by Erin Gifford
We all know that Walt Disney World is no inexpensive family getaway. But before your head starts to spin as you consider the cost of a meet-and-greet with the most famous mouse in the world, it really is easier than you think to save big on a Disney getaway. Take a look at 10 tips to get you started.
- Opt for a Vacation Rental.
There are loads of vacation rentals that are perfect for families in nearby Kissimmee, which is less than 10 minutes away from the parks. Many have game rooms and outdoor pools, both of which are great ways to spend time once you return from a day at the parks.
- Book a Package Deal.
Another way to save on your stay is by hunting down package deals that include an on-property hotel, park tickets and dining for less than what they would cost stand-alone. Look for Special Offers on the Walt Disney World website or track #WaltDisneyWorld on Twitter for great deals.
- Buy Park Hopper Tickets.
Don’t limit yourself to going to only one park per day. Consider exploring one park in the morning, then going back to your hotel or rental for a nap and a swim before heading out to another park in the afternoon or evening. It’s a lot less stressful to know you can go to any park on any day of your visit.
- Choose a 10-Day No-Expiration Pass.
If you think you’ll be back to Walt Disney World again, buy a 10-day pass with the no expiration option. This offers the least expensive per-day rate and it never expires, so hold onto it and come back next year (or the year after that). You can also buy a 10-day pass with the park hopper option. (This is no longer an option – learn more here.)
- Pack a Suitcase Full of Food.
Bring an extra suitcase with you and fill it with breakfast cereals, juice boxes, granola bars, cookies, oatmeal packets, paper plates, plastic bags and utensils. There’s no question that you’ll save more than the money you’d spend on checked bag fees. Just be aware of the weight limit.
- Seek Out Free Activities.
Yes, there are free activities for the kids at Walt Disney World. Bring along bathing suits for little ones and head to Disney Springs where they can splash around in interactive fountains. Or, head to the Grand Floridian to watch the nightly fireworks show for one of the best outside-the-park seats in the house.
- Make Lunch the Biggest Meal of the Day.
Avoid counter service restaurants inside the parks between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. They get so busy. Instead eat around 2:30 for fewer crowds, and then have a small snack or dessert at dinnertime. Not only will you save money, but you’ll feel better going to bed not quite so full.
- If You Can, Visit in Low Season.
Hotel rates at Walt Disney World peak during certain times of year, like Spring Break and the summer holidays when the kids are out of school. If you can, visit in September, early- to mid-December or most anytime in January. You’ll find rates at less than half the standard rate during high season.
- Get a Disney Visa Credit Card.
Lyn Mettler of Go To Travel Gal suggests using a Disney Visa credit card to make everyday purchases. For every $100 you spend, you earn one Disney Dream Reward Dollar. This is a dollar you can used toward park tickets, meals, even air travel to Walt Disney World.
- Take Advantage of Easy In-Room Meal Hacks.
Not all hotel rooms come with a refrigerator, so if you’re staying in a hotel, ask for one. This is ideal for saving milk for cereal or bottled waters to take into the park each day. Also, use the coffee maker to make hot cereal. Nearly all hotel rooms have one and they’re perfect for heating water for oatmeal.
Erin Gifford is a Washington, D.C.-based travel writer and founder of Kidventurous, an award-winning family travel resource. Her writing can also be found on TravelChannel.com, TravelAge West and Fodors.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Kidventurous, connect with her on Facebook or get the latest tips and tricks for traveling families at http://www.kidventurous.com.