Disney World Planning – Budgeting and using Gift Cards

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Disney World Planning - Budgeting and using Gift Cards

Hey Everyone! My countdown to Disney is currently at 197 days. That may seem like a long time, but it is not.  In terms of planning I have 17 days until I can make my advanced dining reservations. Making ADR’s is a key element in having a well organized trip. At this point in my planning I am doing a few important things. If you missed last weeks edition here it is.

  1. Budgeting.
  2. Recording Park Hours
  3. Making a rough dining reservation draft

Today I am going to take you through how I budget my trips. This is one of the most important elements of a stress free vacation. Here are a few tips to help you with this.

Take advantage of deals that are available and keep checking back to see if new ones are being offered. Even if you booked your trip with no discount if an offer comes out you will be able to apply it to your current reservation.  By  booking with a travel agent as I do, you can rest assured they are checking offers for you daily and will inform you if there is an opportunity to save money.

It is a good idea to be a little flexible with your dates in case an offer comes out that would save you a significant amount of money by slightly adjusting your dates.  I booked on a bounce back offer that saved me 35% on my room only stay at The Boardwalk Inn.

I have found that for our family, room only discounts are usually the best deal.  Once I have paid my deposit which was equal to one nights room rate, I divide the rest of what is due by the amount of weeks I have until I’ll need to be paid in full. By doing this I know how much money to set aside each week to ensure I am paid in full upon arrival. For a room only reservation you can pay your balance when you arrive, but I like the security of knowing I have paid my tab beforehand.  I have this money automatically moved from my checking to my savings accounts each week. Very easy!

Since we do not partake in the dining plan I also budget our food expenses. I do this by buying a gift card every week when I grocery shop. Disney gift cards can be purchased in any amount starting at $15.00. Make sure when you buy them you write the amount of the card on its packaging. This will save you a lot of headaches at the park.

As I begin to plan our dining reservations my husband and I look over the menus to decide what we would most likely order. It seems crazy to not only plan where but what you will eat six months before you travel but by doing this I can put gift cards in an envelope marked for that particular restaurant. For example: We know we want to try lunch at Le Cellier in Epcot during our next trip.

Tip: By eating lunch at a Signature Restaurant you will get to try a great menu for less money!

For Lunch we will most likely Order a Bowl of Cheddar Cheese Soup to share for about $7.00, a Side of Mac and Cheese for about $6.00 and we will split the salmon for about 21.00. Our meal total would be in the ball park of $35-40 plus tax and tip. I will put this amount in the Le Cellier Envelope and know that meal is essentially paid for.

Tip: For those not on the dining plan, splitting meals may be a great money saver. We split meals all the time and always leave full and have saved a good bit of money!

I also save all of my change in a jar. This becomes my souvenir money. My last trip I had nearly $85.00 in change! I was able to buy a T-Shirt for $31.00 and a Pin for $13 and still had money left over! My husband is too manly (so he believes) to be caught with any Disney paraphernalia, so that’s a huge savings right there. You can roll your change or just bring it to your nearest coin star location. Coin Star does take a percentage of your money for the service, but I find it to be so easy and you get cash right on the spot.

The final thing I do is begin making envelopes for everything. My Gift Cards go in their assigned dining envelopes as I explained above, but I also make envelopes for mousekeeping tips, pool side drinks (which is what my husband should save his change for), Bell service tips, and of course extra spending money. As I have extra dollar bills I put them into these envelopes. You may think it is crazy to plan how much you will be tipping your bell hop before you leave, but it is so great to know that these little expenses are taken care of when you arrive!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part 3 of this series: Park Hours and Choosing Restaurants!


  • Disney World Quick Tips – Advanced Dining Reservation Tips (chipandco.com)
  • Disney World Planning 101 – Don’t Forget the Tips (chipandco.com)


Disney World Planning - Budgeting and using Gift Cards


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One thought on “Disney World Planning – Budgeting and using Gift Cards

  1. Great tips. I am enjoying this series. It’s so helpful. I am planning our trip for about the same time as you are so this is timely advice : )
    I have heard from a few people that I should buy Disney gift cards at Target using my Target debit card that gives me 5% off my purchases. I didn’t realize it would discount gift cards. I am going to try it soon to see if it works. I like the idea of having these gift cards on hand to use for the trip.
    I am in the midst of looking into restaurants and menus. The whole thing with planning our meals in advance is a little overwhelming but I’m getting there…
    Thanks again for the help!

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