How to Spend “Minnie” Dollars on Your Maxi Mickey Trip
Our Favorite Money-Saving Tips
Debra Martin Koma
This article appeared in the November 13, 2018 Issue #999 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
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.
With all the recent price increases — ticket, snacks, BEER! — around both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit the topic of ways to “Minnie”-mize your expenses. That is, what are some ways that you can reduce how much you spend on your next Disney vacation? We’ve collected hundreds of tips from our readers over the years, which we store in our Tips Database. The sampling that follows is culled from that extensive collection, and not only gives you ideas on how to save, but perhaps will also inspire you to come up with your own!
BEFORE THE TRIP
Yes, you can save some money in both obvious and not-so-obvious ways before you even take the trip! Here’s what some of our readers suggest:
Amy W.: I use my Disney Rewards Visa instead of my debit card. I charge everything I possibly can, write the charges in my checkbook just like I would my debit card, and pay the bill off each month. For our upcoming trip, I have $700 in free money that I can use for meals, room charges, etc. It’s a little bit of work but it sure pays off in the end!
Laura F.: Throughout the year make all your purchases on an airlines credit card, rewards card, or no-hassle miles card. I’m talking about your food shopping, gas, everything. This year we’re traveling from the Northeast to Orlando by air (four of us) for $20 total because we were able to cash in the miles we accrued. Depending on your card’s program you can get rewards certificates for dining, etc., also. Just remember to set aside the money you would have used at the supermarket or wherever to pay the bill at the end of the month.
Eileen M.: If you “find” money, set it aside for your trip. For example, if we find money in a coat pocket, or in a purse or even on the street, we save it for Disney. My husband collects metal (aluminum, brass, copper, whatever) and turns it in to a local junkyard for cash. My son and I save change when we use cash to buy something. If we save unexpectedly on something we would have paid full price for, we take the savings and use it for Disney. Wherever you can, even just a few cents, set it aside for your trip. Little bits at a time can add up much more quickly than you’d think.
Elaine: We save our change. At the end of every night we empty all the change out of our pockets into our special “Disney” jar. We also toss in any $1 bills. At the end of the month we had more than $400 in thereâ€¦ Also, our tax return always goes straight to travel, no matter what. Since we know we will spend it if we just put it in the bank, I buy Disney gift cards for the amount of the tax return. This way we have the money for Disney and we don’t spend it on other things.
Justine F.: When making your arrangements, always ask about discounts. Discounts for room reservations, dining, park tickets and tours are sometimes offered for AAA members, military, AARP, Disney Visa card holders, and Florida residents. It’s always worth asking!
Cecilia D.: Pack all your clothes in your carry-on. It can be done. We did it this past spring and saved $90. I used this money to purchase stuff at Disney World. Most airlines allow one carry-on per person. If you do your packing right you should be able to fit a lot in.
Abby: My tip for saving money is to sign up for a survey-taking website. This site emails paid survey invites to you. The paid surveys average about $3. I have been a member for just about a year now and have received $100 for the surveys I have taken. Many surveys that are sent aren’t paid so make sure that you are focusing on completing the paid ones.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Clearly, food and drink are among the biggest expenses of a Walt Disney World trip (after you pay for transportation and tickets, of course!). A TON of you suggest that a great way to save is to “BYO” â€“ that is, bring your own food and drinks. Here are just a few of the many variations on this theme:
Tina S.: My favorite money-saving tip is to save on breakfast. We pack in our luggage, paper bowls, plastic silverware, cups, cereal, bagels, Pop-tarts and bottled water. (You will then have room when you go home for souvenirs.) You can pick up milk and OJ at a resort shop.
Moira: I think that most people would agree that the water from the drinking fountains at Walt Disney World is barely drinkable. However, with the heat and humidity there you need to stay hydrated. Since I think the bottled water is too expensive I bring a refillable bottle to fill at the fountains. To make it taste all right I add a powdered drink mix. They come in single serving sizes, so just throw a few in your bag so you always have them.
Jodi: As an avid visitor to the world, we have found a few ways to save a buck or two. We have found the dining plan is a money-saver and we do not travel to Disney without it. We just returned from a trip and tried the quick-service dining plan and enjoyed it just as much, if not more than, the sit-down dinners. Also, trade in those left-over snacks for some take-home magic!
Jennifer K.: We saved more than $400 by using the Deluxe Dining Plan. We scoured AllEars.Net menus to find which restaurants had food our children would eat and how much each meal would cost with tax and tip. Then we figured out the cost of the plan for two adults and two children, and it was definitely worth it, knowing approximately how much to allot for tips. This can be done with any of the plans, and then meals are paid for ahead of time. When booking with Disney, it also allows you to make payments over an extended period of time so it isn’t so hard on the pocketbook.
Josh: Eat at buffets to maximize your value for the cost. This is especially true for the breakfast/lunch time. If you time your ADR (advance dining reservation) so that they change out the breakfast menu for the lunch menu during the course of your meal, you basically get two meals in one, and you can satisfy the heartiest appetite.
Mark: Share meals. If you’re buying at the resort (we do, since I don’t cook on vacation!), split entrees. Or get a double cheeseburger, cut it in half, and you’ve got two burgers at a fraction of the price of two full meals. Cast members have always accommodated our requests for an extra plate or extra silver. Their servings are large, and you won’t go hungry!
Kelly: One tip I read somewhere that I LOVE: If you have small children, bring some resealable sandwich bags with you to the parks. It seems like the kids never eat all of their food. Order grapes or carrots and you can save them for a snack later in the day.
IN THE PARKS
Hilary S.: 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 â€” 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!
Valerie R.: 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. Last trip, 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.
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.
Angela M.: 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 byâ€¦ 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.: 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 in silver and a can of pink coloring/spray and brought a small curling iron. While at Disney Springs I purchased two small tiaras 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 tiaras. 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 tiaras were the same ones used at BBB, no one knew the difference!
Michele M.: There is stuff that you can do at Disney that costs no money such as viewing the Electrical Water Pageant, participating in Chip ‘n’ Dale’s campfire sing-along at Fort Wilderness and watching the movie afterwards, and going to Disney Springs just for the atmosphere (fun fountains, entertainment).
Lisa C.: There are many “kids eat free” days at the local non-Disney restaurants in the area.
Debbie W.: 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 S.: 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. Another great option is the Belle Vue Room at the Boardwalk Inn. They often play old radio shows and have board games available.
Joy C.: Stroller rental prices have become outrageous, and Disney’s 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.
There you have it! More than two dozen of our favorite ways to “minnie-mize” while making the “maxi” out of your Disney vacation. I don’t know about you, but I found all these different ways to save inspiring! We’d love to hear what some of your ideas are, too! Be sure to drop us note using our Contact Us form!
Need more tips? Then you need our searchable Tips Database!
Other sources of money-saving ideas:
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