Over the holidays, my sister mentioned that her husband was planning to run a marathon at Walt Disney World in January and invited us to come along. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Then I read this article about how much a Disney trip actually costs for some families. I was stunned. $1300 per person? And that was with a free Disney Dining Plan! I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I could swing that. So, I got down to business and found ways to do things differently. These are the three major ways that I was able to save—and one thing I could’ve done better.
Sharing is Caring (and Saving)
My sister booked a condo big enough for 10 people, so we saved a lot by splitting the cost with her. We agreed that we didn’t need to spend every moment together, so each family was able to spend some quality time together while also reserving some time for doing our own thing.
Do Your Homework
I looked around for any deals I could find. I discovered that I had enough airline miles to pay for two of our plane tickets. I have an airline credit card. To boost my points, I often pay for things—like our monthly health insurance premium—on the card. I have my online banking set up to automatically pay that amount to the credit card company on the first of the month to avoid interest charges. I also got our rental car fairly inexpensively by using a package deal that was offered with the plane tickets.
Theme park tickets were our biggest expense by far. A one day, single park adult pass to the Magic Kingdom costs over $100—although the price varies with the time of year that you choose to visit. That being said, it’s worth the time to look around for resort packages that include tickets and/or dining plans. (Some good places to start are Disney.com and Costco.) Deals also vary depending on the time of year, so being flexible with your schedule is another way to save big-time.
BYO (Bring Your Own)
This is where having a condo with a full kitchen was a big advantage. There was a grocery store just up the street, so for about $100 we were able to get supplies for most of our meals and snacks for three days. We ate breakfast at the condo in the morning, and we packed sandwiches, drinks, and snacks to take to the parks with us. (One major Disney bonus is that they are totally fine with food and drinks being brought into the park.) Then we made dinner back at home base in the evening. The one meal we did end up buying in the park was $40 for the three of us, so I’m sure you can see the advantage there.
Theme park days require a lot of walking and standing in line, and little guys might have hard time keeping up—so if you’ve got a stroller, bring it with you. (We also used it to stash our lunch box while we were on the rides.) Sadly, we don’t actually own a stroller anymore, so we decided to rent one. There are companies you can find that will rent them by the week—they’ll even deliver them to many of the hotels & resorts in the area which is a nice perk. Since we only needed one for two days, I found that our best deal was to pay in advance for both days with a rental through the park.
This is the part where we failed miserably budget-wise. The weather was so nice on our first day that we decided not to bring our jackets on our second day. The high temp was supposed to be near 70, so we (mistakenly) figured we were fine. The high temp happened early in the day. When it dropped dramatically that afternoon, we were freezing. We became the proud owners of three (very expensive) Mickey Mouse hoodies.