one as you will dislike me later in this blog).  There are also ways to save money while you are at Disney World.  Below you will find my tips for saving money for your vacation and while on your vacation.

Tips For Saving for Your Disney Vacation

  1. Bank Overtime or Any “Extra” Money – Obviously, if you are a salaried employee, the overtime option does not apply. But, if you are eligible for overtime, save all of your overtime money. You can also save any bonuses or money you received that you weren’t expecting. Since you weren’t expecting it in the first place, you will never miss it. Personally, two of our most recent Disney trips have been fully funded by overtime funds.
  2. Disney Gift Cards – For all holidays, birthdays, pretty much anything you get a gift for, ask for Disney gift cards. They can be used to pay for your trip or for meals or souvenirs while in Disney.  As you can see, this is exactly what I requested this Christmas.IMG_3954
  3. Cut Back on “Perks” (pun intended) – Pick one thing that you spend a lot of money on that isn’t a necessity in your life. For example, if you drink Starbucks every day, give it up for a period of time leading up to your trip. You likely spend at least $4.00 a day (if you only go on week days that is still $1,040 a year—depending on your family’s size, this could cover a huge chunk of your trip).
  4. Use Points or Rewards – Dave Ramsey, don’t kill me for this one. But, if you have a credit card that offers points or rewards, cash those in to help pay for your trip. We have a Disney card and before every trip, we cash in our rewards to use for dining. We also typically use any additional credit card’s rewards to pay for part of our airfare or hotel.  Also, if you travel a lot and have hotel points, stay off property and use those points.  We are planning a trip to Disneyland next summer, and our entire hotel stay will be covered by my husband’s Hilton Honors points.
  5. Good Old Fashioned Change Jar – Don’t spend any change. Save it and collect it in a jar. You’ll be surprised at how quickly this can add up. When my husband and I got engaged, my mom gave us a big water bottle (the kind they use in office break room water fountains). We saved all of our coins in it and fully paid for our Honeymoon lodging with it.  You can also do a modified version of this with your checking account.  Whenever you write a check, when you enter it in your ledger, round it up to the nearest whole number.  This “extra change” can quickly add up just like coins in a jar.
  6. Start Couponing – A few years ago, I started couponing. Now, I even teach presentations on how to do it. I have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars couponing. It can be frustrating at times, but it is very rewarding and there is no doubt it works. On a typical couponing trip, I pay no more than $1.00 per item. Usually included are laundry detergent, coffee, ground beef and other pricier items. A lot of libraries offer classes (I have given multiple presentations at libraries) on couponing or I am sure you can find a Youtube video on how to successfully coupon.
  7. Create a Disney Vacation “Bill” – Typically, and due in large part to the cost of the trip, you know about a Disney vacation well in advance of the date you are going.  Make your Disney vacation a “bill” leading up to your trip.  Add up the cost of the trip, divide it by the number of weeks leading up to when the final payment for the trip is due, and each week, put that amount of money in a separate savings account.  By paying a little at a time, it isn’t quite as painful on your checkbook.

Tips For Saving Money On Your Disney Vacation

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  1. Wait for the Deal – Only go when they are running deals such as extremely discounted rooms, or, our favorite, free dining. If you have school aged children, this will likely mean you have to pull them out of school to go. But, I highly recommend doing this. Parks are significantly less crowded and the cost is significantly lower too. Plus, there are so many learning opportunities at Disney that your school administrators might even “excuse” it.
  2. Pack “Souvenirs” – Souvenirs can get quite pricey at the parks. The same items can often be purchased off-property for significantly less money. Pack souvenirs and surprise your kids with them while there. The Disney Diva has Tinkerbell visit her children at night and bring them prizes while they are at Disney.
  3. Eat Responsibly – I am one of those people that can snack lightly throughout the day and let dinner be my only meal. If the same is true for you, you can save significant money by not purchasing the meal plan, packing your own snacks, and just eating out for one meal a day. If you eat at a quick serve location, you could spend less than $18 a day on food.
  4. Bring Your Own Snacks – We always bring our own snacks! Actually, we order them online from Wal-Mart or Amazon and have them shipped directly to our hotel. Usually we order enough so that shipping is free, and we save a ton of money doing this. (TIP: If you do this, be sure and address it to “Guest [Your Name]” and include your check in date. Especially if you order from Wal-Mart, make sure your name appears on the address. We had a problem last time with it just being addressed to just “Guest” and then it took quite a while for it to get to us.) Items we typically order include: water, water pour-ins, granola bars, cereal, Cheez-its, and breakfast bars. We have even been known to have shoes for our son ordered and delivered as well.
  5. Water, Water, Everywhere – Few things at Disney are free. But, water is one of them. If you go into any quick serve dining locations or snack bar areas and ask for a complimentary water, they will give it to you.  Keep in mind, it is tap water and not typically yummy in Florida.  So, we always pack flavored pour-ins to use!
  6. Free Activities – In addition to water, a lot of the activities offered at Disney are free. Look for these and be sure and choose them over other options that are not free. Ones that we never miss are Wilderness Explorers in Animal Kingdom, a Pirate’s Adventure in Magic Kingdom and Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure in EPCOT. Wilderness Explorers get to collect stickers in their free book and Pirate’s Adventure you can keep your map, so this is also a free souvenir! Plus, for Wilderness Explorers, you learn so much while doing this it might be just the thing to get your student’s absence “excused.”
  7. Stay Off Property or At a Value Resort – We always go when free dining is offered, so we have never considered staying off property because the money we would have saved on the hotel would have gone to food, so it has always been cheaper for us to stay on property. But, if you are going at a peak time or a time when no deal is offered, it is significantly cheaper to stay off property. Keep in mind you will have to pay more for gas and parking, but overall you will still save money. If you want to stay on property, choose a value resort. My family highly recommends Pop Century. All we really need is a bed, and we are happy as far as hotels go. We are all about the parks. Staying in a value resort can save you hundreds.
  8. Skip The Hopper – The hopper option (where you can go to more than one park a day) adds significant cost to your ticket price. While we love the ability to hop, on trips where our budget was a little tighter, we’ve opted to not do the hopper and had just as much fun.
  9. Don’t Purchase Photo Pass – While a great way to ensure that you get lots of family pictures, this can also be very pricey.  The photo pass photographers will take a picture with your camera (or phone), so go this route instead and save some money.

Let us know if you have different methods that have worked for you and your family!  We would love to hear from you!

My name is Heather, and I was born, raised and currently live in Alabama with my husband and 6-year old son. I work as a legal secretary / paralegal; teach kickboxing; love to coupon; stay pretty busy between my son’s soccer, baseball and school schedules; am actively involved in my church; and LOVE all things Disney. As you can see, my busy schedule keeps my life pretty “tangled,” but I am the queen of multi-tasking, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. My family and I truly do love all things Disney. We love to visit Walt Disney World, when we are home (which isn’t often) you can always find us tuned into the Disney Channel (I’ve even caught my husband humming to some of the Teen Beach Movie tunes a time or two), and we always have Disney movies with us when we travel. As my name implies, my personal favorite is Tangled. I am a sucker for a good musical, and the music in Tangled is amazing. I also have a huge cartoon crush on Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert. I am certainly not the Disney guru that some of my fellow writers are, but what I lack in experience, I promise I make up for in passion.