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!
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 2–4; Jan 8 – Jan 12; Jan 16 – Feb 15; Aug 5 – Sept 27
- Marathon Rate: Jan 5 –7
- 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 9 – March 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)
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org