If there is one vacation that I can always count on for a good time – it’s Disney World. Yep, you heard me. This 22 year old girl loves her self some Disney. I try to make it to Disney at least once or twice a year. (Hoping to get the annual pass and make that once or twice a month *hint hint boyfriend*) Now for those of you that have been to Disney and share my excitement, let me ask you this.
What’s your biggest complaint about Disney world?
Jeez. Jeez. You didn’t have to yell. Yes, I know… It is SO DARN EXPENSIVE.
Want breakfast before your day at the park? (Ka Ching $) Thirsty, just want a bottle of water? (That’ll be $3 please) Hungry? (Here’s an average sized pretzel for $10, anything else Ma’am?) You get the jist. As amazing, magical, and fun Disney World is – it is just too darn expensive. (Hence why I can only afford to go once/twice a year)
Well fret no more! When going to Disney this past April I was not going to let it cost us an arm and a leg. My boyfriend, René, and I have been in our own place since December so we really try to watch what we spend so we can $AVE $AVE $AVE. Also, this was a birthday present for René so I wanted to make sure it was something I could afford to give him. I did some research and price hunting and man did we save a ton! I will share all the details with you below in the order of what hacks saved us the most moola!
*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase from one of these links I will be compensated; however, all opinions are entirely my own.*
HOTEL – Priceline Express Deal Hack
If there is one thing that’s important to me, it’s staying in a nice hotel. I feel like when your on vacation, it should feel like a true getaway – not one where you’re afraid to get under the covers or step in the shower. (Yes, I’ve definitely been there before) So the first thing I do when beginning to plan a vacation? Find and book the perfect hotel. This is difficult when trying to keep on a budget considering most decent hotel rooms cost at least $150-200 per night. PER. NIGHT.
That just seemed crazy to me spending $500 on the hotel alone – before any of the fun stuff. (Park tickets, yummy food, shopping, etc.) Especially considering we wouldn’t even be able to enjoy the hotel because we would be gone all day. $500 just for a place to plop our heads?! No way. So I started digging – and then I stumbled upon the most magical tool of them all.
Priceline. Express Deal. Yassss. (No that’s not an ad above it’s a snap shot of what the Express Deal looks like!) So Priceline.com has the coolest feature. When searching for a hotel – something will come up that says “Express Deal”. It will show you the star rating of the hotel, the approximate location of the hotel, some of the hotels amenities, and any taxes and fees you will have to pay. It DOES NOT show you the hotel name. The only way they are able to give such steep discounts is if no one knows the identity of the hotel. (This considering no one would book that hotel at the regular rate if they could pay 1/2 that price!) Once you book they will immediately send you an email telling you your hotel name.
Now I know that sounds scary, booking a hotel but not knowing the name. (Especially considering the express deals are non-refundable) Well here is a little hack to ensure you know the exact hotel your booking.
- Pull up two windows.
- In one window select the “Express Deal” that sounds most appealing to you.
- Once you’ve pulled that up use the “Filter” feature on the search page and input the information that the Express Deal page does give you.
- See which hotel matches the description and book!
When I did this it only showed one hotel with all the matching information and after booking it WAS that hotel. I was both excited and relieved because it’s scary booking something and not knowing; however, using this hack gave me a little more assuredness that I was getting a great place. And we did! (I will write a post in the future focusing solely on the Priceline.com hack in better detail)
We paid a measly $86 per night for a 4-star hotel right outside of Disney. (The picture shown above was the gorgeous pool area – it even had a campfire station for S’mores roasting!) It was beautiful, had a nice pool area, pretty rooms, and we even had a balcony! After taxes and resort fees I paid $235.88 for a two night stay. (That’s $235.88 TOTAL) My savings was %53 off what it would of cost me had I booked the room directly. So instead of paying over $500 just for our hotel stay I was able to cut that cost in half!! This was where the biggest cost savings was for me.
Below are pictures of our room and the vanity area – the bathroom (not shown) was plain but clean! It also had a mini-fridge, flat screen tv, and an awesome balcony with a table and chairs. Would definitely go back!
If you are from the Sunshine State, like me, you know that theme park tickets have been increasing every year for basically ever. According to AllEars.Net, when the park opened in 1971 a ticket was a whopping $3.50, granted it was the 70’s but still. Today it costs you just around $107 for a park ticket – and $124 during peak times during the year. (This is about $40 higher than the cost of a ticket just 10 years ago, in 2007). So anyways, you get it. It’s freakin’ expensive. Now you know why big families don’t “just go to Disney World”. $650 before your even in the gate?? No thank you. (Oh, and they aren’t even park hopper tickets. One park/one day)
Well, in hopes of avoiding these price gouging prices here are my cheap park ticket tips.
- AT THE HOTEL
- Often times the hotel concierge will have discounted tickets for a variety of theme parks. This isn’t a good idea if you are an extreme planner as they could end up being sold out. But if you are a go-with-the-flow kind of gal, this is the tip for you!
- COLLEGE STUDENTS
- If you are a college student, chances are you have some sort of ticket office where you can get discounted tickets. (That’s what I did). My tickets ended up being $70 each. So a total savings of around $80. SCORE. (If you know someone in college it is always possible to ask them if they will get the discounted tickets for you. I know TONS of people who have done this.)
