VIAGGI – FAMILY VACATION
Many consider a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. to be a rite of passage for Americans, a vacation every family must take at least once. But let’s face it, the place ain’t cheap. I have been visiting Disney fairly regularly since I was 5 years old, and the price has gone up significantly every.single.year. Some budget friendly sites have suggested you’re getting a good deal if it winds up costing around $870 per night per family member. Yikes!
Indeed, many a Disney blogger has argued that most Americans are being priced out of the place these days. That is all the more reason to try and find ways to make such a dream vacation more affordable. If nothing else, it makes you feel less guilty about even dreaming of a trip to the House of Mouse. You already know Here are a few ways to save money at Disney World (besides the usual tips, such as asking for free water at the fast food stands at the parks rather than buying bottles):
- Ask the Mouse himself what he can do for you. Ok, so haggling with Mickey – even the one above with the cape – isn’t going to make a difference. What I mean is that you should start your vacation search at the Disney site itself. Check out the offers and discounts. For example, there is always a discount for military families. You can sometimes find a discount on accommodations. Disney’s free dining offer has become the stuff of legend. Even if you have already booked a vacation with the Mouse, you can call up and ask to retroactively implement a new discount as long as it covers the dates you will be on site.
- Travel during Disney’s off season. This is a no-brainer that you’ve probably already thought of. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for everyone. But if you could head to Disney World in September, when all the kids are back in school, or right after the holidays in mid January, you will find fewer crowds and lower prices.
- Consider staying off property. This one has its pros and cons. Staying on property allows you to get into parks earlier or stay later and comes with free transportation between parks, Disney Springs, and Disney resorts. It also prevents you from participating in the Disney Dining plan. But the cost of accommodations off property can be significantly lower. Some of those hotels cost less and offer more perks. There are even some in-between options, such as the Swan and Dolphin hotels, which sit on property (right outside of EPCOT and within walking distance of Hollywood Studios) but are not Disney owned. These accommodations allow you to use points if you have them, too.
- Rent DVC points. The Disney Vacation Club is the company’s timeshare program. Essentially, those who buy into the program have points that allow them to get time in a Disney property (with a kitchen or kitchenette) every year. When they can’t use the points themselves, they can expire. Instead, many of them prefer to rent those points. Now, you can do this on your own via forums and posts, such as those on Craigslist. But it’s more likely you’ll be taken advantage of or even duped all together that way. Your best bet is to do this through a points rental service, such as DVC Rental Store. These are legitimate businesses that provide vetting and some safeguards. The prices are great. You can stay in a luxury Disney hotel, such as The Polynesian at the same price or near the same price as one of your moderate options.
- Consider value properties. If renting points seems too risky and staying off property isn’t your cup of tea, then you can look at the cheaper Disney options. You can find value resort accommodations at $60-something per night during some times of year. And the theming is fantastic for kids. The All Star Movies, for instance, features oversized Dalmatians of 101 Dalmatians fame and the All Star Sports has giant fuseball players and bowling pins, perfect for photo ops.
- Do Disney Dining. Disney Dining is a great option for families because it allows them to have character breakfasts and sit-down meals at some of the nicest restaurants on site at a fraction of the cost. During certain times of year, you can get free dining for your entire stay (with reservations at participating Disney resorts).
- Don’t do Disney Dining. Disney Dining is great for some families, who want to eat on property all the time and experience character meals and the like. But you can also eat off property or have groceries delivered to your room (an especially popular option for those staying in one of the DVC villas with a kitchen). These options can be significantly cheaper than paying for food at the overpriced Disney properties. It all depends on your priorities and how you want to spend your budget.
- Avoid souvenir shops. Many bloggers have suggested buying dollar store or Disney Store souvenirs ahead of the trip and offer them up to your kids when the desire strikes. Obviously, this is cheaper than buying stuff at the resorts or parks. But you know what’s even cheaper? Not buying anything at all. When my husband and I are looking to spend less, we go out of our way not to pass the stores or kind of cover them with our bodies and distract our son as we pass them if it’s unavoidable. Often, we might give our son one toy (from one of those discount options) on the plane on our way to the trip or on our first day at the park. And that’s it. It’s all right to say no to your kids. After all, you are giving them a trip to Disney.
- Don’t go to the parks everyday. With four theme parks, Disney has a lot to offer. Some people are obsessed with getting on every ride and spending every minute of their trip at the parks. But you don’t have to. Disney provides so many other activities that you don’t have to go to the parks and you’ll still have plenty to do. For a 7-day trip, you could spend a little less by going to the parks five days and being free on the other two days. There’s plenty for you to do. There’s mini golf (which costs you but is nowhere near the price of a day in the parks), strolling Disney Springs (which is free unless you choose to shop or eat), resort hopping (totally free), going in your resort’s pool, or taking in sites off Disney property (which may cost you but is most likely cheaper anyway).
- Get a Disney Visa Chase credit card. Approval for one of these babies can help you. You get 2 percent back on grocery and gas purchases and 1 percent on all the rest. Of course, you get perks, such as a discount on purchases of $50 or more at the Disney Store. And the points can be used for air travel anywhere or directly toward your Disney vacation. I used my points to pay for our flights in early 2016.