Today I have a splendid guest blogger, Sarah Deveau from Money Smart Mom. Sarah is the author of two financial guides – Sink or Swim: Get Your Degree Without Drowning in Debt and Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting.
In addition to being a prolific freelance writer (her work has been published in Today’s Parent, Parents Canada, Style at Home as well as most major Canadian daily newspapers) Sarah has contributed to dozens of parenting websites and blogs across Canada. She also appears regularly on radio and television shows such as Breakfast Television.
With summer break just around the corner, she has offered to share her best tips for a frugal Disneyland or Disney World vacation – one of the hotspots for summer travel. Take it away Sarah!
Tips for a Frugal Disneyland or Disney World Vacation
As the author of Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting, people sometimes get the impression that I abhor spending money, and never have any fun. That couldn’t be further from the truth! I like spending money as much as the next person – but only when it’s being spent on something I value and when I feel I’m getting the most bang for my buck.
My childhood didn’t include a Disney trip, so it’s no surprise I leapt at the chance to take my oldest when WestJet had a killer seat sale a few years back. Since then we’ve also visited Disney World, sourcing out the more exciting adventures at the best price.
Here are my top tips for saving money on a Disney trip without sacrificing any of the fun.
• If you’re headed to the Disneyland Resort of Southern California, stay off park. There are dozens of affordable hotels immediately outside the park gates, and some have fantastic low rates that include breakfast.
• If the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is your destination, stay on park. The headache of a car rental or long, busy bus rides will quickly sour your fun if you stay off park. With more than 24 on park hotels to choose from, there are plenty in every price range.
• At Disney World, think twice about buying the Disney Dining Plan. Everyone in your family must be on the plan for each day of your trip. If you have light eaters, don’t want to take a lot of time out from your visit to eat at sit down restaurants, or want to save by buying groceries at a nearby supermarket, the Dining Plan can end up costing you far more than you would have normally spent.
• Speaking of character meals, choose breakfasts over lunch or dinner when possible. They’re often cheaper, and in some cases you’ll get early access to the park and be in a better position to get to the popular rides before those at the gate.
• Buy your park passes online – it’s cheaper than buying them at the gate.
• Stock your room with non-perishable staples from nearby grocery stores and always bring plenty of food into the park with you. The prices on park are high, and frankly, the food isn’t great, so indulging in fast food on park will hurt your wallet and your waistline without being “worth it” calorically or financially.
• Check your receipts – some food establishments will have a coupon for the major souvenir shops on their receipt. The Main Street Bakery receipt always includes a 20% coupon for most of the top Disney park souvenir shops if you shop before noon.
• Bring your own water bottles – you can fill them with ice water for free at most restaurants.
• Pack princess dresses or pirate costumes if your kids plan on having a character meal or makeover – they’ll want to wear them, and you might be tempted to buy a costly costume on site if you’re not prepared with one from home.
• If you’re within a day or two’s drive, consider driving and camping instead of renting a hotel room. Disney World’s Fort Wilderness campground is an incredible facility with plenty of space for the kids to run around and have fun, and significantly less expensive than other on park accommodations.
Finally, don’t discount the help of a good travel agent. Certain travel agents specialize in Disney vacations, and can advise you on the best time to go and where to stay, and can usually match any online price you can find yourself. Their expertise can be invaluable, especially for those families on a tight budget.
One lucky reader will win a $50 Gift Card to The Disney Store! To enter, simply fill the form below with your qualifying entries. Good luck every one!