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Guest Post: Hip Tips to Save at Disney

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How to Take a Frugal Disney Vacation

Guest Post by Julie Harrington-Travel Planner

Did you know there are many hidden (and not so hidden tips!) to save money while you are on your Disney Vacation? Here are a few great tips put together by Julie Harrington, a travel planner with Family Time Getaways.


* Purchase a case of water online from a site like Walmart.com and have it shipped directly to your resort at Disney World. Currently, you can snatch up a case of Great Value Purified Water 1/2 liter bottles 24 ct. from Walmart.com for just $4.45 shipped (that’s just $0.19 per bottle!). When you arrive at the resort, pick up your shipment from the front desk and you’ll have cheap water for your entire stay. Note that some Disney Resorts are now charging a fee for deliveries, so I suggest you contact your specific Resort for complete details.

* If you prefer reusable water bottles, consider purchasing a few Disney-Themed water bottles from DisneyStore.com. Stash them in your suitcase and surprise your kiddos with their new water bottles on your first day of vacation.


* Pre-purchase souvenirs! Check your local Disney Store and DisneyStore.com for sales frequently. If you find a great deal on something, snatch it up, pack it in your suitcase and give it to your kids when arrive. You may also want to keep some of these on hand to disperse to your kiddos throughout the vacation (this will prevent you from buying these same souvenirs at the park and paying 2-3 times as much!).


* One of my kid’s favorite traditions at Disney World is buying their box of Disney themed Potato Head Pieces at Downtown Disney. Disney offers two options: (1) Pay $19.99 to put as many pieces into a box as you can fit (2) Purchase the actual Potato Head, which costs more and will also take up valuable space in your box. Instead, consider buying the Potato Head ahead of time (or even better, bring one that you already have!). This will ensure that your child has the Potato Head to put the pieces on later and has more room in the box to fill with Disney themed pieces.

* If you have been to Disney World or any large theme park for that matter with young children, you know that having a stroller is a MUST. Even my 8 year old gets in the stroller to relax after a long morning walk in the parks. Renting a stroller at the parks can get expensive (plus, the park strollers are not all that comfortable). I would highly suggest using an outside company such as MagicStrollers.com to rent your stroller. The prices are amazing for what you are receiving. You not only get a very clean, comfortable, compact stroller, but they also deliver to the resort for you the day of your arrival and pick it up for you the day of your departure.


* Take your own photos! Any of the Disney Photographers are more than happy to take a picture using your own camera as well. If you do want to take advantage of the Disney Photographers while you are in the parks, I highly suggest that you pre-purchase your PhotoPass CD (starts at $99.95). When you get to the parks and come to a Disney Photographer, you’ll ask them for a PhotoPass card and let them know that you have pre-purchased your CD. It’s always a good idea to take a photo of the back of your photopass card in case you lose it as you will need the number to retrieve your photos online after your trip. Once you return home, register your cards online and check out your photos. If for any reason you do not like your photos or do not wish to buy the CD, you will get a full refund of of $99.95 (love that!). If you decide to wait until after your trip to order the CD, it will cost $149.95.


* FREE Pixie Dusting! What little girl wouldn’t want Pixie Dust sprinkled on her? At Castle Couture, right outside Cinderella’s Castle, you can bring your little girls to have pixie dust (glitter) sprinkled on them as they make their enchanted wish. It’s so cute and it’s FREE! Shhh…If you’re worried about finding this “free” Pixie Dust, bring a bag of glitter/confetti with you.


* Want to do something extra special while at Disney World? Have you heard all the buzz about the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique, but just can’t swing the price tag? Then consider another option with a much lower kick to your wallet…the Pirates League at Magic Kingdom. It is just as cute and fun and perfect for little boys and little girls (and even Moms and Dads!). Get your make-up done up like pirates, put on some pirate gear and learn the pirate lingo.


Do you have any hip tips to share? If so, please share them with us in the comments below!

(A BIG thanks to Julie Harrington-Travel Planner with Family Time Getaways for all these awesome tips! If you need help planning an upcoming Disney vacation, you can contact Julie at (978) 707-9047 or follow her on Facebook.)

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239 Hip Readers Commented

  • Cynthia says:

    When we took a trip to Disney, we had the girls go to the bibbity bobbety boutique – it was SO MUCH FUN. It really was worth the money for the service that the ladies give these princesses… it really made them feel special.
    We brought our own dresses from home with shoes and so they only got the make up/hair/nails done which was $55, but with their own dresses, they looked like the girls who’s parents spent much more to purchase the outfits there. Honestly, it was totally worth it for the entire experience, very memorable for them, the whole process took around 2 hours i think?. I’m not sure if the $55 included the pictures or not (my sister in law paid)

  • W says:

    Once our gift cards were on our Key To the World, we did buy a few things at WDW. However, we bought things ahead of time on Ebay. Trading pins are cheap, lanyards and a couple of other Disney items. Our favorite pre-Disney purchases were $5 t-shirts from the Disney Outlet. Our whole family had matching t-shirts. It seems to be a trend there for families and it makes it easy to find your family in the crowds.

