11 Hacks For Your Next Disney Vacation

11 Hacks For Your Next Disney Vacation

Alright mouseketeers, we are fresh off the plane, back from our Disney trip and I’m ready to share some tips with you. These are things I already knew, but being back in the parks I remembered how important they are for having a successful vacation. So here are a few things I relearned during this trip to Disney:

Animal Kingdom Corn Dog

1. Disney dining was created for giants

The portion size for one adult meal at Disney World is huge. Most of the time I had to force myself to finish my lunch. You can easily save money by splitting meals, or knock a few dollars off your total by telling your cashier you don’t want any sides. You can also order off the kids menu! That’s right, Disney doesn’t care if you’re a 30 year old woman with a preschooler – you’re still a child at heart. So order those chicken nuggets with no remorse and pay half the price of an adult meal.

Disney Polynesian Resort

2. Location, location, location

I know I mentioned we were staying at the Polynesian Village Resort for the first time this trip. Well, through a series of unfortunate events I ended up staying offsite at a Marriott resort. However, I still got to use all the amenities of the Polynesian from my reservation and I did spend one night in the room I had booked.

Honestly, I wasn’t overly impressed with the room. For the price we had paid, it was really just a one bedroom hotel with a microwave and mini fridge. What you are paying for when you book the Polynesian Resort is the location. Every morning you can wake up and the monorail to Magic Kingdom and Epcot is just a quick two minute walk away. The transportation to Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Downtown Disney are about the same distance, and we never had to wait longer than ten minutes for the next bus. If you took a plane, Disney will pick you up at the airport and shuttle you to your resort. They even take care of your checked bags so once you drop them off at your initial airport they magically appear in your room later that day. You won’t need a car the entire trip. Each night, you have a clear view of the fireworks across the lake from your room without being caught in the crowds at Magic Kingdom. You can’t beat the convenience.

I will say that the fireworks, although spectacular, can make it difficult to sleep if you’re trying to get to bed early to ensure you’re ready in the morning to get to the parks when they open. The ferry for Magic Kingdom also blows its horn every once in a while until the park closes, which can be pretty late on a day with magic hours.

3. Florida is hot

We have always gone to Disney World between December and February, so temperatures are usually pretty mild. This time, before we left temperatures in Maryland were almost 70 degrees (I know – it’s February, what the heck is going on?). Needless to say, when we got to Florida it was hot. Almost every day was in the mid to upper 80s. When you’re walking around all day, that’s hot.

One of our favorite places to cool down was Casey Jr. Soak ‘N’ Splash Station in Magic Kingdom. Located in Storybook Circus, this basically consists of stationary electronic circus animals squirting water every couple seconds onto dozens of kids running around in circles giggling their faces off. Perfect on a hot…winter’s day.

4. Make fast pass reservations for the afternoon

The best way to maximize your fast passes is definitely to book them for the afternoon. When the park first opens most of the rides won’t be crowded and you can have your pick without needing to waste a fast pass. We like to get to the park as soon as it opens, hit up one or two rides I know will be insane later on like Peter Pan’s Flight or maybe a character meet and greet, and then get to our fast passes. Even if you did book your first pass for the morning, remember you have an hour window before it expires – still plenty of time to get a ride in before using it.

5. Get free water at any Quick Service Restaurant

Don’t weigh down your backpack or purse with multiple water bottles. You can order a cup of water at any Quick Service Restaurant and even refill your personal water bottle if it’s a self-serve drink station. Again, on a hot day, this was a life saver.

6. Watch your child’s – and your – magic band like a hawk

Those things are slippery devils! At the beginning of our vacation, my daughter’s magic band would fall off periodically throughout the day and luckily we would notice it and pick it up before it was gone forever. I noticed mine had come undone a few times as well. My daughter even picked up one on the ground and returned it to a lady who had dropped hers during the Festival of the Lion King show. Remember, this band contains all your fast passes, your room key, possibly your charge card – just don’t lose it. I began keeping my daughter’s band (and sometimes my band) in my backpack and only taking it out when we got in a fast pass line.

