Anyone that loves Walt Disney World and visits regularly knows one thing for sure – it isn’t cheap. There are lots of ways to save money in different areas that added together can save you quite a bit in the long run. How much you can save will depend entirely on how much you are willing to compromise in some small areas. Some families can save quite a bit while others think these tips won’t work for them.
SAVE MONEY AT TARGET
The biggest money saver for me is my Target Red Debit Card. Head to your local Target (or Target.com) and get either a Target Red Card Credit Card or a Target Red Card Debit Card. I turn all of my Disney vacation money into Disney Gift Cards at Target using my Red Card and getting an automatic 5% savings. EXAMPLE: If you have to purchase two adult park hopper passes for four days – with tax – the cost is roughly $840. Purchase $850 in Disney Gift Cards using your Target Red Card and you will only pay $807 for them. Use the Disney Gift Cards to purchase your park tickets and you have already started saving. Better yet, if you book a Walt Disney World Resort package that totals (for example) $2800. After your $200 deposit your balance due is $2600. Before final payment date get yourself to Target and buy $2600 worth of Disney Gift Cards for $2470 using your Target Red Card. You can also stop by Target weekly or monthly and purchase your Disney Gift Cards a little at a time. Whatever you do it – you will save $$.
Once you have your Disney Gift Cards at home, you can go to www.disneygiftcards.com and combine multiple cards onto one (up to $1,000) so you will only have a small number of gifts cards when it’s time to pay off your vacation. Be sure to convert your spending money into Disney Gift Cards the same way.
Take advantage of Disney promotions. Try to visit during a free dining promotion. This allows you to go on vacation and not pay for most of your food. Most of your food will be included. I do always recommend comparing your free dining package that requires a full priced room/ticket package to qualify against any room discounts that are available to see what will save you the most money. Some families are not big eaters so a discounted room and purchasing your own food may be a larger saving. You have to do the math. When using your free dining – use it wisely. Free dining entitles you to one quick service meal, one table service meal and one snack per day (under the basic dining plan). Purchase your breakfast, use your quick service for lunch in the parks and table service for dinner. Don’t use your snack credit for a drink. You can use it for a cupcake, cookie or ice cream for an evening snack. If you don’t use all your snack credits, you can use them all at the end of your trip to purchase Mickey Rice Krispie Treats to bring home for a few friends for gifts. Breakfast items are the least expensive items to buy. Yogurt, cereal or fruit can also be ordered through a service like Garden Grocer and eaten in your room. Purchase non-perishable items like water, juice and snacks and then ship them to yourself at the hotel. Things you have purchased cheaply at your local grocery store. Call the resort for the correct address. Be sure your last name, reservation number and date of arrival are clearly marked on the carton and bell services will hold the box for your arrival for up to a week. When you arrive, call bell services and ask for your carton to be delivered to your room.
SAVE ON FOOD
There are a few easy ways to save on food costs at Walt Disney World. If you want to dine at one of the many character meals, do it at breakfast instead of dinner. You will see the same characters and the breakfast cost per person is usually much less than the dinner (or even lunch) cost per person.
If you aren’t a big eater or only want a small lunch, order a Kid’s Meal at any quick service location. There is more than enough food and a Kid’s Meal burger/fries/small drink is half the cost of an adult size. I always do this mainly because it’s more than enough food for me and I hate to waste half of the adult size portion.
Bring a refillable water bottle into the parks with you. All quick service locations will give you for free a cup of ice water which you can use to re-fill your water bottle all day. No need to buy bottled water.
If you drive into the Orlando area, bring your own snacks for the room and for taking into the parks. Snacks are costly and add up quickly to quite a large sum of money. If you fly in, you can use one of the food delivery services to deliver your purchases to your resort for much less than buying a snack each time you’re hungry in the parks.
If you are on a budget, although it is always tempting to upgrade your park passes to park hopper tickets, don’t upgrade. It may not seem like a huge increase in cost but all the little savings add up. Will you really move from park to park each day? Depending on the size of your family, you may be able to save quite a bit by not purchasing the park hopper option. If there is a chance you won’t use it, don’t buy it. The park hopper option can add around $60 onto each ticket. For a family of 4 that’s about $240 extra dollars.
Pressed pennies are a great inexpensive souvenir that most kids love. I also purchase Disney licensed t-shirts, small toys and stuffed animals at Walmart or Target before trips with my granddaughter. I am able to give her one souvenir a day while at WDW, each night before bed, for less than one or two small souvenirs at the parks.
Be sure to use Walt Disney World transportation to avoid parking fees.
Don’t think it’s necessary to pay for Memory Maker ($149 advance purchase/$169 if purchased upon arrival). While the Disney Photopass photographers are there to sell professional pictures, they’re happy to take a cell phone or camera picture with your equipment of you and your family.
What do you do to save money when planning your Walt Disney World vacation?