    If we were on the fence about purchasing something while at WDW, we would check Ebay to see if it was available and how much cheaper it was.

    Anything we did buy, we had Disney deliver to our Disney rental. No hassle or fuss about tugging something around all day.

  • pam says:

    A video has gone viral on youtube. I wonder if Disney will now start selling pepper spray with Mickey Mouse on the bottle.

  • Casey says:

    I’ve seen Disney themed water bottles at the Dollar Tree. :) They had Cars, Princesses and Tinker Bell.

  • dana says:

    Not sure that i agree with all of the frugul tips, especially when it comes to souveniers. Although the commercialization at Wdw cant be escaped, we did find it to be a fun part of our trip last year. We let our daughters,ages 9 & 10, choose the things thst most interested them. I would never purchase items,put them in my suitcase and give them to my kids. What fun is that? To control spending and make them really think about how they spent their money, the girls had DIsney gift cards that family and friends gave them as birthday/holiday gifts. I think this can work with younger kids as well. They did a great job spending and we didnt mind spending money on some extra special activities like dinner at Cinderellas Castle to celebrate a birthday.

    • I understand what you’re saying. On some Disney savings blogs, I have seen some tips that make me wonder how magical their vacation really ends up being with all the strategizing, denying themselves/their kids and packing/hauling some families seem to do.

      On the other hand, I think the point of saving money on some things is to be able to spend extra money on others. All these tips do is give people ideas of where they can save money so they can prioritize in a way that works for their family. While your older girls may have had a lot of a fun being able to choose their own gifts, a toddler may be just happy with a $3 Mickey ball from Walmart as he would be with the $10 Disney version and that extra $7 may go towards a treat that he’d really enjoy, like a Mickey ice cream bar or an extra character meal.

    • Megan says:

      My child is 3 so I can pick things for her and she will love them. If I let her decide, we would never get anything because she wants everything. So yes, if your kids are older, then giving them a budget they can spend is a good idea. But for younger kids there is nothing wrong with pre-purchasing stuff.

    • Stephanie says:

      Whether everyone likes or agrees with any or all of these tips is irrelevant. No one says that anyone HAS to do any of these things. These worked for the families that suggest the ideas. It’s ok if it doesn’t (or won’t) work for another family. Not everyone has the luxury of NOT needing to be frugal, and these tips help those that do need frugality to better enjoy their vacation. “What fun is that?” – a lot of fun to a kid who understands his/her family saved hard to take this vacation, and knows that it may be the only one they’ll get to go on for several more years.

  • Valerie says:

    I did tie dyed Mickey mouse t-shirts for our trip. You can google the directions. They were very cheap- plain boys and mens t-shirts and one tie dye kit bought from Michaels with a 40% off coupon gave us 3 kids and 2 adult shirts easily. They were very unique and people stopped us to ask where we had bought them.

  • MommyGio says:

    We take a 2 week trip to Disney every year. I have a family of 5. We use our tax refund to pay for it. I always look for the best deals before we book. Our kids never ask for very much so this past trip, I bought some outfits and dresses at KMart before we took our trip. Last year, we went for 2 weeks and paid $3000 for hotel, tickets and food (which included lots of meals with characters).
    WATER – Any of the places that sell beverages in cups will give you cups of water for FREE.

    • Kristen says:

      How did you only spend $3000 for two weeks? Please share! My family of four is going for one week and the cheapest I can find it for is $2900.

      • Carol Brafford says:

        Sometimes…Disney offers “Kids Stay and Play Free.” We did this when 20 of us went down for our wedding! All the kids got their tickets for free! Also, around Halloween and Christmas; Disney has evening special events. If you aren’t getting to Orlando till afternoon, or don’t mind lounging at the resorts during the day or downtown Disney, the evening parties are a GREAT bargain!

        • BJ says:

          We go down at least once a year from Chicago and to my knowledge they haven’t offer the “kids play free” for quite some time and when they did I think it was for DisneyLand not WDW

      • caryn d says:

        Check the special offers page regularly starting as much as a year in advance. Our family of 5 went during the free dining promotion, and I think that’s about what our trip ran. I feel that Disney is a splurge for our family, so I do like the extras. I don’t think I’d dream of going and not being on the dining plan, thats why we go during the free dining. It is just so nice not having to worry about it. This way, your trip is completely paid for in advance, and all you have to budget is the extras ,like souveneirs or extra drinks or snacks if needed. If you have 5, I recommend the Port Orleans resort, they have rooms with trundles that hold 5, and are cheaper than the family suite rooms.

