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pirate“IMPOSSIBLE!” I hear you say!

“My kids can not help me SAVE any money at WDW. They’re the reason I’m going in the first place. I’m already losing money”, you’re exclaiming!

Yes, ok well I will give you that one, but there is actually a way that your children can help you SAVE money at WDW.

Include them in the PLANNING!

You heard me, sit junior and princess down and let them walk with you through as much of the planning process as they can.


Well, as you are planning they are more likely to understand timing of the vacation, budgets, rest-periods, and pleasing the entire family.

Specifically your kids can help you save money by:

1) Choosing the rides in advance. Let your kids go online with you to the WDW site or look through your books & blogs and tell you what rides they’d most like to do. Even better, let them help you create your own CUSTOM WDW maps. You can do it by clicking HERE. From what I remember it didn’t cost anything and you can do one for every park that will show you where the rides and the restaurants YOU want to go to are located. Make sure you check height requirements also!

Choosing rides they REALLY want to go to will save you time, thus potentially helping you understand how many days in park-tickets you really will need.

2) Helping choose the resort. You will be amazed at what your child will pick compared to what you will pick. I’d say 9 times out of 10 they will pick one of the value resorts because of the awesome pools and décor. Kids realize all you should really be doing in a resort at WDW is sleeping, so they don’t care how nice it is like you will.

Its also good to pick out two or three that you’re debating between and let them pick from there. They’re more likely to enjoy the resort because THEY picked it. So they’ll be less likely to pitch a fit when they have to go back for their mid-day rest.

3) Picking which Character Meals/ Restaurants they’d MOST like to go to Don’t guess who your kids would most like to see, ASK THEM. You might think they’d really like to see Winnie the Pooh and friends and they don’t care one thing about those characters. You might think they’d die to eat in the castle, when they’d just as soon see the same princesses at Akershus in Epcot (this would save you a lot of money!!). There are all kinds of menus on of pretty much EVERYWHERE you can eat at Disney World. You can get to their site by clicking HERE.

Especially go through the quick service/ counter service places and let them pick in advance what they’re most likely eat at each restaurant and write it down on a list. Then bring that list with you so when you say “where should we eat” you can say… well at Pecos Bill you can eat X, at Columbia Harbor House you can eat Y, and then they’re picking between foods they’ve already agreed to. It will also save time and potentially a big fight.

As an extra bonus have them keep tabs of how much each of those meals will cost (if you’re not on the meal plan). This will help them understand how much you’re spending on food alone. Make sure to include popcorn, dole whips, mickey ears ice cream, candy, sodas, and turkey legs in your discussion as these are the things they are most likely to impulse-beg you for when they see them.

4) Helping with the daily budget. The majority of things that break the bank at WDW are usually impulse purchases. Things you, or your kids, see and just “have to have”. How to deal with this? Budget in an amount per person to spend on impulse buys daily.

In my opinion there are two smart ways to deal with impulse buys. You either bring the cash in advance or you pre-purchase Disney Gift Cards. You can buy them at the online Disney Store by clicking HERE. You can buy cards in $25 increments up to $150. I personally would recommend buying a $25.00 card for each day you are there for each kid. It may seem high, but $25.00 can actually go really quickly at WDW. Then when they’re having a melt-down over a balloon or stuffed animal you can say “ok, lets use your card”. Once the moneys gone on the card its gone. If they don’t have enough to buy it with one card they’ll have to wait until the next day and add their second card to it. Make sense? The larger the item they want the more they will have to control their small impulse buys. This will help you parents keep your money under control MUCH easier. If you use cash then put the impulse buy amount in an envelope for each person. Make sure you do this for mom and dad too as its easy to get out of control quickly!!!

I never recommend charging to the room. When we did that we spent a FORTUNE because we weren’t really thinking about how much was going on each purchase. Stay with cash/gift cards to not break the bank. The food cost sort of “is what it is”, but usually your big cost that leaves you reeling at the end of each trip is “STUFF”. If grandparents want to “gift” the kids money I recommend them going with gift cards as well.

This is a good lesson for your kids AND for you! Just cause it’s a vacation doesn’t mean it should be a free for all. You can have a great time and not have to buy another $100+ suitcase just to get all your junk home.

Help them understand how much you are really spending and give them an element of independence in their choices and it will really help tame the “gimmie” monster.

Your kids CAN help you have a good time AND save a little moo-la in the process. The key is to include them in the planning. It wont steal the magic away just for them to know what’s going on, it will just help the Post-Disney Wallet Hangover for you. If they’re old enough to help, let them.