Tip #1 – Pick the best ticket for your needs.
Considering the numerous ticket options available for the Walt Disney World® Resort (not to mention Universal Orlando® Resort, SeaWorld® Orlando and all the dinner shows) it's easy to get carried away. Before Leap and I purchase our tickets, we outline a very basic itinerary of our trip. Careful not to be overly ambitious, we choose tickets that realistically suit our family's needs for that trip. It would drive me “buggy” to have days/admissions left on our tickets at the end of our trip because we ran out of time or were just too tired. Read To Hop or Not to Hop for helping deciding between Magic Your Way and Park Hopper Disney tickets.
Tip #2 – Buy your tickets in advance.
The Frog Family has saved hundreds of dollars in the last two years alone purchasing our theme park tickets in advance. I love going to Magic Kingdom in October knowing I paid last June's price.
Tip #3 – Make a vacation budget and stick to it.
Travel expenses, lodging and ticket costs are not necessarily cheap, but they're easy to plan for; it's the expenses while you're actually on vacation that can sneak up on you. This is when my vacation budget is most useful. I can easily plan for our “dining out” expenses. I also budget for the dreaded “Mommy, can we have one, PLEEEAAAASE?” souvenir dilemma. (See Tip #9)
Tip #4 – Visit during off-peak seasons.
I know, I know...It's easier to plan vacations when the kids are out of school, but traveling during off-peak times will save you a considerable amount of money. The tickets will cost the same, but everything else will be cheaper...from plane fare to hotel room rates. Like most kids, Tad and Lily aren't interested in how much money their dear ol' parents save traveling during off-peak seasons, but they never complain about the shorter lines and smaller crowds! Click here for crowd levels and park hours.
Tip #5 – Choose your lodging wisely.
Staying on-site may seem more expensive than staying at a hotel nearby, but when I add up all the money Leap and I save on parking, transportation and food, it's makes more sense for us to stay at a a hotel on the theme park property. If you're worried you might bust your budget, Disney's Value Resorts have competitive rates and you still get all that Disney magic. (Read more about Disney's Value Resorts here.) If you are thinking about staying off-site, click here for things to consider before you make your reservation.
Tip #6 – Bring your “might-needs” with you.
If I think I might need it, I bring it. Sunscreen, ponchos, camera supplies, wet wipes, band-aids, lip balm, extra memory sticks, misting fans...everything but the kitchen sink, as Leap says. There's nothing worse than spending $8 on Band-Aids that I already had in my bathroom cabinet at home. Ever since I learned the hard way and waited in line to pay $10 on a small tube of sunscreen, I haven't been caught without any of my “might needs.”
Tip #7 – Skip the Character Dining.
Character-theme dinner shows are fantastic, but if saving money is your goal, why not skip them? The Frog Family hosts our own little picnic in Town Square at Main Street, U.S.A. where we can meet and take pictures with any number of our favorite Disney characters. Another alternative is to eat lunch at a more reasonable quick-service venue like Pecos Bill Café then enjoy Country Bear Jamboree next door. It's technically not Character Dining, but it's a lot less expensive.
Tip #8 – Follow the Frog Family Dining Plan.
There are many ways to save money on dining and one of them is not to eat every meal inside the parks. Eat breakfast in your room, or better yet stay in a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast. Bring water and snacks with you in your backpack, and pack sandwiches for a picnic lunch. Save dining out for a special night outside the park or go to a dinner show where you can enjoy entertainment and a meal for one price. A little creativity and planning saves my family at least $150 every vacation.
Tip #9 – SOS...Save on Souvenirs.
You know the drill...You're doing your best to sneak past the gift shops without your little ones noticing, but out of the corners of their eyes, they spot it. Shelf upon shelf and rack after rack of strategically placed Disney merchandise. Giving in is a surefire budget-buster, so do like I do and bring souvenirs with you. Tad and Lily have caught on by now that the Vinylmation Toy Story figures they opened back in the hotel room were not bought inside the park, but on sale before we left...but what do they care?
Tip #10 – Incorporate some freebies into your vacation.
There's more to Orlando than just the theme parks. Why not spend a day or two enjoying some free or almost free activities. Here's a few Frog Family free favorites (say that five time fast!):
• Enjoy a picnic lunch at Lake Eola Park in Winter Park, FL
• Take a day trip to Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach
• Go back to Kennedy Space Center and SeaWorld a 2nd day for FREE with our single day tickets from Undercover Tourist