Disney World on a Budget

My family loves going to Walt Disney World for vacation. It isn’t the cheapest vacation spot, but there are ways to save on a Disney vacation and still have an awesome experience.

Ideas for planning a trip to disney on a budget. From park tickets to saving in the parks you can have a great Disney vacation without breaking the bank.

Growing up in Orlando, I feel like Walt Disney World has grown up with me and my family has made many awesome memories there over the years.

Over the years we’ve done of variety of different things to save and some have been awesome and some have been total flops! I wanted to share with you some of my favorite ways to save on a Disney family vacation.

11204885_10205533653794943_4823782087593687066_n

Visit Disney during the off season.

This is the best and easiest way to save on a trip to Disney. Spring Break, the summer months, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all busy times at the parks. Not only will the waits be longer on the rides, the hotel, food, and airfare prices go up significantly during the peak seasons.

If you can manage to visit Disney during the slower months you will find great savings on a hotel (in all of Orlando).

You will also get more done at the parks since they won’t be as crowded.

disney_on_a_budget_3

Stay at a Disney resort.

The absolute best place to stay at Disney is Cinderella’s Castle, but since that isn’t something you can book the next best place is a Disney resort. 🙂

It took me a while to believe that staying at a Disney resort was more economical than staying off property, but unless you have family in the area with an extra bedroom, I highly recommend staying at a Disney resort.

Disney has several value resorts (Art of Animation, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies, and Pop Century) which are comparable to other Disney area hotels. These hotels are equipped with mini fridges which which makes eating some meals in your room convenient and less expensive.

There are no microwaves in the room, but there is a microwave you can use at the cafeteria at the value resorts.

So, why pay more to stay on Disney property?

1. Extra Magic Hours:

The Disney parks are open earlier and later on select days for Disney resort guests. This is a great time to ride some of your favorite rides without waiting in long lines.

2. Transportation:

If you are flying into Orlando, you can book a ride on the Magical Express from the Orlando Airport to your resort. This is a free service that drops you right at your resort.

When you are a guest at a Disney resort you also have free transportation via bus, boat, or monorail to the Disney parks. You can also park at the parks for free which is a savings of $17 a day!

Disney on a budget

3. Fast Passes:

Fast passes are available to all Disney ticket holders, however if you have your tickets purchased and your Disney resort room booked you can enjoy first access to reserve a selection of Disney FastPass+ attractions, shows and more up to 60 days before you arrive!

4. Fun resort activities:

All of the Disney resorts offer fun activities like free movies, activities, and games depending on the resort. If you are staying on Disney property, it is easy to bring a child back to the room for a nap or a swim and then go back to the park in the evening when it is cooler.

disney_on_a_budget_2

Skip the Park Hopper Pass.

When you are buying your Disney tickets, consider buying a ticket that does not include the option to switch parks throughout the day. While I think there are many benefits to jumping parks, it is not economical and there is plenty to do at each park for an entire day.

For a 4-day ticket, adding the park hopper option increases the ticket price by $64. For a family of four that is over a $200 increase just to switch parks throughout the day.

Camp at Disney.

10660289_10205551050949861_4488618051958875124_n

Did you know you can camp at Disney and save a ton? Fort Wilderness offers campsites for RV’s and tent campers for significantly less than a Disney resort.

Fort Wilderness offers four types of campsites to accommodate everything from tents to 45-foot and longer RVs, with a maximum of 10 Guests per site. Each campsite is equipped with privacy-enhancing landscaping, water, cable television and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table and a charcoal grill. Most campsites also include a sewer hook-up, and some even permit pets.

Fort Wilderness also has a great pool with a water slide, complimentary transportation to the parks, high speed internet,    and even airport transportation! Campsites start at $69 a night.

Bring your own food.

FullSizeRender (30)

Like any theme park, the food at Disney can be pricey. We usually eat at least one meal in our hotel room and also bring snacks with us into the park.

No hard sided coolers are allowed in the parks, but we’ve never had problem bringing water bottles or snacks in a backpack. Most Disney hotels have a small store that sell milk and other cold products, so even if you are flying you can pack a suitcase full of snacks and buy a few refrigerated staples once you arrive.

