Making Disney Affordable

            “Let's just go this one time and then we'll wait a few years before we go again.” Famous last words...from me.

            The first time we visited Walt Disney World as a family, I had to beg my husband to take us It was a last minute decision and we contacted Amy in February that year and requested reservations for April. Amy made it so simple and so fun. We were off before we knew it. And it was truly magical!

            On the car ride home, I pondered how to tell my husband that I was ready to go again. Thankfully, he had as much (if not more) fun as me and was the first to say it. Of course the dreaded question came up after all our “let's do this next time...” and “maybe we should try this next time...”planning and scheming...How much will all this cost? We knew what we wanted and we knew it would come with a heftier magical price tag. I began researching in advance and asking everyone I knew what they suggest. How could we save money on a family trip for four to Walt Disney World? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Good. I'm here to help! I want to share with you how we saved over $1000 on our latest trip to Walt Disney World.

            (Hint: our latest trip was number three and we're headed again in December sans kids for trip four in only three years. See why I said famous last words?)

            The obvious start is to contact Amy and receive an initial quote. She is the best at listening to what you want and getting the best package within your budget. I highly recommend the dining packages and the memory maker. But that's another topic for another conversation....

            Now it's time to budget for gasoline, extra food on the road there and back (and tips if we are doing any table service meals), and then souvenirs. Add all of that together and I have a very close estimate on what the trip will cost us overall. It's very important to consider all the little things that could add up so you can save across the board and not just on the travel package.

            We saved the most on gas at Publix. They will often have a coupon in their ad for $10 off a $50 gas gift card when you make a grocery purchase of $50 or more. These often run Friday – Sunday only so be on the lookout. That's a 20% savings on gas! Simply tuck the gift card away in your glove box or another safe location within the car until you need it.

            (Hint: We have found that the route we take to Walt Disney World has the most Shell gas stations. So that's the one we purchase.)

            For a simple and easy way to save money on your trip, head over to Sam's Club and grab their Disney gift cards. You can buy a $500 Disney gift card for only $479.98 (5%). It might not sound like much but every bit helps. You can use Disney gift cards on everything Disney. Travel packages for Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, etc, food at the parks (including tips), souvenirs, and everything in between. If you're willing to do a little work to stretch your Sam's Club savings, consider joining Swagbucks. It's an online search engine that awards you “swagbucks” for doing simple searches, surveys, offers, and more. I will occasionally browse their Discover section and see if anything catches my eye that we already want or need. Once you accumulate 2500 swagbucks, it can be cashed in for money (via Paypal) or gift cards. We opted for the Sam's Club gift cards. It takes a little time but it's super easy and well worth it for us. Over the course of 7 months, we cashed in $750 worth of swagbucks which we used at Sam's Club for the Disney gift cards.

            (Hint: Swagbucks allows multiple accounts per household and you receive bonus swagbucks for referrals. You will need separate Paypal accounts though so keep that in mind.)

            Another way to save on Disney gift cards is by keeping an eye on your Paypal and Ebay account promotions. They ran a few deals for $15 off $30 or $5 off $15 deals. I was able to snag a $50 Disney gift card for only $35 (30% savings) from Ebay with one offer. Target will also do online only offers on gift cards occasionally. Around Christmas time, they ran a deal for 10% off all Target gift cards. You can then go in store and purchase the Disney gift cards with the Target gift cards.

            (Hint: Don't worry about keeping up with all of these gift cards you're buying at amazing rates. Simply create an account at Disney Gift Card and you can load/transfer/manage all of your gift cards in one easy location. They really do think of everything.)

            Last but not least, check your credit card benefits. Many credit card companies have reward programs that allow you cash back or discounts on gift cards. At the beginning of the year, Discover ran a promotion for an additional 5% back at wholesale stores (ie Sam's Club) so we received double the savings. Discover also allows us to trade in the reward points for discounted gift cards to Bed Bath and Beyond. A $25 gift card is only $20 (20% savings) and then we can use those gift cards to purchase Disney gift cards in store.

            (Hint: Always make sure to check the terms and conditions before using your reward points so you know exactly how they can be used and when).

            If you're like me and love numbers and savings deals, then these tips are hopefully helpful as you plan your next vacation. If you're like my husband, then all of this has made your head spin like you're on the Mad Tea Party ride in Magic Kingdom! But don't worry – keep it simple and save where you can. Then go to Walt Disney World and eat a cinnamon roll from Gaston's Tavern for me!

Courtney Willson