We have officially been back from our Disney vacation for two weeks now and it already seems like we went a lifetime ago!
My husband and I both grew up going to the parks during family vacations. I have family in New Smyrna Beach which is about an hour outside of Orlando. Every year when my family and I would visit, we would choose one park from Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World to visit during our stay. We usually only went to one of the Disney World parks, not all 4 in one week. I wasn’t able to experience a 4 park vacation until I was a freshman in high school and we visited for a concert band trip and performed at Disney.
Before we left for this trip, I intended to write this post on tips that helped us save, so I am very excited to finally tell you guys how we saved so much on our Disney vacation.
I want to preface this post with a couple of things:
- For our Disney vacation, we did NOT stay on property, which also means we did not participate in the Disney dining plan. I will explain why below.
- I am not a savvy couponer, so if you implemented these simple strategies with other couponing methods out there, you could potentially save even more!
As you may know, we went to Orlando last summer, but we only went to one of the parks since we were planning on going to Universal and doing other things in town. Once we got back I started following a few Disney Instagram accounts which then led to Disney Youtube channels and my love for going back grew! I had “joked” with my husband about going back to Orlando but this time, making it a full-fledged, all 4 parks vacation. I knew it was going to take some convincing since we had just visited Orlando the summer before. I secretly started seeking out tips from Disney couponers. One of the tips, as I’m sure many of you know, is to use gift cards to then purchase Disney gift cards. That is my first tip!
Search weekly ads to see if you can earn gift cards on purchases you’re already making.
I’m a frequent Target shopper, so I started skimming ads for ways I could rack up those $5 and $10 gift cards. Well, in April I was looking and realized I could buy all of my laundry cleaning products and score a gift card and thought “that’s it, I’m onto something!”…. until I saw THE deal of the year. (like all the drama? haha)
Both my husband and I had iPhone 4s at the time and mine was still going strong but my husband had cracked his screen on a boat while on a fishing trip with friends. It was still usable, but almost to the point where it wasn’t functioning properly. He was holding out for the spring when Apple usually announces a new phone.
Target was giving away $300 gift cards if you upgraded to the iPhone 7. Yes, you read that correctly, $300 PER LINE. It was also supposed to be buy one, get one free through AT&T, but later we found out it was only if you were activating a new line, which in our case didn’t fit our scenario. My husband was a little bummed about not getting a newly released phone, but was game for putting the $600 gift cards towards Disney tickets and not using a cracked iPhone anymore. I was thrilled that we were able to take advantage of this deal. Not only were we in need of new phones, but we also had $600 to put towards tickets, just like that! We went back and forth for a while debating how many days to actually go to the parks, but we ended up deciding on 5 days. No park hopper passes, just 5 regular days. At the time of our vacation, that was a total of $740, so we only paid $188 out of pocket (with taxes) for our park tickets. *I have not seen the $300 deal for iPhones again since April, but I have seen some $250 offers, so hold out until you see those!
We purchased 6, $100 Disney gift cards (not Disney Store) and combined those onto one card which you can do online at www.disneygiftcard.com.
$600 Disney gift cards
Save other gift cards.
We didn’t start out by doing this intentionally, but we had a little bowl of gift cards in our home from birthdays and other holidays and occasions. I had an unused $100 hotels.com gift card my mother in law gave me for Christmas, and once we knew we were going to Florida I decided to save it and use it towards our weekly stay, or on our way back since we were planning on driving. Once we had $75 in our bowl of gift cards to use towards food and coffee, we figured why not save them for our trip? We also had a couple of opportunities to take surveys, in which we were rewarded Amazon gift cards. Those were mainly through my husband’s job. We put those Amazon gift cards towards Starbucks, the T-Rex Cafe (which is at Disney Springs, but is a bit pricey for what it is) and Yard House (which is by the Orlando Eye). By the time our trip came we had the following gift cards saved:
$245 gift cards for food & coffee
$100 hotels.com gift card
$20 Target gift card (we ended up using for road trip snacks before we left)
Even if you are not planning on getting gift cards as gifts or saving them, I would recommend that you purchase gift cards leading up to your trip, so that way some of your expenses are spread out among different pay periods rather than the pay period you’re in when you’re on vacation.
