HOW TO SAVE
MAKING A BUDGET
Determining a Reasonable Budget
Deciding what is a reasonable budget is going to be different for every family. For some, staying in a Deluxe Resort hotel with the Deluxe Dining Plan and an open-ended souvenir budget is reasonable. For others, myself included, staying at a Value Resort and planning every aspect of the vacation at least a year in advance in order to save, is reasonable.
Whatever your budget is, the end result is the same- you’re going to Disney! The first thing anyone who is going needs to do is determine a reasonable budget for his or her family. Have an approximate budget in mind? Good- let’s take a look at some variables.
Your family size is going to determine which type of resort you can book. Most Deluxe Resorts can accommodate families of 5. Disney Vacation Club locations can hold from 4 -12 guests depending on the type of room you select. Most Moderate Resorts comfortably sleep 4 guests; however, many have a few rooms that are able to accommodate 5 (such as Port Orleans Riverside and Fort Wilderness Cabins). The Value resorts will only accommodate 4 guests per room. The only exception to this rule is the Family Suites at All-star Music, which can accommodate up to 6 guests.
Staying at a Deluxe Resort versus staying at a Value Resort is all a matter of how long you want to save for. Everyone has the ability to stay at a Deluxe Resort if you want to save for a long time. However, if you really only want to sleep at the resort and not enjoy additional amenities, Value is certainly a great option. If you want to splurge and live like a VIP for a week, you can save for that too. Decide where you want to go so the savings can begin.
Here’s an example of pricing for a family of four (2 children under 10) for 6 nights and 7 days using July 24-30 with the Awaken Summer Savings:
7-day park ticket (non-hopper) plus resort stay:
All-star Music $2370
Port Orleans Riverside $2721
Wilderness Lodge $3410
Personally, I like to stay at a value and use the money I save (up to $1000 in this case) on souvenirs! I know plenty of people that enjoy staying at a Deluxe Resort and relaxing away from the theme parks. You can stay at a moderate or Deluxe Resort and still budget money for souvenirs. I’ll fill you in on some great savings tips below!
Another variable is the possibility to stay off property. With a little search on Google, I found Baymont Inn & Suites in Kissimmee (rated 3 stars) for approximately $60 a night. If you have a car and don’t mind driving, here’s a comparison to the price samples above:
Off property hotel stay plus 7-day park ticket (non-hopper) purchased through Official Ticket Center:
Baymont Inn & Suites $397.65 + $1486 = $1883.65
By staying off site, you can save $486! Although, you do have to consider transportation to the park and parking, however it’s still a savings.
Of course, a great travel agency like Destinations to Travel can help you find the best possible deal no matter when you decide to take your trip or where you decide to stay.
Managing Your Budget Before the Trip
Once you determine the type of resort or hotel you need, you’ll want to figure out how to pay for your trip.
Most Disney resort packages need to be paid in full 30-45 days before your trip. Depending how far in advance you book, you can manage your budget several different ways.
Disney requires a $200 deposit when you book. If you can swing putting down a larger deposit, this definitely cuts down on how much is left for you to pay.
If you booked a year in advance, divide your total by 10 months (this gives you a little wiggle room with the payoff 30-45 days before your trip). Each month call Disney, your travel agent, or pay a little bit online through My Disney Experience. When you cut your payments into manageable chunks, paying it off doesn’t become quite a chore.
Think about using a savings account especially for Disney. If you separate your Disney money from the money you use daily, it might make it easier to save. There’s even the Disney Savings Account that helps you do just that. I have not used it personally, but it looks like a great way to make a budget. The Disney Savings Account uses an estimator, helps you calculate your savings plan, and even tracks your budget. You can even earn Disney Gift Cards by saving ahead!