If you are driving to Orlando, bring a cooler or stop at the grocery store on your way into town and pick up some meals and snacks for the trip.

You can also use a service called the Garden Grocer which will deliver groceries to your hotel. The prices are higher than a typical grocery store, but less expensive than eating all your meals out.

Character Dine for breakfast.

954665_10205540509246325_9141989450777920221_n

There’s no way around it, character dining is expensive! But if you have your heart set on dining with the characters consider making breakfast reservations to save money. Breakfast is the cheapest option for character dining and you can make reservations for breakfast as late as 10am so it can almost be a brunch for your family for additional savings.

Bring your own water bottle, poncho, stroller, etc.

11140141_10205552393663428_4845714880240564418_n

Disney World is located in Central Florida, which means it will probably rain at some point during your vacation. Florida is known for its afternoon Thunderstorms, especially in the summer.

The good news is that these storms cool the air and usually clear out the parks. Disney sells ponchos at almost every gift shop, but you will save big if you bring your own from home.

Disney also rents single and double strollers for $15 and $31 a day. You can save a little by renting them for multiple days (the price goes down to $13 and $27 per day) but you will save the most by bringing your own stroller to the parks.

There are several local companies in Orlando that rent strollers. They drop them off and pick up at your hotel, for a little less than what Disney charges (especially if you are renting for several days). Google “stroller rental Orlando” to find the companies and compare prices.

Another way to save is to bring your own reusable water bottles with you. Florida is hot and humid and it is easy to get dehydrated! You don’t want to spend your vacation in the ER, so bring your own water bottle and fill it up at the numerous water fountains at the parks and hotels.

Also, a cup of ice water is free at Disney restaurants with your meal, so stay hydrated and save money when you dine.

Buy souvenirs before your trip.

10422578_10205544683950690_3704519298611394115_n

The toys, clothes, and trinkets at stores inside the parks and resorts are expensive. You can find similar items at Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s in your local town. Buy items before you go and give them to the kids while you are visiting the parks.

The kids can still have fun Disney themed merchandise but you will be paying about half the price.

Plan Ahead

While you won’t find tons of discounts on Disney parks and hotels, they are available. If you are a Florida resident or a member of the Armed Forces there are discounts offered throughout the year of up to 40%. Combining off season rates, with a resident discount can add up to big savings.

Just recently Disney ran a dining special, so if you are planning ahead you can take advantage of these deals.

If you are a mega fan consider getting a Disney Visa card.

IMG_3123

A few years ago when we were planning a Disney vacation we stumbled across the Disney Visa from Chase. Now I’m not a big fan of credit cards and have only had one credit card for years. However the Disney card has some cool benefits for Disney fans.

  • Character Meet ‘N’ Greet at our private Cardmember location*
  • 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations at Walt Disney World® Resort, the Disneyland® Resort, Disney’s Beach Resort Destinations and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaiʻi*
  • 10% off select dining locations at Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort.
  • 15% off the non-discounted price of select guided tours and recreation experiences at Walt Disney World® Resort and select guided tours at the Disneyland® Resort*
  • Cardmembers save 10% on select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at Disney Store and DisneyStore.com*
  • Earn 1% in reward dollars on card purchases*
  • Earn an additional 1% in reward dollars on card purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations for a total of 2% in these categories*
  • There’s no limit to the number of reward dollars you can earn

During our recent trip to Disney we saved at almost every place we shopped using our Disney Visa. There are two Disney Visa’s one has no annual fee and the premiere card charges a $49 fee. You’ll need to thoroughly compare the two cards to find what is best for your family.

Explore Central Florida while you are here.

If you have time to get away for a week or more, consider spending three or four days at Disney and then exploring other parts of Central Florida.

IMG_0285

The beach is less than an hour away, there are numerous springs, lakes and rivers to explore, we have a fun downtown area, Legoland, Universal Studios, Sea World, Gatorland, the Space Center, professional sports teams, and tons of free or very cheap activities on the weekend throughout the area.

staycation-image-wide

If you aren’t planning an Orlando vacation this year, there’s still additional ways to save in your local area!

