I’ve been to Disney World lots and lots of times. We went about every 4 years when I was a kid. Then Staci & I went when we graduated from High School. Les and I went on our honeymoon. We did a family trip before my bro was married. Then Les and I moved to Orlando and went about every month. We’ve been once since Lydia was born.
I have to say it’s not the cheapest place to go, but I think it’s worth every penny. However, if you want to save money (like we all do!) here are a few Budget Disney tips:
1. Move to Orlando, make friends with Disney employees. They get free tickets. If they’ve worked there for like 15 years they get a pass that lets in 3 people a day. Yeah.
2. Receive tickets for Christmas presents. That’s how we went on our 2nd Disney cruise.
(what these aren’t working for you? ok. ok.)
3. Go during FREE DISNEY DINING. That means like FREE FOOD. Disney Dining is already a deal, in my opinion, but once a year, they offer FREE Disney Dining packages. So you get one counter service meal, one table meal and one snack per day per person FOR FREE. I’m not kidding. So cool. (I found some info about it at MouseSavers.com)
4. Get on mailing lists. Find the sites for Disney, for airlines, for travel agents, etc. They always send emails about deals and free stuff. I have found more deals in my inbox than anywhere else.
5. Check out the DisneyWorld site. They’ve always got Florida resident deals on hotels and special events. But there are usually special deals for non-residents, too. (Oh, I just saw free Disney Dining info, too!)
6. And my one big tip for Disney Cruises: wait till the last minute. That’s what we did in March. We found a cruise (on Disney’s site, not even one of those special vacation sites) that was ridiculously cheap with one caveat–leave in 4 days. It was worth it!
7. Bring your own water bottles. They are like $4 in the park. But do splurge on a Mickey Mouse icecream, please!
8. Pack your own extras: ponchos (the park makes $2million on ponchos every time it rains), sunblock, film, batteries, sunglasses, etc. You don’t want to buy normal stuff at the park. Honestly, you don’t even want to buy it in Orlando. It’s still a rip there.
9. Bring your own food. I honestly don’t suggest this for every meal because it’s fun to eat at Disney. But have some food in your room. Pack some granola bars. Eat breakfast in your room before you hit the parks.
10. Just hang out on property! All the resorts have cool stuff to do–tandem bikes, beaches, boats, special programming, etc. Go visit one of the pricey resorts–The Animal Kingdom Lodge has as many animals as the real Animal Kingdom! (I even went on a free Hidden Mickey Scavenger Hunt there!) Go to one of the fun mini golf courses. Head to Downtown Disney for cute shopping and fun picture spots!
One final thought on money & vacations:
One of my good friends in Birmingham decided she and her husband were going to buy a timeshare (I don’t think it was DVC but still…). She said it was important to her that they regularly put away money for their vacations. They wanted to make vacations a part of their budget because vacations promote family. This has always stuck with me. My family didn’t have a lot of money–we probably packed our lunches at Disney and we always stayed at the cheapest resorts BUT it was worth every penny! Memories are built, relationships strengthened and families bonded on vacations. So, yes–be frugal; but don’t forget to spend money where it’s worth it–on your family!
(for more disney on a dime, head over to jennifer‘s!)