Monday, May 20, 2013

Have a Great Trip Without Breaking the Bank

Just the other day, I was told "I can't go to Walt Disney World.  I can't afford that."

Now, I understand that a WDW vacation is not cheap, but it can be doable without breaking the bank!  There is a lot of bad information on the internet about going on the sly,  but I have some other options - ethical ones!

Visit During the Value Season
Yes, your children might be in school, but if they have a teacher work day you can tag an extra day off with, you'll miss the crowds and save some money.  Food and resorts all cost more during peak (school vacations - summer/Christmas/Thanksgiving/Spring break) season!

Find Cheap Transportation
Driving may seem less expensive, but if you're paying for gas, car costs, and time, it may not be the least expensive options.  I know from DC to Orlando, we've found flights as low as $150 per person round trip.  For a savings of over 9 hours (12+ hour drive), it's totally worth it!  Plus, we don't have to take extra days of vacation for extra travel time!

Travel When They're Young
They're free under 3, but no longer children in Disney's eyes when they turn 10.  Go before the double digits to save money on food and park tickets!

They have fun even when they're little!

Save Money on Food
Yes, I like eating at fancy-ish restaurants and WDW vacations are no exception.  BUT, it's also not necessary on every trip.  To save money on food:

  • Share entrees - some counter service restaurants serve large meals (such as 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken combo with mashed potatoes and a veg for $9.99).  Maybe buy that with another side for a good meal for 2!
  • Ask for no sides - while this may not always work, I've heard it tends to work easily for the kids meal.  You don't always need a side and drink with a kids lunch!
  • Bring snacks/food for breakfast!  If you're not driving, consider using a grocery delivery service or send a package to yourself (from home or amazon) before you go - non-perishable goods - to save some money!
  • Save some money to enjoy the food and snacks.  As AJ Wolfe of the Disney Food Blog says "food is a theme park" and I agree.  You'll totally be missing out if you don't eat any of the great food WDW has to offer!

Take Advantages of Discounts When Possible
While I don't always recommend the dining plan (even free dining) as the best option, it's better than paying rack rate and full ticket prices! has a ticket calculator that helps you find the best ticket for you and where
to find it!

Stay on Property
Yes, this is controversial.  Often you can find a "better deal" off property.  But, if you're really sure that you won't be able to afford this again, it's worth the $99/night you'll be paying in a Disney Value Resort.  Staying on property, you'll have free parking at the parks ($15 a day if you're staying off property.  Again, there are way around this, but they're not necessarily ethical or worth the effort!).   If you don't want to rent a car, you won't have to, thanks to Magical Express and free transportation.  Add in the value of extra time in the parks (extra magic hours) and the time you'll be saving driving on and off property...  Now, add in the perks of staying on property - all Mickey all the time - absolutely worth it for that once in a lifetime trip!

Skip loading up on Souvenirs
Set aside a set amount per person for souvenirs.  If it's $20, maybe everyone gets a hat or a tshirt.  Or, find a great pin, vinylmation, or other small trinket.  Maybe a $10 coffee mug.  Probably not all of the above.  Just like a regular shopping trip, try to set a budget to stick to!

Pack Well
Make your list and check it twice (check out one or two of our packing lists for examples).  Don't leave home without packing your own meds, ponchos (unless you want an $8 souvenir poncho), socks, comfortable shoes, etc...  Disney sells everything you need, but you'll be paying more than you normally would!  Of course, I love those incidental souvenirs, like the t-shirt I had to buy when Z peed on me...  yes, really.  Don't try new diapers on vacation!

Use a Fee-Free Travel Agent
While I hope to join the league of extraordinary free travel agents, I'm currently just a fan of their services!  Travel agents keep their eyes and ears on the news to find you the best deals and apply the best discounts to your trip!   If you plan your trip before resort discounts or dining discount are out, don't worry - they'll be applied when they come out!  So, while expecting to save 20% on your resort can't be guaranteed, if it happens after you've budgeted, you may be excited to all of a sudden have 20% more to spend on food, souvenirs, or your savings account!

Save, Save, Save!
We use a Disney Visa credit card for pretty much everything.  Our standard plan is to buy everything with CC instead of check/cash/debit, earn points, and pay off every month.  That way, we earn rewards on our everyday needs.  The Disney Visa might not get the best point, but, we now have a good amount of Disney dollars to use for our next trip.  They should actually cover the majority of our resort bill!  Plus, with the visa, you can get:

  • discounts while shopping (10% on purchases over $50)
  • discounts on dining (10% on many sit down meals)
  • free photo op with characters in Epcot - includes a FREE photo!
  • early access to runDisney events, resort discounts, and more!
Our Disney Visa picture 2010

Keep checking back for more great money-saving tips!


  1. This is a great page full of advice! Good job.

  2. Thank you!! I always appreciate your suggestions, comments, and just reading of the blog - and your posts!! Thanks :)

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