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This past February, the Mister and I took our boys for their first official trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. Now, I say “official” because we actually used to live nearby and Big Dude last went to WDW when he was 18 months old, but I’m not counting that. Anyways, you probably know that family vacations can be crazy expensive and, as much fun as they can be, it can be a bit unnerving that a week away (or less!) could cost as much as (or….MORE) than a mortgage payment. Right?! That being said, a trip to Walt Disney World is seriously magical. We got to go for 8 nights and had the time of our lives. 9 months later, my boys still talk about it pretty much every day and BEG to go back. Not gonna lie, I want to go back, too! Disney Budget Save Mom Family Vacation Caffeine & Fist Bumps Caffeine and Fist Bumps money travel gift card bjs pop century orlando
Since I love a good deal, when we booked our trip to WDW, I knew I was going to have to find some ways to save some money. Every little bit of savings makes me happy because that means that I could put that money towards something else amazing. Here are a few things that helped our family to save some money during our vacation to Walt Disney World: orlando
Pay for your Trip with Gift Cards
In my area, BJs Wholesale Club sells Disney Gift Cards at a discount. Buying these gift cards will usually save you about 5% depending on the quantity you buy and depending on if they’re running any additional sales. Now, to make it even easier, you’re able to combine all the gift cards you purchase on this Disney Gift Card website. Basically, by entering in individual gift card codes, it turns all the gift cards into one big card (not an actual card, but just a card number) up to $1,000. It totally came in handy when it came time to submit our final payments! orlando
Now, not only did we pay for our hotel stay with gift cards, but we also paid for our meals and souvenirs with gift cards. If you stay on property, you’ll automatically get a Magic Band (they are also available for purchase if you are staying off property or would prefer a specific design). This magic band can be used to book your fast passes, pay for meals, keep track of your on-property photos, pay for souvenirs…they make your vacation so convenient! You can link a credit card to the Magic Band, but, if you are staying on property, you can have the front desk use a gift card to pay off your balance. SCORE! Make sure to check with your front desk upon check-in so that you are aware of the daily limits and such.
Those Magic Bands can be used at Disney Springs, too! If you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate the value in that because, at Disney Springs, in addition to having a bunch of Disney-themed stores, they also have some of my other favorites like Alex and Ani, Coach, and Sephora. You know that that means?? The discount you got when you purchased your gift cards get carried over to savings at those stores!! Disney Springs is actually where my recent obsession with Alex and Ani began (I know, I know…I’m late to the game).
My boys are big into dinosaurs these days, so we HAD to take a walk over to the T-REX restaurant. Did you know that they have a special store, called Build-A-Dino, inside for visitors to make their own stuffed dinosaur. Did you know that the store is owned by Build-A-Bear?!? If not, you know now!! Costco sells discounted Build-A-Bear gift cards on their website! And that the Disney Springs location accepts Build-A-Bear gift cards for Build-A-Dino. ANOTHER SCORE! Right now, you can purchase $100 worth of gift cards for $79.99. If you have some time, keep an eye on the website because we bought them on sale for around $65 I believe. If you are not a member of Costco, that’s ok because you do not need to be a member to purchase their gift cards.
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Bring Food & Drinks from Home
Now, we DID eat a decent bit of food while on property, but there are some major savings up for grabs if you’re able to bring some things from home. Breakfast, for instance, we always ate in the hotel room. Not only did this save money, but it also saved time because we didn’t have to spend another portion of our day waiting in lines to get our food. Our hotel room at Pop Century came equipped with a coffee maker, a mini-fridge, and a microwave. Now, I feel like these are pretty standard hotel appliances, but I do still recommend checking with your hotel room beforehand. For breakfast, we brought packets of instant oatmeal and granola bars. We ran water through the coffee maker and made the oatmeal with the cups and plasticware that was in the room. For coffee, we brought travel mugs and bought little packets of instant coffee from Trader Joes. Instant coffee is, in my opinion, usually pretty gross, but we really liked these little packets! They even came with creamer and sugar, so we didn’t have to worry about bringing or buying those. If you do not have a Trader Joe’s nearby, they do sell the packets on Amazon (https://amzn.to/2SUajXa), but they’re more expensive than in store. We each used 2-3 packets per travel mug to make our coffee each morning.