- FLORIDA RESIDENTS
- If you are a FL resident, definitely keep a look out. Disney is constantly putting out deals for FL residents for tickets and hotel rooms. They often do this in slow times to increase traffic to the parks. Their best deal is the FL Resident Discover Disney pass which is only $140 for a 3-day/1 park ticket. This is a great deal considering the usual $107 per day price – you also don’t have to use the days consecutively so you can spread out your visit just as long as you use it by the expiration date! For all the FL resident offers click HERE.
- EVERYONE ELSE
- So if you don’t fit into any of the above categories than I suggest you check out this post from Disney Tourist Blog HERE. It is a wealth of information and a lot more advice than I could give you on the subject!
I swear the #1 thing that always costs me the most money is food, it’s an unavoidable expense. (Cuz hey, a girl’s gotta eat!) Well after my last time at Disney I realized how insanely expensive everything cost there. Now if you are going to Epcot, like we did, this one may be a little difficult considering half the reason to go there is the delicious food. But either way – here are my tips on how to save money on the food part of your Disney budget!
- BYOB (Breakfast that is)
- Pack your own breakfast food. Breakfast is often the most inflated meal when on vacation – hotel’s/theme parks know you need it and would pay anything to not be starving. Try packing your own breakfast and this will save you the cost of an entire meal. If you will have a mini fridge in the room try brining Over Night Oats like the one’s I made HERE. These are easy and delicious – they’ll definitely keep you full for a while. (You can prepare them all the day you leave and they will stay good for a few days.) If you don’t have a fridge try bringing some muffins, dry cereal, a good old fashioned pb&j, etc.
- Bring bottled water. (Or refillable water bottles)
- Water cost $3 per bottle at the park and that can add up quick on a hot day. If you don’t feel like lugging those heavy water bottles around, just keep a refillable water bottle in your bag and have the restaurants fill it up for you. If you are worried about space then check out this collapsable water bottle HERE for storing convenience! I also packed our own Red Bull because we knew the cost for a pick-me-up mid day in the park would be rediculousssss.
- Pack your own snacks.
- Snacks are the budget killer – the “can’t say no’s”. When your hunger takes over you can’t help but buy that $9, not even good, pretzel. This is why keeping some snacks in your bag will save you BIG TIME. Pack a few protein bars or if you are pushing a stroller you could even bring a small lunch box with some fruit and veggies. Basically anything that sounds good to you. This will atleast hold you over for the bigger, far more delicious, meals.
- Eat at a sit down restaurant for Lunch instead of Dinner.
- Not only will it be easier to get a table, the menu typically cost 1/4 less for the lunch portion. You still get to enjoy the atmosphere and delicious food – just for a fraction of the price.
SOUVENIRS & COSTUMES
Now if there is one thing we can all agree with it’s that the amount charged for those little rinkey-dink souvenirs is RIDICULOUS. So to alleviate some of that unnecessary cost but still have a fun time for you and your family – here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years.
- Buy your trading pins online before you go to the parks.
- A lot of people like to wear those lanyards with cute pins that they can trade with the Disney cast members. It’s a totally fun thing; however, the cost of getting you (or your child) and new pin at the parks can get outrageous. You can find them for much less HERE. If you still want your child to have the “magic” of getting a pin at Disney – buy it before hand and don’t tell them, then while your in the park give it to them as a surprise!
- Buy your costume accessories online.
- If you are like me, than you like dressing up for the parks even if it’s just a cute pair of mouse ears! Well it’s much cheaper to get these online before you go than in the parks. I got these adorable mouse ears above for a whopping $8 from Amazon. You can check them out HERE. (Comes in a variety of colors besides yellow) I also ordered these Minnie/Mickey Matching Minion shirts from Amazon which you can find HERE. (& Yes I know Minions aren’t Disney – but they sure are cute!!) We got so many compliments from these shirts and they were only $10 each! A way better deal than you would pay for matching shirts at the park.
BRING DON’T BUY
For my last bit of advice, here are a few things that are much MUCH cheaper to bring in than to purchase at the park. Ofcourse you don’t want to carry around a suitcase with you – so prioritize. But all these essentials will price gouge you in the park.
- Disposable Rain Poncho
- Buy a pack of 5 for $10 HERE. (They’ll cost you $9 each in the park… supply & demand)
- Bottled Water (like I said above)
- Bring your own instead of renting for $15 per day (Check out a post all about doing Disney with a Stroller HERE.)
If I could come up with a round about number I think we saved, at the very least, $400 – which is absolutely crazy to me. Had we not used these little hacks we would’ve basically been giving money away – so glad I did my research! (Nothing a little Google, Trust, and Pinterest Dust can’t handle)
Well I hope some of these money saving hacks will help you and your family be able to afford more Magic For Your Money. Disney is a wonderful place but can get very pricey if you don’t know these simple money saving hacks. Feel free to email me/comment if you have any questions (or ideas of something I should add) – I’m not a 100% Disney Expert but I do know how to save some moola!
Have a magical trip!