As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
Over the years, I’ve shared a lot of Disney related posts on my blog. Many of them are still applicable today, while some are outdated and could use an update. Over the next weeks and months, it is my goal to rework these posts so that they are up-to-date. Today, I’d like to start by sharing things you can do at home – when planning for a Disney vacation – to save up for it as well as ways to save while actually AT Disney. These are all ideas that my family has used personally over the years and continues to use. I hope they will help you in your quest to plan an affordable Disney vacation.
Here are some of the things we do to save money to fund our Disney passion:
We have a Disney Visa.
We’re actually Charter Members (we have the pin to prove it!), so we’ve earned quite a few points over the years. We use our Disney Visa to pay for almost everything, and track it like we would a debit card (this way, you don’t end up with any surprises when your bill comes due!) Currently, we have a Premier Disney Visa. This card carries a $49 annual fee, but offers 2% in reward dollars for purchases made at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and at most Disney locations. But, there is a fee-free option as well that offers 1% in reward dollars on all purchases. In the past, we’ve used our reward dollars to purchase our Park Tickets and pay for Character Meals. On one trip, we had enough to spend 3 nights at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort, with enough left over for 2 Character Meals, plus all our food (at the resort and in the parks).
We also have a Discover Card.
I must confess, I was not thrilled with getting another credit card – after all, I was pretty loyal to my Disney Visa. But, the nice thing about Discover is that each quarter they offer extra incentives. For example,at times we can earn 5% back (instead of 1%) on all grocery store purchases. Brian keeps a close eye on what the current extra incentives are, and we use our Discover for all of those purchases. Then, we save up that money earned to use for extras on our vacations – things such as hotel stays traveling to and from, and even the kennel fees for our dogs.
We use our MyPoints to purchase gift cards to restaurants.
Do you use MyPoints? If not, you’re missing out! You earn points simply by clicking on links in e-mails. It takes seconds, and the points can add up pretty quickly. In the past year, between Brian and me, we have earned enough points and collected gift cards for 4 restaurants. That helps tremendously! (Gift cards are available for the Landry’s Restaurants – Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, and Yak & Yeti – all located on Disney property, as well as for many off-site restaurants that we enjoy.) If you’d like to sign up for MyPoints, please use this link (I’ll get some extra points, and so will you!)
We save our quarters and other loose change.
I once read about collecting pennies and quarters in m&m tubes – then you have them for making pressed pennies. This is a great idea and we keep several tubes of quarters handy for paying things like road tolls, etc. I also toss any extra cash I make (for babysitting, etc.) in that jar pictured above – then, when we’re ready to travel, I have some nice spending money.
Here are some of the things we do – or have done – to save money and really do Disney on a budget:
We plan to visit in the off-season.
When is the off-season? Almost any Disney-related website or planning guide will include this information. If you’re not sure where to start to find it, check out my list of Suggested Disney Resources.
We use the points from our Disney Visa to pay for things like resort accommodations, park tickets, meals, and souvenirs.
I talked about this above, but when you’re ready to take your trip you simply call Visa and ask them to issue a Disney Rewards Card. You can also tell them how many of your points you’d like to have added to this card. Then, when you’re at Disney, this card works just like a credit card to pay for anything you’d like to use it toward. (We have also used ours to pay off trips through a Disney Travel Agent.)
If visiting with friends or family, we save lots of money staying off-site and renting from Florida Dream Homes.
On a recent trip, we shared a 4-bedroom, 2 bathroom home with a private pool. We ended up paying $50 per night – since we shared the home with friends. That’s less than the cost of a nice hotel – AND we had 2 living rooms and a kitchen, so we were able to cook some of our meals and eat in.
If you would like to book a vacation home, I’d be happy to help you. Send me an e-mail.
We take advantage of the Disney Dining Plan.
On many of our trips – because we choose to travel in the off-season, we have been able to take advantage of FREE Disney Dining promotions (in fact, I’m doing so with my best friend next month). Being a numbers cruncher, Brian keeps track of what we WOULD have spent had we paid for our meals and snacks out of pocket, and even if we’d pay for the DDP, we’d still come out in the good. It seems expensive at the outset, but if you like to sit down and enjoy some of the awesome Disney restaurants, it’s definitely a neat option.
Yes, even with the cost of gas fluctuating so much, and having to do a hotel night on the way down and the way back, it’s still proven more cost-effective than flying (and renting a car). I will say that we HAVE flown to Disney several times as well; but, for our family of five, it’s definitely more cost-effective to drive.
We use MyPoints gift certificates for our meals.
I talked about this above. If staying on-site, I’d definitely stick with the Landry’s gift cards, as you know you can use them on property. If you’re staying off-site or have a vehicle with you and don’t mind driving, there are LOTS of off-site dining options where you can eat for free using gift cards. Here are some other ways I’ve shared to save on Disney Dining. Remember, you can sign up for a free MyPoints account here.
We buy big(ger) multi-day park passes.
We used to add the no-expiration option, but this is no longer available. However, any way you slice it, you’re going to get off cheaper going for more days. We usually try to plan our family trips with at least 8 park days (2 per park, as a general rule). If you’re staying on-site, these “passes” are now attached to your Magic Band, so you don’t even have to worry about carrying tickets around with you (I love this!)
We take advantage of the FREE water.
The Disney parks will give you free water at any walk-up location. All you have to do is ask! Sometimes I carry in the Kool-Aid mixes to make Kool-Aid for the kids using the Disney ice water – this is always a hit! (We used to carry in snacks as well – and Disney still allows this – but since we often use the DDP and get a snack each day, this is really no longer necessary.)
How do YOU save for your Disney trips? Have some secret that might help the rest of us? Or do you simply put all that loose change somewhere ‘til it adds up? Either way, I want to know about it! I’ve been doing this for a long time, but love learning new tips and tricks.