Saving for your Walt Disney World® Resort Vacation
Have you always dreamed of going to the Walt Disney World® Resort but felt it was out of reach? You are not alone! Let’s face it, it’s not exactly easy to save money these days. After rent or mortgage and all the planned monthly expenses like utilities, groceries and loan payments it seems there is a never ending list of things lined up requiring our hard earned money. Car repairs, doctor visits, birthday parties…we have all been there. While such a magical vacation to the Walt Disney World® Resort can add up, it is an excellent investment in quality family time, creating memories that will last a lifetime. There are many ways to save up for a Walt Disney World® Resort Vacation and ways to keep the costs down once you get there. This entry is for the dreamers who know , where there is a will there is a way! When I am planning a Disney vacation for my own family, we immediately go into saving mode. I want to s t r e t c h my dollars as far as I can, and this requires a bit of an out of the box approach, and I would like to share these tips and suggestions with you:
Let’s start with the easiest- the change jar. When you break a dollar, the change goes in the jar. If you bought something for someone on your bank card and they pay you back in cash, throw it in the change jar. Don’t touch it! It is marked for Disney!! You will be surprised in a year’s time how much that adds up! Make a family project of decorating the jar – it is more fun with the visual reminder of what you are saving up for! Bonus, it can be great fun to have a family night counting and rolling your efforts rather than taking it to the coin kiosks. Everyone can make a prediction and see who is the closest!
Also incredibly easy is buying discounted Disney gift cards. I cannot stress this one enough! The most convenient place to get small denominations with added savings benefits are the grocery stores with fuel perks. At Kroger in my area, gift cards often come with 4x fuel points. For simplicity, this means if you purchase a $25 gift card, you will earn 100 fuel points, which equates to 10 cents off per gallon of gas. To calculate that into savings, let’s say you fill up with 18 gallons, then the actual price paid for the Disney gift card was $23.20 (the points are good up to 35 gallons, so if you fill up 2 cars in the same transaction, that means that gift card was really $21.50). An alternative location to get discounted Disney gift cards is at Sam’s club. Sold is packages of 3 $50 cards, the cost for this set is $142.98, for savings equivalent to $1.17 per $25, so $23.83. By these calculations, Kroger is the slightly better deal overall. If your budget allows, I recommend adding a Disney gift card to each grocery shopping trip. Target will on occasion offer 10% off Target gift cards. You can buy Disney gift cards with your discounted Target gift cards for a savings of 10%. In this scenario, a $25 gift card cost you $22.50. Not bad! If you were to use gift cards to pay $2000 of your trip, you can easily save at minimum $144-200 using this method alone.
Similarly, you can ask for and give Disney gift cards on many occasions. In my house, we have slowly learned to value having more time together in the form of vacations, over having more “stuff”. We used to go overboard on Easter Baskets and Christmas stockings; now, they are simplified. Where there were once oversized stuffed animals that lost their luster in a matter of months, now there are Disney gift cards with a bit of candy and maybe a pack of Shopkins or whatever the latest fad is. Good report cards are rewarded with Disney gift cards. When its birthday time, aunts, uncles and grandparents are asked to give Disney gift cards, and the same for Christmas. If you are blessed with a large family, it can be as good as crowdsourcing! Save some of these gifts towards the cost of the trip and some for your or your child’s spending money while there.
Speaking of not needing a lot of “stuff”, sell your junk. Have a garage sale. I am never surprised at what people will buy, and you always come out a few hundred dollars richer! I tend to do better when I have a sale in the summer in my yard, but there are also sites online to sell things on a more one by one basis. Ebay, Craigslist and Facebook all have ways to sell unwanted items. Put all the profits in that change jar!
For the fiscally sound, I also suggest using a credit card to your benefit. For this to work you HAVE to pay off your balance each month, otherwise the interest charged negates any potential savings. Credit cards can certainly be tricky little devils on a slippery slope, but if are disciplined, you can make them work for you at little or no cost. The key is choosing a card with excellent benefits. Chase Freedom offers up to 5% back on many purchases. We will funnel all our expected monthly expenditures on this card- groceries (including the
aforementioned gift cards), utilities, household purchases, etc and pay it in full when the bill arrives. Another option, Disney Visa offers 2% back, an opening statement credit of $200 AND comes with perks inside the Disney Theme Parks including private character meet and greets and 10% off merchandise purchases of $50 or more. This one does have annual dues of $59, but they also offer a no fee card with lesser, yet still valuable perks. Our family uses both the Chase Freedom and the Disney Visa and work the system to maximize the benefit to us.
