So we did!
Now, the thought of Disney naturally comes with a huge "cha-ching!" sound effect. So I am going to share with you how we were able to take a 4 day vacation to Orlando without going into debt or having credit card bills to dread next month.
Look into resident discounts.
As Florida residents, we are eligible for the 3- or 4-day pass (good through June 6, 2014). I didn't just take that discount as being our only option, though. Because we are AAA members, I looked on their website. Not only do they offer the same Florida resident discounts, but they were $160 cheaper than if we had just purchased our tickets through Disney!
We purchased the 4-day passes for Brian, Addie, and me (which brought the tickets down to about $45 per day), but because Ian is only 2, he was free. Bonus! We only used two of our days this time around, so we still have two more days that we can enjoy at "the happiest place on earth."
Hotels. Lots of choices.
We decided that we would take our $160 savings from our ticket purchase and use that as our hotel budget. We looked at the Disney hotels first and checked out their Florida resident discounts. At the rate they were charging, we would only be able to stay 2 nights and that would be slightly over our designated hotel budget.
We then went on Kayak.com and searched for hotels in the Kissimmee area (where Disney is actually located) and requested 3-5 star hotels in our search.
We found a great hotel for (drum roll please) $25 per night and it was 1 mile outside of Disney! We were able to stay for 4 nights and we stayed under budget. (Note: We stayed at the Maingate Lakeside Resort. We received the price mentioned because we booked our stay through an online comparison site for a weekend in February which is off season. Typically, hotel prices are cheaper during the off season- which is another great way to keep costs down! The closer you get to the regular vacation season, the higher the price will be.)
Food. Avoid eating at the parks.
Before we even left for our trip, I packed tons of snack foods. Granola bars, gummies, different types of chips, a few candy items, cookies, water bottles, and juice pouches. These foods were designed to feed us throughout our day at the park.
On both mornings, we went to Cracker Barrel and, using gift cards that we had, we ate a huge breakfast. Pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, COFFEE, and milk. In the parks, we ate from our snack stash. (I went onto their website before we went on our trip, and Disney DOES allow its patrons to bring their own snacks and drinks into the parks.)
On our 2nd day at Disney (Magic Kingdom), because we were planning to stay until closing, we stopped at 4 o'clock and picked up one of the huge turkey legs they sell for $10. We all ate from it, were fully satisfied, and went back to our snacks.
In the evening, after we left the parks, we used gift cards that we had been saving to different restaurants for our dinner. There is nothing like sitting down to Red Lobster or Olive Garden after a day at the parks and knowing you don't have to pay for it out of your own pocket.
Determine how much you are willing to spend before going on your trip.
Because we were going for Addie's birthday, a few of our relatives had given Addie some money to buy whatever she wanted at Disney. We were also prepared to purchase a little trinket for Ian so he would not feel left out. We decided before hand how much we were willing to spend before we ever left our house.
Try not to make purchases at Disney itself.
Because Addie had been given some money to buy something from Disney for her birthday, we had her wait until the last day of our trip when we went to Downtown Disney. Our reason for that was, after you come off of each ride at the parks you have to walk through a little shop selling items pertaining to the characters on the ride you were on. If she purchased something while coming off of the Winnie the Pooh ride and later saw something she liked after meeting the princesses, she would have had no money left.
At Downtown Disney, she was able to see everything being offered in one huge store and could decide with no regrets what she wanted.
Take your own photos.
Our kids love the Disney characters (even if they haven't seen some of the movies), so we took a lot of character photos. What you may not realize, though, is that although there is a photographer there ready to take your photo with his high tech, fancy-schmancy camera (that can make coffee and do your laundry), you can give your own camera to the attendant standing next to him and they will use your device as well.
We now have many wonderful photos of our whole family that we did not have to purchase from Disney's kiosk because we passed off our camera. These photos not only show us posing as a family, but also show us being the family we really are when no one is posing.
The most important thing about taking a trip to Disney is to plan for it. It is doable on a budget. It does take some work and effort on your part, but your smiles will last after the trip is over as you remember your trip through pictures and not bills.
Ready to hear about the big Travel Effect Giveaway????One winner will be blessed to receive:
3 nights stay at Casa del Rey in Hobe Sound Beach, and a chance to meet Jen-value -$450
2 nights stay for a family of 4 plus Breakfast at Sun Tower Hotel Suites in Fort Lauterdale - value $500.
Geo Matters Maps & Geography Bundle TBA ~$150.
Wonder Maps from Bright Ideas Press - value $49.95.
Apple Core one year subscription- value $55.
Words With Wings One Year Subscription from Word Traveling - value $59.