by Wishes Diva
Planning for an upcoming trip to the most magical place on Earth? Are you also wondering how you are going to pay for it all? Ever consider using Disney gift cards? Gift cards? Who woulda thought! But let me tell you from experience, that it can make budgeting very simple! On the last Disney trip that my husband and I took, we used multiple gift cards to do things such as pay for our resort stay, make merchandise purchases and pay for food and drinks.
In the time leading up to our trip I worked to organize a budget that would not break our bank. It can be very easy to lose track of how much you are spending at a place like Disney. A little here and there can really add up. My husband and I are very guilty of losing track of how much we spend, and then groaning when we get our credit card statements! I set up our budget in 3 categories: resort, food/drink and merchandise.
For this last trip, we planned ahead and ordered over $500 worth of gift cards to help keep our spending within budget. We used the majority of the gift cards to pay off the remaining balance of our resort stay. (Part of the reason we decided to do this is that the P.T.O. organization at the school I teach at sells gift cards for a percentage of the profit.) Unfortunately Disney has not come out with a feature to load gift cards straight onto your My Disney Experience account yet, so we had to look into how to use these gift cards for the resort. We found out that the easiest way to add gift cards to our account was to do it at the front desk of our resort. When we checked in, we just informed the Cast Member at the front desk that we wanted to pay off the hotel with gift cards. She refunded my credit card that was on file, and then scanned the gift cards in place of the credit card. The whole process took less than 5 minutes!
We also had other gift cards that we wanted to add to our MagicBands to be able to use in the park. We debated between keeping the physical gift cards and linking them to our MagicBands, but since we are not ones who usually charge things via the MagicBand we decided to give it a try this trip! The Cast Member at the front desk was able to add our additional gift cards onto our room account as well so when we used our MagicBands to make purchases it would come off the gift cards. Keep in mind that if you do this, however, after you have spend all of the gift card money, any additional charges on your MagicBand will charge to the credit card you have on file for your room. We used our MagicBands to pay for meals and merchandise while in the parks. We kept all our receipts so we had a running total of how much we spent! We also would have been able to check with the front desk about the remaining balance on our account if we wanted to know!
We also had a different kind of gift card with us. Since I am a Disney Rewards Visa Card holder, I was able to redeem reward dollars onto a reloadable card. (Side note: This is a huge perk of using the Disney Visa card– free money for Disney just by doing my day to day shopping! For more info on the card, see Doctor Disney Devo’s article here.) Since this trip to WDW was during Flower and Garden Festival, my husband and I decided that we would use that extra bonus money to pay for us to do a mini “Eat Around the World” of the special food and drink booths during the festival. This helped our budgeting because once the money on the card was gone, we were done spending.
Another idea for utilizing gift cards during your stay is to help teach younger members of your family how to budget their money. I know of many families who buy gift cards for each of the kids in their vacation group. They load the cards with whatever amount they choose, and tell the kids that they have ‘x’ amount of money to spend on toys/shirts/stuffed animals, etc. This helps the kids understand that spending all their money on the first thing the see might not be the best idea. This especially works well if you have multiple days in each park; that way the kids have seen all the choices before they go back to make their final purchases. Of course, I only recommend doing this if you know the younger members of your group are able to handle it without a meltdown!
Overall I think having the ability to budget for a Disney trip using gift cards can be very helpful. Especially if you are like me, and you like to plan your Disney vacations down the the cent, and actually stick to it! It is also a way to spread out the purchasing for your Disney trip. You can order gift cards months in advance for your trip- they don’t expire!
Final tip: Before you plan on using gift cards, be sure to double check that they are accepted at the location you want to use them. Some of the Disney affiliated companies accept the gift cards, while others don’t. For more information check the Disney Gift Card Website. Not everything is included on the site, so be sure to ask if you are unsure!