We’ve been passholders for several years now and people are always asking us to help them plan their trips, including ways to save money for their planned Disney trip. We live 10 hours away from Walt Disney World, so even though we’re annual passholders, we do indeed still have to be disciplined to save for our trips. It’s not exactly cheap to make the trip from NC and we’re just a single-income household living off less than half what we had in income before my husband’s neck injury nearly 6 years ago, but if we can do it, anyone can. Our methods of saving money allows us to make 2-3 weeklong trips a year (yes, I’m blessed to have a job that gives me 3 weeks of vacation a year). While visiting Disney that many times isn’t ideal or even desired for some families, these tips still apply to anyone planning a vacation to the Most Magical Place on Earth – and really, some of these apply to just saving money in general.
10. Eat breakfast in room – We’re not big breakfast eaters, so for us, this is a no-brainer. We like to bring trail mix snack packs or granola bars and eat those each morning. It saves us from having to 1.) Spend money on breakfast at the parks and 2.) Waste valuable time by not riding rides at rope drop.
9. Save your spare change – We don’t use credit cards and since we’re big fans of Dave Ramsey, we like to use cash to pay for things. It helps keep us disciplined, especially if you’re doing an envelope system so that you only spend the money you’ve budgeted and placed in an envelope each month. If we have change left over at the end of the day, it goes into a change jar. That money adds up after a while of saving and goes right into our Disney fund.
8. Bring snacks to parks – This is very important if you have kids. Spending money on snacks can be a big budget killer. Of course, if you’re on a Disney Dining Plan, then you have a snack included each day. Because we don’t stay on resort, we don’t take part in the Dining Plan and even when we do stay on resort, we still opt out of purchasing the plan since we’ve found it’s just way too much food to eat each day, but that’s another story. We use to bring snacks and only make the occasional purchase of snacks in the parks. Then we discovered a Disney cupcake…
7. Credit card rewards/Chase Disney Visa – While we don’t use credit cards, most people do it seems. We do have a Chase Disney Visa card that never gets used anymore, but if we did use it, we could earn cash back that they then turn into Disney Rewards (basically a Disney gift card). Most credit cards have rewards programs, so if you are a regular user of a credit card, be sure to cash in those rewards for Disney or Landry (Rainforest Café, T-Rex) gift cards or cash for your fund. Another perk of the Chase Disney Visa is that you can get a free photo with a couple characters in Epcot, so be sure to review their site for this info on all the other extras you get, like room discounts, tour discounts, money off purchases, etc.
6. Give up eating out a meal once a month or going to the movies – We make sacrifices each month in order to save for our trip, and it’s definitely much harder to do now that we’ve moved from the country to the city where everything is convenient. If you have a large family, giving up a meal out or a trip to the movies can save quite a bit of money each year – with all the money you save in your budget, put it in your fund. We also gave up cable *gasp* and just use an antenna now – yeah it looks funny to have an antenna sitting next to a 55” HDTV, but hey, we save $70+ by not having cable. To us, it’s worth the sacrifice to give up those things if it means that we get to enjoy a vacation to Disney World instead.
5. Use Coupons – Sounds simple, but it can be quite intimidating to a lot of people. My husband gets stressed trying to figure it all out, so he leaves that part to me, but he loves seeing the total go down at the grocery store as they’re scanning coupons. You don’t have to ‘extreme coupon’ to the point where you have a stockpile room full of toilet paper (yes, I had a stockpile room designated for nothing but things I had purchased using coupons – then we moved and now I’m just down to a little closet). But with every bit of money you save each month, you can put that money into your Disney Fund. Whether you put it in a savings account or a jar at your house, just make sure it’s put aside so that you don’t spend it. If you earn a rebate or gift card for buying certain items, put the money equivalent back into your fund as well. For couponing help, be sure to visit our friend at Couponing to Disney.
