For most people who don’t live in California or Florida, a trip to Disney is a rare treat. Even if you only do it once a year, or once every few years, a full Disney vacation can be expensive; sometimes prohibitively so.
Thankfully, it is possible to do Disney on a reasonable budget if you’re smart about it — even if you’ve got a large family. Here are some tried and tested tips to help you save money while still enjoying the House of Mouse.
If you don’t mind the great outdoors of rural … Orlando, camping can be a great way to save money on lodging during your stay. Fort Wilderness offers some of the cheapest lodging in the area. This is still a Disney property, so you can take one of the company’s many forms of transportation to and from the parks during your stay. You won’t need to worry about the expensive parking fees at Epcot or Magic Kingdom every day.
Instead of paying anywhere from $100 to $300 a night for a hotel, you can enjoy lodging at Camp Wilderness in an RV or tent for just $55 a night.
Make a Ride Itinerary
Disney has a free Fast Pass+ system that allows you to jump to the front of the line, but it doesn’t work immediately. You have to pick up your fast pass and come back in an hour — or schedule your fast pass trips ahead of time. These passes make it easier to enjoy some of the more popular rides without sitting in line for hours, but they require you to do a bit of planning.
Take some time to set some goals as a family. What do you want to ride each day? This isn’t to say you won’t jump on a different ride if the opportunity presents itself, but having a goal for each day means you spend less time waiting in line and more time enjoying the park and all the amazing things it has to offer.
Bring Your Own Food
The Disney parks have some amazing food from around the world, especially if one of your stops is going to be Epcot in Orlando. The problem is that buying three meals a day for the entire family at theme park prices can easily eat up your entire vacation budget — literally! Don’t starve, but don’t break the bank on snack food, either.
If you’re staying in a hotel or at a campground, make a trip to the grocery store when you arrive and try to eat at your lodgings as often as you can. If possible, restrict yourself to one meal at Disney per day. You’ll still get to partake in some of the tastiest food in the world without emptying your bank account in the process.
Pack Your Rain Gear
If you’re going to Disney World in Orlando, expect rain — especially if you plan to visit between May and October. Thankfully, most rainstorms in the Sunshine State don’t last long. You don’t have to cancel your day on account of rain. Just don’t pay for ponchos at the park — you’ll be paying roughly $10 for a cheap piece of plastic to keep the rain off your head. Instead, bring your own and enjoy the park after everyone else has run for cover or left because of the storm.
Limit the Souvenirs
No one wants to go to a Disney park without coming home with at least one souvenir. Unfortunately, the Disney officials know that, and their trinkets and toys are priced accordingly. Before you arrive, make sure you set some ground rules when it comes to souvenirs. Pay for one piece of memorabilia, up to a certain amount. Anything else children want should come from their own money — and when they spend it all, they don’t get any more.
Mickey and Minnie ears, hats and other wearables tend to be great choices. There is no doubt as to where they came from, and they can be easily worn or stashed in a bag.
Doing Disney on a budget is a great achievement, but don’t sacrifice the most important thing about your trip in favor of saving a few pennies. Have fun! Splurge a little — within reason, of course — and make memories with your family. Disney is the perfect place for that, even if you have to be more careful with your wallet than you might otherwise be.
Photo Credit: HarshLight