Disney Frugal Style

disney-stroller-loveA few weeks ago, my family and I embarked on our first ever trip to sunny freezing cold Orlando for an adventure at Walt Disney World. We combined the Disney Social Media Moms conference with a quick family vacation since the price could not be beat. What a blessing it was to surprise the girls with this trip!

I am no Disney expert, but I do have a few frugal tips from a first timer’s perspective:

  • The cost of food is outrageous. (Seriously- nine bucks for a sandwich?) Either pack your own or opt for a meal plan. Enough said.

leah-stroller-ride

  • A stroller is a must with young children. We thought about bringing my regular single stroller for Colin. Thankfully a friend gave us her old sit-and-stand double stroller just for this trip so Leah could hop along for a ride. It was seriously a lifesaver! There was way more walking than her little legs could have handled.

Speaking of lifesavers, this little puppy is the best. invention. EVER! The Mommy Hook. (I’ll just let the slightly demeaning name slide because I love it so much, m’kay?)

mommy-hookThis nifty hook pops right onto a stroller or shopping cart handle so you can hang your purse, shopping bags, or various other items you just don’t have enough hands for. It is super strong, so you can load it up with quite a bit of weight. Brilliant!

  • Check the weather before you go. And check it again. Do not count on the 70 degree average temperatures, because you may end up with 40 degrees with a 3o degree wind chill and pouring rain. Just sayin’.

rain-rideOf course, if that happens, you may have to buy a set of ponchos. And an umbrella. And knit gloves for $8.50 a piece that you already have at home Ahem.

Just make sure you check the weather and pack accordingly.

  • Hit the Disney Outlet Store before you go. I knew I wanted the girls to wear matching T-shirts while at Disney to look cute keep track of them. I picked up several shirts ahead of time for only $2.99 a piece- score! I even remembered to grab a souvenir for each girl at the Outlet, and skipped the overpriced venues at the park.

Despite the weather, we had a truly magical time at Walt Disney World. I connected with old and new blogging friends while enjoying and learning more about Disney. But most of all, I cherished the time with my family, and the memories we created.

So, all you Disney buffs out there, let’s hear your money-saving tips for doing Disney on a budget!

This post is linked to Life As Mom.

Disclosure: I received discounted accommodations and park tickets and some meals as part of the conference. My attendance was sponsored by Lifetime Moms.

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About Alyssa Francis

A thirty-something wife and mother of four! Two daughters by birth, one son by marriage, and a sweet baby boy born in April of 2009. Oldest sister of four girls raised by a single mom. California native. Grew up in Hawaii. Somehow ended up in North Texas. Once a single mom. Former agnostic. A survivor of abuse and addiction. Forgiven by a great big God. Married to my best friend.

Comments

  1. The last time I went to Disneyland, rain was predicted so we took rain gear and a change of clothes for our 4-year-old and quickly found the locker area to store it. It gave us peace of mind and, of course, it didn’t rain. Isn’t that always the way when you come prepared! I’m with you on the food, too, we pack our own even though you are, technically, not “allowed”. The crack security team at the gate never bothers to check under a diaper/pull-up so that makes it easy!
    .-= Ruth´s last blog ..Works For Me Wednesday: Flylady =-.

  2. Hehe! We went to disney a few weeks ago and I posted about how we went for less, too :o ) It was chilly out when we went, too, though two days out of seven we did have beautiful weather.

    Your mommy hook seems like a big help!

    http://likeabubblingbrook.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-we-usually-vacation-for-500-or-less.html
    .-= Jaime G´s last blog ..Teaching Your Child to Read =-.

  3. Meal plans are a must and our family of 5 got by with 4 meal plans and sharing just tine (and we have teenagers) also, I hear Walmart near Disney has cute clothes always cheaper that the resort! Take along lots of drinks!
    .-= Denise@TogetherWeSave´s last blog ..Totally Kids Free $10 Gift Card =-.

  4. Sara @ Saving For Someday says:

    One great money saver while at Disney World is to share meals. There is at least one counter service/quick serve location in each park that has large meals that are definitely enough for a mom and kids to share or even two adults.

    Also, when it’s cold out, one way to save is to order a cup of hot water and bring your own package of hot cocoa or even a tea bag to have a free drink. This is particularly good when you have kids who won’t drink an entire cup of cocoa.
    .-= Sara @ Saving For Someday´s last blog ..Feng Shui – Bring Positive Energy To Your Life =-.

  5. My other tip is to buy lots of glow sticks at the dollar store before we go. Then at night we can pull them out and the kids have something glowy and aren’t lured by the pricey light-up souvenirs.

