Our family lives in Florida, and if you have kids that grow up in Florida, you will try your best to make a trip or two to Disney World. Granted, Disney makes it a little easier to do that with their annual passes, but still a trip to Disney, if you’re not careful, can totally wreck your budget.
So, my wife Leanne (a veteran of many trips to Disney) posted a very cool blog entry on her favorite travel hacks for the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Again, I would encourage you to read the entire article, but here are some of the highlights:
1/Park Passes. Tickets are a small fortune but there aren’t many ways to get around that one. One thing we do in order to save on tickets is to buy the cheapest season pass available and plan to make our one Disney vacation into at least 2 vacations. If you time it right, you can use the tickets the first year and then go back a second year before they expire to take advantage again. That cuts your cost in half!
2/Getting There. If you live within driving distance of Orlando, then obviously that’s your cheapest option. If you must fly, take advantage of Southwest‘s awesome promotional flights. They often discount round trip flights to under $100 round trip. Even better, sign up for their branded credit card and receive bonus miles that you can use to purchase tickets for free (taxes not included). Delta also offers nice sign up bonuses on their American Express branded cards. You can also sign up with Delta for their dining program for free or shop through their online portal and get bonus miles without a credit card or having to fly.
3/Accommodations. Lodging is the next big expense on your trip. We have stayed both on and off Disney property. Staying on property is great when you don’t have a car because Disney takes care of all of your transportation (including from the airport). They have an extensive bus system that runs throughout the resort, as well as the monorail, which runs between some of the higher end resorts, Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The disadvantage to the system is that at some of the resorts, you will have to wait a while for the buses and may share a bus route with another resort which can prolong your travel time. Staying on property also means you will not have access to off-property dining, grocery or convenience stores. You can, however, bring some food items as most properties now have at least a small refrigerator in the room. Others have microwaves as well. The food courts have toasters and microwaves that can be used by anyone.
We like to stay off-property for the most part so that we have access to restaurants and grocery stores. Our favorite place to stay is Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. You can get a great price on these condos if you look on VRBO or look for people selling their timeshare weeks. Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort is actually located on the Disney property, though not owned by Disney. You can rent anything from a studio to a 3 bedroom condo that includes a full kitchen, laundry and an amazing jetted tub to rest your feet after all that Disney walking! The property has several pools, a lazy river, water slides and mini-golf. There is a grill area for grilling out and several restaurants and bars on site. Be aware this is a timeshare resort so they will bug you when you first get there to sit through a presentation, but that’s not required. You’ll need a car unless you pay extra for the bus provided by the resort. Another area that is our favorite to stay in is the Lake Buena Vista area. There are multiple hotels in the area and several chain restaurants. Best of all, it is located about a mile from Disney Springs so you can take an extra day (or two) to visit Disney without having to buy a ticket to the parks. There are amazing shops and restaurants at Disney Springs along with street entertainment and more. It is so fun to just walk around with an ice cream and people watch. Plus it has the world’s largest Disney store and a huge Lego store. I like to use Priceline to find a cheap hotel for us to stay in Lake Buena Vista. I often use Name Your Own Price when I want something really cheap. We once stayed at a hotel in the area for $36 a night and that included breakfast!
4/Food. I have already covered the on-site microwaves, refrigerators and food court conveniences. Another trick that we like to use is to bring crock pot meals. I have never tried to use a crockpot in a traditional hotel room but we have used it at the cabins at Disney and at the Bonnet Creek resort. This is by far, the easiest and most convenient way to cook dinner for your family at Disney. Trust me, you will not want to cook at the end of a day spent walking all over the parks. A crockpot meal is perfect because you can put the ingredients together in ziplock bags before the trip, freeze them for travel and then dump them in the crockpot each morning before you head to the parks. When you return, you have a healthy, delicious, home cooked meal and you don’t have to fight the crowds at the restaurants or eat greasy food all week. Breakfast items are easy to pack and can be eaten in any hotel room and lunches can be made and taken into the park. We almost never buy food in the parks because that’s a pricey proposition.
Hope this helps you have a fun-filled, memorable time at Disney without breaking the bank!