So the homemade countdown calendar on my fridge says we have 3 days left until our Disney World vacation! Even though we try to go 2-3 times per year, we get just as excited each trip! The thrill of entering the World never gets old!
In keeping with the WDW preparation posts leading up to my trip, I chose to write today's topic about some ways to save money when travelling with children to Disney World. As we always stay on-site, my posts may be somewhat geared to those staying on Disney property.
A general money saving tip for the whole family is to eat at least breakfast in the hotel room. While this may seem like an obvious principle, many people are surprised to see just how much they can fit into the resort fridge. Had they known about the space, they could have planned their meals a little differently. I'm not talking about the refrigerators in the DVC villas, either. I'm talking about the mini-fridges that come in the Moderate or Deluxe rooms. You can easily fit milk, orange juice, bagels, cream cheese, etc. In other words, there is ample room to keep breakfast foods in your room. Even after the milk, juice, bagels and cream cheese have been placed in the fridge, there is still room for some drinks! Buying your water off property and storing a few personal bottles in your fridge at a time is definitely a cheaper option than buying the Dasani bottles in the Parks! Staying in a Value resort with no fridge? You can either rent one for $10/day from the resort or for lower rates from companies such as Ababysbestfriend.com. Depending on how much you plan to eat in your room, renting a fridge may or may not be worth it to you.
If you have that chance to do some grocery shopping before checking into your resort, pick up some snacks for the kids, too. My daughter always needs something to nibble on mid-morning. Bringing a snack pack of animal cookies from your resort is a lot cheaper than being caught in the Parks with no snack and having to pay top prices.
If you don't have a car, consider using the services of a company such as Gardengrocer.com who will deliver your groceries right to your resort. Not having a car when staying on property is definitely another way to save money. While Disney transportation often gets a bad rap - we use the Disney buses every trip and have nothing but pleasant things to say about them!
If you do have a car, however, and plan to eat outside of Disney World for dinners (of course a cheaper option than eating onsite), check out Restaurant.com. You can often purchase gift certificates for many different Orlando restaurants for 70%-80% off. For example, a $25 gift certificate could only cost you $2! A little hint: While you can find a ton of different Orlando-area restaurants on this website, you can also find a few restaurants from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
Next is a pet-peeve of mine. Whenever we vacation at WDW, there are a TON of people wearing "Disney Parks" ponchos during rain storms! Why oh why do people get into a situation where they have to buy the Disney ponchos for approximately $7 each, when they could have planned ahead and bought one for $1 at the dollar store?! Please don't let this be you!
Now, a few points about how to handle the "Can I get this?" question that plagues many parents from their wide-eyed children in the Parks. Things that kids will want from the gift shops: stuffed character toys, t-shirts, light-up rotating toys for nighttime, lanyards and pins, and other little Disney trinkets. If you're looking to stick to your budget this trip, go into the vacation having a plan of how to handle your childrens' pleas for souvenirs. Some parents give their children an allowance to spend on whatever they like, but when the money is gone, it's gone. Another thing you can do is foresee the objects they will ask for and prepare for it in advance.
Head to your local dollar store before the trip. There are usually tons of Disney items there: coloring books, crayons, toys, hair accessories, stickers, etc. Purchase a selection of these and pack them for the trip without your children seeing. Each day give them a new item that you purchased and they will be thrilled! If your children are young enough, they won't notice the difference between the Disney World merchandise and that of the dollar store. I also like to get different kinds of glow toys there, too. Nowadays, you can get glow sticks, glow necklaces and bracelets, and glow wands at the dollar store. When you're waiting for the nighttime parade or fireworks to start and your child starts begging for one of the Disney World light-up toys, pull out the glow toys from the dollar store!
If you're like my family, and like to sport some Disney clothing during your trip, start buying some Disney shirts from your local Walmart or Target when they go on sale, in the months prior. Don't show these to your kids and they will be a nice surprise when they're asking for a Mickey shirt from one of Disney's gift shops.
I've also saved a lot of money buying Disney lanyards and pins on eBay before my trip. I've also gotten a stroller fan from eBay. Sure, it doesn't have the decorative Mickey ears, but it does the job, right?
That's all that I can think of at the moment. I guess if you wanted to sum up what I've been trying to say, it would be: if you can adequately prepare for the items that you will need or want, and for the situations that will arise, you can save yourself some money! Make a list of these when preparing for your trip. If your memory is like mine, it will help a ton! :)
(photo from financialimbalance.com)