        They do have other specials at different times. I rememer there being one where you book your room and tickets and got a $300 $500 or $700 disney gc depending on which resort you stayed at. To be honest, I feel that if you get a hotel somewhere else, add in the price to park everyday plus food, you wouldn’t be saving a whole lot, and Disney really does make it so nice for people staying in their resorts.

        Also, you can take in smaller coolers with drinks, and some snacks.

    • nicole says:

      I am planning on taking our family next year. My son turns 13 and would love to suprise him. Any help in saving and where to stay would help. We have never been to Disney nor Florida so this is a treat!

  • adriane says:

    Thank you sooo much! We are planning our trip to Disney this week! I realy appreciate being able to read everyones tips and tricks for saving money. This site is the best web site I have ever visited! Thank you Collin!

  • Sandy says:

    We just went a few months ago. Family of 4, (kids 5 and 2), 8 days/7 nights on site (at Pop) for under $2500 total (including airfare/luggage/travel insurance/tickets/food/souvenirs/toll roads/EVERYTHING) Here’s how we did it: 1. Went during free dining. This was the biggest savings and made our trip extra fun since we got to eat at the amazing restaurants. We were eating $200+ worth of amazing food a day, built into the cost of our $90 a night room. 2. Went right before our daughter’s 3rd birthday so she was free. 3. Flew Spirit (I know people have had TERRIBLE experiences, but our trip was smooth and great and bags/fees/tickets were only $500 total for all 4 of us. The travel insurance we had gave me piece of mind that if our flights were cancelled or delayed, we could fly with someone else for no extra cost.) 4. We told the kids they each got to pick out 3 souvenirs total while we were there. They made great choices, spent less than they would have if we gave them a dollar amount, and didn’t whine at all.

    • Joy says:

      when is free dining? how do you find out about that? thanks!

    • Crystal says:

      We always go during free dining too. The last 2 years they have offered it on trips right after Labor Day through the middle of October. We usually go in late September and it’s nice because it’s a little cooler and much less crowded. I have 2 kids age 5 and 3 and we are able to do lots of character meals. Without the free dining, I *might* choose one, and certainly not a bunch. My husband is the type that would probably order water and the cheapest thing on the menu for every single meal, even if it was not somehting he wanted, if he had to pay for each meal – so free dining is the greatest thing ever for him. So nice not to have to budget for food and to have it all paid for before we get there.

      You do have to stay on Disney property to be eligible for free dining. They have not announced the dates for 2012 yet but we are hopeful that it will be soon – waiting to book our 2012 trip!

  • Nikki says:

    Use the Disney YES program if you have kids in school. It will save you tons on park hopper tickets!

  • Amy says:

    We go to WDW every year, here are my favorite tips for saving money:

    * Save on baggage fees by shipping a box (or luggage) to your hotel or resort. Doing this allows us to ship full size toiletries, and we can often fit all of our clothes in our carry-on. Pack shipping supplies in the box, and your resort can help you ship it home when you depart.

    * WDW has a number of $10 and under stores now for souveniers.

    * Bring your own lunch or snacks to the park. We do this for dietary reasons, but it definitely helps us save money. Throw one of the bottles of water in the freezer the night before for an instant ice pack, and later in the day it will have melted into a nice, cold water.

    * Rent a Disney Vacation Club villa which includes a kitchen (and a ton more living space!). You can make your own meals. We usually eat breakfast in the room, and take a break midday from the parks and eat lunch in the room. Then back to the parks at night for dinner and fun.

    * We pre-order the photopass CD for $99, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider a money-saver unless you do a ton of character meet n’ greets. Our son is 4 so we do a lot of them and I’m a digital scrapbooker so this is a deal for me. Plus it’s MUCH easier to not have to hassle with your own camera.

    * Check out mousesavers.com and sign up for their newsletter. Within their newsletter you’ll receive a special discount link to UndercoverTourist.com for park tickets. IMHO you can purchase tickets for just one park a day. You’ll save money and energy (going to two parks in one day can be insane!)

    * Ask friends and family to give you Disney gift cards for your birthday/holiday

    * Sign up for the Disney Visa — some say it’s not the best deal in terms of rewards, but we use ours for everything (inc, business trips) and the rewards add up. We usually have approx $500 each trip.

    * We bring our own stroller. Not sure renting one is money saving, but definitely less hassle than bringing it on the airplane. If you do have a stroller, bring along a bright obnoxious ribbon to tie on the handle so you can find yours easily in the sea of strollers.

    *One last tip: this isn’t a money saver, but we ordered rubber ID bracelets for our son that said: Call my Mommy and my cell phone number. He knows if he gets separated from us to find another mommy or a cast member, and tell them to call me. Luckily he’s never had to do that!

