Mini-mizing the Mouse:
AllEars® Readers Share Their Tips
by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the June 23, 2009 Issue #509 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Well, as we noted a few weeks ago, our AllEars.Net readers are a frugal bunch! This next installment of money-saving tips sent in by our readers moves away from meal-time (which we covered in Part I) and talk about other ways to save money while you're visiting parks -- on everything from souvenirs to activities. In Part III, coming soon, we'll look at ways to save money BEFORE the trip, including planning tips that help you save.
Hilary Sommer: Come up with a souvenir budget and stick to it. On my last solo trip to the World, I gave myself a $50 souvenir budget -- it was a fun challenge to stick to the budget and find great stuff. In fact, I had souvenir money left over! (If you've been several times, you might consider a trip taken without purchasing souvenirs.) Or, skip the extras, like Photopass photos, spa treatments, special tours, etc. I would always prefer to go all-out, but I find a trip to Disney on a budget is better than no trip to Disney at all!
Kelly R. from Reading, PA: An alternative to face-painting are the temporary tattoos sold at stands throughout the parks. There are a ton of designs and characters to choose from and at a cost of $5-$7 dollars they are a cheaper alternative to the face painting and other experiences like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and hair wraps. Plus, with care, the tattoos can last well over a week instead of washing off in one day.
Valerie Riley: I try to go by a craft store before a WDW trip. You can usually pick up a whole tube of glow necklaces or bracelets for a few dollars. I bring it into the park in a diaper bag. Then, when we are waiting for the parade, there is less temptation to by something from those very appealing carts full of light-up merchandise. Last week, while we were waiting for SpectroMagic, we opened up our tube and enjoyed playing with them. Since we had so many, my daughter (age 4) actually passed out a bunch to the kids sitting around us. It was a nice way to spread some magic without spending $8 on a toy.
MediaOhio@aol.com: You can buy inexpensive Disney items -- including card games, snacks, etc. ahead of time and take with you. Right now I have boxes of Disney gummies; Disney sucker rings; Disney card games. Our Kroger groceries even sometimes have Chip and Dale trail mix packets that we pack and take. With all of these Disney-themed snacks, we are not tempted to overspend for snacks on site. Also, you can create your own magic by buying Disney plush ahead of time -- place on child's pillow during the night and they won't need you to spend $12.99+ for same size at the parks.
Cecilia Dandrea: Do your vacation shopping before vacation by going to Disneyoutlet.com. You can get nice items at a very very very low cost.
Josh: Since your best souvenirs will be your memories anyway, go cheap on the ones you buy. You can collect postcards or pressed pennies for a fraction of the cost of most souvenirs for sale in the gift shops.
Lori Eckhart, Newfoundland, NJ: I saw that I could get a great welcome gift in my room if I order it through the Disney Florist, but they are so expensive, so I am improvising. I have already purchased (on clearance) an autograph book & pen, 7 Disney t-shirts, a photo album, Mickey ears, a Lightning McQueen lanyard with several trading pins (I only paid $1 each for them on ebay) and a few other surprises I have picked up along the way. I will be shipping this box to my resort (in a Disney.com box) with a note to my son from Mickey Mouse. My son won't care that the room isn't decorated with everything laid out on the bed. I think the box full of surprises from Mickey will be just as exciting to receive upon arrival. The total amount I've spent on everything is less than $50 (plus ground shipping to the resort). The cast member I spoke with at my resort already confirmed that they will hold my package until we check in, so I can send it ground knowing it will be kept safe until my arrival. Compared to the Disney Florist packages, this is a bargain! Also, I don't need to worry about buying these items at a premium while I'm at Disney.
Angela Manzi: To save on impulse souvenir purchases-shop online and at your local Disney Store ahead of time. I pack a new Mickey item for each child in our luggage and they wake up to a gift left by... Tinker Bell, Mickey Mouse, etc. Throw on some glitter and they'll definitely believe the fairies were there. Trading pin sets can also be purchased this way and save you a ton of money.
