Category Archives: Money Saving Tips

Top 5 Money-Saving tips for Disney World-

Perdita (mom) here-

I am the money-manager in the house so I do the investigative work when it comes to saving money for Disney World. Some of the 5 tips for saving money are so long I will have to elaborate in a separate article, but some are not

1)Eat Cheaply-I have covered this in a previous article, but it bears repeating. This one tip alone can save hundreds easily. Some people don’t think about how much a meal can cost (easily $30-40/person). If you have a family of 4 that is about $160. If you factor in 3 meals/day that could easily add up to $500/ day plus any snacks and drinks you may buy at the park. Let’s just say you do spend this much and you are staying 7 days. You can easily see how the meals can add up to thousand alone. I know Disney isn’t cheap for even the “cheap” meals I have advocated, but it makes a real difference.

2) Buy Disney Vacation Club (to save even more, buy on the re-sale market)-
I am writing a couple of articles about this because there is so much about this topic. This one move has enabled us to go to the parks much more frequently than we otherwise would have been able to.

3)Use Miles Cards and sign-up bonuses for your travel
Again I will elaborate more later, but if you have a favorite airline or have one airline (for us it is Southwest Airlines) that is convenient for travel, get their credit card.

4)If you don’t have Disney Vacation Club consider Value and Moderate Resorts
When we called in to Disney in 2009 to make a reservation we didn’t even know there were value resorts. (There are value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villa resorts.) They booked us in a deluxe resort. When I thought back to the time I called several years before and they priced the vacation (the one we couldn’t afford) they also had booked us into a deluxe resort. Ask about all options and check the website.

5)Don’t fall for the “Dining-Plan-Package”
They will tell you that you are saving money when in fact they have that built into the package. If you price the vacation for room only I have found you save money. (a caveat is that is only if you don’t care about eating at the fine dining restaurants). I have found that on room-only reservations you can get about 30% off on the rooms most of the time anyway and they put the dining plan in the package and keep the room at full price. There are exceptions to this but I have found this to be the case when we have called.

More tips later!

The Disney Visa Credit Card

The Disney Visa credit card is an option available to save money on and for a Disney vacation. It offers 1% return on everything charged to the card in Disney Dream Reward Dollars which can be spent for anything at the parks, resorts, Disney Cruise Line, and even the Disney Store. It also offers 10 – 15% deductions on some things at the parks, resorts, or ship. I will list these later.

So, is it a good option? The resounding answer is….maybe, sometimes. Allow me to try to explain. For a rewards credit card, 1% return is not very generous. If your current card offers no rewards, then obviously, this is better. “A penny saved is a penny earned.” That is exactly what you get with the Disney Visa. On the plus side, it is a 1% return on ALL, not just select, purchases. For example, the Target Visa offers 5% off purchases from Target. We get most of our groceries and household items from Target; so, the Target Visa is a much better deal to use there. It gives no rewards on gas, dining out, park tickets, or reservations. So, it is not good to use at those times.

We usually keep two cards. I do not like to have more than two cards, because it can become very confusing quickly. No matter how generous the “rewards,” the APR financing for credit cards are horrible. So, no credit card is a good idea if you do not pay if off on time, every time. Having too many cards and forgetting a payment negates any benefit. For quite some time, we kept the Disney Visa as our secondary card to use on anything not from Target. It worked well. Perdita has since changed to an another one which fits our current situation better.

Another instance in which it may be a good option is if you have a hard time setting money aside specifically for Disney, and you want spending money for a Disney vacation. Disney is the only place that the Reward Dollars can be spent.

Now, let’s look at how much you will have to charge to “pay” for things at the parks. Let’s say that you use your card for gasoline only, like the “average” American, you drive 13,500 miles per year, your car averages 25 miles per gallon and gas costs $2.50 per gallon. That comes out to 540 gallons, $1,350 spent, and $13.50 Disney Dream Reward Dollars. This will buy you a quick service meal with dessert or a refillable mug. Most of us will use it for much more than just gas, like dining out, park tickets, and reservations.
$1,000 charged = 10 Disney Reward Dollars (DRD) = a quick service meal
$3,000 charged = 30 DRD = a table service meal
$10,000 charged = $100 DRD = 1 day admission to Magic Kingdom.

Every little bit does help, though.

Another potential money saving role of the Disney Visa is for purchases only for the Disney Vacation. You can sometimes (rarely) get discounts on tickets and reservations. You just have to watch closely. They due offer 0% APR for 6 months off of large Disney purchases like vacation packages, cruises, and DVC purchases. It also offers discounts at many, but not all, shops in the parks and resorts. Saving 10% on souvenir purchases and the “free” character photo may be worth it. If you are an annual pass holder or a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member, then you already have similar, but better perks; so, it really does not make sense for you.

Again, is the Disney Visa a good money saving option? I will stick with my prior answer, “sometimes, maybe.” You will have to decide for yourself. I will list the benefits below to help.

