We live in an age of technology where information is abundant and, at times, completely overwhelming. When planning a travel adventure, the sense of mystery is almost entirely gone, every nook and cranny watchable in a YouTube video or vividly described in articles. The opportunity to experience something completely by oneself is seldom offered, with surprises almost nonexistent. All but one, that is, the surprise you get when the post-vacation credit card statement comes in. That still remains.
No matter how well you research your destination, there always seems to be something you didn’t budget for that creeps into your spending. Today I am sharing with you three things I learned the hard way when visiting the Disney theme parks, as well as a bonus two for those traveling from overseas.
Casual Dining Options & Snacks
If you are planning on cutting costs by avoiding sit-down meals, then be sure to take a look at the expense of casual dining and snacks. Sometimes, by doing away with scheduled table service dining, we can quickly end up spending more on sporadic snacks and drink purchases. Look at some of the dining options in both styles ahead of time, and keep your options open. There are some excellent table service dining locations that won’t break the budget and might keep your spending in a more predictable pattern while also allowing you to experience a variety of Disney’s incredible food.
If I had a dollar for every one of my friends and family who returned home with items of Disney clothing that they bought on a whim, well, I’d have a lot of dollars. Most commonly, I find people who don’t take the “layers” advice seriously enough tend to purchase additional wardrobe items in the parks due to heat, rain, or even cold later at night. To cope with the weather, try to pack a series of layers to avoid those last-minute spending sprees. Are you trying to pack light? Allocate some of your spending money and try to purchase items that you can wear but also love. Planning for that $70 Spirit Jersey purchase ahead of time will give you a little less stress when the time comes to hand over your credit card.
Kids Toys and Impulse Buys
When your child runs into a Disney Store and attaches themselves to the most adorable plush toy you’ve ever seen, it’s hard to find the heart to say no. While there are some great ways to help kids manage their spending from any age, one of the best is to set them their own spending budget. Set a budget for their spending that you can stick to if they are younger or that you can make them responsible for if they are a bit older and able to understand. Having limits will help them prioritize items they want over impulse purchasing that just feels fun at the time.
Bonus International Tip #1: Tipping
It’s relatively common knowledge now that there are certain expectations regarding gratuities or tipping within the USA. However, as an international visitor, if you are traveling to the USA for the first time, you likely are unaware of how much this social custom adds up to. Depending on the service and location, you must factor in between 15% and 25% on any service-based transaction. Everyone will have a different opinion on the specifics of this topic which I will stay away from being too specific on as I am only ever a visitor in the USA; however, it remains a substantial added cost that should be remembered.
Bonus International Tip #2: Tax
Unlike some countries, tax is not included in the advertised price of a product or service. You will often see signage that says plus tax, though for an international visitor to a country where the tax rate changes from state to state, and sometimes even from one county to the next, this can be confusing to work out what you will actually be paying for a product or service. For example, according to PlanDisney.com, Walt Disney World spans over two different counties, meaning your sales tax rate could be between 6.5% and 7.5% depending on where you are located at any given time. In Anaheim, California, expect to pay around 7.75%.
Share your best budgeting tips below that might help others keep their spending realistically in check on their Disney vacation.
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.