Ways To Keep To Your Budget At The Disney Parks

Quoting prices for Disney vacations, you have to realize there is the Room and Ticket price and there is the other amount.  The amount I am speaking about are the incidentals: water, sodas, food, snacks, toys, souvenirs, ice cream, photos, tips, stuffed animals, etc.  At times when you are touring a Disney park it can feel like the designers are plotting against you at every turn as it seems you will always “dump” after a ride into a gift shop.  As well the carefully timed/planted food carts, souvenir shops, delectable food items can cause a panic on your wallet.  So, how do you trim the spend while touring the world?

Reign In The Kiddos

For any budget to work, everyone has to realize that while the sky may be the limit for Disney, for Mom and Dad (or Grandma and Grandpa) the budget is usually far more earthbound.  I am not a parent who usually shields my kids from discussions related to money.  It makes them more aware of where we as a family are budget wise, what is in and acceptable, and what is not.  This also leads to fewer frustrations while touring the parks.  As the requests for souvenirs, ice cream, popcorn, toys, etc. are more tempered by knowledge of the trip budget and they can make smarter decisions: i.e. “Do I want to get a lightsaber at Star Tours or do I want that shirt I saw at the Haunted Mansion yesterday… Decisions, Decisions.”

Of course for younger children who may not fully understand money, it may be best to simply set some boundaries.  One souvenir per child, one ice cream per day, etc.  or whatever your budget permits.

Make It Easy On Yourself

Before we leave I buy each of my kids a Disney Gift Card for a set amount.  Once that is gone, it’s gone.  There is no extra money from Mom and Dad for things they “need”, meaning “want”.  Mom and Dad will give each of them an amount to get started and if they want more money to spend that’s up to them.  To help them save up my husband and I give them jobs to do around the house in order to earn extra money for their gift cards.  Sometimes they can earn as much as $20-30 this way and it actually makes them more choose-y about their purchases.  Not going to lie, they can spend Mom or Dad’s money with abandon but their own money is a totally different story!

Dining

There are of course many sites that specifically target saving moolah while in Disney, and to really get your bang for your buck you have to study the system and plans accordingly.  However here are some general ways out there to maximize your dining dollar:

Utilize the Dining Plan- This is important, especially for those who plan on at least one character meal while visiting as well as spending ample amounts of time in the parks.  Character Meals can provide a sticker shock to those paying out of pocket, but if you’re on the Dining Plan, the meal (less gratuity) is covered.  So less worries.

Tables In Wonderland- If you have an annual pass (another good savings if you plan on visiting the World more than once a year) take advantage of the Tables In Wonderland Card.  More info can be found here: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/passholder-program/dining-discounts/.  But this card can provide dining discounts just by being a member.

Order In- If you can, have dry goods in your room for a breakfast bite or snack.  We recommend Garden Grocer, and you can read our review here: http://wdwdreamin.com/2012/01/09/vacation-service-review-garden-grocer-orlando-fl/

But, just making cereal or oatmeal in your room in the mornings could save quite a bit per day or leave those important dining credits for other meals.  As well, we usually order individually wrapped snacks (Goldfish, Cheez-Its, Fruit Bars, Protein Bars, Fresh Fruit) to bring with us as we tend to “graze” during the day.  Also, having bottled water delivered to your room can be a cost effective way to stay hydrated while touring the parks.  My husband is addicted to Smart Water, so last time I ordered the small bottles from Garden Grocer and we took several in with us a day versus buying them for $4 a pop in the parks.

Souvenirs- Buy Before You Fly!

The Disney Store online has several Theme Park items available for purchase.  You can often save 15% or more on these items as well as get Free Shipping if your order is above a certain amount every day.  You can buy Mouse Ears, Lanyards, Autograph Books, Clothing, even Accessories and Home Items.  It’s also good to know about if you don’t get a chance to purchase an item before you leave.  Check online to see if it’s available!