    • Kathie M says:

      Where did you get the ID bracelets from? We take lots of trips and this would be great for so many more places then just Disney.

      • amy says:

        Hi Kathie, I ordered them from reminderband.com and got the glow in the dark with green print. My son loved that it glowed at night , and during the day it wasn’t an obnoxious color.

      • BJ says:

        We used http://safetytat.com/ for our last Disney vacation and they stayed on for the whole week, swimming and everything. We placed on the back of the upper arm so my 3 year old couldn’t really see it but he knew to show it to a cast member if he got lost. Better than bracelets that can be easily removed by the child or worse.

        • Amy says:

          We bought the child size bracelet and adult size for our then 3-year old because we weren’t sure if he would keep the bracelet on his arm — we were surprised he did, and for the most part didn’t even remember it was there. All kids are different, though. A few days we put the adult size on his ankle and that worked too. We like the bracelets because we can use them over and over again for the zoo, Great America, Disney, etc. I know that tattoos are really popular too – use whatever you think is best for your kids!

  • Kris says:

    I live near Disney World and I visit all the time. Here are some tips on saving a little money while you’re at Disney World (Florida):

    1. Bring your own food and water bottles. The water in the parks are filtered. We like to bring snacks like granola bars, cookies, nuts and Smuckers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (You can buy them at the grocery store from the freezer section.) If you toss them into your bag before you leave for the parks, they’ll thaw as you walk around the park and will be ready to eat while you wait in line. If you want something other than water to drink, bring Capri Sun (frozen so it can thaw) or powdered drink mixes.

    **You can also ask employees for a cup of water at any of the restaurants, even if you don’t order food. Disney would rather you have a good time and spread positive reviews than sulk over $3 on bottled water.

    **There’s a Publix on the east side of Disney property (about a 15 min. drive from Downtown Disney) that’s open until 10 pm. Not too many tourists yet. Otherwise, Walmart and many Walgreens and CVS stores are open 24 hours in the area.

    2. To save money on parking, take one of the Disney buses into the park, especially if you’re staying on property. You can park at Downtown Disney, hop onto a bus to the parks and take the bus back to Downtown Disney. If you’re staying off property, take the Lynx 50 bus to Disney World. The 50 bus is clean, comfortable and full of other tourists.

    3. For a cheap souvenir from Disney World, you can stop by Guest Services at the front of the park and request a free button that celebrates your visit – Congratulations, Happy Birthday, Your First Visit, etc. Throughout the day, you’ll be greeted by castmembers (aka employees) at Disney in reference to whatever you’re celebrating.

    4. Bring your own sun block, bug spray, hats and glow in the dark sticks and necklaces too. The SPF and hats will protect you from the rays and when the sun goes down, the bugs come out too. If you decide to stay for the fireworks and other night time shows, you’ll notice all the parents forking over $$ for all the glow in the dark toys. If you bring you’re own, you’ll save $20 per kid.

    5. If you want to dress your kids up as pricesses, pirates and other Disney characters, bring your own costumes or buy them online in advance. Many of the kids where them around the parks and at Downtown Disney so unprepared parents often feel pressured to spend $80+ on these outfits. As far as T-shirts go, buy them off property at Target or Walmart.

    6. As far as meals go, I think doing the breakfast character breakfast is a pretty good deal. It’s cheaper than doing the character lunch or dinner. Best of all, it’s a buffet breakfast so you can fill up until your hearts content, which may keep you full until mid-day. If you can sneak a few pieces of fruit, all the better. Also, your kids can take pictures, get hugs and autographs from the characters. That way, you don’t have to stand in a line for 30 minutes to meet Donald Duck.

  • chris says:

    Last year, Sam’s club had gift cards for Disney priced at $97.00 for a $100 card and you also got a bonus $10 disney store gift card. I bought 26 of them and paid for our trip–which save me $78 off our total and gave me $260 dollars to spend at the Disney Store. So we let the kids do their souvenir shopping at the Downtown Disney Disney store location. I don’t know if they had it again this year or not!

    Another tip–pack a toaster! We take bagels/english muffins and peanut butter, pop tarts,etc. Instant oatmeal cups using the coffee maker to make hot water. (either ship down a box in advance or pack in a separate suitcase, depending on airline fees!) and we had breakfast in the room every morning. I usually just buy myself a new one for at home and ship my old one down and trash it when we leave.

    That said–I just read that Disney doesn’t care if you use the microwaves in the hotel food courts with personal food–so taking things down with you like microwave popcorn for a treat during an afternoon swim or bedtime snack, could stretch your dollars.

