Want to take the kids to the Walt Disney World Resort, but don't want to break the budget? With a little planning it can be done: here are ten ways to save money on a Disney vacation.
1. Stay at a resort or vacation home off Disney property. There are decent hotel rooms available for a fraction of the price of a Disney owned room. If you have a larger family (more than four people), the savings are even greater. You can get a vacation home with a private pool for a week for less then you would pay for a room at a Disney Deluxe resort.
2. Watch for Disney Promotions. If you decide you really want to stay in a Disney resort, scour the Internet for deals. Disney is almost always running some sort of discount, but they won't offer it to you on the phone--you have to know what to ask for. Websites like www.mousesavers.com will list any current Disney promotions and tell you what code to ask for. Disney is also known to send out special promotions via postcard and email. In that case, you'll need have the code given on the postcard or in the email. How do you get them to send you one? It's a mystery, but signing up to receive one of their vacation planning videos and registering at www.disneyworld.com will help.
3. Purchase a dining package. Disney offers dining packages to guests staying at their resorts. These packages have to be booked in advance and you can save 30% or more on your dining if you buy one of these plans. Essentially the dining plan is a pre-paid meal plan allowing you one sit- down meal, one fast-food meal and one snack per day for a set price.
4. Travel during the "off" season. Disney resort and dining prices fluctuate depending on what time of year it is; the same trip over Christmas week will cost you a whole lot less the first week of December. Check a good crowd calander to make sure you are going during a time that is less expensive and less crowded. Choosing when to go is a big part of your trip!
5. Use Magical Express. If you are staying at a Disney resort you have access to Magical Express, a free transport from the airport and back. This will save you on renting a car or hiring a limo to transport you.
6. Plan to eat meals outside the Theme parks. Plan to eat at least one meal a day in your room, breakfast probably being the most obvious. Most hotel rooms come with an in-room fridge (make sure of this in advance if you aren't staying in a Disney resort; all Disney resorts have a fridge in them) You can stock it with milk, yogurt, fruit, water or drinks. Add a loaf of bread, some peanut butter, cereal and breakfast pastries and you will save a good bit of money. If you are staying off Disney property you also have access to all the fast food restaurants and buffets in Orlando, which are significantly cheaper then Disney restaurants in many cases. This is another expense category where renting a vacation home has an advantage--a kitchen. With a kitchen you would be able to eliminate a lot of your eating-out expense; however, you also have to look at how much time you are spending driving back and forth to your room from the parks.
7. Flash your Military ID. If you are an active or retired member of the military, there are lots of discounts available to you. To start with, there is Shades of Green resort, a resort on Disney property only for the military; it is a really nice resort, and the prices are even nicer. You are also eligible to get discounts on other Disney resorts and on tickets.
8. Join AAA. There are several ways to save at Disney if you are a member of AAA. You can save on your room and on your admission tickets. The only downside to this is that you have to book through a AAA travel agent and they aren't always well-versed in all things Disney--in other words, they may not be able to get you the best deal because they just don't know where to look.
9. Make dining reservations. If you make reservations in advance, you can check out the menus, know where you want to eat and what you want to spend. Without reservations, you will be eating where ever there is room.
10. Save on airfare. All of the carriers that fly in and out of Orlando airport offer decent rates if you do a little research and plan far enough ahead. Be aware that Southwest Airlines does fly to Orlando, but fares for Southwest flights will not show up on any of the discount travel websites, you will need to go directly to Southwest's website to check rates.
For more information on planning your Disney Vacation check out these Factoidz:
Planning Your Disney Trip Part 1
Planning Your Disney Trip Part 2
Planning Your Disney Trip Part 3
Planning An Adults Only Trip