(Note to Readers: The Divine Miss Mommy was invited by Walt Disney Pictures to cover this special event and is covering all travel expenses. We are not otherwise compensated and our opinions remain our own.) ...
7 Money-Saving Tips for Family Vacations at Walt Disney World
When you tell your kids that you're taking them to Disney World, you know their eyes will light up and there could be some screaming and jumping around on furniture as well. As rewarding as this response can be, taking your family to Walt Disney World can be an expensive vacation if you don't plan it well. Take a little extra time before you go to plan ahead and use several or all of these seven tips for Walt Disney World fun on a budget.
Eat Lunch in Your Hotel Room
Many hotel rooms have a small refrigerator, or you you can rent one for around $10 a day. By returning to your room to eat lunch, you can save a substantial amount of money and provide your children with a healthy lunch, rather than the fast food you would likely purchase if you were to eat out in one of the restaurants. Also, by midday, most kids need a break from the constant stimulation of the park. Everyone can rest a bit and return to the park ready to take in more sights.
Look for Discounts and Freebies Online
Because of the recent downturn in the economy, Disney itself has started publicly announcing steep discounts and even freebies when you buy certain packages. Just beware the blackout dates during peak season (July and Holidays).There are other, third party sites that provide links and tips to getting the best possible deals during your stay at Walt Disney World. Another good solution is to buy a discount gift card to do any shopping while at the park. It's a great way to track your expenses and you'll be saving some extra money before you even head to the park.
Buy a Pass to the Park
It may seem like a lot of money to spring for a pass even if you're only staying for a few days, but they save tourists a ton of money. The passes give you access to most areas within the park, where you would have to pay separately if you are paying for each day individually. The Five Day Hopper Pass is a particularly good deal at $228 for anyone over 10 and $190 for kids under 10. A daily pass to the park costs $85, so even if you only stay for three days, it still saves you money.
Don't Buy Souvenirs Until the End of Your Trip
While you're at Walt Disney World, your children will likely want to get every souvenir they see and it's easy to cave in to impulses while on vacation. However, these can become one of the most expensive aspects of your trip if you aren't careful. Tell your family at the beginning of the trip that they will be allowed to get a certain number of trinkets on the last day of your stay, so they can be on the lookout for what they really want. This can also be where the discount gift card you bought online before the trip comes in handy.
Get Breakfast for Free
You're on vacation so of course you'll want to eat out from time to time. Many restaurants around Walt Disney World offers breakfast specials where kids under a certain age eat for free. If you are traveling with a young family, this means you could potentially only pay for one or two meals at breakfast. There are also hotels that offer free continental breakfast with a room, which can be a real money saver for a family traveling on a budget.
Travel Off Season
Unfortunately, prices for lodging at Walt Disney World go through the roof when your kids are out of school, but there are a few times when you may be able to get to the park and not have to take your children out of school to do so. The slower times in the park are late August, September and in January. Consider giving the trip to Disney World as a Christmas gift and then going after the peak travel season, but before your family is due back in classes.
Get Lodging Away from the Park Center
There are hotels within Walt Disney World, such as the Swan & Dolphin Hotels, that are much less expensive than the hotels located in the center of all the action. It may be tempting to book a hotel in nearby everything, but in the end, you will end up spending a lot of money on a place where you will ultimately be spending very little time. Take the time to decide which amenities are important to you (i.e. refrigerator in the room or continental breakfast) and then look for hotels or motels on the outskirts of the park that provide them. There are free shuttles that run around the park that can take you to and from your destination.