The face of travel has changed drastically over the last eighteen months, leaving many people without their usual vacation routines. As restrictions ease and we distance ourselves further and further from the eye of the pandemic storm, we need to start looking forward to something better. For many of us here, that will include a return to the magic of Disney parks.
Once upon a time, we knew what we were doing. With seasonal special and predictable events that we could plan for in advance, a trip to Disney could be achieved at certain times of the year on quite a humble budget. Fast-forward to 2021, when it feels like we are constantly being asked for more money on less return, it can be hard to plan from a financial perspective for those Disney Days ahead.
With the upfront costs fairly well detailed before you leave, it is usually the expenses you accumulate while traveling that creep up on you. To ease the pain, I wanted to look at a few ways you can save money while you are away that might make it a little easier to find your way back to the parks on a smaller budget. Let’s check out ten compromises you can make to cut down spending while you travel.
Limit yourself to one special drink per day.
In my experience, it is always the drinks that add up to more than you expect. Get comfortable with water and limit everyone in your group to one special drink per day. This might be sodas for the kids or alcoholic beverages for adults; either way, make a rule that you all only indulge in one per 24-hour period. This way, you get to enjoy a little bit of something fancy without going overboard, and the added hydration of upping your water intake will do wonders for your energy and endurance in the hot weather.
Set a souvenir budget, and stick to it.
Those impulse purchases for random bits and pieces you will never use really hit the credit card with a thud. Agree ahead of time on either a budget for collectibles or a certain number of items you can take home with you. Not only will this stop you from getting that ugly surprise when the bill comes in later on, but it will also make you more careful about what you take home, and ultimately, more appreciative of that special something.
Pack correctly and don’t buy apparel.
“It’s okay; we can grab something when we get there.” Have you ever been guilty of these famous last words? Take the time before you leave to think through what you might need and pack accordingly. At almost $70 a pop, even a single Spirit Jersey can set you back in the spending category. Check off those lists, from rain jackets and swimwear to extra socks and hats to save that extra money when you arrive.
Skip dessert at the restaurant and get something on the go instead.
When dining at table-service restaurants, the pricing on the menu is far from the final cost of your experience as a whole. Once you factor in tax and tipping, it is easy for meals to get out of hand. Repeat this a few times during your stay, and that budget can go right out the window. Make a compromise by not missing out on the food experiences you love but limiting them to a manageable level by skipping dessert. It’s all about your mindset; extend the evening festivities by going for a walk after dinner and find yourself a quick-service item to share instead. You will save on the money and the calories while finishing off your day with a calming stroll.
Take some snacks with you during the day.
I can feel the eye-rolls from here. Some might say this sort of thing spoils the magic if you can’t spontaneously luxuriate in the snacks of Disney, but if a few of these tips mean the difference between going to Disney and not, then a few snacks in the backpack is worth it. You might decide ahead of time only to purchase one round of snacks per day and then use those you bring with you outside of that or buy one and share. Most Disney snacks are substantial in size and really don’t need to be consumed solo. If everyone gets a few bites of each snack throughout the day, you will save money and get to try more yummy treats.
Make use of free transportation.
Saving time with Ubers or other paid forms of transportation can be tempting but will burn through your vacation savings before too long. Strike up a conversation and wait the few extra minutes for the bus, boats, or Skyliner and save that cash for another aspect of Disney that you will get more out of.
Limit your park days and enjoy the resorts.
Taking a resort day here or there doesn’t just give you downtime to relax and recover, it also is a great way to save money by limiting your park days and spacing them out. When you pack too many of them in a row, it all starts to feel like a bit of a blur. Spacing them out helps you to really enjoy each one and get the most out of your experience. Spend a day resort hopping within walking distance or exploring Disney Springs, and give yourself more time to enjoy the free ambiance outside of the parks.
Don’t bring home gifts for everyone you know.
I touched on this one a few weeks back in another article about bringing home souvenirs for friends and family being a thing of the past. I know the pressure can be on when it comes to pleasing the expectations of everyone back home, but the truth is, you don’t owe anyone anything. Spend that money enjoying your time away, not taking home unnecessary gifts to remind others of your hard-earned holiday.
Don’t forget your basics.
On a regular vacation, choosing to get your supplies like sunscreen and toothpaste at your destination wouldn’t even make it onto this list. However, when traveling to Disney, it is fairly well known that your resort mini-mart will come at a higher cost. Take your time before you leave and collect your supplies when they are on special in your local area. I know this one sounds boring, but every bit counts, and if you can save $40 or $50 on a week’s worth of basics like toiletries, medications, sunscreen, moisturizer, deodorant, etc., then that is a quick-service lunch you can now afford.
I hope that some of those can help to lessen the burden of that post-Disney credit card bill. Keep in mind that all of the little things add up, and many of these are achievable without giving up too much of your Disney fun while you are away. It’s all about compromise.
If you are up to sharing, add your cost-saving compromises below.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.