  • Thuy O says:

    Kris, great tips for Disney trip, my kids still small but when I plan to go, I will definitely follow your advises. Thanks again, already copied your note in my file:)

  • Ellie says:

    We went this past October and it was WONDERFUL!!! The lines were short, never waited over 10 minutes except Toy Story at Hollywood. We stay at the Caribean Beach Resort with free dining. I have a 13, 10, and 2 year old and had more than enough space the short amount of time we were in the room. We took a case of water bottles, snacks, and breakfast items. If you have a child under the age of 10 they will be eating nuggets, pizza, or hamburgers all week. A little unknown secret is if you call and upgrade them to an adult for a 5 days stay it is only $42 more and they can eat off the adult menu. This is HUGE and WELL WORTH THE $42 especially if you have a child that eats “real food”. I researched all of the places to eat to see where we would get the best meals for our credits. The meals are so big at some places that the five of us would share two meals. For example..Flaming Tree Barbeque at Animal Kingdom for one quick service credit you get a whole rack of ribs, baked beans, slaw, drink and desert. Your last day at Disney you have tickets to the park but no meal credits. We ended up with 3 quick services meals and 8 snack credits for the last day which meant no out of pocket expenses. The buffets are okay but you can get a lot of food at really good places. Ohana is WONDERFUL and so is Boma. The Japanese Steakhouse at Epcot is a complete waste of a sit down meal credit. My son is in a wheelchair and people would not watch where they were going or just cut him off by walking right in front of him. This was a problem because it was not even crowded. That is really my only complaint. We put off going to WDW for years but I must say it was our best vacation ever and we can not wait to go again in October. We drove and had planned to leave our car and ride the shuttles however it was difficult with the stroller and wheelchair especially if the little one feel asleep. The first couple of days it took up to an hour to get from our room to the park. We decided to drive the rest of the week and it was wonderful. Parking at the parks is free if you are staying on Disney and it would only take 5 minutes to get to the parks from our room. For our keepsake from Epcot I got a picture mat at Michaels for less than $2.00 and took it with us. At each country my children got their names written in the language of that country, sometimes on little oragami animals (I glued to the mat). I took a picture of each one of them at the enterance of Epcot and they are now framed and matted in our living room so we enjoy them everyday.

    • Amanda says:

      Ellie, I’m so sorry you got “suckered” into paying the $42 to “upgrade” your child’s dining plan. There is actually NO difference when you order an adult counter service or child counter service meal. They just dedect 1 counter service meal per meal ordered.We are a family of 4 and I usually order 3 different adult meals and split btwn all 4 of us (we all know how much food we get!!) Now @ table service they do say that kids have to order off the child menu, but when politley asked we were able to “sub” items for our children. Most of our table service were buffet anyway. (We did some 2 credit meals, that is why I wanted to stretch our counter serive meals. We never paid for a meal!)

    • Angela E says:

      Also, once a child is 10 they charge the adult price.

    • Linda says:

      Flaming Tree BBQ was HORRIBLE when I went! I was excited to get ribs, but I literally couldn’t even bite into them they were so tough. (This was my only horrible experience at Disney, everything else was great!) But I would never go to that restaurant again.

    • Susan says:

      What is a picture mat? Thanks :)

  • jen says:

    has anyone took a timeshare tour and saved money on tickets if so please tell? i dont mind sitting for 90 mins for huge savings?

    • I have done this. We didn’t have any children with us to get upset so me and the Hubby went to a time share presentation. If I am remembering all the details (it was several years ago), we paid $10/person, signed up for the timeshare presentation, scheduled an early time so that we would have the rest of the day free. It included an all you can eat buffet breakfast and a ticket to Universal for each person.

  • Dana says:

    These may have already been posted, but I get the $1 packs of glow bracelets, necklaces etc at Target {in Dollar Spot} or the Dollar store, for the night parades & events.

    You can also get T shirts & tons of other WDW souveniers at every Wal Mart & Walgreens in the Orlando area! Shirts are usually about $5-$10…way less than what you would pay inside the park.

    NEVER pay full price for Disney hotels!!! Use a PIN code {received via email} or book a percent off room rates on their website. My favorite is FREE Dining! We seriously saved $1,500+ by booking in the Fall.

    If your grocery store {like Albertsons} offers a Catalina promo when you buy gift cards: Buy Disney Gift Cards for the deal & then use them to pay off your room, for food & drinks at Disney restaurants or use at gift shops. I did this & got almost $200 in Catalinas that I use to get FREE groceries http://www.nwbargains.com/2011/06/albertsons-my-no-extreme-couponing/

  • Carol Brafford says:

    There are so many comments but I want to warn families with small children that the meal plan may not be for you. Our kids are 11, 7, 4 and 2; and they are not big eaters. Snackers, yes…meals, not so much. We have family in Orlando and visit fairly often, I do not recommend this if your children won’t eat it all. It’s a major waste and I am sure that Disney could feed a small country with the food that goes in the trash there each year!