  6. Christine says:

    Great tips! We actually went for the second time to DisneyWorld in December. It was a lot harder this time without a stroller. I almost wished we had brought one just to carry food/stuff around! If you don’t have a stoller get a backpack. I only had an over the shoulder bag and it was a pain in the neck…literally! :)

  7. Thanks for the tips, it is NOT a cheap trip for sure! I loved how you made the best of it even if conditions were not perfect and as expected, and your girls looked like they did too!
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..The Dignity and Sanctity of the Home =-.

  8. If it works for your family’s schedule, go in the off season! We went to Disneyland the 1st week of December and barely waited in ANY lines. Not only did this maximize our time at the park, but hotels/airfare were cheaper too! And if going to Disneyland, staying across the street is another money saver. Skip the rental car, catch the Disney Express from LAX and just walk to the park every day. Also, there are numerous inexpensive restaurants within walking distance outside the park, including the very cheap McD’s! With little ones, we left for naps in the afternoon and grabbed lunch outside of the park. Breakfast was served at our hotel, so the only meal we had to pay more for was dinner. Bummer is, I don’t think this plan could work as well with Disneyworld since it’s much more of an ordeal to get into the park.

  9. themouseforless is a great website. Also, check out some Disney guides from the library in advance. We got some great tips from these. We ordered double cheeseburgers & an extra bun (around 70 cents, I think) and made 2 cheeseburgers out of it. Our kids are small, so it was enough for all 4 of us. This saved a good bit, and we packed our own snacks & water.

  10. Did you ride Space Mountain? I LOVE that ride!

    Austin @ Foreigner’s Finances
    .-= Austin´s last blog ..How to Peacefully Split Bills in Your Relationship =-.

  11. going to disney in CA on the first of March with my 9 yr old grand daughter. any suggestions. for that age. should we stay on site or neaby hotle. any tips would be appreciated.

  12. I don’t have any frugal tips, since I haven’t been there for many years.

    However, I had to laugh with your story about the ponchos, etc. We visited Disney World around Christmastime when I was 10 and we lived in OK. My parents must have thought that FL was always warm, since we had NOTHING for when it was cool and rainy. At least my sister and I got matching Mickey Mouse sweatshirts and ponchos out of the deal :-) .
    .-= Corrie @ “Cents”able Momma´s last blog ..Upromise: 2 More Ways to Save =-.

  13. Most of my money-saving tricks have been mentioned already but one I haven’t seen anyone mention is to take your own water bottles. They will refill them for you for free at any of the counters that serve food.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Tsunami Warning =-.

  14. We have been going every other year since ’06. My favorite tip to folks is to go late August or September. WDW has been offering the free dining deal which can save an avg. family around 1,3oo.00!!! a great deal, worthy of a week of missed school! Also we have taken both of our children right before their 3rd birthday….they are FREE then!!! and they will have a fantastic time, and you’ll cherish the memories…mine both can tell you things about it! and VALUE RESORTS ROCK AT WDW!!! POP CENTURY*0*

  15. It was an amazing trip, but you could easily go broke in a place like Disney World. We were thankful that our dinners were taken care of and we really only needed to come up with lunches everyday. We also brought our own food for breakfast.

    By the way it was really great to finally get to meet you in real life! I was so surprised by how sweet your little guy was.

    ~Kristie
    .-= Kristie´s last blog ..WFMW: Dealing With Frugal Burnout =-.

  16. Use the lockers at the front of the Magic Kindgom for emergency food supplies.
    .-= Sandy Allen´s last blog ..Hardcore Daddy & Baby =-.

  17. Hi guys… We just took our family of five on an 8 day vacation to WDW the first week of February. Yes, travel in the off season! It will save you SOOO much. We did the buy 4/get 3 free (included the hotel, park tickets and dining plan!) We also think the dining plan is a must…

    Before our trip, I started looking for bargains. I got the three kids Mickie crocs for a steal ($1 for one pair at a garage sale, $3 for another pair on ebay and $6 for another pair from crocs.com). Then I got Disney themed jibbitz off of Ebay for about $.33 each – and they got some – and then gave some as gifts to friends too.

    We actually shipped a big box of stuff to our resort (Port Orleans-Riverside) the week before we left – with diapers, wipes, snacks, bfast items (oatmeals, muffins, cereal bars, etc.) That was MUCH easier than packing it all in a suitcase, and it was cheaper to pay shipping on that than it would have been to pay for another bag on an airline…

    Also, I made our kids matching shirts for the trip. My hubby and I had a few to go along – but not for every day like they had. Check out this website: http://www.disboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=105 — to see how it is done. I just requested designs, printed them on transfer paper and then ironed them on our shirts. I made the kids tees (which were adorable – and personalized with their names) for about $2.50-$3 each. I made several sweatshirts which were a little more, but nothing like park prices.