1% in Disney Dream Reward Dollars on all card purchases.
0% APR for 6 months on select Disney vacation packages, cruises, Adventures by Disney trips, and Aulani resort.
0% APR for 6 months on purchase of DVC membership, including member add on. This does not include purchases on the resale market.
$50 onboard credit aboard a Disney Cruise Line vessel when purchased in full with the Disney Visa.
Free 5 x 7 character photo from 1 – 7 p.m. daily at Innoventions West in Epcot at WDW and from 10:30 – 1:30 daily at Blue Sky Cellars in Disney’s California Adventure in California.
10% off select purchases of $50 or more at most, but not all shops, at WDW, Disneyland, and DVC resorts including Aulani, Vero Beach, and HHI. In general, the large stores selling Disney merchandise, like Mousegears in Epcot, will give the discount.
10% off dining at select WDW restaurants: Boma, Jiko (sometimes), and Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge; ESPN Sports Club and Flying Fish (sometimes) at the Boardwalk Resort; Shutters at Caribbean Beach Resort; The Wave at the Contemporary Resort; Trails End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness; Citricos (sometimes) and Grand Floridian Cafe at the Grand Floridian; Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West; Boatwrights at Port Orleans; The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs; Artist Point (sometimes) at Wilderness Lodge; Captain’s Grill at the Yacht Club; Hollywood Brown Derby (sometimes) and Hollywood & Vine (sometimes) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; Biergarten (sometimes) at Epcot; Big Thunder Ranch, French Market, and River Belle Terrace at Disneyland California; Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, Wine Country Trattoria (lunch), and Paradise Garden Grill at Disney’s California Adventure; The Lounge at Steakhouse 55 (breakfast), Steakhouse 55 (lunch), Disney’s PCH Grill (breakfast and dinner) and Storytellers Cafe (lunch) at the Disneyland resorts;
15% off select tours and experiences: (Magic Kingdom) Disney’s Family Magic Tour, Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour, Disney’s The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour; (Epcot) Gardens of the World, The UnDISCOVERed Future World, Disney’s Dolphins in Depth, Epcot DiveQuest, Epcot Seas Aqua Tour, Behind the Seeds; (multiple WDW parks) Backstage Magic, Disney’s Holiday D-Light Tour at Christmas, Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy at Christmas; (Fort Wilderness) Wilderness Back Trail Adventure and Horseback rides; (Port Orleans and Fort Wilderness) carriage rides; (WDW Deluxe Resorts) spa treatments of $45 or more; (Disneyland) Welcome to Disneyland, Discover the Magic, Cultivating the Magic.
10% off certain California Downtown Disney establishments: Jazz Kitchen, Wentzel’s Pretzels, RIDEMAKERZ, Alamo Rent A Car, ESPN Zone.
15% off purchases from littlemissmatched in California Downtown Disney.

I hope this is useful.


Eating “Cheaply” at Walt Disney World.

Is this even possible you may be thinking. I guess the word cheap is a relative thing but we have managed to eat reasonably inexpensively at Disney World for several years now. One of the first tips my husband posted on: the refillable mugs. This alone makes a huge difference. Even in any setting whether a beach destination, Disney, or even at home; drinks are a huge part of a food budget when eating out. The refillable mugs are a great price saver when staying at the parks for more than 3-4 days. The longer the stay, the bigger the price savings. The mugs can be refilled as many times as possible with soda, Powerade, lemonade, tea, coffee, and hot cocoa. The length of stay mug costs $17.99 which sounds like a lot but if you are staying even 7 days and fill the mug 5 times per day that is 51 cents/ refill. If you stay 14 days like we have that is 26 cents/ refill. You must fill the mugs at the resorts as there isn’t a place in the parks to fill them but we fill ours before every trip out, which is usually twice per day

I always want to come here to eat when we come to EPCOT. They have great Mexican food and nice inside seating.
I always want to come here to eat when we come to EPCOT. They have great Mexican food and nice inside seating.

For food, we eat at the quick service restaurants at the parks and at the Contempo Cafe at The Contemporary Resort. We stay at the Bay Lake Tower a lot and the Contempo Cafe has reasonable prices and good selection with some nutritious choices. We have stayed at other resorts and found their quick service restaurants pretty good and usually more relaxed than at the parks.

At Epcot there are many quick service options that are both reasonable in price and filling and good.
At the Land in Epcot there is the Sunshine Seasons restaurant that has 5 food choices like a mini-food court. The Mexico Pavillion and many of the countries offer good food at reasonable prices.

This is the Pinnochio Village Haus, my favorite restaraunt in Magic Kingdom. They serve some of the best flatbreads in all the parks.
This is the Pinnochio Village Haus, my favorite restaraunt in Magic Kingdom. They serve some of the best flatbreads in all the parks.

At Magic Kingdom both Ray’s Starlight Cafe and Pinocchio’s Village Haus have good choices for about $10/ person per adult and less for kid’s meals. Ray’s has a huge 1/2 roasted chicken meal with great mashed potatoes and green beans for $10.99. ( We buy two meals and get an extra plate and feed all three of us). Ray’s has 3 food choices with different lines; one for chicken, one for sandwiches and burgers, and one for soups and salads.

