Growing up, I’ve been to Disney at least 4,200,134 times. Ok, well maybe not that many times, but I went a lot. I have a lot of family in Florida, so when we would visit every summer and sometimes during winter breaks, we’d go to Disney. I’ve been to Disneyland, Disney World, and EuroDisney. I’ve always been a fan of Disney and love that it never feels like the same old park with each visit.
My older two children have been twice, but my 8 and 2 year old have never gone to Disney. I decided that I’d make that happen this year, as I was planning our larger family trip. And while the thought of going to Disney with my family of 6 seemed very daunting, I found a few tips that helped me do things with my small budget.
Start Planning Early
I started looking for plane tickets to Florida in early February. I created alerts with websites like Airfare Watchdog. This gave me the opportunity to see what the average price for flights to Orlando were. And also when there was a price drop. By using Airfare Watchdog, I also didn’t have to continually search the internet looking for the absolute, lowest price. It saved a lot of time and took some of the stress away from planning this trip. I say “some” stress, because I started to become obsessive with finding the best fare, and started to worry if I could do better, or if I missed the fare of a lifetime by not purchasing when the price dropped. By April, I was confident in what my “must buy” ticket price was and I hopped on it when it was available.
Airplane tip: When purchasing tickets on airlines that offer a cheaper fare to not check in luggage, take it! Especially if you have little kids. You are allowed to carry two bags on JetBlue. One that will fit in the overhead bin and one that will fit under the seat in front of you. We were able to fit a lot of the two younger kids clothes in one suitcase (overhead bin). That still gave us another suitcase, and 2 small backpacks to work with. This was in addition to everyone else’s bag allocation. If you still need to check in a large bag, I found it cheaper to upgrade 1 ticket in the group OR pay to check in that one bag. The cost RT for that additional bag is around $50, which is still cheaper than buying everyone tickets with checked bags.
In regards to housing, I used sites like Travelocity and TripAdvisor to keep me in the loop about hotel prices in the area. Not only does TripAdvisor give me insight on property prices and consumer reviews, they’ll also give you alerts of when the properties you were looking for have had a price change.
Avoid Prime Time
For most vacation hot spots in Florida, their busiest season is late May to late July. This is the time when most families go on vacation. The kids are out of school, so it makes complete sense. The tourism industry understands that and prices their properties and transportation accordingly. Peak fares can sometimes be double or triple the price you’d pay during offpeak season.
With Disney, they use this same philosophy. They have tickets for peak, off peak and there is a value period of time. Value tickets are about $102. This a $20 savings from the peak tickets and about $12 savings from off peak. Disney has a calendar on their website that shares all of this information.
Finding a place to stay can be just as tricky. Hotels participate in seasonal pricing as well.
Think Outside the Box
Since this was a big trip and the average room at the time we were looking started around $150 (note: we’d need at least 2 rooms), we decided to look into what AirBnB had to offer. While it was our immediate family of 6, we were also vacationing with my mother, my in laws, my husband’s brothers and their families. It was close to 16 of us. I needed at least 8 rooms, and to spend that on a hotel for 4 nights, it would have cost us close to $4800. That seemed to be an insane amount of money, and even with hotel group discounts, it still came out to be a lot.
I found an 8 bedroom home about 8 miles from Disney. It was a brand new property, with two master bedrooms on the main floor. We had our own private pool and jacuzzi in the back and everyone had a bathroom. Upstairs there was a loft with a pool table, video games and ping pong. The kitchen was huge, with enough seating for everyone. Total price came up to around $1700. We split that among each family and paid roughly $350. Yep, for 4 nights, I housed my family in sunny Orlando for only $350.
We also used a new car rental search website called, AutoSlash. It’s an additional layer to getting to discount travel sites, but it’s soooo worth it. AutoSlash asks you a few questions about your car needs (date, location, etc) and they then ask about your affiliations with organizations, bulk store memberships, etc. Once you send off your request, they send you an email with vendors that have what you’re looking for, at lower rates than you may have found on your own. I was able to secure a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica for only $180. That price included taxes and fees. That’s unheard of. Even in my quest to find great pricing for a rental, I couldn’t get it lower than $280 for 4 days. I used AutoSlash to find the best pricing. It happened to be through Priceline. My information and savings/corporate codes were pre-populated into the Priceline request. Then I selected the van which was lent out via Alamo. It all took less than 15 minutes to secure the deal.
It goes without saying that you should definitely create a budget before you head to Disney. It’s nothing worse than going on vacation and running out of money before the vacation is over.
Since we had a whole house, it didn’t make sense to go out to eat. We went grocery shopping and bought staples for the house. Collectively we spent around $300, for 16 people to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner for 4 days. There were a couple of meals that we ordered in, but it wasn’t because we had to.
Because Disney is the most popular attraction in Orlando, it’s not hard to find tons of Disney inspired souvenirs. Walmart even has licensed Disney gear. You can buy your Disney ears, shirts, bags, outfits all outside of the theme park for much cheaper. This helped us because the kids still looked cute, and our wallets weren’t empty after.
Disney also allows you to bring food into the park. We saw plenty of families with coolers in tow. Our plan was to pack sandwiches and drinks, but we’d been at the park since before 8a and by 3p were ready to go home to refuel. Since your ticket and parking voucher are good for the entire day, it was great that we were able to recharge at home. But it’s definitely a great budget keeper, if you bring your lunch to the park.
As I said earlier, I absolutely LOVE Disney. I’ve wanted to go as a family for several years. Each time I added up the lodging, flights and park tickets I’d have a mini panic attack. Without a small loan, I never thought I’d get everyone down there, at once.
My dream is to do Disney the way Disney believes you should enjoy it, which is by staying at a Disney resort with a multiday pass, character dinner dates, and tons of pictures taken by their staff. But this trip was very special to us. We all created so many memories and my kids never complained a bit. I guess it’s easy to not miss what you never had. But I do intend to enjoy the true Disney experience, one day.
|Conventional||Money Saving Tips|
|Lodging for 6 people||$1200.00
2 rooms/4 nights/$150 per night
|Meals for 6 people||$648.00
($9/meal) (3 times a day)
For 4 days
|Rental Car for 6 people||$280.00||$180.00|
|Tickets for 6 people||Peak: $610
$122 per ticket
|Off Peak: $570.00
$114 per ticket
|Flights for 6 people||$1750.00||$1346.00|