Many people complain that Walt Disney World vacations are expensive. Well, imagine adding a costly foreign exchange rate into the mix - that’s what Canadian travellers are experiencing. We recently returned from a vacation at Disney World and $100 US currency cost us $134 Canadian. You can imagine how much extra the full vacation cost with this currency exchange rate. Ouch!
We had to re-think our usual vacation planning and opt for some frugal options. Here are some suggestions for all those Canadians struggling with the Canadian exchange rate and planning a Disney vacation:
1. Book your air travel on points if you can. This is a no-brainer, but the money saved on airfare can be used on other vacation expenses like accommodations and meals.
2. Stay at a Disney Resort! We have stayed off site and on Disney property, and we save money by staying at a Disney Resort. First, using Disney's Magical Express and Disney Resort Transportation means we don't have to rent a vehicle. Car rentals are between $40 - $50 a day, and parking can really add up. Disney Resort guests are given the perks of Extra Magic Hours which can make the difference in getting on rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Toy Story Mania! with reasonable wait times, or standing in line 100 minutes in a crowded queue. Plus, you can't beat the magic of staying at a Disney Resort!
3. If staying at a Disney Resort works for your family - the next decision is which resort to book. Disclaimer: We love Port Orleans Riverside. We've stayed at Value Resorts over the years, but once we stayed at The Port, we swore we'd never stay at a Value Resort again. Well, that was before there was less of a disparity between the Canadian and US Dollar. This trip, we stayed at All-Star Movies. The savings of $120 USD a night made the decision easier. Yes, we missed the amenities, the boat transportation to Disney Springs and the beautiful grounds at the moderates. But the price tag of the moderate resort had forced us to put our vacation planning on hold, and in the end, we decided a Disney vacation was worth giving up the "extras" of the moderate.
4. Shopping - if only this activity were not so enjoyable! But alas, I do love to shop for deals. So, we spend one day shopping at the outlets, but we look at the price tags and use one of the currency exchange apps on our phone to see the true cost of our purchase. As Disney addicts, we love to display Disney-themed decorations throughout our house for the holidays. The Disney Outlet Store is one of our favourites. I search for those deals on off-season decorations instead of paying full price in the Disney stores on property. Oh, the thrill of finding a deal on Disney merchandise!
5. Some travellers prefer to use their Canadian credit card because of the points they accumulate. And while the points can be an advantage for future travel, I think the bank fees with currency conversion detracts from the benefits.
Our alternative is a US dollar Visa card and a US dollar bank account. Most Canadian banks offer this option and the annual fee on the credit card is usually quite low. We use it exclusively for all our purchases when we arrive in the U.S. When we return home, we transfer the money from our US dollar account to avoid any interest. The one exception - we use our Canadian credit card (because of its travel insurance perks) to purchase our travel and accommodations. This credit card insurance can be invaluable if you have to cancel due to illness or trip interruption.
One additional tip - we convert Canadian currency every payday so we are building our US currency in our bank account throughout the year. This avoids the psychological pain of big losses in currency conversion at one time.
6. Finally, meals can add significantly to your travel budget, so savings with this expense can help offset the overall vacation. If you have the flexibility to travel in the fall when free dining is offered, this can result in some lucrative savings. If your travel plans are outside the free dining timeframe, do not despair, there are several practical suggestions on how you can reduce food costs. I recommend visiting a Super Target or Publix to purchase fruit, bread, cereal, and snacks. We eat breakfast at the resort. The 2 slices of bread for toast will cost you 99 cents at the resort food court. At the supermarket, you'll pay $1.00 for a full loaf. And, with one piece of fruit costing $1.29 and up anywhere on Disney property, your trip to the supermarket can result in some major savings over several days. One last tip regarding food savings - the portion sizes at Disney are huge, so we often share a meal, especially for lunch.
So there you have it, six of the top money saving tips for Canadians craving a Disney trip but cringing as the Canadian loonie dives below its US dollar counterpart. In fact, most of these tips may be useful for anyone trying to stretch their dollar from any country!