Recently I took a memorable and much-too-short vacation with my family to Disney World in Orlando, FL. As Florida residents, we were able to take advantage of a discount plan for state residents that afforded us cheaper tickets.
That might be the single best way to save money on a Disney trip — move to Florida. But short of becoming Florida residents, there are other ways to save valuable money on a Disney vacation. And with ticket prices set to rise, every penny counts.
None of these tips will save you big bucks but cobbled together, they might help you get more out of your trip and allow you to keep your credit card where it belongs — in your wallet.
Ask for Pictures
Your kids will want to meet Mickey Mouse. And Goofy. And the "Monsters Inc." crew. And the "Cars" crew. A professional Disney photographer will snap away, capturing those family moments. And before you know it, you might be paying through the nose for copies of all those photos. When those moments come up, hand a Disney employee your camera and ask them to take photos of your family. They will gladly oblige.
Limit Meals in the Parks
You will arrive at the parks early and depart late. One rule of thumb is to keep meals in the park to a minimum. A good plan is to pick up breakfast food to eat in your hotel before you leave — pre-packaged cereal and a piece of fruit will do the trick. Then, pack tons of snacks and drinks to get you through the morning and early afternoon before stopping for late lunch or early dinner to carry you through the rest of the day.
It's a good idea to make meal reservations ahead of time not only because it will save you oodles of time during your visit but it will also enable you to plan your spending. When you are desperate to eat and most restaurants inside the parks are full, you will be forced to eat wherever you can get a table, no matter the price. By preparing ahead of time, you can save yourself time and money.
Stay Close By
Some people want to stay on the Disney property because they are not only close to the action but they do not have to pay for parking at the parks, which is about $17 per day. Disney also provides buses that run to the parks every 20 minutes. Others believe you can save money by staying off site and driving to the parks each day. When you are planning your trip, check for hotels and resorts that are near to the parks but not Disney-affiliated. You might be able to find some good rates.
Make a Stuff Budget
Your kids will want to buy each and every toy that they see in the gift shops walking out of the rides or shows. You will feel like a broken record telling them "No" over and over again. As you plan your trip, build in a "stuff" budget or "toy" budget for your kids and explain to them ahead of time what it is. For instance, give them an allowance for the entire trip to spend as they want. Or dole out a specific amount each day and let them choose an item or two to buy. That will save you lots of heartache during the trip.
Best Time to Visit
This isn't necessarily a money-saving item but it will help you get the most out of trip and the most bang for your buck. Insiders say the best time to visit Disney World in order to maximize your time and money is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a tough time of year because the kids are in school but the parks are less crowded, experts say, because people gear up to visit during the holidays and this time of year is less crowded.