That trip to the Magic Kingdom loses a bit of its sparkle the first time you look at your receipts. Even if your airfare and ticket costs are covered, you’d be surprised at where most of your money goes while in Disney: meals and snacks, souvenirs and little extras you never saw coming. Here’s how to save money on those things that eat away at your Disney vacation budget.
Save With Disney Gift Cards
It’s ridiculously easy to rack up a huge bill at one of the many exciting shops at the House of the Mouse. Instead of handing over your credit card, shave a few bucks from your spending by purchasing Disney gift cards at a big box wholesale club like Sam’s Club or Costco. For example, a $50 Disney Gift card might cost you only $46 at Sam’s Club. Another great way to make your money stretch is to limit yourself to a single gift card for each family member. My family saves money this way, and it’s a good exercise in curbing impulse purchases when you know you’ve got a preset spending limit.
Take Advantage of Free Entertainment
Walt Disney World is more than just pricey admission tickets to theme parks. Make it a point to visit Downtown Disney, even if you’re dining elsewhere. The LEGO shop offers free playtime for the kids and plenty of photo ops with amazing life-sized LEGO works of art. Hop on the free ferry from the Disney Marketplace to the Old Key West Resort, or take one of the boats or launches from the Magic Kingdom to one of the Disney Property resorts.
For a complete change of pace that’s at once both Disney World and the best of Florida, hike through the Disney Wilderness Preserve. Hike for free from 9-5 (closed Saturdays) and print out this cool Nature Treasure Hunt Map for your kids. Who’d have thought a trip to Walt Disney World could be such a learning adventure?
Consider Unexpected Purchases
Your kids need hats and sunglasses. Everyone in your party will develop blisters the size of marbles from walking around so much. You’ll need sunscreen… and rain ponchos. Perhaps Florida sets off allergies like you haven’t experienced in years and you need over-the-counter meds and tissue. It’ll cost you so much more to purchase these items at shops in the park — and even in the surrounding areas of Orlando and Kissimmee — than it would cost you to pack them from home. Trust me on this, a frequent Disney visitor and a Florida resident. Be the parent who has it together and saves money in the process. Win-win.
Plan Your Meals
Have a big breakfast before you head to the Disney parks, and eat a big lunch while you’re inside. Check out the menus and prices for the different restaurants both in and out of the parks: many wonderful dining options exist outside the park gates, and lunch menus are usually less expensive than the same items at dinnertime. Head to the official Disney dining page, filter your preferences, and click on each restaurant. There you can examine each menu and help budget out your meals.
Make reservations a few months before your Disney trip, so you’re sure to get a spot at a restaurant that suits your group’s needs. Lunch menu prices are cheaper than dinner, and you’re more likely to enjoy your meal when you aren’t exhausted and sweaty anyhow. Head back to your hotel room for dinner in town or at one of the smaller restaurants outside the park itself.
If you’re visiting for more than a few days, your best option may be a Dining Plan. Decide which option works best for your family.
Check out Disney Promotions and Special Offers
Walt Disney World offers various package deals throughout the year — some with dining plans, room deals or entertainment offers. If your travel plans are flexible, you can save a bundle going this route! If you’re a military family or belong to AAA, you may be eligible for additional discounts.
Buy Official Disney Goods Beforehand
It’s inevitable you’ll bring home a few Disney memories that come with a price tag; their marketing departments mastered the art of getting visitors to hand over their money years ago. However, it helps if you’re able to purchase some items, like t-shirts and trading pins, in advance. Find the best deals at The Disney Store online special offers page. Buy clothes, toys and accessories (even home decor) for your family before ever heading to Orlando.
Save big when you take advantage of little ways to cut expenses before visiting the Magic Kingdom, and you’ll enjoy your vacation all the more.