Another relatively easy place to save money is by cutting out the small expenses. I know we all want our cake and to eat it too, but sometimes we have to trade off to get what we REALLY want. Do you REALLY need that fancy schmancy cup of coffee on the go? How about a travel mug full of coffee that you could have made at home instead. Resist the smell of French fries in the air, forgo the convenience of fast food and go home to cook a cheaper and perhaps healthier meal. All the while keeping your eye on the prize! When you are out shopping with the kids and they are BEGGING for whatever they think they need, offer to put the equivalent (or percentage of) value in the Disney change jar instead. Stay in more often. Work on a big puzzle, host a game night with friends. Skip the movie theatre and wait for the DVD (maybe even a Disney one to get in the spirit). Stay home and make your own popcorn and enjoy being able to press pause when you need a bathroom break.
Other random suggestions: do you have an installment loan approaching the end? If so, when it’s over, keep paying it- to yourself! You’ve gotten used to your budget without that money, tuck it away for your trip! Revisit your cable bill- how much TV are you really watching these days? Are you Netflixing a lot? Consider downgrading the cable and put the savings towards your vacation.
You may also want to consider driving to Walt Disney World® Resort. It costs us 5 tanks of gas round trip to drive the 16 hours from Wheeling, WV to Orlando, FL in our minivan. We also split the drive, with a hotel stay on the way down and again on the way back. This does require 2 extra days of vacation time to allot for travel, but we enjoy the additional time together and although long, it is really not a bad drive. If you look at a map, Orlando is pretty much a straight shot and right below Wheeling! We have also made the journey straight through with no hotel stop, so it is possible! Overall, depending how many are in your party, this is probably cheaper than flying. Another perk of driving is being able to bring food items with you. Bottled water or soda runs about $3 each in the Parks. That is a considerable savings!
For the most part I will hold off on savings tips within the Walt Disney World® Resort for another entry. But in regards to planning your trip, you can save money by forgoing the dining plan. It is a very nice feature to essentially prepay for your food, but it is A LOT of food and is not a complete necessity to ensure a wonderful vacation. You can still dine at any restaurant without being on the dining plan. When we go, we tend to just do one or two table service meals and we will even split counter service meals as it is often quite enough food for two. You are permitted to bring outside food and beverages into the parks, so packing sandwiches and drinks from your room can be a great savings. Even when Disney World offers free dining, you may be better off accepting the often offered alternate of a room discount. It is also okay to skip the Park Hopper option. Again this is a wonderful little freedom Disney offers, and I personally enjoy it very much. But if you are crunching numbers just to get there, this is a safe place to cut back. There is plenty to fill your vacation by staying at one park each day!
So now that you have got a savings game plan, how do you know how much you need to save? That’s not an easy question to answer in a blog because there are so many factors affecting price. The number of people in your party, along with time of year you will be traveling, resort level and amenities you desire will all change the price. But there is an easy solution! Call UNIGLOBE Ohio Valley Travel at (304) 232-5171 or (800) 825-7314 for a free, no obligation quote! The agents there can guide you into the package that is right for your family needs. When you are ready to book your vacation, they will make that reservation for you. At that time, you have 3 days to pay a $200 deposit on your reservation with the remaining balance being due 30 days before your vacation. So booking farther in advance gives you more time to save! Booking with UNIGLOBE is advantageous to you because you are getting expert guidance for free! UNIGLOBE does not add any fees on top of what you would pay doing all the work and research yourself. In addition, as a UNIGLOBE client, when Walt Disney World® Resort releases new offers, your vacation will be automatically reviewed to see if you qualify for any additional savings. When this should happen, you will be notified by UNIGLOBE. And on top of that, you get to use UNIGLOBE’S Magical Concierge Service (that’s me!) at no additional charge to help plan all the fun, little details of your trip! It is a win-win!
So there you have it! How else do you save for a Walt Disney World® Resort vacation? Let us know in the comments below!