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Old 04-30-2013, 06:01 PM   #1
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Advice - Saving Money at Disney Theme Parks

Saving Money: Whether you’re headed to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you’ve already shelled out big bucks for accommodations and park tickets. It might be the happiest place on Earth, but a Disney theme park is also a business designed to separate you from your money. When it comes to drinks, snacks, souvenirs, meals, and even strollers, you could easily end up doubling the cost of your trip. Still, everyone should get the Disney experience at least once in their lifetime, and it is still possible to have a great vacation without spending a fortune. It is possible to save money at Disney theme parks. Most of the items that you can purchase on-site are highly overpriced. Disney knows that you’re in the buying mood when you visit their parks, which is why you’ll happily whip out your wallet to pay $10 for a souvenir you wouldn’t otherwise buy. It’s always a good idea to check yourself before using your credit card or handing over cash at Disney – would you buy the item or snack at that price from the grocery store or mall? If the answer is no, you might want to reevaluate your potential purchase. If your kids start to beg for souvenirs, take a minute to remind everyone that you’re there to have fun – not to spend.
Don’t skip the Disney experience entirely because you think you can’t afford the steep travel, lodging, and food prices. Be creative and you can find ways to maximize your vacation for less money. You’ll get the same amazing memories with less damage to your bank account. Disney parks become much more affordable when you know how and where to save your money:
1. Plan for the Off-Season. Do you really want to score the deepest discounts at Disney? Plan your trip anytime from September to May; January through March will likely score you the deepest discounts. Nearby hotels and on- site resorts offer discounted rates, and as an added bonus, the parks will be less crowded, meaning more time on rides and less time to get cranky while waiting in the sun.
2. Stay Off-Resort. Sure, Disneyland and Disney World offer a ton of resorts and hotels that are on-site at the parks, but they’re very pricey, and you might not receive the free amenities offered at other hotels. If you check out hotels [ 14 Ways to Save Money on Hotels for Your Next Vacation ] that are within five miles of the park, you’ll probably find that they’re much cheaper, and also offer perks like in-room refrigerators, continental breakfast, and less crowded pools. By finding a hotel with the amenities you want, you can keep your kids entertained after hours, keep your own snacks and drinks cold, and, most importantly, fill up on a healthy breakfast [ 12 Healthy Breakfast Food Ideas - Quick & Easy ] before you set foot in the park. Check out travel sites for hotel reviews – you’ll score the best deal on one that’s a few miles away from the park, but offers a free shuttle to Disney to make up for the distance. Riding a couple of minutes both ways can help save major bucks on your bottom line. You may also want to consider a vacation rental home [ How to Save Money on Cheap DIY Wedding Invitations on a Budget vacation-home-rental/ ]. You’ll get more space and privacy than a hotel or resort, and you may ultimately pay less than staying at the park.
3. Pack Drinks and Snacks. Invest in a quality backpack that you can bring into the park. Fill it with a couple frozen bottles of water, and by the time you’ve purchased your ticket and start walking around, they’ll have started to melt and will be icy cold. Buying drinks at Disney could run about $2.50 a bottle, so it pays to bring your own. Disney restaurants always offer a free cup of water. If you’re totally parched, head to one of the eateries and ask for water only. If your kids are begging for a souvenir, choose the souvenir cup. It costs about $7, but it means you’ll get free juice and soda refills all day long. If you plan to eat on-site, remember that portion sizes at Disney are fairly large. Two kids can easily share one meal and feel full.
4. Buy Souvenirs Elsewhere. Who doesn’t love a pair of Mickey ears? Disney souvenirs, however, are very expensive when purchased from any of the on-site gift shops. If your kids have a case of the “gimmes,” wait until the end of the day and head to a nearby department store. You’ll likely find many of the same souvenirs as you will in the park, but at a much cheaper price.
5. Book for Breakfast or Lunch. Are you dying to eat with Ariel and Goofy? “Character dining” is one of the best ways to interact with your favorite characters, but you must pay a premium for the privilege. Dinner might be the most popular character meal, but breakfast and lunch give you the same interaction with a cheaper menu. Book your character dining experience for breakfast or lunch, and you’ll spend significantly less than you would if paying for dinner. Plus, it’s likely that the meal will be less crowded.
[Source: MoneyTalksNews Jacqueline Curtis article 13 Apr 2012 ++]

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Old 04-30-2013, 06:23 PM   #2
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Thanks for the insights. Disney is a one of a kind business that has endured and evolved over many years and you gave great advice.

