April 26, 2011

Guest Post–Disney on a Budget?

April 26, 2011
Hi everyone! My name is Ainsley.  My blog is still getting started, but you can find it at www.inside-my-heaven.blogspot.com. I am a 19-year-old college student from Ohio who happens to be extremely obsessed with all things Disney. I’m also a huge planner. So I was really excited when Summer Jo asked me to guest post about Disney World. Believe it or not, a magical trip to this amazing vacation destination in Florida actually CAN be affordable for your family! You just have to do some research and planning. Here are my five favorite ways to save money while at Disney.

1. Try to find some free activities. Yes, there actually are fun things to do that won’t cost you a dime. One of them is the nightly campfire and sing-along with Chip and Dale at Fort Wilderness. Some of the hotels also offer free nightly showings of a Disney movie on an outdoor screen.

2. Stay on property. Disney has hotels for every budget! The hotels are divided into three categories: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. The “value” resorts are actually very reasonably priced and if you stay during the value season (like when school is in session), you can save even more. There are countless benefits to staying on property. One of the best ones is the Magical Express, a FREE shuttle service that takes you directly from Orlando International Airport to your hotel. They even take care of your bags. They will be delivered to your room for free! The hotels at Disney also have free shuttles to all four theme parks, both water parks and to the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment complex. By taking advantage of the free transportation offered to hotel guests, you can save a good bit of money by not renting a car.

3. Be smart when you’re souvenir shopping. Try to find the best deals. While it’s true that some of the merchandise is pretty expensive, that is not the case for everything. The “Mickey’s Mart” store located at Downtown Disney sells everything for less than $10.

4. Look for special offers and take advantage of them. Disney offers many specials and promotions throughout the year. One that is hugely popular is the Free Dining promotion. If you book a certain number of nights during a specified period, you can get a Dining Plan for free. What’s better than free food? Even if the Free Dining promotion isn’t being offered during your visit, you can still get a Dining Plan. There are several to choose from and they are always available. Basically, you get a certain number of “credits” that are redeemed for meals at the many restaurants across the property. In addition to the special offers that are available directly through Disney, your local AAA might have some deals so make sure to check with them, too.

5. Take cereal, fruit and milk so you can have breakfast in your hotel room. You can even buy the milk once you get there (all of the hotels sell it). The moderate and deluxe hotels have refrigerators in the rooms, and the value hotels have them available for a small nightly charge. Just by eating one meal a day in your room, you can save some money. If you want to save even more, you can make sandwiches and pack them to the parks with you. Yep, you can actually take your own food into the parks! Some people don’t know it, but small coolers are permitted!

Hopefully these tips will save you and your family some cash. But try not to let yourself get too stressed out about money (or anything else, for that matter). You’re at the most magical vacation destination in the world; enjoy it! Here are five more tips that will hopefully make your vacation as stress-free as possible!

1. Take the kids back to the hotel halfway through the day for a nap. Then, everyone will be well rested and happier in time to head back out for evening entertainment. Speaking of evening entertainment, Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is my favorite!

2. Just accept the fact that you won’t be able to do everything. You will go crazy if you try. All together, the entire property is 47 square miles, which is huge! There are people who go every year and still find new things to do each time. Just pick and choose the activities that are best for your family and you’ll have a much more relaxed time.

3. Use FastPass. This is a special perk that allows you to bypass the wait queue for some of the major rides and attractions. Simply stick your park ticket into the FastPass machine, and you’ll receive a ticket with a specific time to come back and ride. When you come back at that time and show the ticket, you’ll enter the special line and will only have to wait a few minutes to ride!

4. Make dining reservations as soon as possible. This is especially important for character meals (Chef Mickey’s and Cinderella’s Royal Table are two of the most popular). You can make meal reservations up to 180 days before your stay. Most of the sit-down restaurants fill up pretty quickly. Once, I tried to get a late reservation at the T-Rex Café and the only available time was at 10:00 PM!

5. Take advantage of the planning resources available to you. One of my personal favorites is the Walt Disney World Moms’ Panel, an online forum where parents who visit the World often can answer questions that others may have. It can be found on Disney’s website. There are also many books about Disney trips. They offer some really helpful tips. The book I have even came with two pages of coupons for restaurants, souvenirs and more!

I hope that these tips have helped you with some Disney-related questions that you may have had. Thanks Summer Jo for allowing me to guest post!

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing: that it was all started by a mouse” –Walter Elias Disney

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