First Disney trip on a tight budget

Ok, this may not be technically true, but I am definitely paying closer attention to it this time. In the past, we have always used the dining plan, done a tour or ticketed party at some point, and had plenty set aside for souvenirs and extras.
This January, I am basically taking it as a challenge to see how little I can spend (per day/per person) while still having fun.
Knowing full well that at some point while on the trip I am likely to cave and let the kids start spending, I am looking for other tips to keep things on track.

Here is what I have in place so far.
I have booked flights for a total of $764.72 (Southwest down $331.92, JetBlue back $432.80) Coming from Western NY I have had people suggest driving, but that is not an option for me. And I will debate on the cost effectiveness as well if you want.
We are staying at All Star Sports, plus a night at All Star Movies at the end. (Was actually cheaper to stay another night and catch the deal for JetBlue than to fly home on the original departure date.)
No dining plan this time.
My two sons will each get $25 gift cards for the 8 days we have in parks. This has been a standard practice for us the past couple trips and limits their spending to just what they have. They can use them however they want, but that’s all they get.

OK, your turn, tell me your best tricks for staying on budget and not overspending.

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For me it’s food that makes or breaks the budget, so:
Have groceries delivered.
Eat breakfast in the hotel room.
Pack snacks.
Pack lunches.
Eat a QS dinner.


Great ideas. We always have breakfast in the hotel room, except when we have done a TS in the past. We have had groceries delivered the last couple trips, but this time we are planning on packing as many of them as possible (hearing the news of a charge for delivery). One piece of luggage will probably be almost totally food on the way down, and turn into souvenirs on the way back after it’s emptied.


The last couple of trips we’ve made I have used an app called Travelbug, which helps to track spending. The hard part is just remembering to enter the purchases as I go, but it has helped me to see where we are on funds at any given time.


Following. Our biggest problem is we love the Deluxe Resorts. But we don’t go often.


I know some people must watch their spending and I can understand this. So here are two idea’s for what could save you money up front. First and foremost get a quote for your WDW vacation from the travel agency, Magical Vacations Travel. Yes, I know this sounds like a come on but it is not. This agency can get you very big discounts depending on when you wish to go. There specials are limited so there may not be one at the time your looking to go. It doesn’t hurt to check it out. Please refer to my earlier post in accomandations for more information on this agency. Second you usually can save money on airlines if you book round trip. Also you can save by joining American Express Skymiles. This not only gives each passenger one free check in bag per trip, but also gives you priority boarding which helps you find a spot to put your carry on before others board and take all the room. I hope this helps and have a Magical Trip.


I am a sams club member. You can purchase 500 Disney gift cards for 479 so I buy them up and use on trip. I️ purchase with my rewards credit card which also pays me 1% back and this summer they had special 5% back on sams club for a short period. I️ went ahead and purchase 8 to use to purchase our annual passes. Money I would have spent anyway but basically got the 500$ cards for 465. That was a 360 savings just on passes. I️ have since purchased more to use to pay for meals and hotel.

Then I use my Disney visa whenever i can. I️ pay the light bill with it and instead of writing check to power compNy I️ just write a check to visa. This really adds up over time and I️ just pay off card balance each month. I️ have close to 500 on reward card to use towards trip

You also may want to check into one person getting an Ap. It comes with memory maker which would cost 130$ anyway and 10 % off most restaraunts plus free parking for someone not staying on Disney property. If you figure all that in it helps to justify it. Plus if you go back within the next year it really is worth it. We live in Georgia so we can go fairly regularly. But even with an 8 day trip you may find it worth it


My tip will save you about 5%. A BJ’s member ship will give you access to Disney gift cards at 5% below face value. You can use them to pay for your room, food, souvenirs, ect… You can load them up to $500 on each. Be careful if you buy more than three at $500 at one time you might have to fill out tax forms, this prevents money laundering. I’m not sure actually what the limit is anymore it is probably higher then $1500.


Sometimes its the little sneaky things that add up… we like to bring reusable water bottles to fill up instead of buying water bottles in the parks (you can also get free water from the QS locations but I like to have water on hand). Eating breakfast in the room and bringing some snacks will help a lot. Many QS meals are shareable especially when supplemented with a side. At TS restaurants, sometimes the appetizers are big and even yummier than the entrees so we will share three between the two of us for dinner.

I hope its a great trip!


I love the “HUNT” for a good deal.

Personally I don’t think the meal plan is worth it - but this is different for each family

Spending money - we do something similar - but we make the kids use THEIR money so they think a bit more about their purchasing habit.

We always eat breakfast in the room - not only as it saves money - but also time and we just enjoy the more relaxed aspect of it. My wife packs bread in a shoebox so it doesn’t get squished. I also run hot water through the coffee maker and make oatmeal.

