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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Disney Do's and Don'ts: Know Before You Go

Visiting Walt Disney World is not a cheap venture.  No matter how you go about it, unless you live in Orlando and win free tickets, it's going to cost you.  But there are a few things you can do to maximize the fun and minimize the financial cost.
  • Tighten your belt and choose your budget.  Knowing exactly how much you have to spend will help you plan the most bang for your Disney buck.
  • Buy an Entertainment Book for Orlando - but not in November.  If possible, wait at least until early spring and then watch for them to go on sale.  I bought ours for only $7 after rebate - and using coupons in the book, we paid only $10 for all four of us to eat our very first meal in Florida.  We more than paid for the book with that one meal - and we used other coupons from it, too.
  • Shop around for Disney tickets.  At first glance, there aren't many discounts available - but they are out there.  One of the best deals we found was through our Entertainment Book - 5 day passes for the price of three, with Park Hopper included.  Check for discounts through your business, too.  My husband's company offered the same and other great deals.
There are stands all over Orlando selling 'discounted' Disney tickets, and some say they are a better deal. I know some who prefer to wait and buy their tickets from one of those places - but I'm so glad we didn't.  With our tickets in hand, we knew how much money we had left, we knew how many days we were going to be in the parks, and we weren't trying to scout out the best deal at the last minute.  Don't wait - paying a few dollars more in advance is worth the peace of mind you'll have upon arrival!
  •  Get the whole family involved.  After working on our budget, we knew we wouldn't be able to afford every plastic trinket in sight - so we planned for a few quality souvenirs.  Then we discussed our plan as a family.  We let the kids know that we would be cutting out some 'luxuries' from the budget now so that we would have more Disney fun money - and we gave them the option of doing additional chores to add to their own Disney funds.  Grandparents also gave them this option, and an aunt gave them Disney gift cards for their birthdays.  Our Big Helper also chose to run her own lemonade stand this summer to pad her pocketbook.  
My Big Helper was excited to design her own monstrous caramel apple as one of her souvenirs at Goofy's Candy Company in Downtown Disney.
Upon arriving in Florida, we declared the last two days to be shopping days.  During our first few days in the parks, we window shopped and discussed lots of options, but both children were content to wait until later to shop.  This gave them time to see many choices and consider which they liked best - and since they had stashed away a considerable amount, it helped them to make smart choices with their wad.

  • Plan!  Plan your lodgings with your schedule in mind - and remember that you have to eat, too.  Having a fridge means that you can keep yogurt and other simple snacks cold, and many hotel rooms now include those. **

We went with extended family who has a time share, and so we were blessed to have a full kitchen.  Wanting to minimize the work, I baked many snacks and several loaves of fruity breads to take along. We ate eggs and the breads for breakfasts, then packed PB & J for lunch and took it into the park.  I added dried fruits and lots of crackers and granola bars to our lunch stash, meaning that all meals and snacks were covered except dinner.  This was huge to our budget!  (I stashed away two big boxes of prepackaged snacks - something I don't usually buy - using coupons and shopping doubles' and triples' sales with them.  I got nearly everything for free - and most of it was fairly healthy.)
**Because we didn't stay in a resort or book our own lodging, I can't speak for most of those options.  I can say, however, that we extended our trip by one night after leaving the timeshare resort, and we found a very nice, very reasonably priced hotel in the Buena Vista area that was clean, had a great pool, and included a fancy continental breakfast.  There are reasonable options available! 
Stay tuned for Disney packing necessities - coming soon.

What vacation preparations save you money on your trip?

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