Susan S., Piscataway, NJ: My girls really wanted to do the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on our last trip to WDW, however with two of them the cost was just too high. Instead, before our trip I purchased sparkle hair spray from Wal-Mart in silver and a can of pink coloring/spray (I think it was $2.97 per can) and brought a small curling iron. While at Downtown Disney I purchased two of the small crowns ($10 each) from World of Disney. On the day we were going to our Princess breakfast, I got up early, curled and styled their hair in "up-do's" sprayed with sparkles and color and put in the crowns. They looked just as beautiful as the girls from the BBB and got just as many compliments at a fraction of the cost. They still had their special day, we just did it on a budget and since the crowns were the same ones used at BBB, no one knew the difference!
LOOK FOR THE
Carol Kuhar: We went to the Chip and Dale Marshmallow Roast. The event is free. There is singing and dancing for the kids. A gentleman comes out and plays his guitar with Disney type songs. They build 2 fires at each end of the little theater area. You can bring your own marshmallows/smore ingredients. Or you can purchase the makings onsite. If I remember, the S'mores kits were about $12.00. Chip and Dale come around so you can take pictures with your family or get autographs. We missed this the first time we came to Disney but got a chance to participate this last trip. We would recommend this to a family with younger children. My daughter was 12 and still enjoyed it.
Michele Munoz: There is stuff that you can do at Disney that costs no money such as viewing the Electric Water parade, participating in Chip N' Dale's campfire sing-along at Fort Wilderness and watching the movie afterwards and going to Downtown Disney just for the atmosphere (fun fountains, entertainment).
Lisa Conley: There are many "kids eat free" days at restaurants in the area. Downtown Disney and the Boardwalk provide free entertainment. You can get free souvenirs, if you do your research.
Debbie Wills (no, not our Editor, there's another one!): My husband is the proud owner of an Annual Pass. With the annual pass, he gets discounts on WDW Hotels and on dining in certain WDW restaurants (always ask at each restaurant for the annual pass discount).
Hilary Sommer: Seek out free evening entertainment. There are plenty of watering holes that have a band or piano player -- you don't have to hit a place with a cover charge. For example, we've had a lot of fun at the bar at Port Orleans French Quarter without paying a cover charge. Another great option is the Belle Vue Room at the Boardwalk Inn. They often play old radio shows and have board games available.
STAY OFF PROPERTY
Lisa Conley: Stay off property. You spend most of your days at the park, so does it really matter where you sleep? Especially in the summer when the parks are open late anyway, the extra magic hours until 2am just doesn't make sense. You can get a great deal in the Downtown Disney area or somewhere in Kissimmee for less than $90 per night and have a larger room. We stayed at the Caribe Royale last trip and were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful, newly renovated rooms. Or vacation with another family and rent a condo. It will split your costs in half and you will have more amenities than at a hotel (washer, dryer, fridge, stove). It will also save on money if you bring food and cook your meals at the condo.
CHILD CARE COSTS
Angela Manzi: To save on baby items and checked baggage, ship a box to your resort ahead of time with diapers, wipes, formula, etc. (freeing up the need to check another paid bag).
Joy Clevenger: Stroller rental prices have become outrageous at WDW, and they are way too small for bigger kids! Our solution was to purchase a new stroller that fit our family here at home and sell it when we returned. Our actual spending was only around $25 rather than almost $200 for our 6 night stay.
Hilary Sommer: Don't purchase park admission media you don't need. For instance, if it is unlikely you'll hit a water park don't add that option. If you know you'll only be in the parks three days, purchase tickets accordingly.
Lisa Conley: Buy tickets and use them over several trips. A ten-day, no expiration, water parks and more ticket can be purchased at a discount from Disney's advertised price on some websites, so if you are planning more than one trip in the future, this ticket has 10 days at the parks and 10 days at the waterparks and Disney Quest. It is less than $25 per day, per use. The regular price for two five day tickets would be more than $450 and each waterpark and Disney Quest day costs more than $40. (you get 10 visits!). The waterparks are worth the visit and DisneyQuest is amazing! It might sting the first trip, but the second will be so much less expensive!
Mini-Mizing the Mouse: Money-saving Tips, Part I: http://allears.net/ae/issue506.htm
Annual Pass Discounts: http://allears.net/pl/apass.htm
Tables in Wonderland (formerly Disney Dining Experience): http://allears.net/din/dde.htm
Disney Vacation Club Discounts: http://allears.net/acc/dvc.htm
Be sure to check our off-site accommodation advertisers for specials and discounts:
Searchable database of reader tips: http://allears.net/rta/tips.php
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.