Thursday, May 2, 2013

Planning for Disney: 8 Ways to Save Money

Our 2010 Disney Trip

A trip to Disney is expensive.  There's no way around that.  But there are some steps you can take ahead of time to help you save a little money on this inevitably expensive trip. 

I'm currently in the throws of planning a trip to Disney.  Here are a few things I'm doing to save money on my trip:

1.  Brita Water Bottles:  If you buy drinks at the park all day long, you'll go broke very quickly!  There are water fountains all over the park that are free, but I hear that the water in Florida tastes a little funky.  I have read that a Brita makes all the difference though, so I've purchased Brita water bottles for each of us.  I was able to get a 3-pack of the water bottles for under $15 at BJ's.  That's less than $5 per person - I can guarantee we would have spent more than that on just one days worth of drinks!

2.  Food:  Disney allows you to bring food in to the park, just no glass bottles.  So we will be bringing some snacks with us in to the parks each day.  With two young kids, who seem to be constantly hungry, this will save us a lot of money on snacks and will hopefully ward off a lot of whining! 

3.  Souvenirs:  I have been collecting Disney items on clearance, at the Target dollar section and even from the dollar store for a while now.  While I know my children will still want to buy some souvenirs while we're in Disney, I'm hoping I can appease them with some of the items I've already purchased for next to nothing, so we don't spend too much on souvenirs!  I've also told my daughter (age 4 1/2) that if she's good each day, I will give her a little present each night.  I'm hoping this tactic works to encourage good behavior!

4.  Glow sticks:  I'm hoping to catch either the night time parade or fire works show at least once while we're there (we'll see with a 1 year old!).  So I picked up some glow sticks, glow bracelets and even a glow wand in the Target dollar section.  This way my daughter can have those fun things without me having to spend $20 on a glow item from a vendor that she'll never use again!  I was also in Ocean State Job Lot the other day and they have a huge selection of glow items for next to nothing!

5.  Ponchos:  I purchased a poncho for each of us from Target for $1.47 each.   They are disposable ponchos, but I'll be bringing zip lock bags with me, so if we do get caught in the rain one day, we'll put our wet ponchos in the zip lock bags and just dry them out over night in our room.  If we had to buy a poncho down there, we certainly wouldn't be spending $1.47 per poncho, I can tell you that!

6.  Renting a stroller:  Disney has stroller rentals, with double strollers going for about $31 per day.  Their strollers don't recline and don't have a basket for holding bags, etc.  I rented from an off-site company (Orlando Stroller Rentals), a double stroller, that reclines and has a basket for storage in it for just $80.25 for the whole week.  The stroller will be waiting for me at my hotel when we check in and we just have to leave it at the front desk when we check out.  Not only will we be saving over $105 on stroller rental fees, but we'll have the stroller with us at all times - getting off the bus and going back to the hotel room at night, for example. 

7.  Traveling off-peak:  I checked Mouse Savers to see when the peak and off peak times were for Disney.  We weren't able to travel during the very cheapest season, but we were able to travel during the second cheapest Disney season.  I was also able to see when different discounts had been historically offered.  I saw that we'd probably be traveling during a hotel discount promotion.  Sure enough, after we booked, a hotel discount promotion came out that we were able to apply to our hotel.  We saved about 20% off the price of our already cheaper (because it wasn't peak time) hotel rate.  I'll take it :).

8.  Photo Pass Plus:  I really hemmed and hawed on this one and I wasn't sure if it would save me money.  But I finally decided that it really would.  I have pre-paid for my photo pass plus card.  This is the card that you give to all the Disney photographers so all your Disney pictures are in one place.  The card itself is free to everyone, but with Photo Pass Plus, I'm getting a digital copy of all of the pictures that are taken - at all the character meet and greets, at almost every single one of our character meal reservations and at hot spots all over Disney World (like in front of Cinderella's castle!).  By paying for it ahead of time, I saved $30.  So that was a savings.  But we also decided that we are going to use these pictures as my son's 1-year old pictures.  We'll make sure the photographers get close ups of all four of us, myself and my son, my husband and my son, my son and daughter, just my son - all the types of pictures we'd get at a regular 1-year old photo session - only with Disney as the back drop!  We spent over $200 on my daughter's 1-year old photo session.  We're only paying $169 for Photo Pass Plus - which will be our vacation pictures as well as my son's 1-year old photos.  A huge savings in my book!

Don't get me wrong, this is an expensive vacation no matter how you look at it!  But the few hundred dollars we saved through the tips above will be a nice start to our vacation fund for next year!