    • Angela E says:

      We booked the deluxe plan (3 table service meals 2 snacks/NIGHT) because we like the character meals and dinner shows (cost 2 credits each BUT, include gratuity AND alcohol! We’re not big drinkers, especially on a trip with the kids!, but a free glass of wine is a perk) we are arriving EARLY on our first day and leaving LATE….we end up with 2 meals per day fir 6 full days. We use snack credits for water/other drinks and snacks. We did this on our last trip. I was surprised the kids (then 3 1/2 and 5) weren’t asking for snacks all day because they were too distracted! I looked at menus and added up what I think I will order and the average cost/day was $10 OVER what we’re paying for the deluxe plan ($85/night)….I forgot to take into account the snacks! 2 $3 bottles of water adds to that savings. IF you’re going during food/wine festival, you can use snack credits to eat your way around the world! Some samples are $7.99!!! The Cost of children/night on the deluxe plan is only $23/night (or $19.16/day OR $9.58/meal) and they get the same number of meals and snacks! My children are picky eaters. We do not think it’s a waste…we’re talking 2 meals a day including 5 character meals (1 is Cinderellas castle), 2 dinner shows, And 5 additional table service meals! On our last 6 day/5 night trip, we met 37 characters most being at meals! Yes, you could probably skip appetizers and desserts but, we enjoy that!

    • nancy Jones says:

      My brother used all his left over credits from meals and fed everyone in a Restaurant one time didn’t want it all to go to waste..

  • Sarah says:

    I have a question and I wonder if someone who is a Florida resident could answer it for me. My parents just moved to Tallahassee and I was wondering if they could buy Florida resident discounted tickets to Disney and give them to us (They wouldn’t be going with us because they are HORRIBLE vacationers!!!)…….. We won’t be wanting to go for a few more years because our kids are only 2 1/2 years old and 1 year old and we want them to actually remember the trip ;) But I want to plan ahead some…..

    • Jennifer says:

      No Sarah, your parents would not be able to buy your tickets for you. They would have to show their Florida IDs to buy the tickets (or if buying them through AAA, at guest services when you cash them in). They then have you do this hand scan thing at the gate which is unique to each person. You may be lucky and get someone at the gate that “pushes” you through without passing the hand part, but in my opinion it’s not worth the risk. If you needed kids tickets, those might work because they don’t have IDs (I’m a longtime Florida resident and we go at least 2x per year).

    • Jennifer says:

      Sarah, I just reread my last post and I apologize if I came across as snarky! This is just something Disney has been cracking down on. We are actually going to Disney this weekend with the Florida resident ticket special and I will upstream if it’s different. We purchased our tickets through AAA and need to exchange them at guest services at the gate.
      Your parents could book you a Florida resident rate room. These discounts are typically between 25-35 percent depending on what level of hotel you book and when you go. However, they would have to pay for the room and check you in at hotel and keep in mind it’s roughly a 5 hour trip one way from Tallahassee to Orlando.
      We don’t usually stay on property as I find the rooms overpriced. You can get a comparable hotel room for half to a third of what Disney charges (and that’s with the fl discount!). I frequently go through name your price at priceline and have found I can get a 3* plus for $50 or so a night.

      • Sarah says:

        Jennifer, thanks for responding!! I kinda figured they had a way of keeping FL residents from buying tickets and then giving them away (or selling them)….. Oh, well, we aren’t planning to go for a few years so we’ll just save our pennies ;)

  • VictoriaF says:

    I just wanted to say about hotel prices. Websites like Groupon, Living Social, Eversave are constantly offering amazing deals on Disney area hotels and condos. I’ve just bought a save from Eversave for $199: Three-night stay at Country Inn & Suites Calypso Cay + two adult Disney World passes. Considering the cost of two adult passes with taxes is about $180, it’s like we got a three night stay in this hotel for free. In addition, they provide complimentary breakfast. The only drawback is that you have to attend a hotel orientation – but it’s not a timeshare presentation, just a tour of hotel amenities. And these types of deals pop up every other week.

  • Crystal says:

    I give credit for this idea to the Couponing to Disney blog, but we go to Disney every year and we pay cash. I do lots of rebates and pick up cash by doing other things like online surveys, the We Reward app on the iPhone and secret shopping via the Field Agent app. All of that money goes into the Disney fund. Spare change goes into the Disney fund. If I get a git card through a deal at Target or wherever, I put the cash equal to that gift card in the Disney fund. Any money left over from my weekly budget goes in the Disney fund. We also earmarked a small portion of our tax refund for Disney ($600). Since December we have saved $1600 and it has really not impacted our budget whatsoever. Even if you don’t do Disney, these strategies would work for whatever you are saving for.

  • Betsy says:

    We went to the Super Target down the street from Disney World while we were there and they had a huge Disney section right inside the door. We bought cute Disney water bottles for the kids, autograph books, etc. for a fraction of the price!