Save change the old-fashioned way.
This wasn’t a huge hit for us since we normally don’t keep a ton of cash on us, but we were still able to save $33 worth of change. That’s just shy of 2 Mickey pretzels w/ cheese, 2 churros w/ dipping sauces, and two Mickey ice cream bars! haha
$33 worth of change
Weigh out the pros and cons of staying on and off property. If staying off property, research how much hotels typically run, and then look on Groupon.
To be honest, when I first started researching prices for rooms on Disney property, I was a little disappointed. I felt like the prices for the most basic rooms were outrageous. We also wanted to bring Maximus along with us and we were booking our trip before Disney had implemented a new pet policy (which is still a little pricey). So, we decided to go for off-property. That meant no dining plan, and that we would have to pay for parking each day we went to the parks, which was a total of 6 separate times. (We decided to go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party one night on top of our 5-day passes). I still think that staying off property and eating outside of the parks (for the most part) saved us money. Once we officially decided we wanted to stay off property, we researched and came across a couple of hotels we loved, but were waiting on vacation time to get approved. It ended up working out perfectly. When we got the okay from work, the hotel we were going to book was on Groupon for $200 less than we would have paid through a standard booking site. Unfortunately, the king rooms were all booked, but we were still able to book a room below our price range which actually ended up being a room upgrade! We were able to get a family suite (full kitchen, living room area, two twin beds, pull out sofa, king bed, free continental breakfast) for the price of the king room we originally wanted on Groupon. Plus there was a promo code and we saved an additional $50. It was only $850 with taxes for our hotel room for 8 nights! We could have saved money on parking by taking the free shuttle the hotel had offered, but we wanted to come back in the middle of our days to relax and let Max out to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, our hotel only had a few shuttles in the morning and at night, so that wasn’t possible, but I would stay at our hotel again in a heartbeat! We stayed at the Residence Inn Lake Buena Vista. They are also a Walt Disney World Good Neighbor hotel! This hotel was only 10-15 minutes from the Disney parks, so getting there was a breeze. They even serve fresh Mickey waffles for breakfast every morning! 🙂
Consider using the Disney Chase Credit Card.
I will admit that I feel funny recommending you to go get a credit card, but this actually did help us. I would suggest getting a card only if you have the money to pay off the card right away. When we signed up for this card, the welcome offer was that if you spent $500 within the first three months of opening the card, they would give you a $200 statement credit back. We didn’t apply for the card until we had our vacation time approved from work, and had an idea where we were going to be staying. This allowed us to stay in the three-month window. Once we saw the $200 statement credit get applied to our account, we paid off the amount we used for the hotel right away. Easy as that! If you decide to stay on property, this card is interest-free for Disney vacation packages. Another cool thing about this card is that you can earn 1% and even 2% on purchases. That is a saving tip in of itself. I have heard people put bills on their card and pay it off right away just so they can rack up those reward dollars (I am not suggesting that). You can use these reward dollars in the parks, towards food or merchandise and can even redeem a card the day you get there so you can accrue dollars up until you leave. I loaded/redeemed my card at Disney Springs and used it at the World of Disney towards my Alex and Ani bracelet.
$200 statement credit
$33 reward dollars
Start using Ebates when purchasing online.
I will admit that sometimes it seems like you need to spend a decent amount of money online to see a benefit from using cash back services. But ultimately, I think that it’s a no-brainer. If you are going to purchase something online anyway, why not get a few dollars back every time you shop? It will eventually add up and you can get cash back or a gift card towards a store you like to shop at. We used Ebates to get cash back on booking our hotel through Groupon, and that alone got us $21 cash back. I also was able to accrue a few extra dollars by shopping for vacation clothes online. If you are new to Ebates, you can sign up for free and get a $10 bonus by clicking on my link here!
$32 cash back
Total saved: $1513
I hope you have found some of these tips helpful! How do you save for your Disney trips? I’m really wanting another Disney vacation in my near future, whether that be Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Aulani or a Disney cruise! haha 🙂
Let me know if you found this post to be helpful, or if you have any other tips for saving!
Have a great day! xoxo