We do NOT get park hoppers - just isn’t worth it for us. Also purchase the tickets from Undercover Tourist

I agree about the driving - especially from upstate NY - flying is the way to go for many reasons - so good job.

We also make lunch our bigger meal - usually the lunch entrees are a bit less expensive - then we have something lighter for dinner. We normally eat this way - so no real change when on vacation

I may also take a look at what the cost is to be off site with a car. Personally I have never found the value resorts a value. I find them expensive for what they are - especially with all the off site options that there are with more room etc. However can fully understand the desire to be inside the bubble.

I think the new feature on MDE that will show purchases will probably help too.

We stayed at AKL last time, because at the time there was the potential of job changes that would have definitely impacted our ability to go as often as we like. So, it was kind of a “We don’t know when we will be back so let’s go big” trip. That being said, we are very much the people that don’t spend a lot of time at the resorts anyway, so a lot of the perks of that place were not used to their fullest.

Full disclosure, I am a travel agent, so I did book through one. :smiley:
As far as flights go, I have never found it cheaper to book round trip. I always book flights separately, normally I watch for the date Southwest will release flights for my trip. Typically they will have the best deal on that day, however JetBlue will also put some deals out that day to try to match them. I have never paid more than $1000 (including baggage fees) for our family of 4 to fly round trip from BUF to MCO. So, if I am looking at flights and they are not lower than $125 per person, I hold out. I will check flights a couple times a day, sometimes more around certain marker days where I normally see deals. I have always been able to find what I am looking for eventually.

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I hope everyone is checking the upper right to see who I am replying to. I feel like this is going to come off as me randomly spewing information, but really, I am trying to go back to other conversations. @joefishing209 I think the response to you is covered in here too.

I am not a Sam’s Club member, but we have been getting our gift cards at Target on the Red Card and saving the 5% there. We also do have a Disney Visa, so we get some cash back from that as well.

We have talked about the AP in the past and I have crunched the numbers a few times, but it always seems to be just out of reach. If we ever planned on returning within the year, I would definitely do it, but our trips typically are closer to about 18 months apart. Great advice though, there is definitely value to it.

Reusable water bottles is a great idea. We usually get a case of water delivered. It is more expensive than getting the free water, obviously, but still a lot cheaper than paying in park prices. I think we are going to try the water bottles this time, but may combine the two by having gallon jugs delivered. They are typically cheaper than getting the bottles.
Sharing meals is definitely happening. I know many of the places that we frequent where we can get items that are definitely shareable. There is at least one day that may throw that off though, we enjoy the Epcot food booths very much and there will be food booths during the Festival of the Arts.

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You have some great ideas here for sure. Meal plan definitely lost it’s value for us as my oldest son is now 11. An adult in Disney terms, but definitely doesn’t eat like one. So, I am interested in going without it this time. It also opens up the option of mobile ordering, which I love at my local Dunkin Donuts and Subway, so it should be great at Disney.

The boys will be saving money and taking some of their own, but we always spend on them too. So, honestly this is more of a cost measure for us to not go overboard than it is for them. I have been known to have a “yes day” when we are at WDW where whatever they ask for, I say yes. I am exactly what the bean counters hope for when I am there sometimes. I get so lost in the bubble that I lose all sense of reality for one day, haha.

I love the bread in the shoe box idea. I am using that, thank your wife. We use the coffee make for oatmeal too, also instant mashed potatoes. Keurigs are great for more than just coffee. :wink:

We are Park Hopper people, it is what it is. It’s a cost I am willing to pay for.

We often do the big meal at lunch as well. Then a smaller meal in the evening. My favorite thing to do then is grab a meal while waiting for a night time attraction. Think eating hot dogs from Casey’s while claiming that good spot for HEA, or grabbing food on Sunset Blvd and carrying the tray in to eat while waiting for Fantasmic to start. You are going to be sitting there with nothing to do anyway, why not use that as your meal time, right.

Maybe it’s the travel agent in me, or maybe it’s that I like being in “the bubble”, but we always stay on site. Maybe someday we won’t, but it hasn’t happened yet. And it always seemed to me that the money I would save by staying offsite I would probably pay back in parking and rental car fees. Could be wrong there, I never actually crunched those numbers, cause I knew I would end up staying on site anyway.

Sounds like you have it all under control!! Have fun.

I did post this from our last trip on saving $$ - Saved $5000 on recent trip

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I usually use Delta because we have a limited choice here in Fargo ND. I also joined their American Express Skymiles program and this too has its benefits for us. Fargo is a lot farther from Orlando FL than New York so I only wished I could fly for as cheap per person as you do. I am no travel agent but from here anyway, it has always been cheaper to fly round trip. Competition is limited here and there are few sales days if any so I must check prices everyday. It is wonderful that you can fly that cheap. Have a Magical Vacation.

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