Being fresh off the plane from Walt Disney World, I have some money saving tips for anyone in the midst of planning a trip or anyone who's already there. From subpar food that's overpriced to the park hopper add-on that you might end up not using, I've got some real life experiences to share with you. Given the high cost of Disney World, I hope my suggestions help you save money.
Of course, one frugal option is skipping Disney World altogether and opting for cheaper vacation -- or even a staycation -- instead. But if you have young kids and they love Disney movies and characters, you might decide the splurge is worth the expense. Just be sure that you don't spend even more than you have to with these ideas!
1. Skip the food.
I really wanted to like the food at all the theme parks, even the pricier ones at the World Showcase at Epcot, but the food was on par with hospital cafeteria food. Now the worst part of it all was the price. For three adults and two kids, our average bill was $70. That is way too much money, in my opinion.
Instead of eating at the park, get premade food from a nearby grocery store or even make your own lunch. Also, make sure to take your own water with you because spending $3 on water will make your stomach hurt. Another idea is to pack snacks for quick (and cheap) pick-me-ups as you make your way around the park.
2. Limit your Disney memorabilia.
Of course you're going to want to take some Disney memorabilia home with you, but you'll quickly realize that it comes with a price. Before buying anything, make sure you have a plan, especially if you have children, because everywhere you go, there will be something to be bought.
Some suggestions for keeping costs down include picking your own pearl at the Japan store at Epcot, which is all about the experience and only $15.95 plus tax, or even getting a special tradable collection pin that you can trade with Disney cast members or other guests. If you can tie some sort of experience with a souvenir, it will be that much more memorable than just buying some random thing that will end up at your next yard sale.
3. Take disposable ponchos with you.
Since our vacation happened to land on a rainy week, there were a lot of off and on showers. For the most part, we walked around getting drenched, but we didn't have to. Go to a local Dollar Tree and buy disposable ponchos for $1. The resort that we were staying at also sold them for $2.99. The ponchos at Disney are probably more durable, but they also cost $9. For a family of five, the Disney ponchos would cost $45 versus spending $5 at the dollar store. Of course, another option is just packing the rain jackets you already own.
4. Will you really use the park hopper option?
I added the park hopper option to our base tickets and we didn't park hop at all. It was wasted money for our family. Unless you've already been to the parks and know what you want to experience at each park, I personally think it's a waste. For a newbie, there's so much to see at each park that you probably won't use the park hopper option. Also, with kids, the rain and the humidity, you'll probably want to call it a day after going to one park -- I know we did!
5. Save yourself the $17 in Disney parking.
The first day after a long flight, I decided to pay $17 to park at the theme park lot. While you can go from each theme park lot without repaying the parking fee for the day, since we stayed in one park, it really didn't apply to us. Most non-Disney resorts offer free shuttle to and from the park and all Disney resorts offer free transportation for guests as well. If you like to be on your own schedule without worrying about when the shuttle comes then parking is your only choice, but waiting for the shuttle and going by a schedule wasn't really difficult either.
Susan Yoo-Lee is a mother of two and will be launching her new money-savings blog, Minus the Price, later this year. You can find her on Twitter @SusanYooLee.
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