Disney vacations are truly magical, and your kids will remember it for the rest of your lives. Unfortunately, though, the vacation will end up costing thousands of dollars when all is said and done. Here are some of our best tips for saving a ton on your next Disney vacation.
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20. Buy Dollar Store Pool Toys For the Hotel
If you are planning to use the hotel pool, you may want to bring something for your kids to play with. Buying pool toys in Disney parks can be really expensive, and you may not be able to bring the wet things back home with you, anyway. Most dollar stores sell pool toys, so you can grab them and pack it up in your bag when they are still deflated and dry. If you have to throw them away or give them to another family who is staying on vacation, it is much easier to do that if it was only $1 anyway.
19. Pack $1 Disney Coloring Books
Did you know that Dollar Tree sells Disney coloring books and educational materials for just $1? These are high-quality products that are surprisingly cheap. They even sell Disney themed crayons! (I found them on the book section.) This is great for your kids to have a quiet activity on the airplane that will also get them excited to meet their favorite characters.
18. Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen and Hats
If you are going to Anaheim, California or Orlando, Florida in the summer, expect to feel some intense heat. One of the worst things you could do to yourself is forget your sunscreen and hats! If you are worried about getting a bottle of liquid through customs, I recommend the solid sunscreen stick by Banana Boat. This is easy to keep in your bag without fear of it accidentally squirting everywhere.
17. Plan A Non-Park Day
If you plan to stay in town for several days in a row, you may want to consider a non-park day. Parents who take their kids to Disney don’t exactly get a day to relax, so simply hanging out around the hotel or local town will probably come as a welcome respite. Obviously, you also save a lot of money on park tickets for the day. If you plan to have a non-park day, try to book a hotel that has a pool. Order takeout, and just have fun enjoying time with your family.
16. Download Disney Movies on Your iPad
Did you know that you can download movies from Netflix directly to your iPad? This is great if you are going on an airplane, and you want to watch something offline. I can be perfect to give your kids during a road trip or plane ride, too. The entire family can also watch when they are getting ready to go to bed. This is a lot cheaper than buying a DVD or renting a movie on the hotel’s television.
15. DIY Mickey Ears
Considering that officially licensed Mickey Ears cost $28 at the Disney Store, you are easily going to spend over $100 for a family of four. These are such iconic souvenirs, that plenty of families cough up the money to have the experience. But did you know it’s possible to make your own? Check out Sierra Schultzzie’s YouTube video on DIY mickey ears. Once you buy all of the materials at the craft store, you should be able to make matching ears for the whole family at a fraction of the price.
14. Create a Meal and Snack Plan
Buying snacks inside of a Disney park can cost a small fortune, especially if you have more than one kid. Before you go, make sure you bring some snacks with you in food containers. If you are flying in, and you know that you will not have a car or access to a grocery store, bring some non-perishable food items in your suitcase like a box of granola bars. These will help to curb your family’s appetites in-between meals.
13. Use The “Price Bridging” Technique For Annual Passes
If it is your first time at Disney, you may not buy a season pass right away. Loads of people realize they want to come back again soon. Luckily, it’s possible to use whatever you paid for your normal tickets and roll it over into an annual pass, and you just pay the difference. This is called “price bridging”. Just make sure you do it before you leave the park! Just go to any guest service window, and they can help you bridge your tickets.
Save even more by getting discounted tickets from Costco Travel. You could pay $450 for a one-week ticket, which normally costs $515. This saves $65 before you even bridge your ticket. Multiply this by your entire family, and it can easily add up to hundreds of dollars.
12. Check the Target’s Dollar Spot, AKA “Bullseye’s Playground”
Remember the “Dollar Spot” at Target? Well, now, it has been renamed to Bullseye’s Playground, because not everything is just $1. This is an area in the front of the store that is full of cheap seasonal items. They almost always have Disney items in stock, and they frequently go on clearance. This would be a great opportunity for you to stock up on themed toys, socks, and crafts and save them for your vacation.
11. Check Out Disney’s Value Resorts and Campgrounds
Think staying inside of a Disney park is too expensive? It may not be. If you own an RV, you can park inside of one of Disney’s campgrounds for a lot less than renting a hotel room or AirBnB. There are also Disney Value Resorts with rooms for under $150 per night at certain times of the year. Be sure to compare prices on all of your options before making assumptions on the cheapest place to stay.