At Animal Kingdom Flame Tree Barbecue is good and not too expensive. Pizzafari is okay but nothing special.

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe. From the seating area pictured here you have a great view of the fireworks.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. From the seating area pictured here you have a great view of the fireworks.

Hollywood Studios has a dearth of quick service options. What is there is sub-par in my opinion.

If you fly with Southwest, you can check two bags for free. This leads to another way to save. Pack an entire suitcase full of snacks and food. We did this for Christmas and saved money this way, especially since we like to snack quite a bit.

In summary, eating cheaply at Disney World isn’t possible but eating cheaper is.

WDW refillable mugs

Refillable mugs are available at all WDW resorts. The mugs can be filled at any resort, but not at the parks. If you have a “meal plan,” then it is included in your cost. For others,the cost is as follows: $8.99 for 1 day use 11.99 for 2 days 14.99 for 3 day 17.99 for length of stay (up to 14 days) The “days” are calendar days, not 24 hour periods. They can used for hot coffee, hot tea, hot cocoa, iced tea, and fountain drinks, which usually include lemonade and a sports drink. Juices, alcoholic beverages, and speciality drinks like cappuccino are not included. Just looking at the costs, it seems costly, but it actually can be a cost conscious purchase. Whether or not the mugs are a good deal, depends on the person and family. The cheapest drink option, of course, is water which available free of charge at the resorts and parks. Florida tap water tastes like the swamp from where it comes, though. It is really nasty. Flavoring packets can added to the swamp water and are another cost effective option. Shops such as the Dollar Tree sell packs of 10 for as little a $1, and these can easily be fitted into luggage, taking minimal space. If you are driving, you can take whatever beverage you like into your room. If you are staying in a moderate or deluxe resort, coffee to make up to 4 cups are placed in your room each day. This occurs twice per week at DVC resorts. Budget resorts do not offer coffee makers, so, coffee is an additional cost. These are some other ways which affect the value. For our family, it makes sense. Perdita and Roly shun even the best tap water. We always fill them for breakfast at the resort. Then we refill them for mornings at the park. We usually come back to our room in the afternoon for a siesta, and refill again. They are refilled again heading out for our evening at the parks. Finally, they are refilled before we retire to the room for the night. We rarely even buy a drink at the parks, other than an occasional LeFou’s Brew. That amounts to 5 fills per day, 35 for an entire week. The longer you stay, the more of a value they are. After using them for a week, we are paying roughly $.50 per drink.. This is not bad and is close to what you will pay if you bring in canned drinks. It is much cheaper than buying drinks at WDW and/or the resorts. Another consideration is the mug itself. They are great souvenirs. I use one every day during my commute to work. You are paying basically $6 for the mug, similar to the price of a pin, but something that can actually be useful when you leave the park. * refillable mugs are also available and similarly priced at Disney’s Aulani, Vero Beach, and Hilton Head resorts, but not at any of the California resorts. Final thoughts: 1. Water is the cheapest option, but Florida water tastes bad. 2. If you have access to a car, there are other options that can save more money. 3. If you buy more than 1 drink per day at a resort, then the refillable mugs offer a good value, and you leave with a useful souvenir. My favorite cool weather mug recipe: – fill the mug a little over half full with decaf coffee – hot cocoa to about a 1/2 inch from the top – top off with a 1/2 inch of cream – stir well (tasty and a lot cheaper then Starbucks) Pongo.

Money Saving Tip: Southwest Rewards

Today, my money saving tip for travel to Disney World concerns a strategy for one aspect of a Disney vacation; travel to the parks.  We live too far to drive without an overnight stop-over; so, we started flying.  We live in a city that offers a direct flight to Orlando aboard Southwest Airlines.  Recently, I opened a Southwest Rewards credit card that offered 50,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in the first three months.  Miles can be redeemed for future flights, and, for us, 50,000 miles translates into about 4-5 round-trip tickets.  You can also shop through the Southwest shopping portal and earn points which translate into miles.

This strategy, with Southwest, may not work depending on where you live, but, all airlines offer credit card reward offers.  There are other cards that offer points as well.  This is one area where I have done a lot of research, and I use it for our family.  In upcoming “Money Saving Tip” posts, I will give the scoop on another way to amp up savings even more with Southwest Airlines, as well as a few of the best offers I have found.

*disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Southwest Airlines


Money Saving Tip: the DVC

There are many ways I have learned to save money for trips to Walt Disney World.   In this first tip, I will give only a brief overview.  Later posts will give a more in-depth discussion.

Three years ago, we bought a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) contract.  This has been the single largest way in which we have saved money, and it has enabled us to visit WDW much more frequently than we otherwise would be able to do.

There are two ways to buy a DVC contract:  directly from Disney, or on the resale market.  We chose to buy from the resale market which saved us about 30% compared with buying directly from Disney.


Tomorrow:  Weekly Disney News Roundup