Hi Everyone! I’m Nancy and I share information about saving money on Disney vacations at my blog, The Affordable Mouse. Thank you to Kristin for allowing me to provide a Guest Post for you today!
I don’t know about you, but the month or so after the Christmas holidays always has me dreaming about a summer vacation. Maybe it’s the “winter blues”, or the desire that those of us in the “north” have to experience warmth again….whatever the reason, apparently I am not alone in my vacation planning thoughts during this time of year, because March 15-21 is National Vacation Planning Week.
It would appear that thousands of others are also thinking warm thoughts right now, as they start to look into planning a family vacation.
I wonder how many of them, like my family, are dreaming of a Disney vacation.
How many of you are dreaming of a Disney vacation? Raise your hands if you are.
As I thought: that’s a lot of hands! (Don’t worry….my hand is raised too!)
Well then let’s talk today about making your Disney World dreams a reality.
What you need to know is that there are 3 basic keys to making that Disney vacation happen: planning, budgeting, and an open mind. While a vacation to Walt Disney World may seem like nothing more than a dream….it doesn’t have to be, and in fact with planning, budgeting and an open mind, it’s quite possible to have a very affordable Disney vacation. I like to think of it like putting the pieces of a puzzle together to create a beautiful picture. In this case that picture is your dream of a Disney vacation, only with this puzzle there is no right way to put those pieces together! The only right way is the one that makes your dream a reality!
Saving money on Disney vacation is about choices and is some instances, trade-offs: if you want or need to spend more in one area, then work to reduce costs in another. It is possible to do! So if you would like to stop dreaming of Disney World, and get started planning, here are 5 puzzle pieces you need to fit together to make it happen.
Make a budget
Don’t be afraid to do this part…..and do it first. I know it may be a little scary because it forces you to confront reality: you worry that if you do, the dream ends right there, because if the amount you can afford to spend is not a lot, then it automatically rules out a Disney trip. But it doesn’t have to at all. It’s just that having a realistic budget gives you something to start with, which is first piece of the puzzle. If you have a small budget right now, that’s ok: perhaps your Disney vacation will not be this year….but you can still start planning and saving. At least you will have a goal…and we all need goals to work towards. This puzzle piece goes right in the center, and all the others will fit somehow around it.
Choose when you are going as far in advance as possible
It may seem as if this goes without saying, but knowing when you can go has a huge affect on the cost of your vacation: some times of year are simply more expensive than others. Typically holidays and school vacations are the most expensive of all….so if you have any flexibility at all, try to schedule your trip during the cheaper times of year if you can. If you can’t do that, then know that you will be moving other puzzle pieces around this one, in order to make it all work. But no worries, it will all work!
See what Disney promotions are available
When people ask me what is the cheapest way to plan their Disney vacation, I always tell them “it depends”. The thing about this Disney vacation puzzle that we’re putting together is, as I have already said, there is more than one way to put the puzzle together.
There are so many factors that go into planning a Disney vacation that you really need to be prepared to do some comparisons. So get out that trusty calculator, and once you have your budget and know when you will be traveling (or at least the general time of year or month) then start with looking at the promotions that Disney offers for that time. Get a quote. Add in one of the Disney Dining Plans if you think it might work for your family, and compare the costs with paying for your food out of pocket. And look at each of the Dining Plans too, because it may be that a different “level” of plan (Quick Service for example) might be more cost effective than another for your family.
Once you have a good idea of your costs staying on Disney property, then look at off-site options like other hotels, or even renting a vacation condo or home. The common perception is that this is always a cheaper option, and it may be for you, but it may not be, especially if Disney has an attractive promotion that works for your travel dates. Sometimes what you save by staying off-site is negated by the things you have to add in: rental car perhaps, parking, food….. You just won’t know for sure until you run the numbers.
Remember the 3 keys: planning, budgeting, and an open mind? This is where that open mind is crucial. You may “think” you know what will be least expensive, but until you actually run all the numbers, you can’t know for certain. And people are surprised about what is actually cheapest for them all the time!
Consider transportation options and start watching for fares
I always recommend trying to make a decision, at least a tentative one, about your transportation as soon as possible. You don’t necessarily have to book your travel, but having a pretty solid idea of how you are going to get to Disney World….and how much it will cost….is important to know at the beginning, preferably before you book your accommodations or package. This way, you can play with the puzzle pieces a bit more, if necessary until you make them fit with your budget.
Another benefit of doing this early: start watching for ways to save money at the beginning. If you are flying, figure out what your likely carriers are and get on their promotional email list, and/or become Facebook or Twitter fans. Many discounts are given out this way that the general public never knows about. Giving yourself enough time on this part will allow you to jump on a promotion when it becomes available.
Most people who are not getting a package, try to save money on their Disney park tickets, and it is possible to save a little on the actual cost, by using an authorized Disney ticket broker….but it won’t be a huge savings. What may save you more money is having an “open mind” (again!) about the type of ticket that you buy: maybe you save by not getting a Park Hopper, or the Water Parks Fun and More option. Or perhaps you will benefit from a package promotion where “Kids Play Free”, so that you are saving on your ticket costs that way.
This puzzle piece has a little flexibility…but not much. Whatever you do, never buy tickets from eBay or Craigslist: tickets that have been partially used are non-transferrable, and you can’t be sure that there are really ANY days on the tickets at all until you get to the gate. Which is too late to do anything about it.
Saving Money on Food
This is a puzzle piece that you can move around a LOT, as there are many ways that you can save money on your Disney dining. Dining plan options, bringing food with you, eating off-site, cooking/eating in (a benefit of having a condo or house with a kitchen!) are just a few ways that you can potentially make your trip more affordable.
So I hope you can see that it IS possible for your dreams of Disney to come true! Now, start planning, make your budget, and keep an open mind: you will have your puzzle put together in no time!
As Walt Disney himself, was fond of saying: “If you can dream it, you can do it!”