Keep Aware of the Disney Seasons

To everything there is a season.  For Disney these can fluctuate throughout the year, but they break down like this:

  • Value Season:      Jan 24; Jan 8Jan 12; Jan 16 – Feb 15; Aug 5 – Sept 27
  • Marathon Rate:     Jan 57
  • Regular Season:   Feb 26 – March 8;  April 15 – May 31
  • Summer Season:   June 1 – Aug 4
  • Fall Season:          Sept 28 – Oct 4, Oct 8 – Nov 16 ; Nov 24 – Dec 20
  • Peak Season:        Feb 16;  Feb 20 – 25;  March 9March 31
  • Holiday Season:    Jan 13-15 ; Feb 17-19 ; April 1-14 ; Oct 5-7 ; Nov 17-23 ; Dec 21-31

Want to know Dates where the prices (and attendance) are at their highest:

  • New Years Day
  • Marathon Weekend (January 5-7)
  • Martin Luther King Holiday Weekend
  • Presidents’ week in February
  • Mid-March through Late April (Spring Break)
  • EASTER
  • Memorial Day weekend
  • Mid-June through Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Thanksgiving Day and weekend
  • Christmas week through New Year’s Day

As you can imagine, the Value Season is the lowest priced.  The Fall Season as well is on the lower end, then it goes up accordingly: Summer, Regular, Peak and Holiday.  As well if your dates of travel straddle a weekend your vacation will cost more as the resort rates will raise proportionately for weekend visitors.

Know Your Rates!

Disney will often release Room Only Discounts throughout the year.  These can be combined with tickets to make an overall package, but still retain the savings with the room only rate.  Keep your eyes peeled for special offers and sign up at http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/vacation-packages/ for notice of special rates.

Check Out Online Help

We recommend mousesavers.com to help with being aware of current offers and promotions for Disney Parks, Disney Cruise Line and Aulani.  They have a blog, Twitter, Facebook, and RSS Feed to help with staying alerted to current promotions offered through Disney Travel so check them out as well!

Shameless Plug Warning! You can also call a Independent Disney Travel Agent *cough, ahem* who can book your trip then automatically rebooks your trip when any new offers come out effecting your dates of travel (Cough, Me, Cough).  Seriously though, working with a Travel Agent who has an expertise in Disney Parks can help greatly if you are looking for the absolute lowest price on your vacation package.  You can contact me by clicking here: amy@wdwdreamin.com

Disney For Girls!

image Copyright Disney

There is some advantage to being a girl on Disney Property. Girls rule when it comes to special meals, meet & greets, & boutique experiences at WDW!  You will truly love being and having a girl when you take advantage of these wonderful offerings:

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique-Magic Kingdom & Downtown Disney Locations
Join your Fairy Godmother In Training as she magically changes your little girl from commoner to royalty. There are many different available looks from classic princess updo’s to glam rockstar. The overall package for just hair and make-up starts at $60, and can range up from there (Costumes & a Photo Package are available as well). Reservations are STRONGLY encouraged as walk up availability changes greatly from day to day.

Cinderella’s Royal Table- Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle
Yes, Virginia you can go in the Castle!  Cinderella’s Royal Table (formerly King Stefan’s Royal Table for us old schoolers), is the restaurant within the Castle in the Magic Kingdom.  Modeled after a large Royal Banquet Hall, this table service restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. You not only will get to meet Cinderella, moreover you get to meet Princesses a PLENTY here.  There is a photo opportunity with Cinderella upon your arrival, and each party is provided a photo souvenir at the conclusion of your meal.   Helpful Hint: This particular table service location fills up fast.  You can book it 180 days in advance and I would recommend calling the day of your 180 day ’til check-in mark at the time Disney Dining Reservations opens for the day.  Never hurts to be ahead of the game with this restaurant.  Note this location is 2 Table Service credits on the Dining Plan.  And no, you don’t need kids to dine here.  I didn’t get the opportunity to dine here until right after my brief tenure as a Cast Member, and it was so much fun.  My Grandma was approached by the Fairy GodMother and asked what Chapter she was with.  If you know my Grandmother, you would realize, she does look just like a Fairy Godmother so it was very fitting.

1900 Park Fair- Grand Floridian Resort
Open daily for Breakfast and Dinner, this buffet is chock full of American Favorites and also some your favorite characters who are ready for fun, frolic, photos and autographs!  Pens and cameras at the ready!
Supercalifragilistic Breakfast — Mary Poppins, Alice In Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, and plenty of other Wonderland friends are on hand as well as breakfast favorites such as Mickey Waffles, Blueberry Muffins.  Kiddos can also have an omelette made to their specifications!
Wonderland Tea Party — Your favorite friends from Wonderland host an afternoon tea fit for an Unbirthday Party!  Available to all guests ages 4-12, with an hour of stories, games, cupcakes, doormice, and a special tea (apple juice).  This from the Disney site: “Pint-sized partygoers get to decorate their own cupcakes, create take-home crafts and pose for pictures with their friendly Disney Character hosts.” I don’t know if as a child I would be more excited about meeting Alice (a personal favorite) or decorating cupcakes!
Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner — Now, I have taken my boys to this one, and it was a HOOT!  The Evil Stepsisters made this evening worth it for me, but the food is pretty good and yes the Cinderella Family (dysfunctional as it may be to have your Evil Step Family in Waiting present) were very gracious, signed autographs and posed with our boys.

