Just as you’re trying to enjoy a quiet evening at home, the kids see a Disney commercial boasting the tremendous fun they’ll have if Mom and Dad take them there on vacation. Lunacy erupts in your den. The kids are begging. Then your wife turns on you, too. They think of fun, while you think of dollars flying out of your wallet.
How can you manage to give them their dreams — without blowing your budget?
1. Be strategic with your timing.
Whether you have to fly or not, the time of year you visit the park can make a huge impact on the bill. Airfare will be cheaper during non-peak travel times, and so will the park prices. Try to travel from September to early November, or January through mid-March (before spring break!) — and you’ll not only save money, you’ll save time waiting in lines. (Not to mention you won’t swelter in the blazing Florida sun like the summer tourists!)
Even if you can’t get away during an off-peak season, try to go during the week. Weekend fares are always more expensive, both in the air and at the park.
2. Prepare your family for inexpensive lodging.
Disney has loads of resorts on the premises. You can pay as much as $2,000 a night for the ritzier stays! Thankfully, there are also the Disney Value Resorts. There are three levels of pricing for these on-property hotels. The Pop Century Resorts will save you the most, with prices as low as $69 per night in the off-season.
Outside resorts and motels are also an option. You just have to decide if you want to trade commute time for the money you’re going to save. If you drive down, parking off-resort is the cheapest option, and many places have free shuttles to get you to and from the park.
If you like camping, you could stay at the park for less than $50/night. With Florida’s balmy weather, it’s entirely possible to camp outdoors in the off-season. Plus, you’ll also have free access to transportation to the park.
3. Get savvy about eating with meal plans.
Believe it or not, park meal plans can save you up to 25% on eating around the park. And if you’re going in the off-season, you may be able to get it for free (or at least at a deep discount) at park resorts. You can also take water and snacks inside the park to save some additional cash.
Study your restaurant options online before heading into the park. You don’t want to blow your budget on meals at Cinderella’s Royal Table at $65 a pop, when you can eat at Akershus’ for the Princess Storybook Dinner…