Magic Kingdom Cotton Candy

7. Sometimes it’s nice to wing it

I am a planner. For this Disney trip I had multiple lists and spreadsheets, I linked everything to My Disney Experience App so it was right on my phone, I booked my fast passes 30-60 days in advance as soon as I could…I am a planner. The day of my RunDisney race after the event I had initially planned on resting up and relaxing at the resort, but last minute decided to take my daughter to Magic Kingdom for another day instead. Totally out of character for me. Honestly, I’ve never been an Annual Pass holder before so deciding a few days ahead of time to add another day at the parks usually costs more money – which means I never do it. But now it’s free! So I made a few fast pass reservations on my phone last minute with whatever spots were still available, I didn’t get to the park until after 10:30am (which I also never do), we ate some cotton candy, and we just wandered around the park seeing whatever we could. It was relaxed, spontaneous, and awesome! Usually I’m rushing around trying to make sure we see everything in one day, but this would be our third day at Magic Kingdom so I didn’t stress. We went on a few rides, ate lunch, did our fast passes, and headed home. It was great!

8. Magic Kingdom is huge

We usually take at least two days on a trip to do Magic Kingdom. Like I said, this time we spent three days there and didn’t even get to do some of our favorite rides like the Jungle Cruise. If you really push yourself you can do Magic Kingdom in a day, but I think especially with young kids it’s easier to split it up into two days.

9. Rides malfunction – a lot

I’m pretty sure we had at least four or five rides malfunction while we were on them for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Plus, each day a few of the rides in the park were down for maintenance. This may seem like an inconvenience, but honestly, you won’t care. Even people who are impatient and easily irritated in the real world can happily spend fifteen minutes sitting on a log flume waiting for their ride to start because it’s Disney. I’m telling you, it’s magical.

10. Screenshot the My Disney Experience App Fast Pass Screen

The My Disney Experience App is amazing. You can check and change your fast pass selections, look at your Photo Pass photos, make and change dining reservations, and view wait times for rides at all the parks. However, checking these things repeatedly like I tend to do can drain your phone battery. To this end, this trip I took a screenshot of my fast pass reservations on the app and saved it as the lock screen on my phone. Now to view my passes I can simply look at my lock screen instead of having to unlock my phone and open the app each time.

11. Bring a Rechargeable Battery Pack for your Phone

My phone always dies by the end of the day when we go to Disney. Between photos and the My Disney Experience App, it really didn’t have a chance. Not this time! I bought a battery pack on Amazon, kept it in my backpack, and charged my phone when the battery was low or I wasn’t using it throughout the day and voila! This was so valuable as I spent more time separated from the rest of my party than I ever have before at a Disney park. I always needed to be able to use my phone to reach them, and the battery pack kept my vacation stress free.

Bonus: Everyone is nicer at Disney

Again, it’s magical. I don’t care what kind of problems or stresses you are having at home, when you go to Disney they are gone. Everyone is happy, and as a result, you are happy. The characters, the shows, the rides, even your most cynical adults are somehow transported back to the innocence of their childhood at Disney. No one is making fun or being sarcastic about the parks, everyone loves them. Young, old, rebellious teen, man, woman, punk rocker or fairy princess, everyone gets swept away by the magic that is Disney.

 

Disney Movie Club and Rewards – Save Money on Disney Vacations

Saving Money on Disney Vacations while Purchasing Disney Movies

Disney Movie Club

Disney Movie Club

When my husband approached me about joining the Disney Movie Club to get discounted movies for our daughter for Christmas, I thought he was crazy. I had heard about the Disney Movie Club and it really sounded like a scam to me. We weren’t really movie collectors, and this just sounded like a way to get roped into spending more money over the next few years.