10. Make a Disney Themed “Activity Bag” For Your Kids
Traveling to Disney World or Disney Land is probably going to be a really long journey for you and your family. Those movies might not last very long, either (especially if your iPad runs out of battery power!). You really should come prepared with entertainment for your kids, and why not make it Disney themed? Lucky for you, Dollar Tree carries some really adorable Disney items for just $1 each, which makes it super affordable to put together an activity bag for each of your kids. with items like coloring books, flash cards, puzzles, and story books.
9. Get a Free Wake Up Call From Mickey Mouse
Every time you stay at a Disney resort, you can get a free wake up call from Mickey Mouse. Just press the Wake Up Call button on your hotel phone, and it will guide you through the settings for what time you would like to be woken up in the morning. When the phone rings the next morning, let your kids answer. They will be so excited to hear Mickey’s voice, and it is an amazing way to start the day.
8. Plan Your Time Wisely
Time is precious when you got to a Disney park, because you want to be able to do as much as humanly possible. If you get to the park early, walk towards the left. Most people are right-handed, and therefore tend to veer to the right. So, if you go left, you will get to the rides that have fewer people waiting in line.
After dark, families with children go home around 7 to 8PM. At night, and the lines for the rides should be significantly shorter. If you want to go shopping, stores and restaurants stay open later for adult guests, too. Instead of waiting in line, just wait until the end of the day.
7. Grab Free Food Samples Around the Park
There are several places where it’s possible to get free food at Disney World. Ghirardelli chocolate will give you a free square, and the flavors change with the seasons. You can also get Wherther’s original caramel popcorn, fudge, and so much more.
6. Become The “Disney Fairy” For Your Kids
Earlier in this list, we mentioned going to Target and Dollar Tree to stock up on cheap Disney items. You could choose to hand them over to your kids all at once, or you could be a bit more creative with the idea of the “Disney Fairy”. This is a concept that was originally made up by a woman on a YouTube channel called The Melea Show. If you want to see the Disney Fairy in action, we highly recommend watching her video.
5. Get Free Recipes For Any Dish in the Park
For adult foodies out there, Disney parks have some amazing restaurants that people want to go back to again and again. Lucky for us, Disney actually gives out free recipes for all of their food at their resorts. So if you every try something, and you feel yourself craving it later, you can go to the Town Hall and get a printed copy, or find it online. This way, there is no need to eat at the same place multiple times, if you can eat it at home.
4. Book Early, and Off-Season
Most people book their Disney vacations when their kids have off of school. During these peak times in spring break, summer holiday, Christmas, and Easter, the prices to Disney parks are significantly higher than other times of the year. It is much cheaper in the autumn and winter months, except for holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. Always compare the prices before you go. If your kids are too young for school, you just might have the flexibility to pick a cheaper date.
3. Rent Disney Vacation Club Points
If you have gone to visit Disney before, you have probably seen advertisements about The Disney Vacation Club. This is a timeshare where someone can purchase a portion of a condo or apartment in a Disney resort. After 7 years, the cost pays for itself, and you begin getting a discount. This is perfect for anyone who plants to go to Disney with their baby and continue going every year until they grow up. But if you skip a Disney vacation at all, it becomes much harder to make back the investment.
This is why some people are willing to “rent” their timeshare or “Vacation Club Points” to other people. The renters receive a discount compared to the normal cost of staying at a resort, while the owner of the time share can have peace of mind knowing that their cost is covered. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, check out the full guide by the Disney Tourist Blog.
2. Buy Your Disney Themed Clothing at Walmart or Target
A lot of people like to buy t-shirts and hats at the souvenir shops to wear around Disney World. If you wait to buy things in the park, expect to pay double or triple what you could spend elsewhere, on top of waiting in line to buy your items. Both Walmart and Target stock Disney items, and you can get them on clearance at the end of the season.
Keep an eye out for tees, hats, and pajamas for your whole family throughout the year. When it’s time to go on vacation, pull out those brand new clothes, and everyone will feel just as happy as they would if they got it from the Disney Store.
1. Plan Ahead With Disney Halloween Costumes on Clearance
After Halloween is over and everyone has a stomach ache from eating too much candy, Target and Walmart immediately jump into putting all of their merchandise on clearance. It starts at 30% off, and goes all the way up to 90%. Since both stores carry Disney merchandise, you should seriously consider shopping there immediately after the holiday. If your kids want to dress up as their favorite Disney characters in the park, this can be a really cheap way to get their costumes. Just remember to plan a few sizes up, if they are going to grow between now and your vacation.
Shannon Quinn is the editor-in-chief of InspiringHome.org