4. Earn extra $ and Giftcards Online – For the longest time, this was a huge part of how we saved for trips (and paid for Christmas gifts…). Then I started working full-time away from home and I just don’t have as much time to dedicate each night to this now, but if you’re just watching TV, why not make a few bucks while doing it? There are a lot of survey and rewards companies out there and not all are created equal. But I do have my favorites. Some allow you to earn cash while others allow you to redeem points for gift cards. Not all gift cards are Disney related, but if you do earn a gift card to something like Amazon, just be sure to take that money that you earned and put it into your Disney fund. The ones that I’ve fondest of are: GlobalTestMarket, OneOpinion, MyPoints, Swagbucks (until they banned me from taking surveys because I was racking up too much $ doing so…), Mindfield, and Opinion Outpost. Again, you’re not going to get rich doing surveys on these sites, but some money is better than none.
3. Buy Disney Gift Cards at Target – This seems to be a very popular way to save money now, as we notice that our Target always has very few Disney gift cards in stock (I think we spotted only 2 last week). For those that don’t know, if you have a Target Red Card (Debit OR Credit), you save 5% off your purchases, including gift cards – I know, that’s crazy, right? But it’s true. And if you take part in the Pharmacy Rewards program, then you can save an additional 5%. I don’t know about you, but saving 5% or 10% on Disney gift cards that I can then put towards paying for my room/package, food and souvenirs sounds good to me. The only problem you may have is finding enough of these gift cards in your store.
2. Stay off resort – Not everyone will agree with me on this one, as they think you somehow lose the magic if you stay off resort. And while that’s true to a certain extent, I’d still rather go to Disney and stay off resort than stay at home and watch TV because I couldn’t afford to make the trip to Disney World…in our 15 trips over the last few 4 years, we’ve only stayed on resort twice, yes, two whole times. Did we lose the Disney magic? Nope. Staying off resort is the single most important reason why we’re able to make more than one trip to Disney World each year. I’d rather stay off resort, save money and go to Disney more than once than splurge, stay on resort and only make one trip a year. But maybe that’s just me. I don’t buy into the argument that it doesn’t cost ‘that much more’ to stay on resort. I’d say spending an extra $400-$1400 to stay in a Disney Resort as being a big justification to stay off property – and that’s just if you have one room. There are a plethora of options off resort and I’m not saying you have to stay in the cheapest hotel/motel in Kissimmee that you can find – trust us, we’ve done it and I can’t say that we wouldn’t do it again if it’s what made the trip happen. You can rent a condo/townhome or stay in a mid-range hotel for much less than staying on resort. You’re only sleeping there for the most part, so we just don’t find having a room to sleep in on resort that much more important since we don’t always take advantage of the pool or other resort amenities. Now, if you’re not a passholder, then you will have to pay for parking each day, but that’s still less than $100 for the week. Staying off resort also means that you have many more options to save money by eating meals outside of the parks. This is a give and take decision and you really have to decide for your family which is more important – saving money so that you can perhaps buy extra souvenirs (or in our case, pins) or even make the trip by staying off property or stay on property so that you can enjoy some of the ‘extras’ you get for being a resort guest. If you can afford to stay on resort, then by all means, do so!
1. Have a Yard Sale or sell things on Craigslist – This is my top way to earn money for a trip. I believe I earned $600 for December trip last year, all because I decided we needed to get rid of ‘stuff’ that we no longer used. This is very easy to accomplish when you’re doing your annual ‘Spring Cleaning.’ I think we all have items in our homes that haven’t seen the light of day in over 6 months and those are all items that you can sell and put cash into your fund. We have a rule in our house – if it hasn’t been used in the last 6 months to a year, then we don’t need it and those items make it into our sell pile. This is also a great way to get your kids involved in the planning/saving of your trip. Have them go through items in their rooms that they perhaps don’t play with anymore. They won’t see it as something they’re giving up if they know it’s going to gain them a trip to Walt Disney World. They can even have a lemonade or snack stand at the yard sale to help raise even more money towards the goal of a trip. Of course, if you don’t like having a yard sale, just list things on Craigslist (this is how we do it), just be sure to meet in public places for safety reasons.
So there you have it, my Top 10 ways to save money for your next trip to Walt Disney World (and these same principles can be applied to your trip to Disneyland as well) and also cut down on expenses to allow you to make the trip. Do you have other ways that you like to save? If so, be sure to share in the comments below.
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