My opinion certainly didn’t change with our first purchase. We did get 8 movies, four for $1 and four at an extremely discounted price, which was great! However, we needed them by Christmas. Ordering them four weeks ahead of time we were told they would certainly be here by then. No such luck. We actually never received those movies, but after calling and complaining they resent us the same movies again, arriving a week after Christmas. Not a great start.

Disney Movie Club ships your movies Media Mail, which is incredibly slow. Don’t expect your movies for 2-3 business weeks. If you don’t mind waiting and you’re looking to update your movie collection, this might be perfect for you – the movies can be very cheap. I’m hoping our experience will be more positive from now on.

Disney Movie Rewards

So how can this save you money on Disney Vacations? Disney Movies often come with a sheet of paper in the front cover with a code that says “Disney Movie Rewards.” They look like this:

Disney Movie Reward Codes

Keep this paper! I recently learned that you can redeem these rewards for Disney gift cards! Each DVD is worth about 100 reward points and each Blu-ray is worth about 150 points. If you save 1100 points you can use them to get a $10 Disney gift card.

You’re not a Disney Movie Club member? That’s totally fine because you can buy Disney movies ANYWHERE and they can have rewards codes in the cover. That’s right – that movie you just bought at Walmart? Check for a rewards code. Amazon? Check. You can rack up rewards points no matter where you get your movies.

You can even get rewards points from buying tickets to see Disney movies in theaters. Remember those Star Wars movies you wanted to see are Disney too. Marvel movies? Disney.

$10.00 might not seem like a lot, but we were able to get a gift card just using our first set of movies from the Disney Movie Club. I got a few bonus points just for registering, and I filled out a survey on the rewards website to get a few more. If you are purchasing Disney movies regularly, the points will quickly add up.

I know people who have been Disney Movie Club members for years who may have countless movies they could have been using towards their rewards. They might be sitting on a gold mine and not even know it. If you know people who collect Disney movies and won’t care about the rewards, why not ask them if you can use their codes? They may only have two codes they will never use, but that might be enough to get you another gift card.

A few caveats:

  1. Disney does change the rewards that are available on the website. I’m not sure how long the gift card will be available so I would definitely check it out now.
  2. The website limits 4 gift cards per user. I would register yourself, your husband, and any family members with an account to get more gift cards.
  3. Not all Disney movies come with a reward code. You can find which movies should include a code here.

Disney Budget Breakdown

calculating Disney budget
Disney Budget Breakdown

For all my number-crunchers out there. If you’re interested in where our money went and what our budget looked like for our three Disney vacations this year, here’s a breakdown:

EXPENSES:

  • Disney Vacation Club – $1,446.54

We get 150 points per year with our timeshare and we bought that at $3.20 per point. We used 199 points to book our 8 day, 7 night vacation at the Disney Polynesian Resort in a Deluxe Suite.

199×3.20= $636.80

Plus we pay $854.74 for dues per year, but since I bought discounted gift cards I saved $45.00 on our dues this year.

636.80+854.74-45.00 = $1,446.54

  • Annual Passes – $1,664.07

I bought 3 Gold Annual Passes for $1,754.07, but I saved $90 by using gift cards.

1,754.07-90.00 = $1,664.07

  • Spending Money – $1,235.00

I allotted us $500 spending money each time we were going as a family (two trips) and $300 when I went with my daughter by ourselves. Using gift cards I saved $25 on each of the $500 gift card purchases and $15 on the $300 purchase.

500.00-25.00+500.00-25.00+300.00-15.00= $1,235.00

  • Gas – $300.00

We have driven down twice before and based on those trips I’m estimating it will cost about $150.00 per trip to drive to Disney World. We will be driving down twice this year and flying once.

150.00+150.00=$300.00

  • Staying at offsite resorts for 2 vacations – $300.00 (parents’ timeshare)

This is the transfer cost for staying at my parents’ timeshare.

  • Groceries – $300.00

I’m also estimating this number, but based on recording our groceries for the past few trips, I think it will cost us about $100 per trip. I’ll update this once I have a final number.

