Go ‘Under the Sea’ with …
Disneyland and Disney World hold the gold star for dream family vacations. Even adults like the Websters who just celebrated their thirty-sixth wedding anniversary find the Land and World of “The Mouse” magical! But magic isn’t cheap these days, and while the smiling faces of your darling children are priceless, we all know that the bank isn’t going to be amused by their pictures if you can’t pay the mortgage.
But fortunately, you can budget for a Disney vacation. With some time, some preparation, and a few happy thoughts, you can make it to Disney.
The earlier you know you are going to Disney, the better. You can start setting money aside each month to meet the costs. To get started, answer these questions:
After you answer these questions, tally the total. Aim for the high end on how much you will spend and the low end for what you have in the budget. Do not take into consideration any discounts you may be getting. That comes later. When budgeting for a vacation, it is always better to overestimate how much you will spend than underestimate and be caught in a financial jam.
Now subtract the difference between what you will spend and what you have. This is how much you are going to need to earn or cut from the price to make your Disney vacation a reality.
Discounts are available all over the web. Both Disneyland and Disneyworld offer all-inclusive packages that include meals, transportation, and the like, but beware of these packages. Sometimes they include features you don’t need, and often times, these packages do not take into consideration other discounts you could have gotten by doing the legwork on your own.
Start researching these areas for discounts:
Generally, the farther away you are from the attraction the less expensive the hotel will be comparatively. Hotels right alongside Disney are probably going to cost more than those twenty minutes away. But don’t write off the nearby hotels. Some of them may be running specials as well.
Depending on the length of your stay, an extended stay hotel or motel that offers a kitchen suite may be another viable option. The luxuries are not as great as with a four or five star hotel, but you have the option then of cooking your own meals, which can save you a good bit more money.
But remember that hotels are not your only option. Campgrounds, while less luxurious, cost less and can be just as much or more fun. Find out whether your family is in a rustic mood or whether they will cope just to go on this vacation. This move can slash your lodging budget by more than half. Do, however, make sure to check what all the campground does and does not include.
There’s no way to completely estimate how much gas is going to cost when you head out on your dream vacation. Purchasing plane tickets in advance though locks the price in. Research what is available. Decide if you will fly or drive.
Cathy Parkinson, a travel agent, recommends purchasing your tickets on a Tuesday afternoon. Early flights, like the ones that leave the gate around 6 in the morning, are cheaper than day flights. The Airlines Reporting Corporation reported in their study that purchasing tickets at least six weeks in advance was more likely to result in a discounted rate.
If you fly though, you will need transportation to and from Disney. Disney offers shuttles at various points, so check to see how close you are. Otherwise, you will need a taxi or a rental car. Rental car deals can be found by checking out the individual websites. If you are planning on purchasing groceries to make breakfast and dinner, the rental car can help save you money unless you choose to take public transportation.
If you choose to drive, calculate gas prices as being at least .50 to $1.00 per gallon over what they are in your area. Gas prices tend to rise during heavy travel times, and gas prices in heavily settled cities are generally higher than in other areas.
The tickets themselves are one of the “biggest ticket items”, but Disney runs specials throughout the year. For instance, if you go during the off season, you will save a significant amount. In other words, a February trip is going to cost less than a June trip. Watch the websites and sign up for the Disney newsletters to learn about specials they are offering.
Scrutinize the packages you want. Consider the amount of time you have at Disney and what you can do and what you want to do. Don’t just buy the whole package because it looks like it gives you the best deal. It is only a good deal if you use everything in the package, and you may not want to do everything it offers or even have time for it.
Unfortunately, we don’t live on magic alone, and so you will have to plan ahead for your meals. While coupons and specials won’t start coming up more than two months in advance, you can decide ahead of time whether you will be packing lunches and making dinner or eating out. The choice is yours. You cannot bring food into the parks, but you can leave the park to have a quick lunch outside.
This choice will also affect the lodging you take and preparations you will need to make when you reach your lodgings.
Also, Disney does offer various dining plans that can be a good cost saver for families with kids in particular. You will want to weigh the cost against what you estimate you would spend in cash though, to make sure you’re really saving money.
Check to see if your employer, credit card company, or bank receives any discounts for Disney for employees and members. Also check to see if you have any credit card points that you can cash in for your vacation. Memberships such as AAA also sometimes offer discounts.
Florida residents can receive substantial discounts on park tickets when purchasing seasonal or annual passes, which also include a monthly payment plan. If you plan on visiting Disney World more than two or three times within a year, this may be a good option for you.
Disney offers a lot of convenience, but that convenience usually comes at a price.
Disney offers a Photo Pass, which it admits is a “memory saver” instead of a “money saver.” By bringing your own camera and a good fitting lanyard, you can take your own pictures without the extra cost, which is sometimes included in certain packages.
Markup on toys, books, and shirts in the gift shop are fairly remarkable. Miranda Fred, a financial advisor, reminds consumers that these markups can be as high as 30% – 50%, depending on the item.
Remember that while these toys might look absolutely adorable, we can all keep living without them. If you have young children, make a compromise. Tell them that they can pick out a souvenir from another store. Or if you want to incorporate a money lesson in it, tell them that they can have $15 or whatever amount you decide on. They can either spend it on souvenirs at Disney or elsewhere. This way your children learn a valuable lesson on budgeting and spending as well.
Pack Snacks and Water in the Car
While you may not be allowed to bring food and beverages into the park, you can pack a cooler and keep it in your car. This way, if you are hungry or thirsty, you and your family can leave the park and get some much needed refreshment without breaking the bank.
Print coupons before leaving
While some coupons will not go live until closer to your vacation date, start looking for them as soon as possible. These coupons may extend to food, current lodging, rental car packages and more. Don’t count on these discounts though. Since you won’t know what they are until they go live, you should not rely on them.
Purchase one or two large drinks in the park or just use the water fountains
If you can’t make it back to the car in time, purchase a large plastic refillable cup and share it. While the cup itself may be pricey, it is still cheaper than purchasing individual cups. Another option is to use the water fountains, which are, of course, included in the price of admission.