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Saving Money on your Disney Vacation

February 22nd, 2008 Posted in Travel and Leisure

?by Stephanie Larkin

‘Disney’ and ‘Saving money’ aren’t generally words used together in the same sentence, but there are certainly some things that you can do to take a bit of the financial bite out of your vacation.

The first step in planning any vacation is choosing the dates, and this is where you can possibly save the most amount of money. If you can be flexible with you dates – say, flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday instead of on the weekend, you can often save a bundle. Certain times of the year are much less expensive than other times, and if you can shift your vacation even by a few days or a week, you may be in for a windfall of savings. For example, the Disney Cruise is much less expensive the 3rd week of August than the 2nd week, and it is even cheaper the 4th week of August. Prices in September hit rock bottom, so flexibility is key to getting the lowest rates. The same holds true for the Disney resorts and hotels.

So many things that you will pay a premium for at the Disney parks or on the Disney Cruise are available outside the parks for a significant savings. If you have children, just picking up Disney autograph books and pens at Wal-Mart before entering the parks will save you a bundle. While you are there, grab some fold-up ponchos for the rainy season, portable fans with water sprayers for the summer, and all sorts of Disney clothing and souvenirs.

Be sure to carry enough camera batteries, band-aids and sunscreen when traveling, as you really want to avoid the major markups on these types of mundane items. While Disney has a policy against bringing food into the parks, I have never been stopped for carrying our own chilled sodas and water bottles, along with snacks to keep us going. While I never seem prepared enough to make sandwiches, I have discovered that some things such as Pringles (potato chips in a can) and fruit snacks travel well and don’t melt in the Florida heat.

Eating out can take a major chunk of your money, so you’ll want to consider such options as having your main meal at lunch time (same food for less money than dinner time), or signing up for a dining plan if you plan to spend the entire day at the parks and enjoy eating full meals. Another option is to eat a big meal before arriving at the parks, and then go out to dinner after leaving (assuming you aren’t staying at the parks until midnight that night!) However, on a hot summer day, you’ll have to give in and spend a bit extra for cold ice cream or smoothies to keep you going!

There are discounts on theme park tickets available from AAA or other ticket discounters, and for the most part, you will reap the lowest prices on admissions by spending the most number of days at one entertainment venue. In other words, 5 days enjoying the Disney parks will cost you much less than 3 days at Disney parks plus 2 days at Universal Studios parks. Universal Studios tickets are often available in a package deal along with Sea World, Wet ‘n Wild and Busch Gardens, and Disney tickets get cheaper by the number of days, so that a 5 day pass isn’t appreciably more than a 2 day pass. Plan ahead, possibly even planning one vacation for one area and saving the other parks for the next if you plan to return to central Florida.

One of my favorite money saving ideas is to simply do things that are free. My family and I enjoy spending a day at the Disney Marketplace, where your family can stroll the shops, trade pins, play in the interactive fountains, enjoy fun entertainment and play at Lego World – all for free! Strolling around CitiWalk at Universal Studios (free parking in the evenings) or exploring the magnificent hotels around the area are all free attractions just waiting to be enjoyed. Good luck and remember: a dollar saved is a dollar you can spend on your next vacation!

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