SAVINGS:

  • Parking – FREE
  • Flights – FREE (Chase Sapphire Rewards)
  • Rental Car – FREE (paid for as Christmas gift)
  • Disney Visa Rewards – $400
  • Additional Chase Sapphire Rewards – $450

So with all the math:

1,446.54+1,664.07+1,235.00+300.00+300.00+300.00-400.00-450.00 =

TOTAL COST: $4,395.61

COST COMPARISON

Here is the retail price breakdown of a Disney Vacation:

EXPENSES:

  • Disney Polynesian Resort Deluxe Suite (8 days, 7 nights) – $5,746.00

Part of our stay fell during a peak week at the Polynesian, and part fell during regular rates (I found those rates here).

938.00+938.00+774.00+774.00+774.00+774.00+774.00=$5,746.00

  • Tickets (3 weeks) – $2,825.00

Disney park tickets are expensive! Two of our trips will be all three of us, one will just be my daughter and me. We are planning on going to the parks six days in February, six in June, and seven in December (you can find the standard rates for Disney tickets here).

1045.00+1090.00+690.00=$2,825.00

  • Gas – $300

This is the same with or without the savings.

  • Spending Money – $1,300.00

I considered this as if we spent the same amount of money, but didn’t get discounts on the gift cards.

  • Off-site Resorts (2 weeks) – $1,806.00

I tried to book the same resort we are staying at for my parents’ timeshare and the quote was $129.00 per night. We are staying for 14 nights. Another added benefit of these resorts are they have a full kitchen, allowing us to save money by not eating at the theme parks.

129.00×14=$1,806.00

  • Rental Car – $205.69

This was the cost of our rental car, but the price if we didn’t get it as a Christmas gift.

  • Flights – $328.00

This was the cost of our flights without the Chase Rewards.

  • Parking – $260.00

As I mentioned, parking is $20.00 per day without Annual Passes and when you’re not staying on property, and we are planning on going to the parks 13 days between our two vacations when we are staying off-site.

  • Groceries – $300.00

And the math: 5,746.00+2,825.00+300.00+1,300.00+1,806.00+205.69+328.00+260.00+300.00

TOTAL COST: $13,070.69

TOTAL SAVINGS: $8,675.08

It pays to plan ahead! We would NEVER have been able to go on these vacations without these savings. Even one trip to Disney can easily cost more than our three trips combined. Save yourself the headaches and use these techniques to take your family on an amazing Disney vacation!

Disney On a Budget – How We Saved Thousands On Our Disney Vacation

Meeting Mickey Mouse
Disney on a Budget

How We Traveled to Disney World Three Times in 2017 for less than $4,500.00

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase one of the products in a link, I receive a small commission. 

So you want to take your family to Disney World this year, but it seems impossible. You’ve allotted yourself a vacation budget, and after perusing Disney’s website you quickly realized these prices aren’t matching up like you’d hoped. You realize it’s going to take a lot of pixie dust to make this work.

Our family was in a similar situation. We had been to Disney World before and quickly decided this was in fact the Most Magical Place on Earth, but now things had changed. We still wanted to take our annual trip, but now we were a one income family. Where last time we simply picked a date for our trip and bought our tickets with little thought, now it was time to do some research.

After scouring the web, here’s how we saved money on our Disney vacations this year:

  • Disney Vacation Club Members

This is Disney’s version of a timeshare for Disney resorts. Though this may seem counterintuitive for families on a budget, hear me out. We took a leap with this one, and knowing our love of Disney we agreed we would be spending a good amount of time on Disney vacations for years to come. If you find yourself returning to Disney World year after year you may want to look into becoming a Disney Vacation Club Member. Yes, it is a considerable upfront expense. However, it can save you a ton of money on your Disney vacations in the long run – and it helped us visit three times this year. Plus, you get tons of other perks and discounts. I’ll be adding another post specifically about the Disney Vacation Club soon.