Akerhaus Princess Dining- Epcot
If your little princess is simply dying to dine and meet other members of Disney Royalty, you can join ALL of the Disney Princesses at the Akerhaus Restaurant. Lunch & Dinner times are available and prices start at $15 and range up to $35 (I believe that is $15 for children at Lunch and $35 for adults at Dinner) It is a Disney Dining Plan Restaurant, and counts as 1 Table Service Credit per Guest.  Guests at Akerhaus receive one professional Imaging Package per group of up to 4 paying Guests, 2 packages for groups of 5 to 8 Guests, and 3 packages for groups of 9 to 12 Guests. Photo is taken with one of the Disney Princesses upon arrival.

Other Offerings:
Tangled Meet & Greet- Magic Kingdom

Merida Meet & Greet – Epcot World Showcase

Royal Meet N Greet at Town Hall Main Street U.S.A. (Fastpass Location)

Waking Tinkerbell-Tinkerbell’s Treasures

Pocahantas & Friends- Animal Kingdom

Dream Along With Mickey Show- MK

Beauty & The Beast LIVE!- DHS

Voyage of the Little Mermaid– DHS

Disney For Boys!

image Copyright Disney

Up until a few years ago there wasn’t much for school aged & tween boys to enjoy at WDW. Disney listened to it’s guests & in the last decade has stepped up it’s offerings for boys.  I have compiled a list below of special attractions that my boys and other boys love.  I realize that just as many girls can like Pirates, Star Wars, Lego, Shootin’ and Gaming (I’m living proof of that!).  But, for the sake of the list this is aimed more towards boys as hey, they sometimes feel like they get the short end of the stick on property!  I’m still waiting for that Pirate or Pixar Pals character meal versus a Princess one.

Pirate’s LeagueMK Much like it’s predecessor and girl counterpart (The BBB-Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique) Pirate’s League offers lads the chance to be made up as their favorite swashbuckling buccaneers. Prices start at $35 and can range upward if you add costumes or photography to the base package.

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom – MK Incredible. Awesome. Amazing.  Rocking. These were just a few of the adjectives my oldest son attributed to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  It really is an immersive experience perfect if you have a gamer in your family that loves interactive attractions!  We loved it so much we even wrote a complete blog entry about it here: http://wdwdreamin.com/tag/sorcerers-of-the-magic-kingdom/

Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial-MK Jack is back. And he wants to recruit as many mates as possible for his next voyage. Children are encouraged to participate as Jack recruits from the denizens of Adventureland and leads them to recite the Pirate Code.  In order to be selected it takes a bit of luck to be chosen to actually be instructed one on one with Captain Jack, but eventually all of the kids get invited up to the stage and are presented with a certificate showing they are official pirates!

Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade– MK Step right up and take your best shot. The Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade has been around since the park opened and is one of those attractions that never loses it’s flavor.  Both my husband and my boys could spend hours, and countless quarters, at the Shootin’ Arcade and it is also a good spot for some down time between Fast Passes and just enjoying items at WDW that usually don’t require you to stand in line.

Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure– Epcot Join Agent P and help solve clues to thwart some of Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s most daringly evil plots. In case you couldn’t see through his disguise, Agent P is the wily secret-agent alter ego of Perry the Platypus, Phineas & Ferb’s faithful pet in the animated Disney series. And he needs your help!

Jedi Training AcademyDHS What boy has never wanted to duel lightsabers with none other than Darth Vader himself, sign up (quickly in the am) for Jedi Training Academy at DHS. Slots will fill up fast. For a review of our experience click here: http://wdwdreamin.com/2012/01/07/disney-review-jedi-training-academy/

Disney Quest-Downtown Disney The ultimate in arcade experiences. Disney Quest is 4 floors of gaming action that can range from the simple to the virtual.  If your husband or boys are into arcades or gaming this should go on your MUST DO list.

