Disney Hack: How I saved 56% off my Disney Vacation

So I’ve mentioned a few times on here we are headed to Walt Disney World this spring. I was able to save a lot of money on my trip using a variety of tactics, each of which I’ve explained on here. But it’s always helpful to see things with a real life example.

So I wanted to outline how I got my roughly $3,800 vacation for around $1,700.

First let’s breakdown what I got.

  • Three round trip plane tickets from Trenton, NJ to Orlando International Airport including assigned seating, three personal items and one carry-on.
  • Seven night stay in a preferred room at Disney Pop Century Resort.
  • Two adult and one child five day tickets with parkhopper option.
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    With some strategy you can get your vacation for less than half price.

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How to get to Disney: To Fly or Drive?

The age old question – flying versus driving. If you live on the East coast this is always the great debate. I’ve done both.

Driving, even with gas money and an overnight stay, is often cheaper than flying, but if you live in the Northeast you are losing a day, possibly two days, to travel on each end of your trip. That was one very long car ride with my sister in the back seat, and exhausted parents upon arrival.

I’ve also flown. In fact, my first time on a plane when I was four years old was to go to Disney World and I can still remember the seeing clouds and wonderment I felt being in that plane for the first time.

What is best for you and your family, only you can tell but I will offer up this. Flights can be earned with airline miles bringing costs down. 

In addition, many discount airlines offer direct flights to Orlando. These include Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Airlines and Southwest Airlines. These low cost airlines will tack on fees for just about anything from carry on baggage to water, so know before you purchase, but a lot of money can be saved using these carriers. I personally just had a great experience on Frontier Airlines and I would use them again.

Please note these flights may not show up in a large flight search on Kayak, Momondo or the like. Dig around.

Please note: Frontier Airlines can be purchased on Orbitz. Significant savings can be had when booking flight, car rental and hotel or a combination of two of these things together. Be sure to sign up for their rewards program to earn money back to put towards your next trip.

Strategy for Savings: Riding the Disney Discount Wave

Many when planning a Walt Disney World vacation only decide to book a few months in advance. This is a flawed strategy for a few reasons.

First, did you know you can book a complete Disney vacation package including hotel, tickets, and dining with only a $200 deposit? Your entire package payment is not actually due until 30 days before your departure. In addition, that deposit, and any other payment you make is fully refundable up until that time.

You can also make any changes up until that time on your Disney vacation package. What this means is you can book early and get the room you want, and continually adjust to take advantage of any promotions that arise. Continue reading

Maximizing Savings via a Disney Vacation Account

So you have a small or rather large pile of Disney gift cards, or a good little savings. Now what? Bank them for free in a Disney Vacation Account.

A Disney Vacation Account, run by Disney, allows you to save a little at a time, as well as combine your Disney gift cards into one place. Why do this? Besides seeing your progress in one, convenient place, there is an incentive. For ever $1,000 you pay out of the account, you will receive a bonus $20 Disney gift card, with a maximum of $500. It’s not much, but it’s something. For a typical trip you can expect to earn $40-60.

The account must be open for 180 days before you are eligible for this deal, so open it today. It only takes $10 and if you decide not to go the funds that you put into the account remain liquid and can be extracted at any time in the form of which they were received.

Paying for Disney: Converting Cash to Gift Cards

So you have your savings growing for your Disney vacation. Put that money to the best use and buy Disney gift cards. Buying Disney gift cards is one great way to save at least 5% off your trip. How? I’ll show you.

  1. Buy gift cards at Target. If you get a Target Red Card, in credit card or debit card form, you get 5% off on most purchases at Target. Guess what they sell there? Disney gift cards! That means you can get 5% off Disney gift card purchases. (Please note this only works because Disney gift cards are categorized as “entertainment” rather than a gift card.)  You can actually get these gift cards even cheaper if you follow the steps below. Note: It is best to do this online – in store your mileage may vary.
  2. Buy gift cards at a warehouse store. Both Sam’s Club and Bj’s Wholesale offer Disney gift cards in store at 5% discount. 
  3. Buy gift cards at grocery and drug stores during promotional periods. Many have taken advantage of sales at both grocery stores and drug stores wherein you purchase X amount in gift cards, and get gas points, store credit or some other bonus. These opportunities are usually pretty rare and sporadic so if it pops up, take advantage. Many times they occur during the holiday shopping season, so keep your eyes peeled.

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Paying for Disney: Strategy for Savings

One of the biggest (ok THE biggest) hurdle to get over when planning for a Disney trip is paying for it. How much you need to save really depends on your family, what kind of activities you want to do, and what kind of accommodations you are looking for. In general, for a family of four I would suggest saving around $3000 plus travel expenses.

There are various ways to save on your Disney trip. I’m going to start out with very traditional ways and then we will get a little more advanced. Continue reading