Side Note: You will hear me say this many times in this post, but Disney Vacation Club is only worth the price if you can purchase the timeshare outright. None of these ideas are good ways to save money if you are going to go into debt. We were able to purchase our Vacation Club Memberships without a loan, and this is the only way I would recommend them. We’re trying to save money here, not spend it now only to pay for it later.

  • Disney Visa Credit Card

I’ll add the same note here: do not go into debt in an attempt to save money for your Disney vacation! The credit cards I mention in this post are great ways to save money, ONLY if you can pay them off responsibly every month. We have never been tempted by credit cards or struggled with debt, so we knew we could handle the responsibility. If you can say the same for your family, there’s no reason why you can’t benefit the same way we did.

The Chase Disney Visa Rewards Card is awesome. I can’t say enough good things about it. Chase offers two types of cards: regular and premier. I’ll add another post outlining the differences between the two, but you’ll really want to consider which one is best for your family before you pick one. The premier card offers more rewards (2% in select categories instead of 1%), but it also has a $49 annual fee. We made the mistake of starting with the regular card, and quickly realized the premier would have been the better choice. Unfortunately, when we called to make the switch they told us we had to wait a year to upgrade.

The regular card gives you 1% back in Disney rewards (sent in a Disney gift card) with no annual fee. Though that may not seem like much, you’ll quickly see your rewards add up. AND this is basically FREE money. Since you’re making your payments on time and you have no annual fee, the card company is making nothing off of you. For us it was a no brainer. This Disney gift card can then be spent on park tickets, Disney resorts, or almost anything inside the parks during your trip. Card holders also get added perks and discounts while at the parks that I’ll go into further in my other post.

  • Annual Passes

A huge selling point for us when we purchased our Disney Vacation Club Membership was the added bonus of getting discounted Annual Passes. This saved us a ton of money considering we went to Disney three times in one year. There are different levels of passes; we bought the Gold level, meaning we would be able to travel to Disney almost 365 days a year (minus a few blackout dates). If you’ve ever been to Disney World before you know park tickets are a huge chunk of your vacation expenses, so we had to take advantage of this opportunity.

  • Discounted Gift Cards

Ok, this one you’re going to think I’m pulling your leg, but I promise this is a real thing. I hope and pray no one from Disney ever looks too intensely at how much money they are losing here because we have saved a TON of money this way.

Wholesale clubs like BJs and Sam’s Club offer discounted Disney gift cards for members. That’s right. If you are a member you can save 5% on EVERYTHING Disney with this one trick. Here’s how I did it:

I went to BJs website and found their $100 Disney gift card that they offer for $95. I then used my Disney Rewards Visa Card to buy 18 gift cards. That means I saved $90 on the gift cards, PLUS I got 1% back in Disney rewards with my card. I had the cards shipped to my house, the shipping was free. Then I paid for our Annual passes with the gift cards. SO easy and it cost me nothing to save that money. I used the same trick to pay for our Disney Vacation Club dues, AND I bought gift cards at a discount to use as our spending money while we’re inside the parks. In the future I plan to purchase a few gift cards every month to save for trips and pay for our Vacation Club dues to spread out the expense.

Another side note: Disney offers Disney gift cards as well as Disney Store gift cards. Make sure when you’re doing your research that you don’t purchase a Disney Store gift card. You’ll only be able to use those at the Disney stores in the mall, etc. and not to purchase park tickets or most things at Walt Disney World.

  • Disney Vacation Account

This is something I only recently discovered, and is another way to get you free money for Disney. The Disney Vacation Account is Disney’s version of layaway. You sign up for an account for free, then you can add one-time deposits or set up automatic withdrawal from your bank account. That money can then be used to purchase things for your Disney vacation like tickets, Disney resort stays, cruises, etc. If you have money leftover after you’ve bought everything for your vacation you can then ask them to send you the remaining balance in a Disney gift card.

