Disney Trip Tips: Cost-Saving Before You Go

Several of you guessed that yes, we are headed South to the Happiest Place on Earth. We will be staying at the Fort again because a). we have a camper already, b). we don’t fit in any hotel rooms as a family of 8, c). we think the fort is one of the best-kept secrets at WDW, and d). it is SUPER cheap for a family of 8 at $64 a night for most nights we are going to be there (and also makes it so easy to eat IN which is always cheaper than eating OUT no matter your family size).

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These stickers were all saved from the round file, and all were free. The round ones came from Doctor visits and the others came from an unsolicited invitation packet to join the Disney Movie Club. I *hope* to make some homemade autograph books for Li’l Miss, Li’l Bro and Li’l Bit with these. Time will tell!

Those Magic Bands in the Wordless Wednesday posts are the new way at Disney, and I’m not sure I am going to like them. But alas, times change and so we must.

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I am however liking the FREE My Disney Experience app, which I’ve already been using on my iPhone and iPad. With 12 total in our party, it is a handy way to keep track of everyone. Yes, my mother and my mother-in-law more than gladly handed over planning to none other than me (see below about their last visit to the Happiest Place on Earth).

On that note of planning, I might have made an interactive schedule for our party of 12. Notice I said “might” and it is complete with hyperlinks and has been emailed to all parties involved who have smartphones that will be traveling with us. And yes, this snapshot of part of it (so as to hide any dates on it) shows you the red text that is indeed hyper-linked for the usage of all who own smartphones. (FP=Fast Pass).

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In the meantime, I will add that this trip was not planned until the Prez learned a conference he attends at least every other year would take place at the Happiest Place on Earth. And then the idea was born for the whole family to sneak in a trip while he conferred.

Why not?

Ahem … well the Prez might have daydreamed of lazing by the pool on those days when no breakout session of interest was planned. Or maybe he daydreamed of riding Space Mountain over and over again with virtually no wait in the single rider line.

But, really, how boring would that be? And I’m sure his daydreams by the pool would consist of his family back home and how much he missed all the noise and clamor that is our family.

Well you all can see that clearly he wised up and realized the whole fam going was the way to go. Not only that, but I saw fit to invite my parents and his parents. We are admittedly close to both of them and this is the first time either has been to the land of happiest places since The Prez and I were both about 8 years old. Let’s put it this way: they haven’t been since EPCOT even existed. There was only one park the last time they went: the MK. Can you even imagine?

They have no clue what awaits LOL! However, they DO have their magic bands!

But I’m wandering in this post, so I’m going to get to the point. The Prez’s company will be paying for lodging as the Fort is much cheaper than the hotel room he would have secured at the Disney hotel of the conference, the gas as well would be the same whether we all go or he goes, and so this trip is on the cheap in many ways.

But we needed to stay on the cheap for the other items of necessity such as food, souvenirs, and tickets. (OK, tickets for 8 people are not cheap but we bought just 2 days and plan to spend the others days actually at the Fort, which is full of FREE things to do which any guest staying on-site at WDW can experience.).

Here is a list of FREE* things we might do at the Fort:

  • Swimming at Meadows Pool
  • Hanging at the campground
  • Bike riding
  • Fishing the canal
  • Ferry boat ride from Fort to Wilderness Lodge  or MK TTC (and back again)
  • Monorail ride (after taking ferry to MK)
  • Nap
  • Nightly campfire and movie with Chip ‘n Dale (they sell food but you are welcome to bring your own)
  • Tour Stables at the Fort, where the Main Street horses reside when not working (if you’re lucky, you might catch a blacksmith shoeing one of the horses)
  • Watch MK fireworks from the beach at the Fort
  • Walk the many trails through the woods at the Fort
  • Pony ride* (this one has a $5 fee, but really not a bad deal!)

We will be adding another day to our tickets with Disney*Dollars, which we’ve earned on our Disney VISA card. I realize Dave Ramsey wouldn’t approve necessarily of that card, but we have a set limit we put on it each month and this amount is part of our budget. Once we reach that amount, which many months we don’t and that is the point, but if we do we use our checking account (or we don’t buy it!).

I am wise to the ways of gift shops and the like at Disney. I wised up two trips ago. I began in earnest before Christmas scouring our house for all things Disney. Not only did I locate them, but I began to collect them and store them away in our master closet. These said items have been momentarily forgotten, which was my whole point.

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As we near the departure date, I am awaiting the movement of our home on wheels (e.g. camper), so that I can outfit it with all things Disney like beach towels, clothing, purses, hats, water bottles with attached snack cups, puzzles, games and books.

