How can we afford to go to Disney?
Lets face it - the economy sucks and gas prices (auto or air) are insane and surely will soon begin the summer spike.
So many of us are wringing our hands wondering how to stretch dollars for normal everyday things let alone being able to give our family amazing vacations.
Or heck, at this rate - even mediocre ones.
So what's a fun loving, Disney obsessed parent to do?
Our financial situation is burdened with the sudden " hey we are going to adopt from Haiti" - monumental cost with plenty of unknowns (a d according to Murphy's law- if I plan a vacation it's going to turn out I need to be in Haiti that week)
I'm not sure what's in the cards for the Carey vacation this year.
We definitely are sidelining all discretionary spending, saving to put money into this adoption. ( my most repeated phrase lately - "adoption is expensive y'all" and it so is...)
I definitely know we nixed our Myrtle Beach annual beach trip, as my husband groaned in disappointment.
I'm still holding out hope that my feet will grace the threshold of Cinderella's castle and even better - Belle and Beasts for the first time!
How can we (and you ) make this a possibility?
Here are my budget planning tips:
Go during value season.
I don't want you to because that is when I go and I love the low crowds.
But if you're pinching pennies- this is a no brainer.
Google value season, it's going to be at Inopportune times for most people but that is why they're value - not many people can make it .
- watch for specials and jump on them because they're available to only a limited number of rooms. They may still have rooms open, even in the hotel you're looking at
- but the specially priced rooms may book up.
* right now they're booking for April 15- mid August at 30% off rooms. Probably select rooms... Also the % may be less in certain resorts - often the 30 is for deluxe resorts.
In the fall there has been free dining for the last eleven years. It falls mid August through September. It requires an in resort stay and a ticket package to qualify.
The last few years this has been extended during November and December- but with limited days.
She is really 3 but Mickey says she's 2 for one more week !!
If you have a child on the precipice of a Disney age milestone get there before their birthday!
2 and under eat play and stay free (eat free on meal plan that is
- in table service restaurants) so you don't have to buy tickets or count them toward your room occupancy limit.
10 years old is an adult.
Really ? I know I I know, but being a Disney apologist I get it .
At ten average sizes kids can ride all the rides and so enjoy the park fully.
And have you seen a ten year old eat ? They can wipe out the buffet at Chef Mickeys ! So it behooves Disney to charge adult for the meal plan as well... I guess :/
With that base knowledge I can explain this tip.
If you check in at Disney the day before your child's birthday - Mickey turns a blind eye at the rolling over to a new age.
So say Suzy is 3 on April 13. Check in on April 12 and little
Suzy gets a free pass to lie about her age for the duration of your Disney stay.
She will be considered, for all intents and purposes 2.
This means she doesn't count toward your room occupancy.
Why is that a major boon?
Value and moderate only go to a four person occupancy.
This really is a let down because the next level of hotels, whether they be deluxe or the new Magic of Animation Suites - are a huge price jump. (Even though the new suites are considered "value" ahem.)
So if you are a family of five you can save yourself a nice chunk right in the hotel by coming when Suzy doesn't count.
* a few rooms in Port Orleans Riverside fit 5 using a Murphy bed. Mmhmm lotsa comfort right there....
If you are paying for the Dining plan it is a bonus because two and under are ineligible so you won't be required to purchase for the toddler when buying your package.
They will get free food in sit downs- but you'll have to provide for snacks and counter service .
We've always gotten by with just buying one or two counter service out of pocket to feed the toddler.
And we always have snacks left over at the end of the week.
Also no park tickets are required for two year olds at the parks and water parks! Obvious huge savings!
On the 10 year old front- same thing applies. Check in the day before their birthday and they stay 9 all week.
10 year olds pay adult tickets and adult meal plan.
You save a huge amount per day this way.
This is my plan for this year.
My 2 year old turns three the week we always go.
So instead of stating our vacation on the normal Saturday we will get there on Thursday because she will turn three on Friday- if we get to go...
Ask for Disney funds in lieu of gifts.
If you're like me, your kids have more than they play with and you regret buying stuff after every holiday and birthday.
Instead, consider asking gift givers (at least close family like grandma) for money for your Disney fund instead.
Last year my mother in law offered to pay our gas - we drive from MD to WDW - for us as mine and Tony's Christmas gift .
That was a huge help! We could breathe a little easier and add some $ to the girls souveneir accounts.
This year we are thinking of asking people instead of her buying a ton of gifts if they would give their portion or at least some of it ( grandmas like to wrap some presents you know!) toward our trip.
Since we will possibly be putting large sums of money into this adoption we have decided the only way to go may be using what we would spend (waste) on Christmas toys and put it toward our trip.
The kids will get a couple things from "Santa" and nothing from us . The trip will be their gift .
They're ok with this btw.
less days of magic :(
Look I love to be in Walt Disney World.
I have planned our retirement.
I will be a photo pass photographer and part time Main St character and Tony can be a bus driver full of misinformation or whatever he wants.
Retiring in Disney.
I think about Disney World more than any grown adult should and even before I set foot inside I dread the final day.
I dance around as they check us in and giggle at all the characters.
Parting is indeed sweet sorrow and I sing " and now it's time to say goodbye..."
I love it .
My goal this year was to do a double week and really enjoy our resort some.
The was before we found our we would be adopting...
Instead we will be doing less than our normal 7 days.
But hey, a little Disney is worth more than none right?
I think we are doing five full days with the fifth being our departure day and driving as far as we can once we leave that evening.
You just may have to do less days.
Here's the thing.
The more you play the less you pay.