  • Jen says:

    My hubby and I go to Disney at least 2 times a year. We have annual passes so we never really “plan” on going a certain time of year. Anytime a good room discount comes out we book it and since we already have the park tickets, a week stay costs less then $1000 most times.

    Plus we drive (from NJ) so we can bring lots of water and snack food with us in the car.

  • Danielle says:

    We are going for the first time on March 25. Can anyone tell me if i should bother with Park Hopper passes? We have a 4 and 5 yr old. We are thinking maybe we’d like to do Animal Kingdom 2 mornings and then something diff in the afternoon? Also heard Epcot fireworks are best, but not BEST park for young ones all day. Thanks in advance!

    • Jen says:

      I know some people say that it isn’t worth the money but for me and my hubby, we never spend all day in one park (and this is over 15 trips in the last 7 years).

      The PH gives you more options (imo). Spend a few cool mornings in the park (Animal Kingdom is a LOT better in the morning before it gets too hot even though it has a decent amount of shade), hot afternoons by the pool or just walking in and out of air conditioned shops in downtown disney then back to the parks in the evening.

      Also, I think Magic Kingdom fireworks are the best ;o) But Disney Hollywood Studios “Fantasmic” is a great show to watch also! Hope that helps a bit!

      • Danielle says:

        Thanks for your advice! I think I’ll go ahead and get them. Rather spend a little extra than WISH I had. We were planning a nap at the hotel for the kids, but after seeing the stroller rentals on this post, we’re just going to lay them back and have some “us” time while they sleep!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Danielle, I would recommend not getting park hopper passes. Since you are going during spring break time the parks will be pretty crowded. I’m not sure how many days you are going to be there, but I think your best bet would be to choose one park per day. The best time for crowds (no matter the season) in the parks is when they first open. Get there just before the park opens, and you will be able to see & go on a TON of the top attractions by 11am. Eat lunch around 11:30 (the restaurants will get busy by noon), and then head back to your resort (if staying on property) for a mid-afternoon break. Go swimming, chill out, explore your resort, etc. I’m betting your kids will love this just as much as the parks! Then head back to the same park in the late afternoon/evening for dinner and to see/do the attractions you didn’t see in the morning. My 4 year old loves EPCOT – we do Futureworld in the morning (Spaceship Earth, Soarin’, Test Track, Crush, Nemo, Aquarium, Figment, Living with the Land — your kids should be able to do all of these). And then in the evening we come back to the World Showcase to stroll around and watch the Fireworks. Also, we love Animal Kingdom but only do it for one day — get there when the park opens and leave by 3pm. Then enjoy the evening at our resort. You might want to check out touringplans.com — it’s a subscription site, but relatively inexpensive. It will give you the best parks to visit each day of your trip. And it also has touring plans to get the most out of your day (reduce your wait times in line!).

      • Amy says:

        I was typing too long and didn’t see Jen’s response! Rest assured, there is no right way to do Disney. You’ll get a bunch of different opinions :-) Do what you think is best for your family. If you can afford the park hoppers, then do it! Especially if this is a once in a lifetime trip. If you want to save money you can definitely do without and still have a fabulous time!

        • Jen says:

          Amy I agree, there is never one set way to do Disney. Being as it is just my and my husband, we use the park hopper because we never have a set plan for anything really (except our dining reservations on some days) so we KNOW that there will be mornings where we may want to sleep in and go swimming then hit 2 parks in the afternoon and evening.

          No matter what, you will still LOVE every minute of being in Disney whether you have them or not. :)

      • BJ says:

        Amy, your post sounds like it was me responding. We do the exact same things. My kid’s favorite fire works is at Disney Studios with Magic Kingdom a close second. We also do a little known Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party. You get all you can eat desserts and get to watch the fireworks without being pushed and without dealing with the crush of people when the fireworks are over which is great with little kids. It is a little pricey $15 for kids and $35 for adults but so worth the almost “private viewing” and if it rains you are under cover. Also, Tinkerbelle flies right over your heads!

        Epcot sometimes has a similar event but it includes wine and we feel is priced way to high.

    • Brittany says:

      My advice would be not to buy the hoppers in advance. Once you’re at Disney, if you decide you want to park hop, you can go to any ticket window and add the hopper option to your tickets. That way, if you decide hopping isn’t for you, you won’t have wasted that money.

  • These tips actually apply to all the Florida theme parks, not just Disney.

    1. Bring your own ponchos. Dollar Tree sells two packs that are very compact and lightweight. They’re great for water rides in addition to the Florida summer afternoon showers. On a cold day we used ours on a drenching water ride at Universal Studios then gave them away at the exit.

    2. In the summer, bring your own misting fan to the parks, especially if you’re not used to the heat and humidity. Walmart sells them for about $5, but on theme park property they’re about $15-$20. Disney has improved their queues recently but a couple of the rides (like the race cars in Tomorrowland) still require standing outside in the full sunlight/heat/humidity.

