Disney Insider: Tips for stretching your vacation dollars

24 Jan

Disney's Magical Express

Any guest staying at a Disney resort can hitch a free ride from the airport on Disney’s Magical Express. Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney World

by Jill Cooper

Even in tough economic times, families still want to enjoy vacations together. In fact, that all-important, unplugged bonding time among parents and their kids is more vital than ever. But it’s even more crucial to stretch those hard-earned vacation dollars. Here are some easy and effective money-saving tips I’ve discovered over 35 years of visiting  Walt Disney World Resort.

  • When possible, visit the most magical place on earth during value season. These are months (like September, October and February) when most American school children are back in the classroom. That means shorter lines to attractions, less expensive resort rooms, and enticing promotions (like the occasional free dining offer) for you!
  • Slash your transportation budget by signing up for Disney’s Magical Express. Any guest staying at a Disney resort is welcome to take advantage of this comfortable and complimentary luxury motor coach service from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World. Disney’s Magical Express, coupled with the plentiful free transportation options throughout Walt Disney World, make a rental car unnecessary during my stays in Orlando.
  • During your week at Disney, eat a few breakfasts before you leave your hotel room. Because my family is excited to enter the parks at opening time, we appreciate quick breakfasts. We keep bagels or milk and cereal in our room so that we can have a quick and inexpensive meal to start most days.
  • Character dining experiences are a must, especially for first-time visitors to Walt Disney World. Did you know if you are paying out-of-pocket for your meals you can save $15-$20 per person if you dine with Mickey and friends over breakfast instead of dinner? Don’t forget to call (407) WDW-DINE up to 180 days in advance of your visit to make reservations for these popular meals. (When you book your Walt Disney World vacation through Orbitz, consider adding the Disney Dining Plan to your vacation package. That’s a fabulous way to control your food budget!)
  • If you happen to be traveling with an aspiring young princess, purchase her royal ensemble before you visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Authentic Disney princess garb can be found at reduced prices at disneystore.com. Buying the dresses at home before you depart for Orlando will save big bucks. Similarly, pick up inexpensive glow sticks or light-up toys at a bargain store before you leave for vacation. Then present them to your young children just before the fireworks or nighttime parades when more expensive ones are being sold along the parade route.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle into the parks with you each day. You’ll save $2-$3 dollars every time you fill up at a water fountain instead of purchasing a new one from a cart or kiosk. At quick service restaurants, Cast Members will gladly give you a free cup of ice if you ask.
  • Agree on a souvenir budget before you go. Help your kids understand there are countless cool things to buy as mementos of your trip, so they’ll have to think carefully about where they want to spend their Disney dollars. Agreeing on a budget in advance will decrease the incidents of impulse buys.

Who says that Walt Disney World has to be expensive? Plan ahead and follow these tips to enjoy the magic at a reasonable cost.


Disney Insider: Tips for stretching your vacation dollars ,


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