We took a family vacation to Orlando Florida last week to visit friends and family and of course frequent the theme parks. We're blessed that most of our trip was FREE. My husband travels a lot for business so our flights were free after redeeming frequent flyer miles. We had car rental for part of the week for free and we stayed at our brother in law's timeshare 15 minutes drive from Disney World for free. So true to my favorite motto "Save on the things we need so we can buy the things we want" our vacation was "NOT on a budget" because we saved on a majority of our trip and could afford to splurge.
Although we did not have a budget I am frugal by nature and so I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks for those on a budget as we all know how expensive the Orlando theme parks can be.
We stayed at a timeshare where generic sundries were available, however I did bring my own stockpile of free samples such as shampoo, conditioner, detergent with me. Free samples are small in size and can easily fit into luggage or even carryons (size dependent). Head over to my free sample section to start stockpiling for your trip.
We stayed in a condo which was equipped with a kitchen and supplies. We headed to our local Target with coupons and shopped for breakfast, drinks and snack supplies. This saved us a lot of money as I was able to sneak in snacks and drinks for the kids to the themeparks. I simply hid drinks and snacks among the spare change of kids clothes in my backpack and this eluded the bag check security guys. If you plan ahead write to companies through their online contact pages and request coupons in addition to your nice comment regarding their products. I have been able to secure high value manufacturer coupons and even free coupons - stockpile them for you trip to lessen your food bill.
Theme park tickets are so expensive - times that by the number of family members and you'll need a second mortgage for the trip to the happiest place on earth. I tried to purchase tickets to theme parks ahead of time. I googled for any coupon codes and ticket deals - going off peak means there are a lot of discounted tickets being offered so do a little online homework. Usually, purchasing online will save you a few bucks too and etickets means skipping the long ticket lines. For bloggers, contact the theme parks (online) as you may be able to receive free entrance tickets for you and your whole family too in exchange for your review.
Handy Dandy Collapsible Water Bottle
These handy collapsible water bottles that I got for free at Savemore (daily deal site - no longer available right now) were a wonderful addition to our trip. I packed them flat in my suitcase and when filled they fit nicely into my backpack. The kids loved the colors and I loved how we could fill them with the fountain water.
I purchased a lot of Disney merchandise online ahead of time. By going through ebates (online cashback site) and searching for a coupon code my cost was significantly lower than if buying at the theme park. While shopping at Target for food in Orlando I found the Target store also sold Disney themed merchandise. Instead of paying $15 for an authentic Disney Park autograph book I paid $2.99 for a Disney themed autograph book. To stave off those "Mom can I have this", pull out a stocking stuffer disney toy brought ahead of time and its win win for all.
Stay Off Property
We were lucky enough to stay at my brother in-laws condo, we already did the Disney property stay 2 years ago and in comparison the Disney transportation vs 15 minute drive was very comparable but the price difference was not comparable. For the fraction of the price staying off property you can save the money and splurge on other activities. It is fun being onsite but really the time you actually spend in the hotel room you could really be anywhere.
We had the Disney photographers take pictures, of course they did a lovely job but the online download prices and print prices were astronomical. We took our own pictures of the kids with the characters and so I'll be redeeming 100 free photo prints and only paying shipping through these links found here.
Heads UP: over the next few days I'll be posting my own reviews of Disney's Magic Kingdom and SeaWorld.
Over to you my readers - please post your tips and tricks to make your Disney or vacation trip more friendly on the wallet.