Check out all the staycation ideas for the cities below.

A – D

Phoenix, Arizona — Saving For Someday
Fresno, California — Living A Frugal Life
Orange County, California — More With Less Today
San Diego, California — Southern Cali Saver
Denver, Colorado — Bargain Blessings
Washington, District of Columbia — Kidventurous

F – I

Disney World, Florida — The Happy Housewife
Jacksonville, Florida — Saving The Family Money
Orlando, Florida — Coupon Mamacita
St Augustine, Florida — Simply St. Augustine
Tallahasse, Florida — SwagGrabber
Tampa Bay, Florida — LaToyaEdwards.net
Atlanta, Georgia — Pretty Frugal Diva
Dahlonega, Georgia — Kathys Cluttered Mind
Savannah, Georgia — This Mommy Saves Money
Aurora/Chicago, Illinois — A Savings WOW!
Chicago, Illinois — Entertaining Chicago
Indianapolis, Indiana — Chaos Is Bliss

K – P

Lexington, Kentucky — Homeschool Village
Louisville, Kentucky — The Kennedy Adventures
Northern Kentucky, Kentucky — Simply Sherryl
Carroll County, Maryland — Looking at life CreativLEI
Boston, Massachusetts — Maven of Savin
Battle Creek, Michigan — Pichea Place
Grand Rapids, Michigan — Give Me Neither
Metro Detroit, Michigan — Saving Dollars and Sense
Kansas City Area, Missouri/Kansas — Redefined Mom
Omaha, Nebraska — Family Fun in Omaha
Central, New Jersey — Our Good Life
Cincinnati, Ohio — Adventure Mom
Cleveland, Ohio — Kosher on a Budget
Columbus, Ohio — Cleverly Simple
Dayton, Ohio — Savings Lifestyle
Mansfield & Richland County, Ohio — The Traveling Praters
Miami County, Ohio — Something 2 Offer
Northeast, Ohio — Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring
Portland, Oregon — Frugal Living NW
Harrisburg/Central, PA — Family Balance Sheet
Erie, Pennsylvania — Growing Kids Ministry
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Moms Need To Know
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — The Coupon High

R – W

Arlington, Texas — Grocery Shop For FREE
Fort Worth, Texas — Coupons and Freebies Mom
Houston, Texas — Melissa’s Bargains
Katy, Texas — Moms Confession
San Antonio, Texas — How to Homeschool My Child
Tyler, Texas — iLoveMy5Kids
Charlottesville, Virgina — How to Have it All
Norfolk, Virgina — The Talking Suitcase
Richmond, Virgina — Vacation Maybe
Seattle, Washington — Thrifty NW Mom
Tacoma/South Puget Sound, Washington — Queen Bee Coupons
Oshkosh, Wisconsin — A Little Bit of This and That

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Disney On Ice presents Treasure Trove

I’m headed to Disney On Ice presents Treasure Trove, February 13, 2013 at the Verizon Center and I’d love for you to join me!

Finale

As you all know we are crazy about Disney at my house, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend Disney On Ice presents Treasure Trove.

Disney On Ice presents Treasure Trove features 50 of your favorite Disney characters including Rapunzel, Flynn, Snow White, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell (my personal favorite), Alice, Queen of Hearts, Sebastian, Ariel and of course Mickey and Minnie!

ALICE

Disney On Ice presents Treasure Trove will be at the Verizon Center on the following days:

  • Wednesday, February 13th @ 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, February 14th @ 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, February 15th @ 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 16th @ 10:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 17th @ 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
  • Monday, February 18th @ 12:30 p.m.

You can purchase tickets through Ticketmaster, at the box office, or you can win a family four pack right here!

To enter to win a family four pack of tickets to Disney On Ice presents Treasure Trove leave a comment sharing your favorite Disney character. 