By days 6,7 8 your park tickets are ridiculously cheap.
I messed up and had to add on day 7 one time - for two adults and two kids - I laid a whopping $24.
So on the ticket front you aren't going to save much but you will save on hotel costs.
it's not be the Poly -but it will do
You love the Polynesian.
Yeah who doesn't ?!
I will stay there one day.
(This year was also supposed to be Poly year :( )
There are noticeable differences in all levels of Disney hotels. But let's face it - you're at Disney for the parks and if you're there for less days you definitely aren't hanging out at the hotel much.
All of the hotels are clean, even at value price they have to abide by Disney standards so its not like you're staying at a motel 8 .
If its downgrade to a value or don't go - do the value .
You're so tired when you reach your hotel anyway it doesn't matter where you are.
Put the Mickey ears down.
I don't want to talk about how many stuffed animals we have acquired on WDW vacations.
And thank you SOOO much to whomever in marketing came up with the baby versions swaddled in blankets....
Disney = nostalgia and even for adults it's hard to say no to an adorable item in the endless gift shops rides dump you into.
What we did this year was we gave the girls a flat sum from us and if they had birthday money or whatever cash we added that to their individual account and got them each a gift card our first night.
Our first night when they already made purchases....
Having "their" own money definitely cut Down on the Gimmies ( I have to admit they're not the type to throw tantrums to buy something anyway ) and they judiciously spent their money .
They each had their eye on an item or two they had to have - items that were found in every park- and they waited til the end to buy them.
If we were at a park that had park specific items - the yeti at Expedition Everest - they bought that item then otherwise they waited and bought maybe one item a day, actually less .
They knew if they wanted - for laci it was the dog from Nightmare Before Christmas- they had to reserve x amount to get it- therefore the thousand items that would have appealed to them lost their luster a bit!
Another thing that helps is buying clearanced items through the year (Disney store does a big sale january and I believe July) and saving them for the trip .
Each day while we are at the park a character stops in and leaves a gift.
Knowing they have something waiting for them really curtails the need for spending on exiting the park.
Usually I end up in the room before them or stick around a minute while dad gets the stroller set up outside - so the kids don't see the gifts put out. Or you can leave a note and work it out so you Mousekeeper does it
If it sounds gratuitous - well it kinda is .
But we started this tradition on our first trip when I scored a ton of dirt cheap items at the Disney outlet near my cousins house and its become a beloved tradition.
You don't have to do this but it's an alternative to in park souvenir buying without feeling like your kid is missing out.
Also if you're going to do this- consider that it's going to become a tradition because you're kids are going to wonder long before you get there what items their favorite characters will leave them.
Another thing I've done on subsequent trips to cut down on the in room gift expense is to leave notes from characters inviting them to the various character meals and occasionally a little trinket.
- A note from Mickey inviting them to Chef Mickeys the next day along with a dollar store Minnie Mouse bracelet from Minnie.
- A wax sealed invitation to Cinderella's Royal Table or the Bibbidi Bobbity Boutique or both together. It's great to get the BBB appointment just before your Cinderella's Royal Table reservation and go right from one part of the castle to another.
- An invitation from Lilo and Stitch for Ohana breakfast with Leis or something Hawaiian themed.
As far as lodging you can stay off
site to save some serious coin- we feel staying onsite makes our vacation but if I had to choose between staying off site and not going I would suck it up and stay off site.
There are surprisingly nice rentals nearby for low prices.
You may want to skip chains to get better prices.
Check out Dwellable
I found this site because they liked one of my blogs on The Villages and asked to use it.
I was surprised at the beautiful lodgings - houses, condos and amazing amenities that cost less than a moderate at Disney.
When my kids are a little older and easier to get to the parks I think we will go this route. You can rent entire houses for the amount you'd pay for moderates - with your own pool!
One option is renting points off Disney Vacation Club members.
I've never done this but considered it last year.
You need to do your own research on it because I don't know enough to recommend a seller.
Disboards has a board on point buying.
People buy and sell on there and you can get a crash course on what it all entails. They also out poor sellers and recommend good ones.
This isn't a bargain dollar budget idea but more a way to stay at the deluxe resorts and time share properties for less than you'd pay out of pocket.
Also, compare sellers- they set their own points so you'll find a wide range . Don't just go with the first person you find.
- Pack your own food .
Garden Grocer will allow you to set up an order in advance and schedule it to be delivered for your arrival.
We usually now just stop at target or SAMs in Orlando or The Villages, but when we flew we had orders shipped to our room.
We had things like diapers and baby food, beverages, bottled water and snacks in our order.
Peanut butter and jelly and some bread isn't a bad idea.
All rooms now have mini fridges so you can feed yourself in your room if you must.
The park allows you to take your own food in, so don't hesitate !
The suites have kitchens - even the new value Art of Animation suites.
At a lower price point than the rest of the suites you'll find in Disney the extra price of paying for a suite would like be off set by you food savings.
- Bring your own strollers.
In park stroer rentals are about $40/ day.
If you don't have room to haul one pick a cheap one on your way to the park and leave it at the front desk for them to offer to another family coming as check out .
Disney on a budget- it can be done!
Really we don't spend more on Disney than we do on a beach trip.
You can cut extras out during the year to pay it off a little at a time. It's all about what you want more.
For me this:
Is worth more than eating out every week.
If I can do both - I will.
But if not- steakhouses lose out big time to my kids smiling up at
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Considering an off site stay? Check out Dwellable for beautiful, affordable accommodations to kick your feet up in after a long day hanging with The Mouse!