How I Paid for my Disney Vacation

It’s all fine and dandy to read savings tips on how to pay for a trip, but without real numbers it’s sometimes difficult to understand so I wanted to lay out how my family of three – two adults and a toddler – paid for our 8 day trip to Disneyworld in April 2016.

First off, we put down a $200 deposit immediately upon our dates opening up (the minimum required for booking and totally refundable), and stayed flexible. This allowed our travel agent to easily take advantage of new promotions, while remaining in the hotel room we wanted. We ended up changing our touring plans three times, ultimately saving 15% off our hotel stay, and receiving one day free with the purchase of our 4 day park tickets.

Our total cost for tickets and hotel room is: $2126.67

I chipped away at that number – which is nearly twice what my family normally pays for a week’s vacation – a number of ways.

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Prepping for Disney: What to Pack

Packing for a Disney trip brings up some unique challenges. Here are a few items you should bring.

  1. Refillable beverage containers. Water is free and readily available in any park. Drinking a lot in the hot Florida weather is very important.
  2. Rain gear. Ponchos are a great idea for that famous Florida afternoon shower. Also a good solution for wet rides. We bought ours at Dollar Tree, but if you’re expecting a lot of rain you may want to upgrade to a sturdier option. We’re also bringing a stroller cover.
  3. Other items to keep cool. Hand held or stroller fans are a great idea. If you want a misting fan, bite the bullet and get the one in the parks. I hear great feedback on them, and if they malfunction or break they will replace them. We are also bringing a frog togg which cools as it dries. We are trying out a new product a pad for the stroller that will help keep our daughter cool.
  4. Something for characters to autograph. Autograph books are the classic way to capture characters’ autographs. They are cheaper and readily available on ebay, as well as the Disney store. But if you want to be more unique you can bring something else for characters to sign. For us we are bringing a large canvas letter of our daughter’s first name so we can hang it on the wall when we return. Others bring bags, pillow cases, or even photo mats to sign. Another idea is to bring a storybook and have the character sign where their story is in the book.
  5. Glowing and light up items for nighttime activities. This is a great pro tip. Bringing these items at home – mostly from the dollar store – will save you a LOT of money. Bring some to share and you’ll be a hero.
  6. Good walking shoes. Leave the flip flops at home. You will be walking several miles at Walt Disney World by no stretch of the imagination. You need something with support. Bringing an extra pair and switching every other day will help keep your feet comfortable and dry.
  7. Snacks. I’ve been on the hunt for Disney themed snacks for a while. I found boxes of cookies at Dollar Tree that were Disney branded. I found packs of freeze dried apples on Amazon. And applesauce pouches and Mickey shaped veggie chips at Target.
  8. Cleaned pennies and quarters. My daughter absolutely loves pressed pennies. There are MANY of these machines throughout the parks so I knew this needed to be part of our experience. It makes for a great cheap souvenir too. I cleaned the pennies and then stacked them in a mini M&Ms container which seems like they made just for this task. Pennies are also great to carry to throw in various wishing wells and fountains throughout the parks.
  9. Things to occupy kids during travel. We are flying, so our travel time is fairly short. Still we are packing some coloring and loading up our tablet so our daughter is occupied.
  10. Things to occupy kids during line waiting. Looking for hidden Mickeys will only take you so far. I picked up this eye spy sort of game at Target. I also plan on taking a small container of bubbles.
  11. Necklace for a pearl from Japan. Picking an oyster and finding a pearl inside in Japan is one my cherished childhood memories of Walt Disney World. The necklaces available to contain your pearl are quite pricey. Thankfully, you can purchase a similar necklace on etsy for much less. Saved me quite a bit.
  12. Princess dress. If you are bringing small children, dress up items are a must. The parks do sell these items, most exclusive to the parks which means a lot more money. Priced at more than $100 in some cases, I knew I had to bring along some dress up. I ended up stalking the sales at the Disney store and got two dresses (Elsa and Rapunzel) for $50 total. These dresses are high quality, not like the ones you may find at Target, Toys R Us or elsewhere.