We took our second family trip to Disney World this past September and we were able to do the whole trip for $1,000 out of pocket! I know – it sounds crazy, but we planned for the trip for a year, and with these tips we were able to get to spend a week at Disney for under $1,000 for our family of four.
We stayed 6 nights at the All Star Sports with Quick Service Dining Plan + 2 Adult Hopper Passes. We also did the Princess Breakfast at Akershus and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.
Want to know how? Keep reading!
TIP #1 We used our Disney Chase Credit Card Points
I know not everyone wants to do a credit card. We used Dave Ramsey when we first got married, but we do have a Disney Chase Credit card that we use for our gas, groceries, and Amazon expenses (after our debit card got hacked multiple times from gas stations we switched to a protected credit card for these types of purchases), and pay it off every month.
We went to Disney in October 2016, and when I was booking the trip I had an option to get $200 off the trip, plus an extra 10% off if we got the card. I called and we did the deal so I was able to use the purchase of our 2016 trip to start earning toward our 2017 trip. Over the year between our trips (we went again end of September 2018) we were able to earn 1,300 Disney credits toward our trip.
TIP #2 Tell Your Friends and Family
We told our family and friends that we were saving for our trip as soon as we booked it – and we asked them to consider giving us Disney gift cards for Christmas and Birthday gifts. I would much rather have an experience for our family than more toys – and it helped us to build up excitement for our trip throughout the year. All-in-all we got $500 between our four birthdays and Christmas to put toward our trip! I used $100 to give the boys at the parks to use for any toy or sweet treat they wanted that week. This was a great way for them to feel like they could get something from the epic gift shops in the park, but also limit the total spend.
TIP #3 Go while the kids are young
A lot of people thought we were crazy going with a 1 year old, 2 year old, AND I was pregnant. But kids under three are complimentary guests at Disney World – so it was totally worth it! That being said – you do need to set your expectations for the trip. I am BIG on routine, so we didn’t stray from our in-bed-by-7:30 p.m. routine even at the most magical place on earth. We are early risers, so we took advantage of whatever park was opening earliest that day, and ate cereal that I packed on the way (plus coffee for mom and dad in our refillable mugs). We stayed at the park through lunch, then headed back at around 1 p.m. each day for naps. After that we enjoyed the resort and pool. We had dinner at our resort most nights, and did our normal bed and bath routine.
I have been to the parks nearly 50 times (we went A LOT growing up), so I don’t feel the need to do it all when we go – I know we will come back. But even if you think you will only go once (though why wouldn’t you want to come back!) I would recommend you not try to do it all – that will just leave you all tired and cranky – better to soak in the magical moments and enjoy the parks through the eyes of a child than try to knock every ride off the list.
Another thing to note is that my 2-year-old was very tall and was able to ride almost everything – so we did a lot of divide and conquer where my 1-year-old and I played on the mini-playgrounds in the park (or ate all the ice cream) while dad and big boy rode rides.
TIP #4 Go during the free dining week
If you are okay with heat (let’s be honest, it is Florida so it is hot most of the year), then take advantage of the free dining plan promotion to help you save. We keep our Mickey ears to the ground and as soon as I got the announcement I booked our trip. This meant that we got a Quick Service Dining Plan for dad and me for the week. And since our kids are little they just ate off our plates. I did plan a few Character Dining experiences, but I used the Disney gift cards for those.
Bonus tip: Pack snacks and cereal for breakfast. I packed the kids snacks (including a bag of apples) and cereal, plus some Ziploc bags, so we could supplement our Quick Service plan. Also, if you have toddlers then having snacks is critical to help avoid meltdowns.
TIP #5 Try the All Star Resort
Both trips with the kiddos have been to the All Star Resorts, first time at Music and last time at Sports. The kids loved the larger than life look of the resort, and there are a few pools to pick from at each. We did request a ground level floor so it was easier to get around with our double stroller. Are the rooms fancy? No – but the four of us fit fine (with the youngest in a pack-n-play provided by the resort). Our kids had almost as much fun playing in the pools and arcade – or just playing on the playground, as they did in the parks.
Now, next trip we will have a party of five (I am due with baby boy number three any day now), and we will either get two adjoining rooms or opt for a family suite, but if you are a family of four the regular All Star rooms are totally doable.
So here was our spend (rounding to nearest hundred to make us not have to do penny math):
Booked price for 6 nights at All Start Sports + Free Dining + 2 Adult Hoppers: $2,500
Disney Credit Card Points: -$1,400
Disney Gift Cards: -$500
Total Spend: $1,000
We are already starting to plan our next trip, and my goal is to do it under $500 out of pocket this time. I will keep you posted on how that goes!
*We did not plan to fly and I MUCH prefer to do the 9-hour drive so we can have our car. There was a hurricane the week before our trip so the flights were added last minute through a discount airline I would NOT recommend. Next time we drive!
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