Just a word of caution though.

I know this can and does happen anywhere, but we had a bad experience involving our credit card at Disneyland earlier this year.

Our two little grandsons and their parents were going there for a family vacation they had all worked and saved for to celebrate the five year old's birthday. We thought it would be nice to have a surprise waiting for them so DW got on line and found that Disneyland Hotel offers birthday packages and will decorate the room before they arrive and start the trip off as a special experience.

DW called the Disneyland Hotel and ordered the birthday special and paid the young lady on the phone via our credit card.

All went well until I got a call from our credit card company two days later. Someone had run up >$1000 at Disneyland using our credit card number on the same day DW had called to order the service.

It didn't cost us anything... other than the hassle of having to get a new CC. DW called the hotel and spoke with the manager who insisted that nobody working at Disneyland or the hotel had anything to do with it. The guy from the CC fraud dept claimed that the charges were "swiped" so they must have had the card. The card never left Arizona and our daughter and her family hadn't even arrived in California yet.

Be careful out there.


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Old 05-05-2013, 12:07 AM   #3
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Cost for hotels and RV parks and food is much much greater in Orlando than it is in Santa Ana. I was surprised at the cost for even a mediocre meal in Orlando. Prices were on par with New York and higher than in Chicago.
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:39 PM   #4
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Although we've always found the hotels and restaurants very reasonable in Orlando - off site from Disney, that is; when we need more than one room we will rent a condo or house through "vrbo" or "homeaway." A nice condo or house is usually available for less than the hotel rooms would be and offer a lot more room with kitchen, game room, etc. and almost always with nicer recreation facilities. We've gone this way nine times now, twice in Orlando, and always considered it nicer than a hotel stay.
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Old 05-09-2013, 05:51 PM   #5
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If you can afford to splurge, staying in the Contemporary and being able to watch the water show and all the things going on in the lake is Magical. The Grand Floridian is stunning but they don't have quite the views the Contemporary has. The Monorail goes right through the hotel. The onsite resturants are fantastic. The Polanesian theme has great views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks every night, the water show, and the resturan is incredible fun and fantastic food. The monorail goes past all three hotels and stops at the Magic Kingdom and stops at the transportation center where you can grab a free bus or another Monorail on to Epcot.

While staying at those places you can catch boats all over the place including the Magic Kingdom. Just riding around the boats in the evenings is fun. There are budget priced hotels on property with decent food courts.

As a Kalifornian we are so anxious to pull through the gates at FT. Wilderness. We have always flown and each day spent was busy and precious. Can't wait to spend several months in the area. We just spent 6 weeks in Anaheim. Watching the fireworks from the rv park was fun.

We do pack snacks and water. Freezing bottles of water is very helpful for keeping the snacks fresh and we have water to drink as it thaws.

Thanks for the tips.
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Old 05-11-2013, 04:56 PM   #6
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Another Opinion

Yes Disneyworld can be done cheaper. Then there are the lines to get through the entrance to parking...every day. You'll arrive after the on site guests have already been in the park for "Magic Hours" for an hour or so, so expect lines. Carrying a bag of snacks and water is a great idea, but you'll wait in another long line to get in while your bags are being inspected. What do you do with the bags while you're on some of the more exhilrating rides? That's the downside and can severely detract from the Disney experience, particularly if you get frustrated with lines.

So, if you're military, stay at Shades of Green. Decent price and close...on site.

If you're going the hotel route and have small children or grandchildren, stay on the monorail in a Disney hotel if you can afford it. We were partial to the Polynesian. If you can't afford the monorail hotels stay in one of the less expensive resort hotels. Being able to return to your room for afternoon naps, snacks, etc is the only way to go.

We stayed this winter in the Ft Wilderness campground in our RV. What a pleasant experience...if you can, get the largest site to be comfortable. Don't waste on a golf cart, plenty of busses and you have a boat to the Magic Kingdom as well as a beach to see the lake parade and the fireworks. Lots for kids to do as well.

Been going to Disney since 1982 with my kids and now my grandkids. It was always a stretch budget wise, but on site, the "magic" in their eyes is real and worth the added expense. It's not a visit, it is a destination.

Dave and Beth
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