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It is a brand new year. Many folks all over the world are counting down the days until their 2013 vacation to Disney World. Some are even visiting for the very first time! Whether you’re a novice, or a veteran, the planning experience can be incredibly stressful at times. The number one thing that people tend to have anxiety about is what it is going to cost their family to make the pilgrimage to the Disney parks.
Last week, Erin Foster wrote an awesome article for the blog about how to determine if certain vacation options are worth the added cost or not. She touched on the fact that we all have different needs and different wants. It is important to consider that with a little pre-planning and compromise, everyone can save money at Disney World in some way. Why keep the blinders on and spend more money than necessary?
Most pieces of advice that I want to offer up to you all are as old as time, while some are suggestions you might not have ever considered before. I am the queen of penny pinching, so I feel that it is my duty to pass on my little words of wisdom. Hopefully, first time planners will be able to use at least one thing I mention.
1. Say ‘No’ To Disney Vacation Packages
Vacation packages are Disney’s way of offering you convenience while hiding the discounts that are available. Unless there is some sort of major discount offered to the general public for a package, do not even consider it. For most times of the year, Disney provides discounts on “room-only” reservations for their hotels on property. By purchasing your park tickets and lodging separate, you are able to take advantage of discounts as they emerge. Even if, at the time of your booking, no discount is available for the resort of your choice, you can always add it later, should one be offered.
2. Buy Discounted Park Tickets
Believe it or not, this exists, and is legit. While there are many sketchy faux ticket brokers online and near Disney property, there are a handful that are totally and completely trustworthy. I absolutely love Undercover Tourist and have used them before myself. Buying from places like that can really save large families a ton of dough. Combine that deal with the discounted room I suggested above, and you are good to go with extra money in your pocket.
3. Consider an Annual Pass
Planning to visit the Disney parks more than once in 2013? Do you often space your Disney trips out almost exactly one year apart? Think about crunching numbers to see if an Annual Pass can save you money on park tickets. I wish I would have done this back when I only visited the parks once a year. Say your family likes to visit in the fall during Food and Wine Festival. If you all purchase an Annual Pass for your trip in November of 2013, you can use them again for another week long trip in October of 2014, before the passes expire. This also gives you a reason to sneak in an extra “couples only” or “solo” trip somewhere in between.
4. Consider One Park Per Day
Eliminating park hopping is one of the easiest ways to save a huge chunk of change, especially if you have a family. I crunched some numbers to give you an example. A family of four, 2 adults and 2 children, will save $242.84 by not adding the Park Hopper Option to their base tickets in 2013. A while ago, I wrote a comparison article on park hopping that might be worth checking out. Think about all the things your family could do with an extra $242.84 to spend. You could take a behind the scenes Disney Parks tour, enjoy a nice dinner, or maybe spend the day enjoying water sport activities and miniature golf.
5. Vacation Homes
I know many folks that dream of inviting their extended family to Disney World with them. However, staying on Disney property with over ten people can be tricky to plan, as well as being very expensive. Luckily, there are really nice vacation homes that are very close to the Disney parks and can sleep a large number of people. Even with renting a few mini vans, you can save money.
6. Avoid the Disney Dining Plan
I hate saying this. I really do. I used to be an advocate of the plan. However, the prices have increased so much that unless your needs and wants fall under a certain umbrella, it is a waste of money. Take a look at an article I wrote last year where I outline the major disadvantages of the Disney Dining Plan. In lieu of the pre-paid plan, I suggest you budget your meals ahead of time and load up a Disney Gift Card.
7. Airline Sales
Periodically throughout the year, airlines offer up big deals on flights. A lot of the time, the deals take place right after a major holiday. Constantly looking at flights from multiple airlines out of multiple airports can help you find the best price. Southwest Airlines had a 40% off sale for only 24 hours last fall. I was able to save a couple of hundred bucks on flights for my husband and I by taking advantage of this. Checking websites frequently is time consuming, but once you nab a deal, you will see that it is all worth it.
8. Order A La Carte
Food is the one thing that most people cannot save money on upfront. I sort of love the challenge of finding ways to “cheat the system” in terms of dining. It was not until the last year that I learned that you are not locked into combo meals at Quick-Service restaurants. For some reason, it never clicked with me before. How many times do you not finish the mountain of fries with your burger? A lot, right? The savvy way to get around the combo meal is to only order what you really want. It sounds easy enough but so many people do not realize that this in an option. Over the course of a week, you might be surprised to find how much money you saved on meals.
9. Free Water
Back when I first started taking trips to Disney World, I had no idea that I did not have to keep refilling water bottles at drinking fountains every time I got thirsty. Any Quick-Service restaurant will give you a large cup of water free of charge if you ask for one. If you are one of the many folks that love carrying water bottles, but hate Disney drinking fountain water, you can always get a cup of free water and refill it in a restroom.
10. Restaurant Coupons
If you are renting a car, consider driving off property for a couple of dinners. The steepest discounts are often found at restaurant coupon sites like Restaurant.com. Grab these discounts when they run sales and you could feed your whole family for far less than if you ate on property. Just make sure that you look up these restaurants ahead of time to ensure that they have good reviews. No discount is worth inedible swill.
11. Self-Made Autograph Books
On my very first trip to Disney World, my sister-in-law surprised me on the plane ride with a blank hardcover book and a load of Disney stickers. I spent the rest of the ride decorating what would become my character autograph book. To this day, I still have that book and look at it every once in a while with a big smile on my face. I have always thought that when I have kids, I will do the same thing for them because it brings back such great memories for me. On top of the happy-memory benefit, it is a little bit of a money saver as well, especially if you have a lot of kids. Those cookie cutter autograph books that are sold in the parks are pushing $10 just for the basic ones. Head to your local dollar store instead, and grab some small plain books that will work all the same. Stickers and other fun decals are not costly at all and give kids something fun to do when they get antsy in the car or on a plane.
12. Pre-Purchased Kid’s Souvenirs
You know the ridiculous sticker shock that you get when you see that it can cost $20 for a Mickey Mouse shirt that your kid just HAS to have? Yeah, you can avoid that buying Disney clothes ahead of time before your trip. Try hitting up sales in stores or online at The Disney Store or Target. Let your kids pick out their own outfits for your upcoming trip. By the time your trip rolls around, the kids will probably forget about what you bought and will get really excited about their new clothes.
13. Save Time, Save Money
Time is money, people! The longer you wait in line for anything, the more money you are wasting. That being said, I seriously suggest using the tested Touring Plans right here on this website. Long before I ever started writing about Disney, I used them when touring the parks to save time. I figure if I spend nearly $100 for a single day in the parks, I need to be getting my monies worth. It makes sense why some people get frustrated after their first trip and moan, “The lines were so long all of the time that we only rode three things and then left.” With that experience, you will truly feel like you got jipped out of your hard earned money.
That is my list, folks! I really want to hear some of your ideas. Drop me a line in the comment section!