    3. As others have mentioned, bring your kids glowing bracelets/spinners. Dollar Tree sells tubes of 15 that can be used as bracelets or connected together to make headbands/necklaces/etc. As soon as the sun goes down cast members bring out carts with tons of light up toys that are very tempting while waiting for the evening parades. I frequently find small push-button light spinners at Walgreens for $2.99 (including Disney themed).

    4. Bring a little pouch with a few just-in-case items, like band-aids, pain relievers, camera batteries and stomach medicine. These items are small and lightweight but overpriced in the parks (and sometimes difficult to find).

    5. Walmarts sell basic umbrella strollers for about $15 that are super easy to get on and off trams and a lot of them are even Disney themed. We live about 20 minutes from Disney so traveling isn’t an issue but we found the smaller stroller a lot more convenient than our regular one.

    6. Rather than bringing or shipping your Disney souvenirs, you can buy them from the local Walmart/Target/CVS/Walgreens, which all have sections devoted to Disney merchandise.

    7. It’s very easy to find Disney character themed t-shirts for kids at regular retailers, including Target and Walmart. If you keep your eye out you can easily stock up for $4-$8/shirt and bring your kids to the parks in a character shirt each day. I make it a point to pick out a Disney shirt when we go to the parks and the characters do a great job of commenting on them when they’re talking to my daughter (especially the princesses). Target has these baby/toddler Cars and Disney Princess shirts on clearance for less than $5:

    http://www.target.com/p/Disney-Princess-Infant-Toddler-Girls-Short-Sleeve-Princess-Tee-Pink/-/A-13549487

    http://www.target.com/p/Disney-Pixar-Cars-Infant-Toddler-Boys-Short-Sleeve-Graphic-Tee-Blue/-/A-13378761

  • Karen K. says:

    Any of the walk-up food restaurants will give you a 21oz. cup of ice water free for the asking. We brought several single pack Crystal Light fruit punch & lemonade drink mixes to flavor the water. Much cheaper than stopping to get a soda every time somebody got thirsty in the hot Florida sun, the mixes didn’t take up much room in my bag & the drinks were always ice cold.

  • Alana says:

    Hi Everyone!
    I”m not sure if anyone is still following this post or not, but I wanted to say that we just got back from our Disney trip and you guys rocked with your recommendations and helpful hints!

    I will say that I LOVED staying at the Fort Wilderness Campground – we had a cabin there and it was perfect for my two little ones! No worrying about people slamming doors in the middle of the night, or my girls throwing fits, etc because it was just our family in the cabin! The campground was great – there was so much to do there and it was beautiful!!! Camping Disney style is definitely the way to go!

    If you have any questions on the campground, message me here, I can send pictures and can talk for days about it! :)

    Thanks again everyone!

    • Rebecca says:

      I am very interested in the campgrounds for my family. I have 4 children my oldest will be 7. We hope to go next April and we are Florida Residence. We have a very large tent and RV. We want to participate in character meals, but not sure if camping is possible with the meal pass or even worth it. I would love any and all info on the camping though. Thank you.

      • Sam says:

        Rebecca – Staying at the campgrounds, you still get all the perks of staying at a Disney Resort. I am not sure if FL residence get discounts on meal packages, but they do get discounts on tickets and hotel stays. If you only want to have one sit down meal with the characters, I would not get the meal pass, but if you want to have multiple sit down meals, it would be a good idea to get it. You still have access to a pool and shuttles. If the Free Dining is offerred during that time, you cannot participate in it while camping. Not sure how much help this is. We go to Disney every year, but usually in the Fall and the campsites are not open at that time.

      • Rebecca,
        You can most definitely add the Disney Dining Plan to your campground site rental package. I would love to help you start planning for your April 2014 visit. Shoot me an email julie.harrington@mousetalestravel.com

        Julie Harrington

  • Lisa says:

    I am the cheap Disney master. Even with the rates going up I’m still getting 10 days for 2 adults and 2 kids for $3000 – all in. 1. Go off season during free dining 2. Stay at Pop – super fun. And Disney doesn’t care if you stay value or deluxe – if you stay on property you get all the perks. 3. Use the Disney Visa to rack up points for Disney gift cards (pay it off monthly of course.) Use them for everything else you do and buy. 4. Fly a discount airline. They’re great.

  • Jocelyn says:

    I AM SO EXCITED FOR ALL THESE TIPS! THANKS EVERYONE :)

  • Gina says:

    We are going to Disney this year. My son has gluten and dairy allergies. I know the table service resturants have options for people with food allergies but we would prefer the quick service over table service. Anyone know of good gluten free choices at the quick service locations in Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom?

  • Latoya says:

    when is free dining offered this year?

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