Another way to budget in advance is to add the Disney Dining Plan. There’s a lot of debate whether or not it is really a savings, but it definitely helps my family to create and stick to our budget. If you aren’t a big eater, the Dining Plan might not make sense for you, but if you are going to take your kiddos to many character meals (like we do) it’s definitely something you want to consider. Here’s a look at how adding the regular Dining Plan (1 Quick Service, 1 Table Service, 1 snack) might affect your budget:
7-day park ticket (non-hopper) plus resort stay and dining: All-star Music $2370 Port Orleans Riverside $3760 Wilderness Lodge $4449 I’ve gone to Disney with and without the Dining Plan. Did I save money by using it? Maybe, maybe not. Did I save the worry of making sure we budgeted enough for meals while still splurging on a fun vacation? Definitely. Like I said, it’s not for everyone, but it helped us to make a budget in advance and head to our Disney vacation knowing that we really only needed to pay for souvenirs out of pocket (and tips) because everything else was taken care of.
Managing Your Budget During Your Trip
Prepaying for dining using the Dining Plan certainly helps us manage our budget during the trip but it’s not the only way.
A few nights before we leave for Disney, I set up our “vacation envelopes”. I take our cash/gift cards/ traveller’s checks and divide them out among envelopes that represent each night we are staying. I label the envelopes with the dates of our trip and put money in each one. When we
get to our resort, the envelopes go into the safe (each Disney Resort has an in-room safe) and I only take out the envelope I need for each day. If there is any left over from a previous day, that gets added into the next day of fun! I have found this works great for our family since we know what we have to spend and don’t go overboard by getting caught up in the magic of Disney and all of their tempting souvenirs!
Another great way to manage your money while on your Disney vacation is to put your souvenir money on a gift card. Using this instead of a credit card helps to make sure you don’t return with “buyers remorse” once that credit card bill arrives in the mail. Plus it helps you stick with your budget.
If you have kids, I definitely recommend getting each prince or princess a gift card so their spending is limited. Putting them in charge of their own souvenirs will give them a sense of responsibility and will hopefully limit the spontaneous spending that might happen otherwise. Plus again, your budget remains in check.
Fun Ways to Save
One way I love to save for Disney is by utilizing my credit union’s Christmas Savings Fund. When the fund matures on November 1st, I take half out and put it towards our summer Disney trip. I like that the money comes out of my check automatically. I try to add a little each year and have found that I can adjust my monthly budget easily while knowing that I m saving for Disney!
Another way I like to save is using the “52 Weeks of Savings” method. Get yourself a good old-fashioned piggy bank and a calendar. You need to plan a year ahead of time if you want to use this method completely. Count 52 weeks from the start of your vacation, this is “week 1”. During “week 1” you will put $1 in your bank. Week 2 you will put $2 in your bank and so on. When you have finished 52 weeks, you will have $1378. This is a great way to
save for your meals and snacks if you are staying at Disney for a week. If I’m having a good week, I like to throw in an extra $10 or $20 here and there because at the end I have a little “bonus” money to spend. I also have done this challenge in reverse (starting with $52) and have found it to be more enjoyable towards the end when I am only adding a dollar or two. Here's an example chart you can print out and use as a checklist.
You don’t have to save big in order to SAVE BIG! Saving coins like dimes and quarters adds up quicker than you might think.
Dimes for Disney is a cool challenge that I haven’t tried yet but sounds like a great way to save. Legend has it, if you fill a 2-liter soda bottle with dimes it will equal around $700! It’s definitely worth a try!
Currently I am in the process of filling up a coffee can with quarters. According to my calculations, I will have about $170 once it is filled. I plan on turning the quarters into Disney Gift Cards for the kids.
Whether your budget is huge or super tight, you can still have an amazing time at Disney. There was a time when I used to put our entire trip on a credit card and had a great time while there, but not so great once I returned and was paying for the trip for months and months. Now, I use the techniques above and pay for the trip in bits and pieces and don’t use a credit card at all. No matter how much money you have to spend on your trip, take time to budget and it will definitely help set you up for the adventure of a lifetime!
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