Lego Store– Downtown Disney.  To say that my son almost fainted upon seeing the giant LEGO Maleficant dragon would be an understatement.  This is boy Heaven, and yes I was assured by both Dad and Son “We’ll only be a FEW minutes.”  Yeah right!  Halloween day and I’m waiting for an hour as they meticulously blew a hole in our budget a mile wide and walked out on cloud nine.  This is of course said tongue in cheek as I love that my kids love Lego and it is a seriously cool store!

Star Wars Weekends– DHS.  This awesomesauce Star Wars event is only select weekends in May and early June.  Trust me we’ll be blogging more on this as further updates are released for 2012.  But it features Star Wars characters for photos and autographs, way cool celebrity cameos (Kenny Baker, respect), Q & A sessions with talent from the Star Wars Universe, Contests and literally it feels like Star Wars has taken over DHS for these weekends.  One of our favorite memories is having Storm Troopers point to our party as we entered DHS that initial Friday morning and state we looked suspicious and that we needed to provide further identification.  I replied back I was just going to Tashi Station for some power converters and they let me by.  Parker’s Jedi Mind Trick didn’t hurt.  Ahem.  Sorry, was my geek showing again?

Pirate Cruises– 4 Pirate Cruises are available at various resorts throughout property for children ages 4-12.  Supervised by their Pirate Crew, and outfitted with red and white striped bandana Mickey Ears, your little buccaneers will visit many ports of call and plunder for treasure.  Pirate cruises are limited to those children who are fully potty trained, and can easily separate for a period of 2 hours from their parents.  A lunch is also provided, and according to our eldest it was Peanut Butter and Jelly, Goldfish, Juice and a Rice Krispie Treat.

Cost is $31.95 per child, and guests must provide a  credit card number at the time of booking.  Also parents must sign a waver upon arrival. There is a cancellation policy for these reservations and need to be cancelled 24 hours in advance.  Reservations may be made 180 days in advance.

For more information on these activities contact Amy Hughes at ay@upanduptravel.net or 877-WDW-WISH!

Beating the Post Vacation Blues

It happens every time.  You spend all these months in anticipation for the trip to a Disney Park.  You plan, calculate, dream, and wait.  Then the fateful day arrives where you depart and then the inevitable countdown to reality begins.  Then it slams into you on that last night.  The trip has gone, and while you have made wonderful memories the week or days you spent were indeed fleeting and the real world must return.

Over the years I have termed them the Disney Downers, Dumps, Duldrums etc.  But, I have also come up with ways to get through them gracefully.

Suck It Up Buttercup

Sometimes a good dash of Tough Love can usually snap you out of the Disney Downers.  There are much greater problems in the world, heck in your life, than leaving Disney.  This is a temporary problem in an otherwise awesome vacation.  Put on your big girl or boy pants and deal.

There’s Always Next Time

One of the most surefire ways I have found to alleviate the after Disney slump is to start planning my next trip.  “Next time, we’re staying at the Poly!” I remember my husband saying as we left in 2005.  Or “How about next time we try to stay for 7 days instead of 5?”  Though this type of early planning may seem arbitrary, it often gives you a bit of something to plan for, to look forward to.

Home Media To The Rescue

It’s amazing but I have found that photos and videos of our trip often do so much to wipe out the upset I inevitably feel as our plane leaves MCO on our departure date.  We order the Disney Photopass CD ahead of time and make darn good use of the Photopass system while there.  We also try to take as much video as possible and I even will revisit my childhood with some videos that my Grandparents took from the 80s and 90s.  Good times.

Help Others

Last, but certainly not least, is I help others plan their vacations as an Independent Travel Expert with Mouseketrips.  But, also before earning that distinction I hung out on Disney dedicated message boards, trip planning boards, etc. to help those who had questions about their upcoming trips, reading trip reports, looking at some excellent photography and sharing in the camaraderie that exists between Disney fans worldwide.

Suggested Reading for a light hearted take on some Disney problems: First World Disney Problems.  An excellent and FUNNY blog for those problems that only seem to exist wihin a Disney Park.

Have a great way to beat the Disney Downers?  Share it below or on our Facebook or Twitter accounts!  We love to hear from you our fans and subscribers so don’t be shy!