Here’s where the savings start. Once you’ve had your account for four months, every $1,000 you spend on your account gets you a $20 Disney gift card. Here’s how I made this work for me:

I bought my gift cards from BJs’ website. I loaded all my gift cards into my Disney Vacation Account. Then, I used my account to purchase our annual passes. So you get the 5% savings from BJs, the 1% savings from the Disney Visa (2% if you have the premier card), AND a $20 gift card for every $1,000 you spend. What??? Genius.

This is also a helpful little tool when you want to use a ton of Disney gift cards to purchase something. Oftentimes Disney will only let you use a limited amount of gift cards on a purchase. Luckily, you can load as many gift cards as you want onto your Disney Vacation Account, and then just use your account number at checkout in place of a gift card. Essentially it combines all your gift cards into one.

The Disney Vacation Account can ALSO be used to pay your Disney Vacation Club dues. So you’re again saving 5% with your gift cards, 1% with your Disney Visa and getting $20 back for every $1,000 spent for dues you were going to have to pay anyway. Savings on top of savings on top of savings.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

This one might seem a little scary for some people. Again, you’re benefiting from credit cards. If you’re like me, people have been telling you your whole life how scary credit cards can be and how you should never own one because you will immediately be sucked into an endless blackhole of debt always associated with such evils. And I wholeheartedly agree with this idea. Don’t spend money you don’t have to go on a vacation. In this scenario, you are simply benefiting from your regular expenses, not accruing more expenses.

That being said, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card currently has an amazing bonus offer for new card users. For signing up and spending $4,000 in the first three months, you receive 50,000 rewards points, with an additional 5,000 points when adding an authorized user. There is an annual fee, but it is waived for the first year. 100 points equals $1.00 towards cash back and $1.25 towards travel purchases. Though we usually drive down as a family, this year for the first time my daughter and I are venturing out on our own because we have extra vacation time that Daddy does not. Since I didn’t want to make the drive to Florida by myself, I decided to fly. By signing up for this card I am able to purchase 2 tickets to Orlando for our trip for free AND still get $400 cash back. When you’ve used your bonus points just make sure to cancel the card so you don’t get stuck with the annual fee next year.

This is obviously not something you would be able to do every year (this offer is not available if you have been a cardholder within the last 24 months, and you may not want to continuously open and cancel cards to possibly damage your credit score), but if you have a vacation planned and want to fly for free or even just get a few hundred dollars for spending money, this is an excellent option.

  • Discounted Restaurants

As I mentioned before the Disney Vacation Club and Disney Visa offer additional perks. One of those perks is discounts at select restaurants at Walt Disney World. Annual Pass holders also receive discounts at restaurants. However, they are not all the same restaurants meaning the restaurants that give discounts to Disney Visa holders are not necessarily the same restaurants that give discounts to Annual Pass holders.

Before our trip my husband and I sat down and looked up all the restaurants that offer discounts for all three categories. Then we looked up the menus for each and decided where we would like to dine during our stay. This took a little time, but there’s no way we would have been able to figure this out on the fly while we were in the parks.

As with everything Disney, the magic is in the planning. If you don’t plan you will not visit The Most Magical Place on Earth. You will visit a crowded, overwhelming theme park with massive lines and inflated prices and you will leave jaded and disappointed. Plan ahead and you will find Disney really is everything you ever dreamed it could be.

  • Driving over Flying

I mentioned this before, but credit card sign up bonuses aside, driving typically saves us quite a bit of money. If your car is gas friendly and can make the trip, you might want to consider driving. We get everything packed and ready and leave in the evening, driving through the night and we arrive at Orlando in the morning. This can be risky as it means a 15-17 hour car ride with a preschooler, but so far it has worked out great for us. Our daughter has slept through the night on the ride down only waking up when we stopped for gas and luckily falling back asleep. Instead of paying around $500 for flights, we pay around $200 for gas. If you are not staying in a Disney resort then you also save the money of renting a car when you’re in Florida.

