I love, love, love the magic of the kingdom and all it’s sister parks. The thrill of the rides, the characters and the food! Yes, they have some fabulous accommodations for allergy/celiac sufferers that make you want to cancel plans to travel anywhere else, BUT… that is for a later post. Today I’m going to give some of my tips for traveling to Disney and some of the things that I found to be $$ savers while spending more than four times our mortgage on a week long vacation.
We like to stay on Disney property for the early park hours, access to the monorail and Disney dining passes so I’m not saying this is the “cheapest” way to do Disney, but this will give you some suggestions for ways you can save on some of the unplanned costs of your trip, regardless of where you are sleeping during that five hour window you are not at the park.
- Take a backpack into the park with snacks. Yup, they let you bring food in. Who would have thought? Clearly you don’t want to be hiking ten miles a day with a a 30lb sack on your back, but it’s unusual to spend under $5 on a park snack. Multiply that cost by the amount of people in your family… fruit roll ups and carrying some treats sounds pretty good.
- Take water bottles with filters in that back pack.. there are water fountains throughout the parks! Bottles of water are $3 each if you buy them in the parks. We found the water at Disney to have a “funny” taste to it. That is why I suggest the filter. I’ve never personally tried it but I have been told that the Lifestraw bottle is excellent.
- If you happen to be on Disney property, even at a value hotel, you can buy the Disney Dining Plan and if you can, do it!!! We were able to enjoy a character meal once a day as a part of our plan and it felt like we had non-stop snacks. In fact, we had so many that I redeemed eight at Disney Springs before we left and took treats on the plane!
- When on the Disney Dining Plan, always choose adult quick meals. This probably doesn’t make sense if you’ve never used the plan before. Basically, you receive a sit down meal, a quick dining meal, snacks and drinks each day for each person in your party. The sit down meals are designated “Adult” or “Child,” the quick serve meals are not. So, always order adult quick meals and get more food!
- Don’t hop. The hopper passes add unnecessary cost to tickets when you may or may not need to use it. Plan your days in one park per day and save some cash.
- Take a day off. As hard as it is to believe you might want a day off, I promise you will. About day three you will wonder how you ever ran on so little sleep when your kids were born. Lay by the pool, splash in the kids zone or take a free trip to Disney Springs to keep everyone busy. There are tons of things to see and do. This way you won’t feel like you are losing money by waisting a ticket.
- Take Tinkerbell! Much like Santa and the Easter Bunny, we believe in Tinkerbell. She is a fabulous and stealthy fairy that deposits treats and gifts in our hotel each night while the kids sleep. Each day they awake to logo’d character merchandise that was acquired at home and traveled with. By shopping Disney Store sales before we leave, and ordering custom items from local artisans like Whole Heart Creations, Tinkerbell saves up to 75% on fun gifts for the kids… which results in less purchases in the parks. Keep in mind, items at the park at 30-50% higher in price than at home. You have to be stealthy and tie things up in bags within bags but it’s worth the savings!
- Hit up the dollar store! Glow in the dark items prevail when the sun goes down so be prepared! Each glow in the dark item averages $22 and, I must admit, they are rather cool. To keep the element of fun, stock up on glow sticks, Disney stickers and wands. Decorate your own and have them ready (in your trusty backpack) to crack at dusk.
- Ready the team. Set your budget for “extras” before you go and fill the kids in on the plan. Rest assured, every time you get off a ride there will be a store stocked with merchandise. If you let the kids know that they get to pick something out, but once they do, “that’s their item for the day/trip,” it helps set expectations for purchases. We actually told our kids they could each pick a hat or ears for the trip. They could only choose one, so to choose carefully. They did a great job and never asked for another.
- Finally, go with bags packed full of character clothes. We were sporting our characters every day and as a result, did not purchase one clothing item (aside from our hats). You can find your favorite princesses, star wars Jedi or Mickey and friends, everywhere from Walmart to Target and Kohl’s. Things are SO much more affordable at home, so prepare and save! (again, reference #8 for Whole Heart Creations. We have some stellar shirts that always solicit interest from passerby’s).
- Get the Memory Maker!!! I can’t stress this one enough. As the designated family photographer, I usually end up left out of 80% of our photos. With the Memory Maker, you can stop every time you see a photographer and get a pic with the fam! They have the coolest background spots too. Not to mention those ride photos where you are screaming and flailing your arms. As many as you want to stop for, you get to keep them all!
- Last, enlist the help of a Disney travel agent to learn the in’s and out’s of the parks, offerings and some of the best kept secrets. My agent can be found at Mickey Travels on facebook.
I hope you enjoy your trip!