Last week, my beautiful family and I took a week long vacation at Disneyworld in Orlando, FL. What’s crazy is, we never once pulled out the credit card while we were there, and even came back with money left over. And we had a BLAST!!!
Oh my goodness, Disney world is so much fun! You can nay-say it all you want but Disney is the ultimate place to take your kids ( or leave them behind if you want!). The place has everything you could ever want and there is something for everyone! The service is always top-notch and the experience is one to be remembered for a lifetime.
What Disney isn’t is cheap.
There is nothing cheap about Disney. We actually had a game of who could find the cheapest thing at Disney. My son won. It was a plastic keychain for $2. That’s cheaper than a bottle of water which is $2.50.
If you plan it right, though, Disney can be done without breaking the bank and without a lot of compromises. Here is the breakdown for us ( note: we are not professional Disney travelers. Everyone is different. This is what worked for us and our budget):
- For EVERYTHING ( gas, room, tickets, mouse ears, date night, etc.) we spent about $3600 – yes that’s a lot of money. Could we have vacationed somewhere else for cheaper? Sure. But it wouldn’t be Disney.
- September is THE time to go. We showed up on Labor Day and stayed all week. We didn’t wait for anything (rides, food, buses) until that Saturday.
- Fall is also the time for the FREE Dining Plan promotion with Disney. Do it!! Take it!!! Meals at Disney are insane. A hot dog lunch for 4 will cost you $65 and dinner is over $100. Could you pack a meal? Sure you could, but do you really want to? Trust me, carrying a 40 pound backpack around all day is no joke. Get the free meal plan and save yourself the back ache.
- If you live less than 12 hours away…drive. Unless you can find a crazy cheap air flight deal. We spent $300 on gas. Airfare would have been $1200.
- Plan. Plan. Plan. Get on the Disney Mom’s blog, check out Disney Diva’s, read a book or two and plan your days out! Not in minute detail but certainly which park you are going to be in and any dining reservations you have. Make a spreadsheet! I mean it. Excel is your friend for Disney planning. FYI – Book your ADR’s ( advanced dining reservations) ASAP! And make sure to get the Fantasmic package too. Even if you don’t go to the show, you get extra stuff on your meal reservation and it’s only one credit.
- Probably the #1 thing that saved us from kid meltdowns was the allowance. My aunt ( thanks Aunt Barb!) Gave the kids’ their birthday money early. $75 each. And that is what they had to spend at Disney. No more. No less. We bought them t-shirts/hats, but any toys/crap was on them. It made shopping much easier. The “I wants” were none-existent. Thank goodness.
- The #2 thing that saved us from kid meltdowns ( and Mommy meltdowns) were naps. I don’t care how old you are take a freaking nap. Right after lunch it is really hot in Florida and the AC in your room is a great way to kill some time and recharge for the upcoming evening.
- FASTPASS is a glorious thing. Study it then use it, but only for the big rides like Everest or Toy Story Mania. Not 3D movies or musicals, they have lots of seating so dont fastpass those. Also, the Single Rider Line for the big rides are THE way to go. That’s how the hubby and I rode Expedition Everest several times. Someone stayed with the kids and someone rode the ride and then we swapped. The wait to ride was zilch.
- Only use CASH! We did Disney Dave Ramsey style and gave ourselves a cash budget everyday ( Usually $100). We didn’t use our room keys to charge anything to the room, we didn’t use our debit card to buy anything. It was cash only! And it worked great! We even came back with a little cash in our pockets.
That was pretty much our Disney plan to make our Disney vacation more affordable and much more fun. We hope to do it again in a few years when the kids are about 10 so that they can really get into riding all the rides. Not to mention that gives us plenty of time to save up!