  • Dollar Store/Cheap Souvenirs

If you have been to Disney World before, especially with kids, you will know that souvenirs are EXPENSIVE. And if your children are like ours, they will ask for every toy in every store they see until you cry uncle. Disney knows this about your children, and has taken advantage of this fact by forcing you to go through a gift shop every time you get off a ride. Evil geniuses.

One way that I’m trying to combat these potential meltdowns this trip is by purchasing some cheap Disney souvenirs from the dollar store or Amazon ahead of time to surprise my daughter with on our trip. There will be Disney toys and activities for the car ride to keep her entertained, there may be a few when we get to the hotel, and maybe one or two as the trip progresses. Hopefully this will distract her from wanting every single thing she sees in the parks.

One of my favorite Disney hidden gems is The Pick-A-Pearl store in the Japan Pavilion in Epcot. It’s this adorable store where you can choose an oyster to buy out of a tank. The store clerk opens the oyster and inside is a unique pearl for you to keep. It’s really cute, they have a whole ceremony they perform while opening the oyster and it’s pretty cheap for a Disney souvenir. Where they get you is they then present you with a plethora of necklaces you can purchase to display your pearl. The necklaces are incredibly expensive.

I knew I wanted to get our daughter one of these pearls, and with a little research I found one of the necklaces on eBay for 1/5th of the price. I had it shipped to our house and brought it with us on our trip so my daughter could get her pearl and have her necklace ready without the huge expense. I got her the Cinderella carriage necklace; here’s one for sale now. 

I’m also particularly excited to try these out while waiting in line at the parks: Wikki Stix Neon Colors

  • Gift Card Budgeting

Really this is just an added bonus that comes with getting the discounted gift cards. By purchasing a set amount of gift cards to use for our spending money, I inadvertently set a budget on what we could spend during our vacation. We decided we were allowed to spend what was on our gift cards, but nothing more. This can help to limit your spending, as long as you can stick to it.

  • Free Parking

Another benefit of being an Annual Pass holder is you get free parking at all the Disney parks. Normal parking costs $20 a day, so if you are going multiple days this can add up quickly. If you stay at a Disney resort you also get free parking in the parks, but as we stayed offsite for 2 out of our 3 vacations, this saved us over $200.

  • Bring Your Own Food

As with everything at Disney World, the food can be pricy. However, Disney makes up for this by letting you bring your own food into the parks. Take advantage of this! We usually try to limit ourselves to eating at most one meal in the park per day and we bring sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, protein shakes, water bottles, and anything else we feel we might want in our bags. Make sure to pack more than enough; you can easily walk 8 miles a day navigating the parks so you’ll definitely be hungry. We have run out of snacks before and been forced to buy food at the parks because we didn’t pack enough.

One great way to get groceries without the hassle is through Prime Pantry. You can order all your snacks and meals for the week from Amazon and have them delivered right to your resort.

  • Generous Family Members

This obviously may not apply to you, but one of the ways we have saved a ton of money on our Disney vacations is through our incredibly generous family members. My parents also have a timeshare (though not with Disney) and whenever we stay off site (as we are doing with two of our trips this year) they always let us use one of their timeshare weeks.

Knowing we were going to Disney World this year, we also used our birthdays and Christmas as opportunities to ask for more Disney gift cards. I know you love presents, but if you’re trying to save money this is an easy way to do it. Some people may not like to give gift cards as presents, but just let them know they are really giving you your dream vacation. You can use these for extra spending money while you’re there, or just add them to your Disney Vacation Account to pay for tickets and/or your resort stay.

That’s it! You’re ready to plan your Disney Vacation like a budgeting pro and save tons of money while still having the Disney experience. No pixie dust required. If you’re interested in hearing more about what exactly we spent on our Disney vacations this year vs. the cost of a retail Disney vacation, click here.