As for snacks, we did splurge for the occasional Mickey Bar and Dole Whip, but we also brought individual packets of fruit snacks, granola bars, and such in our backpack. Doing this saved SO much money since a quick snack for a family of four could be upwards of $15 depending on what snacks are chosen. Consider 2 snacks a day during a 5 day vacation…that’s at least $150 saved just by bringing a few boxes of snack foods from home. Disney Budget Save Mom Family Vacation Caffeine & Fist Bumps Caffeine and Fist Bumps money travel gift card bjs pop century
Now, I am TOTALLY not suggesting you bring bottles of water with you. The TSA would not
appreciate allow that and your luggage would be insanely heavy. Instead, once you arrive, either have a grocery delivery service deliver a few cases of water to your room or just fill up a refillable water bottle with water from a tap (ask any Disney location with beverages for water for free). As necessary and refreshing as water is, you know you’re going to want something other than water to drink. If you don’t want something else to drink, your kids or your spouse/friend/parent/whoever you’re traveling with will want something else.
We brought a bunch of those little bottles of flavor liquids (technical term, right?) and individual drink powders to flavor our water instead of paying out the wazoo (another technical term) for juices or soda. These Stur Natural Water Enhancers (https://amzn.to/2OExC3R) are all delicious. I also love the Aldi Fit & Active water enhancers. This Strawberry Watermelon flavor is my absolute favorite. Disney Budget Save Mom Family Vacation Caffeine & Fist Bumps Caffeine and Fist Bumps money travel gift card bjs pop century
Stay on Property
I’m sure this is certainly on a case-by-case scenario, but I definitely feel that staying on property while at Walt Disney World did save us both money & time. After going to Disney almost yearly since age 7 and even living 30 minutes from Disney, this was my first time actually staying on property and, when we plan our next vacation (I’m already in the beginning stages!), we will definitely be staying on property. We stayed at Pop Century, which is a Value Resort Hotel on Disney property. Currently, rooms start at $99/night depending on the season. I dream of staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or Polynesian Village Resort one day, but the Pop Century worked out perfectly for us for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is their food court! There were some nights when I didn’t make a reservation for dinner, so we would eat at the food court where we could get a pretty decent pizza, enough to feed all four of us, for something crazy like $15! Now, it wasn’t any New Jersey Pizza (mmmmmm Johnny’s), but it did the job and filled bellies without complaints from the dudes.
Here are just a few perks of staying on property
- no need to spend $25/day for parking your car at one of the parks each day
- no need to rent a car because there is free transportation to the parks and Disney Springs from the resorts (Pop Century even has it’s own bus so you wouldn’t have to stop at other resorts to pick up passengers on the way to a park!). You can even ride the MAGICAL EXPRESS to and from the airport!
- purchases made in the parks can be sent back to your hotel room instead of having to carry them all.day.long.
- ability to reserve Fast Passes 60 days in advance of your arrival instead of 30 days ahead if staying off property
- complimentary Magic Bands – like I said previously, they are invaluable for planning fast passes, meal reservations, paying for souvenirs & meals…
- more time to spend in the parks with Extra Magic Hours
- a little extra Disney magic for your entire stay! Disney Budget Save Mom Family Vacation Caffeine & Fist Bumps Caffeine and Fist Bumps money travel gift card bjs pop century orlando
There are plenty of other ways to save (Check out my Ebates article!), but these are some pretty easy things you can do to save a few bucks while still having a totally magical vacation!
How have you saved when planning a Walt Disney World vacation? I’m always game for new ways to save! Let us know in the comments!