This is the last post in my three-part series on how to stretch your vacation budget when you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World. In Part One, I talked about how to save money in the planning stage of your trip. In Part Two, I discussed ways to stretch your budget before you leave for your vacation. In this post, I plan to offer advice on how to save money while you are on your Disney trip.
One of the most common complaints that I hear is regarding the cost of food at Disney World. While dining at Disney can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. The Disney Dining Plan can be a money-saver in some circumstances, especially for families with young children who plan on enjoying a few character meals. Alternatively, you could forego the character meals completely, as most of the same characters are available for meet-and-greets elsewhere in the parks and are free with admission. To save even more money on food, online services exist that will deliver reasonably-priced groceries (including bottled water) to your hotel room (our favorite is Garden Grocer). If you’ve rented a car, stop at a grocery store on the way to your resort instead of using a delivery service. With a few food staples, you can eat breakfast in your hotel room and pack a lunch to enjoy at the theme parks each day. For dinner, if you’ve rented a car, consider dining at a more economically-priced offsite chain restaurant instead of in the parks. Finally, devote a carry-on piece of luggage to prepackaged snacks and juice boxes. Instead of splurging on pricey food items from vendor carts in the parks, bring your own snacks and drinks with you. The same piece of luggage can be filled with souvenirs on the way home.
Speaking of souvenirs, offsite stores are generally much cheaper than theme park gift shops, and while offsite merchandise is not “official”, much of it features the same characters as the onsite goods. It’s also important to set a budget for souvenirs before you depart for your vacation…and then stick to it. On our first Disney trip, we went a little overboard with souvenirs (it’s easy to do), so we came up with a solution to limit them on our subsequent vacations. We now give each of our kids a predetermined amount of money (enough to cover one item). If they’d like additional items (or a more expensive item), they are responsible for the difference. When we have a Disney vacation coming up, the kids usually start saving their own money (allowance, birthday money, etc.) for their souvenirs. Even though our children are still young (five and seven years old), this system works well. Since they are using their own money, they are more likely to make sure that their purchase is something that they really want.
When it comes to Disney apparel, DO NOT purchase it in the theme parks (where it is incredibly expensive). Instead, take a trip to your local Disney Store (or visit it online) before your trip. Twice a year, the Disney Store has a massive clearance; during this time, it is often possible to find official Disney apparel for a VERY reasonable price (sometimes less than $5)!
Finally, if you have a Disney VISA card, bring it along on your trip. You can save 10% on purchases of $50 or more at most retail locations in the Walt Disney World Resort. To take advantage of this benefit, however, you will need to use your Disney VISA and tell the cast member that you want the 10% off (they will not always give it to you automatically).
I’m turning it over to you now! What are your best money-saving tips when you’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation?
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