Nitty Gritty Details: This giveaway is for 4 tickets to the Wednesday February 13th performance. Winner must pick up tickets at will call at the Verizon Center.  Giveaway ends January 24, 2013. The Walt Disney Company is neither a sponsor nor endorser of this sweepstakes.

I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Even though I receive these benefits, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Cinderella's Castle Suite: Part 2


Since you all asked for more details on my stay in Cinderella’s castle and I love talking about Cinderella’s castle here are a few more details.

The castle suite is equipped with modern technology but it is hidden from view. It even has wi-fi just in case Cinderella wants to update her Facebook status. 🙂 There is a castle phone and you can call anywhere in the United States for free. We all took turns making calls to our family and friends on the princess phone.

The castle has a fireplace that glows and the back of the fireplace lights up in a pattern. One of the patterns is a hidden Mickey. If you blink you miss it!

The suite itself is on the 3rd floor (I think) of the castle. It consists of three rooms, a bedroom, bathroom and sitting area. The suite isn’t very big, but it slept six people comfortably.

When you enter the suite you are in the bedroom. This room has two queen beds, small desk, nightstand, fireplace, television, table and chairs and one window.

You walk through the bedroom to the sitting area. This room has the most natural light and contains a pull-out couch, large wall sized wardrobe, television, and the stained glass windows that tell the story of Cinderella.

The bathroom has two sinks, a large tub, shower, separate throne room, and sitting area. It is off the bedroom.

Whenever we left the room to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade and the fireworks we came back to our beds’ turned down and covered with rose petals.

When you stay in the castle you get your own key. The key is just like all the other Disney Resort keys, except this one is white and it has the castle logo on it. I’m still carrying mine around. 🙂

After sleeping in the castle, although we only slept a few hours, we got up and had breakfast with the Princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Anyone can dine with the princesses inside the castle, but you must make reservations months in advance as the restaurant fills up very quickly.

We were assigned another guide in the morning to finish our magical experience. While Steve was the walking encyclopedia, Michael was the Disney humorist. He told us funny stories about Walt and Roy Disney and gave us a behind the scenes look at Animal Kingdom. Even after we left the parks Michael had photos delivered to our hotel room and went above and beyond our expectations.

While sleeping in the castle cannot be purchased, if you have the money you can pay for a VIP guide like Michael or Steve. Amy wrote all about the VIP tour on her site, Mom’s Travel Tales.

A few more random things about Cinderella’s Castle Suite.

The suite was originally built as an office for Walt Disney not an apartment. Because Walt died before Walt Disney World opened in 1971, the suite was used for phone operators. After they outgrew the suite it wasn’t really used until a few years ago when they decided to create Cinderella’s suite.

The suite is not used for terminally ill children because once the park is closed there is limited access to emergency care. It would not be safe for someone with a life threatening illness to stay in the suite overnight.

Staying in Cinderella’s Castle Suite is sure to give you a bad case of I-want-to-tell-everyone-I stayed-in-the-castle-itis. The symptoms range from mentioning it in casual conversation to the grocery store cashier…. “I had the best fresh fruit when I stayed in Cinderella’s Castle” to telling your family the same stories over and over because you are so excited.

Staying overnight in Cinderella’s Castle was a once in a lifetime experience and our guide’s Michael, Steve, Sean and Kate made it truly magical weekend!

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

My Night in Cinderella’s Castle: Practically Perfect in Every Way

Read even more about my night in Cinderella’s Castle here. 

Last Friday my friend Andrea won a night in Cinderella’s castle. I was sitting at her table when she won and was thrilled for her! I assumed she would be coming back to the Magic Kingdom with her family and spending a night in Cinderella’s castle until I learned that she would be going there that night! I was truly excited for her, as she has three boys and I knew they would never want to do such a “girly” thing.

stay in cinderella's castle

Later that morning I was sitting listening to the speaker and I received this message from Andrea on my computer:

I’m putting you and Amy down for tonight. You want to I’m sure, right????!!

It was all I could do not to squeal with excitement during the conference. I was going to be spending the night in Cinderella’s Castle!!!!!

