As die-hard Disney fans, my family has been to Disney World more ways than I can count. Not times. Ways. You see, a trip to Disney World (or Disneyland) isn’t cheap. Some families are lucky enough to go annually, and some save up for that once-in-a-lifetime trip. For us, we go based on our budget. That means sometimes we stay in a moderate resort onsite during a free dining promotion, and yes, we have stayed at the (literally) $20 a night hotel and driven to the parks each morning, we have stayed at local timeshares, and even rental houses nearby. Here’s how my family budgets for our semi-annual trips – hopefully some of these will help you too!
1) Choose the time of year you’d like to go. This can be based on temperature, crowd level, your personal work vacation schedule, and cost. Working with a vacation planner (like me!) can help you pick the best time of year to go. You can literally vary THOUSANDS of dollars, all things being equal, just based on the time of year you go.
2) Once you have your dates set, ask yourself how are you going to get there? (Your vacation planner can help with this too.) For some families, flying makes sense. For those with frequent flyer miles, or those close to their favorite major airline hub – I won’t keep it a secret, I do fly a lot, and Southwest is my favorite airline – and a low number of family members, it may make more sense to fly. For instance, if it costs $211 round trip for three family members to fly to Orlando, that’s a total of $633. However, if your family has four children, that flight just became $1200. It’s not for me to judge whether that expenditure is affordable or not, so for other families, driving makes more sense. Depending on where you live and the gas mileage of your vehicle, driving can cost between $150-300 total. Your travel planner can also create a spreadsheet that tells you if you’d save the most money driving your own car and renting. If I am going to Disney on business, I will fly, but for my family, driving is always more budget-friendly for us. Similarly, if you live in Washington state, it may be more budget-friendly for you to go to Disneyland in California, than Disney World in Florida.
3) Time of year, check! How to get there, check! Now, where to stay: Never assume that staying at a Value resort on property is always the most affordable – it truly depends on the promotions being run at the time you arrive. Let’s say Guest A wants the dining plan, and to stay on property. They choose to go starting September 1st, and stay at Pop Century, with a dining plan.
Guest B goes one day later, and upgrades her resort to a moderate resort, and the same dining plan. She saves literally $600 over Guest A!
Guest C goes one day later, and chooses a value resort during free dining week, and upgrades to the same dining plan. She saves $700 over guest A, AND $100 over Guest B! Working with your travel planner will help you with saving the most money you can. All of these families had the same age and
number of guests, and it’s hard to imagine the same family can save that much but it’s true. And remember, what’s good for one family isn’t perfect for another. An on-the-go family may be much happier with a quick service dining plan and may feel as if they’ve bought more than they needed with a plus dining plan. You can bring in many a goldfish cracker and water bottles in a collapsible ice cooler, that will help stretch your hard-earned dollars even more and complement that dining plan you’ve chosen.
3B) Don’t overlook Good Neighbor hotels, especially at Disneyland. Good Neighbor hotels are hotels that are near Disney property, still come with many of the vacation package perks, such such as Extra Magic Hours, where you can go to one of the Disney parks earlier than the rest of the crowd not staying onsite, and usually come with shuttle service to the parks. Typically, if Disney is offering a sale promotion, onsite properties will be more affordable, but if there isn’t a sale, and you’re open to a Good Neighbor hotel, be sure and ask your travel planner to check for you.
4) Saving for your trip: If you have already saved up the money to go, congratulations! If you haven’t, here are a few trips to put a little extra back each month.
- Do you have a daily expenditure you can cut back on? For example, do you have a $5 coffee that you buy every day, where you can substitute it for a $2 daily drink? Or that $5 drink once a week?
- Can you cut back on services? For instance, getting a slightly slower internet speed, or bundling services for telephone and internet may save you money.
- What about personal shopping, can you freshen up existing wardrobe pieces with accessories, scarves, and belts in pops of color instead of buying a new wardrobe for a season or two?
- What about the kids – we all know they grow whether we want them to or not. Is there a mom-swap club near you that swaps good-quality kids clothes, or a consignment shop that would help you stretch your clothing budget for a season?
- And lastly, can you cut back on eating out while you’re saving for a vacation?
- Once you have that money saved back, put it away so you don’t spend it!
My friend Renee says “the best way to save money is not to spend it”. It’s true! If you want to save towards that vacation, cut back just a little bit in other places and you’ll be there in no time.
5) Paying for your trip – one of my very favorite things about a Disney vacation (which is true with most Good Neighbor hotels as well, but NOT true with staying at any other type of property offsite) is that you just need a $200 deposit to reserve your vacation. You can then make payments using your saved money as often as you like until 45 days before you depart. At that time your full balance is due. But what better way to take what can seem like a huge figure and make payments on it, interest-free, rather than placing the entire balance on a credit card at one time and making interest payments on it?
So there you have it. Work with your travel planner (that’s me!) to choose the best dates that can literally save you hundreds of dollars, don’t overpay by paying for someone ELSE’s perfect vacation – pay for what’s right for you, save for your trip, and by all means, take advantage of Disney’s wonderful payment plan option. And hopefully, I’ll “See Ya Real Soon”.
°o° ~ Karen
Mission: Mouse Blog