One of the posts you will see written from all of our different viewpoints is this one: how we budget our Disney trips.
For us, it’s a little different each time, mostly dependent on how much time we have to plan. I planned our first trip in less than three months, but I had seven months to plan our second trip which makes a big difference.
The first thing I like to do is examine our credit card rewards. You’ll be seeing some posts in the future from us about this topic. Everyone has different feelings towards credit cards but my philosophy is that if you can earn great rewards from them and pay them off each month before accruing interest, then it’s worth it.
Once I’ve analyzed what I can get for free, which is usually flights or a certain dollar amount towards my hotel stay, I take a look at Disney Worlds website and see what they are offering. Is the free dining plan available for my timeframe? What about the the kids stay and play free offer? Or a hotel room only discount? You can see all of this by going to the special offers section.
Next, I take a look at how many days we will be in the park. I’ve already written a post about saving money on your tickets so take a look at that and weigh your options. We have small children so we usually plan a break day away from the parks during the middle of our trip. Last time, we went to the beach. This time we will be hitting up the great outlets that are very close by and taking a tour of all the Disney hotels so we know where we want to stay next.
My favorite way to keep my Disney money is in an envelope in our safe. I’ve labeled it “DW Fund” and every time I add to it, I write the new total on the back.
So what goes into this envelope? Any extra money I might get. Recently we overpaid on our car insurance and got a refund of $63. I cashed that check and it went straight into the envelope. I sold a bunch of baby gear and all of that money went into the envelope as well. Basically, any money that we get outside of the normal paycheck money goes into my envelope.
Since our first trip was planned on very short notice, we ended up using credit card points to score a free hotel room and flying Allegiant Air because they were offering a great deal. I purchased my park (base) tickets through AAA. Another great place to look for tickets, especially if you don't have a AAA account is Undercover Tourist. I rented our car through Priceline for less than $200 (we couldn’t take the Magical Express because Allegiant only flies into Sanford). We also rented a stroller. That trip ended up costing just under $2,000.
For our upcoming trip, I’ve been able to plan ahead a little better. We’re staying at a deluxe resort but we are getting free dining! I figured up the cost of our table service credit meals alone and it’s nearly $1,000, but thanks to free dining we won’t be paying that. We also think we will have enough miles to fly for free. Because we’re taking part in the free dining package, our tickets are included so I can’t save additionally on those but I do have some Disney gift cards from Disney Movie Rewards and from my Disney Visa Card that I can apply to our trip (totaling $420). We will again be renting a car and a stroller.
Don't be afraid to get creative! Another great way that we will be saving on this trip is by using our credit card thank you points towards the balance of our trip! Our points equate to a dollar amount that we can apply to our bill. We don't have enough to pay for our package (hotel, tickets, free dining) but we do have enough to pay for about 1/2 of it!
My best advice is to draw up multiple plans. Use those plans to figure out what things are the MOST important to you (type of resort? drive or fly?). From there you will have a good idea of how much you need to save.
While planning our second trip I actually reserved two rooms; one at a Value Resort (All Star Sports) as well as our reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge. As we saved up and it became apparent that we would be able to afford the AK Lodge, I cancelled the reservation at All Star Sports so that someone else could reserve that room and take part in the free dining. We would have saved quite a bit by staying at the All Star Sports resort, but decided that since we could afford it, we’d stay at the AKL. Our kids will FLIP OUT over the view of the animals from our room!
While you’re in planning mode, I highly recommend checking out the Real Mom’s Disney Budget Spreadsheet! It’s a great resource for keeping everything organized!