I would say something about dreams coming true… but I honestly never thought you could even stay in the castle. We packed our bags that afternoon and at 4pm we met our carriage aka minivan.

Accompanying Andrea on the trip were Amy, Briana, Amanda, and Crystal.

Our driver Sean, started telling us about our evening. We would arrive at the Magic Kingdom and could do whatever we wanted. Ride the rides, hang out in the castle suite, shop, eat, it was up to us. We were assigned another guide, Steve, when we arrived through a back door at the Magic Kingdom.

We quickly learned that staying in Cinderella’s Castle suite was a pretty big deal. There is only one room in Cinderella’s Castle and you can’t buy it. The room is given away randomly throughout the year. In the Year of a Million Dreams they would surprise one family a day with a night in the castle. Now, the room is given away every two weeks or so. The Castle Suite has only been used 600 times.

I don’t think any of us knew what to expect when we started our castle experience. The rest of the day unfolded like a dream. Steve was a walking encyclopedia of Disney knowledge, he shared stories and pointed out little details in the park that I had never noticed before.

Steve was also our human “fast pass.” If we wanted to ride a ride, Steve would walk us in the back entrance and we would get right on… no waiting! It was amazing. On every ride Steve would share with us the story of that ride. Since Disney was built by movie makers and not theme park designers every single ride tells a story. It was fun to hear these stories and learn more about the people who built this park many years ago.

But, since many of you know a lot about Disney I’ll get straight to the photos. We took several hundred between us, so I tried to find some of my favorite, and some that give you the best “view” of Cinderella’s Castle suite. I’ll share in another post soon some of the Disney facts I learned from our guides.

Two of our amazing guides, Steve and Kate. They are standing in the lobby of the suite. Notice what time it is on the grandfather clock?

I’m sure you have seen these windows on the castle. Those are windows in the suite.

Same windows on the inside of the suite.

After you enter the lobby, you take a ride in the carriage to your room. When you step out of the carriage you are in a beautiful entry. There is a display on the wall with some of Cinderella’s favorite things, her glass slipper, crown, scepter, and three pumpkins, which were a gift from the Fairy Godmother, so she would never forget her humble beginnings.

If you look up in the entry area you will see several images from the Cinderella movie.

On the floor is a tile mosaic of Cinderella’s carriage. It is made of over 30,000 tiles including tiles made out of gold and silver.

Getting ready to go inside the suite.

Cinderella’s Bed. I bet you didn’t know she had a digital camera. 😉

There was a glass slipper for Andrea to take home.

White chocolate carriage filled with chocolate covered strawberries.

Telescope from Captain Hook, books on loan from Belle, and MacBook Pro on loan from the bloggers.

There are a series of stained glass windows that tell the story of Cinderella.

It is hard to get a good view from the caste suite since all the windows are stained glass.

This is the television in the suite. To turn it on you push a button on the magic wand. Tinkerbell flies across the mirror and it turns into a television!

The bath tub, notice the princess bubble bath.

This is the ceiling above the tub in the bathroom. The lights twinkle like the stars.

A glass slipper made from a towel waited for us in the bathroom.

Would you expect anything else in a princess bathroom? Yes, the toilet is a throne.

There are columns inside the suite. They are all decorated with the story of Cinderella.

The emergency exit.

The one thing that amazed me about Cinderella’s Castle suite and all of Walt Disney World is the attention to detail. I’ll be sharing more about that later this week, but I’ll leave you with one more observation. One of the first pictures in this post is a tile mosaic that is in the walkway of the castle. Thousands of people walk by it every day. Take notice the checkered floor pattern in the mosaic photo.

This is the floor of the suite, does it look familiar? It is the same floor as the mosaic! Nothing you see at Disney is an accident, it was all carefully planned by the Imagineers who designed this park. It was fascinating to learn about these details during our stay at the castle. I’ll write more later this week about our stay and the fun facts I learned about Disney!

Disney… at 2am, the only ones left in the park!

See more about our Disney Trips including tips & tricks for making the most of vacations to Disney.  Having lived in Orlando for years, Disney is a way of life!  🙂

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.