Smart Financial Decisions: Money Wins From Our Trip to Walt Disney World
Last week, I outlined some of the questionable financial decisions the ROMT family made while on vacation at Walt Disney World.
After spending a week at Walt Disney World, it’s tough to for me to claim from a purely financial perspective that it was a wise decision to go there for vacation. Every piece of the vacation seemed to have a significant price tag associated with it, and when it all was added up, it was a material expense.
Not one that we couldn’t afford, thankfully, but certainly one that will delay our FIRE aspirations by a couple of weeks!
That said, we had a great time together as a family, and we also did our best to make some Smart Financial Decisions while on vacation.
In today’s post, I’ll focus on some of the choices we made that saved us money while vacationing in Orlando.
Money Win #1 – We Scored 20% Off Our Hotel Room at Walt Disney World
I mentioned last week that we made our hotel reservation for the Disney Resort we stayed at just a few weeks before our vacation.
Because of this, we were at a disadvantage when it came to scheduling visits to attractions through Disney’s FastPast+ service.
However, like most hospitality companies, Disney doesn’t like to have empty hotel rooms. We knew the week our children would be on school break, but didn’t particularly care whether we stayed in a hotel closer to The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom. By being flexible with our accommodations, and waiting to make our reservations, we were able to book our lodging at a 20% discount to the price we would have paid had we booked it several weeks earlier.
I think that was a good financial decision, even if we had to wait in a few extra lines because we didn’t have the opportunity to optimize our FastPass+ scheduling two months ahead of time.
Money Win #2 – We Ate Most of Our Meals at “Home”
We did pay more for a hotel room with a full kitchen for a variety of reasons.
First, one of our children has severe food allergies, so we prefer as much control over food preparation as possible.
Second, cooking at home is often healthier than eating out, especially when on vacation.
And third, eating meals at home is definitely less expensive than purchasing them at the theme parks or restaurants.
We made two big trips to the grocery store while we were in Orlando, and loaded up on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, beverages and snacks, and meats and veggie burgers, so every member of the family had a good selection of healthy food they liked to eat.
Each trip to the grocery store cost us less than dinner at a nice restaurant for our family would have, and fed us for several days.
We did go out to dinner one night at a restaurant at one of the Disney resorts. Disney has a good reputation for bending over backwards to accommodate children with food allergies, and we felt very comfortable we were in good hands after the chef came out and met with us to discuss our specific needs. It was a nice treat for our entire family to dine out together, and the meal was excellent.
But we definitely saved hundreds of dollars over the course of our vacation by preparing the vast majority of our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in the hotel room with food we purchased at the grocery store.
Money Win #3 – We Didn’t Have to Pay for Parking
One of the benefits of staying at a Disney Resort is the comprehensive network of buses, boats, and monorails that are available to transport you anywhere you want to go at the happiest place in Orlando.
Because we had access to that transportation system, we were able to avoid one of the potentially less pleasant parts of a Disney vacation – parking your vehicle in one of their giant parking lots, hopping a tram to the park entrance, and then hoping you remember where you parked several hours later after a long day of magic and adventure.
The Disney transportation system dropped us off close to the park entrances, which was very convenient, and saved us time compared to schlepping in from a far off parking lot.
More importantly, it also saved us money. Standard parking at the Disney theme parks is currently $22 a day for a car or motorcycle, while preferred parking, closer to the entrances, is $45 a day!
I’m sure we paid for the privilege of the Disney transportation system in the cost of our hotel room, but it was still nice to not have to take out the wallet for additional travel and parking expenses once we were on site.
Money Win #4 – We Brought Food and Drinks Into the Theme Parks
As I mentioned last week, we did purchase some beverages and snacks in the theme parks, but for the most part we did a good job bringing as many snacks as possible into the parks with us.
We were able to load up a small, soft-sided cooler with several bottles of water and other beverages, cookies and snacks, and some fruits and vegetables every day we went to the theme parks. The cooler got lighter as we ate as the day went on, and when we had to supplement what we brought in, there were obviously dozens of options to choose from at the various food carts and restaurants in the parks!
Bringing in our own food also insured we had allergy-friendly options available, although we found that the stands at Disney each have binders listing the ingredients in all of the items they have for sale.
Although we certainly purchased some food in the parks, I think that bringing in our own food and beverages also saved us some additional money while we were on our vacation.
Money Win #5 – We Brought Most of What We Needed From Home
While our trip on the train to Orlando took longer than a plane would have, it did allow us to bring larger luggage on our vacation.
That made it easier to bring a lot of things we don’t use this time of year in the Northeast that we might have ended up purchasing in Orlando – like sunscreen, hats, rain jackets, sunglasses, and sandals. We did a pretty good job remembering to bring just about everything we might have needed on our vacation, so we didn’t have to purchase those items at Disney prices. We also had plenty of room to bring everything we needed, since we weren’t trying to cram things into luggage that would fit into the overhead compartment on an airplane.
It’s admittedly a small win, but any time I can avoid buying something new that I already have back home I view it as a victory!
What Smart Financial Decisions do you make to save money while on vacation?
LF TommyMarch 16, 2018
When nothing but Disney will do you have to bite some bullets. Sounds like you did everything you could to have a great family vacation experience at a more reasonable price. We took out kids to Disneyland throughout their childhoods and we did the same kinds of things as you to save a little money. I always felt like the times I went to Disneyland as a child were some of my best memories. We passed that on to our kids and now they do for their kids. I think that the managed cost is worth it for the experience. I also think that people who never went to Disney theme parks can’t understand any of this.
ROMTMarch 16, 2018
I could not agree with you more! Both Mrs. ROMT and I fondly remember going to Disney World with our families as children, so it is something we really wanted to do, and we hope that we made similar memories with our kids. But if someone is not into the Disney Parks I can see them reading this post and just thinking we are nuts!