    I could go on and on about tips I learned!!! Also, if you are going and want to do the photopass thing, find another family or two that is there at the same time… Use just one photopass number, and share the expense to buy the CD of images. It could cut your cost to just $20 or so instead of $100 if people share. Sure, you’ll have photos on there that you wouldn’t want or need (of other people) but just ignore those and use the ones you want!

    Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is very popular – but we did learn that at the barber shop on main street you can get a little girl’s updo for $10 complete with glitter, pixie dust, etc. Can’t beat that deal – one of the best in the park!!!!

    I can’t wait to go back…in a few years!

  18. Thanks for all the tips! My husband and I were just talking about how fun it would be to take our kids this year but weren’t sure how to swing it. I’m sure this advice will help.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Looking At the Big Picture Pays Off =-.

  19. Great tips from everyone! My family’s planning a Disney World trip. The thing with us is we’re a family of 6: parents, 3 young ladies (my sisters & I are all over 21 yrs), and a 12-yr old boy. So I’m most thankful for the food saving tips! Especially since I know I’d be footing some of the food bill since I’m the eldest child.

    To share my own, when my family travels together, we always book a room with a kitchen/kitchenette. Then we buy groceries at a nearby grocery store, and cook our own food. It’s a little hassle to do some cooking on your vacation…but it saves a lot of money. And there are a lot of food that kids love and are easy to make, ie PB&J or grilled cheese sandwiches.

  20. Alyssa – LOVED the cute Disney pics of your family – so glad that you got to go! Knowing that you follow Dave Ramsey, thought I would share with you that almost six years ago, my husband and I made it our goal to take our family to Disney as our PAID OFF OUR DEBT trip and this past August, the week before school started, we did it! We paid cash for a seven day, six night disney resort w/meal plan trip (+ airfare for 4)! When we actually arrived, my husband and I were just as excited to be there as our three children were due to the fact that it was indeed we had really hard for and could enjoy that much more! A couple of other points I noted from your tips were that YES – a stroller is a definite must – even our 6 year old took a turn in our jogging stroller at times, and the meal plan is VERY well worth it in my opinion as we took advantage of 4 character breakfasts which allowed all the kids to meet and get autographs from all their favorites without waiting in lines and also enjoy buffet style food with thousands of delicious choices (great for a family with many different likes/dislikes) and one last funny note…we too “invested in the Disney rain ponchos after two days of just getting soaked, then once we purchased them, it quit raining! – The end of August is an “off-season” time to go and I would definitely recommend it to anyone as there were hardly any lines at all! We can’t wait to go back and have our date set in two years as October 1, 2012 – as that day is actually Disney World’s 40th birthday celebration AND my husband’s as well! – Thanks for sharing your experience, congrats on being able to enjoy such a great trip with your family!

  21. Thank you for the Disney tips, I’ll have to share with a friend of mine, she just asked me yesterday if I knew of how to save at Disney. She wants to take her daughter their for her 16th Bday. Only problem I see, is it has to be over spring break…. any ideas. I noticed someone mentioned a website, mouse for less.
    Thank you,
    Rene’
    .-= rene´s last blog ..Understanding Target red tag markdowns =-.

  22. 4 days til’ we leave to go on our vacation to Disney World! Here is some ways I save $$ on a vacation!
    http://omahacouponclipper.blogspot.com/2010/01/my-10-ways-to-save-money-on-vacation.html
    .-= Brandy´s last blog ..weekly deals 3/10-3/16 =-.

  23. I seriously almost cried after paying for our meal. All I kept thinking was that was more than half my weekly grocery budget. I think my husband thought he’d have to wheel me out of there to avoid a scene. He had to sit me down and remind me that we my parents paid for the tickets so we were not spending that much at all.
    .-= FrugalFriend´s last blog ..Disney Land Fun =-.

  24. Alyssa Francis says:

    Too funny, frugal friend. I know how you feel. The food costs an arm and a leg there, ugh!

  25. cynthia says:

    Always buy rain ponchos at home before you go. I get 2 in pack for .97 and we take several packs on each trip. Having been during different seasons if it is a quick shower you can wear during rain then throw away when it stops. If it is a rainy day then we just wear them and wait for the next shower.

  26. Heather says:

    I’m taking my second trip with my little girl for her 7th birthday. My question is, will we get in trouble for making our homemade disney shirts? I was going to do the different fabric ones and use the waltograph font I got offline. WIll they make us leave and change? Thank you :)

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