Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Disney on a Budget
Here is my long awaited post on Disney on a budget. It took Sean and I about 1 year to find the best travel package for our family. We enjoy the 12 hour drive (yes, really enjoy it), so we decided not to fly. We have family and friends along the way, so as we prepare to leave on a Friday, we actually won't be checking into our hotel until Monday night. Visiting family and friends along the way there and back, extended our trip from only 4 days to 9 days. Staying with people definitely helps on the expense side of travel.
Food wise, my husband and I have both experienced the taking of your own food into the park, renting a locker and returning to find hot peanut butter or bologna sandwiches. All the while, coveting the fresh food people around you are eating. We have decided that eating lunch and dinner in the park are just part of the trip and we budget for that even if it means one less day in the park. For breakfast, we pack our own fruit and cereal, bowls, cups and spoons. (The continental breakfast is usually dry donuts or over by the time we get up;) The hotel we stay in has it's own mini-convenience store so we can purchase milk there and keep it in our fridge in our room. Eating at your own pace and time is part of the "vacation" mentality. We also carry a backpack FULL of snacks to last the day. I purchase Disney snacks at Kroger (drink mixes that can be added to bottled water, crackers, fruit snacks, fresh fruit....) and take those with us. Gas stations are another great place to find Disney candy (Gummies, suckers, etc.)
Over the last year, I have been collecting Disney themed toys, trinkets and clothing everywhere I could think of. Once you have a plan in place it is easy to see things you may want/need for less. The rush or urgency you feel to purchase unnecessary items while at the park diminishes significantly. I purchased the toys at Dollar Tree (a store where everything is under $1), Wal-Mart (for under $1) and garage sales. The clothing was purchased by redeeming Disney points from purchased DVDs, Deseret Industries (a thrift store), and Santa (Wal-Mart). Wal-Mart usually has Disney clothes WELL BELOW the cost of them at Disney parks. For example, a hoodie sweatshirt at Disney will range from $35-$65 and at Wal-Mart $9-$16.
My children are also learning the value of a dollar and don't understand why everything is sooo expensive. The toys I purchased all year are taken secretly in a suitcase and "sold" to my children along the way or at night in the hotel. That way they don't ask for toys while we are at Disneyland. The extra toys will be given out to the children of family and friends we see along the way. If you are going to purchase while at the Disney parks, I recommend waiting until your last day in the park. The first day you feel as if you have to have everything. By the last day, it all looks the same.
I have long believed that the best memories are those you "make" and "take". "Take" meaning pictures. Pictures are the only souvenir that I am interested in. Feel free to post any of your Disney ideas as well...we can all learn a lot from each other;)
I wrote an "e-How" article on this same topic that you can link to HERE.