Let’s talk VACATION! I’m of the belief that there are two types of vacations: you either set out to see and do LOTS of things or you set out to do as little as possible for the entire time. For those of you up for the first option, Disney World is a great option for that extra special trip. But before we get started, a warning: Disney is not for the weak of wallet. Disney World is HUGE and it can be expensive. However, it truly is as they claim – a magical place. Today, let’s talk about 6 ways to do Disney on a Budget and I’ll even walk you through a trip my friends at The Magic for Less Travel helped me plan.
- Budget Doesn’t Mean Cheap – I’ve already said Disney World is expensive. Disney on a budget means you’ve saved up to pay for this special, potentially once-in-a-lifetime Disney experience and are going to make sure you don’t overextend yourself to do it. In other words, doing Disney on a budget means you bring home memories without expecting bills to follow.
You can waste a lot of money in Disney, but you can also spend some money on things that are well worth it. I’ll tell you near the end how you can find out if Disney is within your budget.
- Planning is Critical – I’ve been to Disney four times – two were well-planned trips and two were, “hey, we’re going to Disney World” trips where I was with a group. There is no way to measure how much more I was able to do and enjoy myself on the trips where a lot of pre-planning was done.
Plan your trip…FAR in advance. You’ll spend far more money on a poorly-planned trip and waste a lot of time. And by the way, you can’t see the 30,000+ acres of Walt Disney World on a single trip, so don’t even try.
- Splurge Where it Matters – For our family, this usually means eating meals at some of the fun restaurants. I have great memories of eating at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and even celebrating Stacy’s Birthday dinner in Cinderella’s castle (to name just a couple). These weren’t cheap, but they are great memories. The point is this: decide where you’d like to spend your daily budget BEFORE you go and splurge on the things that build memories.
- Stay on Property – I’ve done it both ways. If you stay at a Disney resort, you can ride shuttle buses (or the monorail) to any park from your hotel. You can get in to some parks earlier and/or stay later (“Extra Magic Hours”). You can have stuff you buy delivered directly to your resort so you don’t carry it all day. If you’re spending time traveling to and from Disney property each day, that’s time you’re missing out on the Disney experience.
2007 – Downtown Disney
Take Advantage of Perks – There are lots of little perks at Disney. For example, if it is your birthday, anniversary, etc., they’ll treat you throughout the day. In 2007, we went during Stacy’s birthday and she was given a card and a balloon in our hotel room from Cinderella. Throughout the day, team members would say, “Happy Birthday, Stacy” or give her some little present while we waited in line for a ride or something. All this was free, just because she had a little badge on that said it was her birthday. There are TONS of perks if you’ll seek them out.
- Let an Expert Help – In the 90’s when I went to Disney World for the first time, there was no better resource than a Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World book. They’re still printed anew each year and they’re still handy, but now there are services that have Disney experts to help. Might I recommend one?
One of our advertisers is The Magic for Less. All they do is help plan Disney vacations. That’s it. It is free to you (Disney pays them a commission), and their quote is the same as if you went directly to Disney to plan the trip. Most of all, they know their stuff. How do I know? I’ve been through their process! For this post, they helped me set up a mock trip so I could give an honest review.
What did I think? It was AWESOME! I filled out their quote form and within a few hours I had an email with several simple options (and costs). But then my travel planner, Deb, wowed me with email tips on checking in and others with details about things like Fastpass (an awesome service, by the way), Extra Magic Hours, packing list ideas, etc., etc., etc.
Instead of spending the 20-30 hours I would have spent reading the latest Birnbaum’s, taking notes and making a million phone calls, all I had to do was spend 15 minutes filling out a form and waiting for Deb to send me some suggestions. Now I get why Disney pays these people to help plan vacations.
There you have it – Disney on a budget. If you’ve been to Disney, I want to hear your tips. How did you save money or what would you do differently next time?
Oh and one last thing – because I told them more of you love free stuff, The Magic for Less is giving away a Disney Prize Pack to one lucky reader!
- A $25 Disney gift card
- A red leather Disney logo embossed travel set (luggage tag, padfolio, passport wallet, keyring)
- Two Disney Autograph books (yes, Disney characters roam around the park and you can have your picture made with them and get their autograph)
- Two Walt Disney World Resorts ink pens
- Two Magic for Less camera pouches
- Two Magic for Less neck wallets
- Disney child growth chart poster (measuring height)
To register, simply share your Disney experience in the comments or tell me why you’d like to go to Disney. And please, if you’re even considering a trip to Disney (World, Land, Cruise, etc.), check out The Magic for Less – I was truly wowed by my experience with them. I’ll take entries until midnight (Eastern Time), Friday, April 12.
Okay, one more last thing: I can’t cover nearly everything in a normal blog post, so you can also use the comments to ask any questions you might have.