Taking Kids to Disney on a Budget

How to Have Fun and Save Money at Disneyworld

Want the kids to meet Mickey and the gang, but can’t afford to spend a lot? Here are some ways to experience the Disney magic without a shock to your pocketbook.

Every child dreams of seeing Cinderella’s castle, the one that shows up at the beginning of all her favorite movies. Meeting Mickey Mouse, a favorite Disney princess, or another character can be a defining moment in a childhood memory. But with today’s economy, parents are skittish about traveling to Disneyworld in Orlando because of the costs they may incur. So what are some ways to get those fantastic pictures of your kids with all their favorite movie characters, without breaking the household budget?

Plan Ahead for Disney

Schedule a trip to Disney six months to a year in advance. If you allow time for careful planning, guests visiting Disney will be able to put a bit of money aside each month for the trip as well as find discounts on dining, lodging, and park tickets. Tip: If your child wants to dine in Cinderella’s castle, there’s a six-month wait on the reservations. Planning ahead could score you the hottest character event tickets as well. Check online discount travel sites before booking hotels, meals, etc. Think about different ways to transport a family to Disney- whether it will be cheaper to drive or fly, etc. Consider packages that include a Disney Dining Plan and those without to determine what’s best or least expensive for the family’s needs.

Consider Staying at a Disney Property

Many families shy away from the Disney hotels onsite because they think they’ll be more expensive. This may not always be the case, however, as staying at a Disney property like the Disney Beach Club, Swan or Dolphin (the Epcot resorts) enables you to travel via a free ferry to Epcot, Hollywood Disney (formerly MGM Studios) and Disney Boardwalk. The ability to travel easily within Disney (the Magic Kingdom is a short, free bus trip away from the resorts mentioned) saves you time and money (parking can be expensive) on your vacation. Many amenities are also offered for free at the Disney resorts, character breakfasts are held within their restaurants, and you can centrally charge anything from the parks to your room. Also, the parks stay open up to three hours later for those staying at Disney resorts at night, meaning fewer crowds and waiting.

Sneak in Snacks/Activities

Perhaps this isn’t official Disney-approved information, but parents traveling to Disneyworld for long days in the parks need to be prepared. Time spent waiting in lines can be quite long. Think about packing (in a diaper bag or purse compartment) a few Zip-loc bags of snacks, water bottles, and small activities like crayons and paper. The ability to distract young children in a long line may turn out to be a much-needed skill and needless to say this will save you money in the park. Of course, sending a spouse ahead to procure Fast Passes for popular rides is an absolutely fantastic idea as well! Tip: Research best times of year to travel to Disney for shorter ride wait-times. Generally ‘when kids are in school’ is the best time to go for smaller crowds.

Buying Disney ‘Stuff’

Instead of letting kids pick out (and have parents haul around) treats during park visits, concentrate all your souvenir shopping into one trip. Take the family to the “World of Disney” store in Downtown Disney near the end of your trip. Have a budget for what kids can spend and let them spend the days in the park deciding which character or item they might like to bring home (t-shirts, earrings, stuffed animals, clothing, etc). Staying focused on shopping all in one store visit instead of buying miscellaneous souvenirs in the parks will help you spend less, and World of Disney has the best selection anyway.

One other thing to consider is buying a book before you travel to Disney. Momsmiserlyguide.com is one website offering a book on how to visit Disney for $25 a day! Reading books about how to navigate Disney on a budget will be money well spent in the cash you save in Orlando.

The magic at Disney may not always be cheap, but it’s worth every penny.

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