We decided to ditch the gifts and surprise our kids with a trip to Disney for Christmas this year. Although the kids just found out about it on Christmas Eve, we’ve been planning and saving for the better part of a year. As a first timer I’m finding Disney to be expensive, complicated and overwhelming. I’ve been taking notes along the way and am so excited to share with you today how we’ve made this trip totally doable on little time, a tight budget and with lots of help.
First things first- I have to give MAJOR props to my friend Amanda Worsley at Goofy Getaways. Amanda has been my life saver when it comes to scheduling and booking our trip. She’s, quite literally, held my hand through this entire experience so far. She has answered every single one of my 1 million questions, helped us pick the perfect hotel, told us where she thought we’d like to do our character meals, helped me select our rides and experiences for our FastPasses based on the kids’ ages and has our trip booked down to every last detail- right down to getting our luggage to our room when we arrive in Orlando. I haven’t had to worry about missing a deadline for meals or FastPasses because she’s on the ball and reminds me. Did I mention her services are 100% FREE. Yes, FREE! If you aren’t a Disney expert, find one before you go. Amanda not only saved me a ton of time, but she saved us a couple hundred bucks by keeping an eye on prices and honoring a lower rate when the prices dropped after we booked. If you are a newbie- do NOT book a trip without contacting someone like Amanda to help walk you through it.
So we all know now that Amanda is awesome and booking/scheduling was a breeze but there is still the issue of actually paying for Disney. I’m not going to lie, Disney is expensive. Our family is staying 6 nights and we have 5 days of park hopper tickets. For full disclosure I’ll share that our trip totaled $3,000 without airfare and without food. Um…GULP. I’m actually going to take a break as I type this to let that sink in.
There are a lot of ways to do a Disney vacation for cheaper than what we are doing it but this is our first trip and we don’t have plans to go again for a long (read that looooooooooooooong) time. I wanted our trip to be as magical as possible for the kids so we are staying on the property at a moderate resort that will allow us to spread out and hopefully all get a good night’s sleep and even a few naps throughout our stay.
We’ve saved for the better part of a year but in more ways than just popping change into a “Disney trip” jar and putting aside money from my husband’s paycheck. A few things we’ve done include:
- Garage/online sales: Last year I got rid of ALL our baby gear and old toys/clothing through either Craigslist, Facebook resale sites or garage sales. In doing this I was able to put back almost $2,000 in cold hard cash. Every penny “earned” from selling the kids’ stuff has gone into the Disney fund.
- Credit card rewards: We love our Capital One Venture card. There is an annual fee of $59/year but we more than make up for that in the points we earn. We put every purchase and pay every bill possible on our credit card and pay it off each month. This allows us to rack up reward points without having to pay a dime in interest. We’ve saved our points for about 18 months in able to play for 100% of our plane tickets plus have an additional $200-300 to apply towards our trip.
- Ditched all gifts for 2016: And I do mean all. With the exception of doing a small activity for each of their birthday’s, the kids aren’t getting anything “fun” from Mom and Dad during 2016 (I say this but isn’t Disney fun enough?!). No toys for Christmas, Easter, birthdays…etc. In an effort to not be the worst parents in the world, they have been and will be gifted some necessities like new swim suites for Easter, socks for Valentine’s Day…etc.
- Gift cards: The kids always receive gift cards or money from Grandparents and other relatives for Christmas and their birthdays. Normally we use these to buy clothes in the spring or just set the money aside in their savings accounts. This year I suggested Disney gift cards to replace some of these and it was a big hit. We will use the gift cards they received as souvenir money and to pay for a few character meals.
Doing the things above helped completely pay for that $3,000 Disney cost plus our airfare and will cover some of our meals and all of the kids souvenirs. The only money we will be spending out of pocket will be the majority of our food expenses. With that in mind, we haven’t been going out to eat as much for the last few months and have been trying to save more by doing Costco runs and freezer meals. I don’t have a real number for A) how much food will even cost there and B) how much we’ve saved by just “cutting back” so it’s hard to calculate how much we’ll need to come up with for a food budget. We do plan on getting groceries there so we can eat breakfast and pack lunches and snacks without purchasing food on site, doing all character meals for breakfast (the cheapest option) and splitting any meals we do buy on site between the kids and us to help us stay on a reasonable budget. I’ll try to keep a hand on things and update on how that goes for us after our trip. Our countdown says we have 9 days to go aaaahhhhh! I haven’t even thought about packing yet.
I’m proud of us for being able to do this without digging into our savings. And I hope that breaking it down like this makes a Disney trip seem a little more doable to a family that might be on the fence about it. It took a lot of planning to get us here, but I can’t wait to see the look on the kids’ faces when we roll up to Cinderella’s castle in 10 days.
Eat my pixie dust budget, we are going to Disney!
PS- If you are thinking about booking a trip, shoot Amanda an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You absolutely will NOT regret it.