Yes, this is an attempt on my part to inundate them with Disney so as to up the magic factor, and to alleviate the need for new things Disney upon arrival to the Happiest Place on Earth.

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I also began scouring dollar-type stores as well as the Target clearance bins (located at the back of our stores near electronics for some unknown reason) for things that are useful and yet Disney-fied. And one day I hit the jackpot.

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I found 2 board books, which Li’l Bit still loves and are great for car trips, 3 paperbook books on a good reading level for Li’l Miss and Li’l Bro, and 3 activity books (one for each of the littles of course). Since these items were priced at 60 cents or 30 cents, I scored all 9 items for $4.20, which is not a bad deal for brand-new, never-before-seen items that will be useful after the trip and hopefully along the way.

To budget for the aforementioned gift shops once there, I purchased each of our children one $25 Disney gift card each. Even our oldest will find it useful if for no other reason than food items we find ridiculous in the park but he wants at the moment. Yes, doing the math that is $150 worth of gift cards, but that is the entirety of our souvenir/unreasonable food purchases in the park budget, and each child gets the same amount and is responsible for choosing when and how to use that $25.

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I also purchased them when a regional grocery chain was running 4 times the fuel points for each gift card purchase, so those $150 in gift cards earned me 600 fuel points toward a goal of 1,000 in a month for $1 off each gallon of gas. Using the $1 for the maximum allowed of 35 gallons mean we saved $35 in fuel, which paid for more than one of the cards.

I will be making some incidental purchases soon of Disney-fied gummy snacks, which all of mine like and never get because I don’t buy them, mickey band-aids for the camper, and whatever other snack items I can find for their gift bags with a Disney theme of course, which I found at Jo-Ann’s for 75% off BEFORE Christmas. The bags ended up being 50 cents apiece.

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Each child will get their bag as we depart full of snack items, their gift card (well some will have their gift card held in an adult wallet), and a couple of their favorite carbonated beverage along with bottled water. No whining at gas stations for snacks and such, which is also a cost-saver as well with six kids in tow.

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In addition, we will include such items as Campbell’s Disney chicken noodle soup, which I of course have purchased on sale at various grocery chains. I am on the look-out for other items and will also put my Mickey ear frozen pop makers from Tupperware in the camper freezer along with some apple, grape and orange juice for cheap, go-to snacks on our days spent at the Fort. (I got these frozen popsicle molds years ago, but I don’t think they are available new anymore. I did see some on ebay though.)

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To sum it all up, pun totally intended, I have spent very little out-of-pocket to bring some Disney magic along with us in a total attempt to prevent frivolous spending once we arrive. This also helps us budget as a family of 8, and to know a good figure of what this trip will cost BEFORE we go.

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So far, I have spent $150 for six $25 gift cards—one for each child to use in the parks on our trip for wanted sundries. In addition, I have spent $13.20 on the following items: clearance books, gift bags, and Valentine’s Day treats times six.  I scored the Valentine cards with attached chocolate treats at the grocery store for $1 each, and that is all I’m going to say about that! 😉

I hope this helps my commenter, Lauren, and others to take their own cost-saving measures for a Disney trip on a shoestring budget.

Today’s Tip: I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve seen it enough on Pinterest to believe it is fact. If your child writes to Disney Communications, your child should receive an autographed picture and/or postcard back! This is totally FREE and educational, and we are going to get ours in the mail on Monday! I will let you know our results!

Today’s BONUS Tip: I have a Pinterest page with all things Disney, and most of them are related to CHEAP ways to up the magic on your trip! You might want to check it out if you have a trip to see the Mouse in the future!

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3 thoughts on “Disney Trip Tips: Cost-Saving Before You Go

  1. Did you know you can use your Disney Rewards card at a specific spot in Epcot to get a free photo of your family with some Disney Characters? It was only 4×6 but it was free. It is in a separate area from other character photo places. Ours turned out well and was a good deal, free! I would love to hear your after report about the Magic Bands and how that works. Hope you have a Magical time 🙂

  2. What fun!!!!! I hope you have a wonderful trip! And it’s just what you all need!

    Bill had meetings at Disney a few of times when our older kids were younger, and he took full advantage of bringing along the fam! We stayed at the contemporary, which is anything but my “style;” however, it was SO convenient and easy, with 3 small children in tow, for me to get around using the monorail while Bill was in meetings. We found lots of free things to take advantage of while Bill was working, too!

    I hope you have a wonderful time and come home with lots of special memories!

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