A new study recently found that most Disney Parks vacationers go into debt for their vacation. This is a deeply concerning trend considering the economic times we find ourselves in coupled with the rising costs of a Disney vacation. Many feel that Disney has priced out the middle class and…they aren’t entirely wrong. However, with a little know-how and a few tips we fully believe that a Disney vacation is still within reach for middle class families. Read on to discover our money saving tips and handy hacks to turn the Disney vacation of your dreams into a reality. Each tip is something I personally do to take my family to Disney multiple times a year despite not being rich (by any stretch of the imagination).
Many people (myself included) have a hard time saving money. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just difficult to not dip into it by saying “oh this is just $5,” “I’ll just run through the drive-thru instead of cooking,” “I just need a quick pick me up, let me run to Starbucks.” So when vacation time comes around it’s easy to freak out and say, “but I don’t have that much money! How could I possibly book a trip?” Many in this situation Whip out a credit card to make it happen but you don’t have to.
Did you know that you can make intrest-free payments on your Disney vacation? All that is required is a $200 deposit and that’s it! Your trip is confirmed! Unlike a layaway program there are no set payments due. You pay what you can, when you can. The only caveat is that your trip must be paid in full 45 days in advance of check-in day. Otherwise, what you pay is entirely up to you. Disney’s generous refund policy (including deposit) makes it a worry free way to afford your trip. If your plans change, you get all of your money back!
What I do is divide my number of paychecks by the number of weeks left til my trip. My last trip for instance was booked roughly 6 months in advance. The trip total was $3,825. I divided that into weeks and came to the conclusion that if I paid $160 per week I would be able to swing it without stress. Then I just hopped online and made a payment each week toward the trip.
Take Advantage of Gift Cards and Cash Back
To make the payments even easier I get savvy about HOW I pay. Some people swear by discounted tickets from wholesale stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Those are certainly good ways to go but my favorite way to save is at Target.
I signed up for a Red Card Debit, unlike a high-interest in-store credit card, the debit version is hooked directly to your bank account and works exactly the same way as your bank card. The money comes directly out of your account so there are no payments, fees or interest to worry about PLUS you get 5% off of every purchase. I buy Disney gift cards at that discounted price and while 5% doesn’t seem like much, on my $3800 trip I saved nearly $200.
The other great thing about paying for your Disney trip with Target gift cards is the cash back program with Target Circle. For every purchase you make you get 1% cash back. Since I do most of my shopping here, I can accumulate quite a bit of cash back ($38 from my gift cards alone). Close to my trip’s final payment I cash in my cash back rewards for another Disney gift card. Last trip I was able to get a whole payment for free this way.
That means by purchasing target gift cards with my Red Card and combining them with the cashback program I essentially saved $360.
Take Advantage of Disney Discounts
Did you know that you don’t have to wait until Disney releases a discount to take advantage of the savings? It’s true! Disney allows you to apply discounts retroactively to trips you’ve already booked as long as they haven’t been paid in full (another incentive to make payments rather than swiping the credit card).
While I was paying on my trip, Disney released a 20% off hotel discount. I was able to apply that to my trip via the official Disney website and save $600! Combining Disney discounts with my Target savings, I saved nearly $960 on my trip! That isn’t an insignificant amount of money.
Trim the Fat
I’m guilty of overspending. I love to eat out and I love to shop. However, I value our family time at Disney more. We cut corners when planning a Disney trip and trim what isn’t needed. This means not buying that designer bag and making the one I’ve got work. It means not going out to eat and eating at home instead. I brew my own coffee rather than getting an overpriced latte from out. I’d you’re anything like me, you’d be surprised how much that all adds up!
Of course, getting there still presents a problem. Saving money on your travel costs can be the biggest hurdle. I’m lucky enough that I can drive or fly. It is an 8 hour drive or an hour and a half flight. I’d always prefer to fly but sometimes it’s not the best way to go economically (though, surprisingly sometimes it is). I always look at flight prices and compare it to gas & parking costs. I go with whichever is cheaper. I’ve found an airline I’m loyal to (Delta) and have joined their air miles program. Multiple trips a year can result in savings by cashing in air miles. Loyalty cards at gas stations can also yield cents off per gallon savings when we drive as well.
It still isn’t cheap to go to the Walt Disney World Resort but with these tips, it’s definitely possible to do it without going into debt. Disney isn’t out of reach for most families. It truly depends on how you do it: Stay in a Value hotel rather than Moderate or Deluxe. Opt for a one Park per day ticket instead of Park Hoppers. I usually allow the splurge of adding Memory Maker to our trip because it preserves our precious memories which is, after all, the reason we go. However, if money is tight we will cut out that expense too and rely on taking our own photographs. You CAN go to Disney World and with these tips it’s totally possible to do it WITHOUT going into debt.