Mini-mizing the Mouse, Part III

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 11, 2009 Issue #516 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


In our first two parts of Mini-Mizing the Mouse, our readers shared advice on how to save while you are AT the Disney parks. In this final installment of money-saving tips sent in by our readers, we take a look at ways to save money BEFORE the trip, including planning tips that help you save.

I've tried to sort them into some kind of logical categories, so get your pencils ready to take notes on Part III of Mini-mizing the Mouse: AllEars® Readers' Money-Saving Tips.

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FINDING "FREE" MONEY
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Amy Woodward: To save "free" money before going to Disney, I use my Disney Rewards Visa instead of my debit card. I charge everything I possibly can, write the charges in my checkbook just like I would my debit card, and pay the bill off each month. For our upcoming trip, I have $700 in free money that I can use for meals, room charges, etc. It's a little bit of work but it sure pays off in the end!

Laura Fox: My money-saving tip: Throughout the year make all your purchases on an airlines credit card, rewards card, or no-hassle miles card.  I'm talking about your food shopping, gas, everything. This year we're traveling from the Northeast to Orlando by air (four of us) for $20 total because we were able to cash in the miles we accrued. Depending on your card's program you can get rewards certificates for dining, etc., also. Just remember to set aside the money you would have used at the supermarket or wherever to pay the bill at the end of the month.

Debbie Ragno: My "Dear Hubby" and I each take $50 allowance each week. I started to put whatever was left from the previous week's $50 in an envelope. Knowing that I was going to hide this money away in seven days helped me to be more aware of my spending throughout the week. Between November and April, I was able to stash away $600 cash for the trip we took last month. I've already started a new envelope for future vacations because this was such an easy way to save money.

Eileen Miller:  To save up for the trip:
    -- If you live in a state where you can get deposits on bottles, do it! Take garbage bags to parks or your kids' soccer games or wherever there are crowds and drinks. Collect the bottles and turn them in. We did this when we lived in NY, and made over $600 for our first trip! As long as they wear gloves, it's also a great way to involve the kids, since they can help.
    -- If you use coupons and/or grocery saver cards, take the money you saved and put it away after each trip to the store.
    -- If you get "found" money, set it aside for your trip. For example, if we find money in a coat pocket, or in a purse or even on the street, we save it for Disney. My husband collects metal (aluminum, brass, copper, whatever) and turns it in to a local junkyard for cash. My son and I save change when we use cash to buy something. If we save unexpectedly on something we would have paid full price for (I recently got 20% off of something because it had minor damage I didn't really care about), we take the savings and use it for Disney. Wherever you can, even just a few cents, set it aside for your trip. Little bits at a time can add up much more quickly than you'd think. 

Heather from Ohio: We save all of our change for the entire time leading up to our trip. We are actually able to save hundreds of dollars doing this -- your pennies add up quickly! Another thing we do takes some discipline, but we can save some major moolah. When we make a purchase using our debit card or checking account, I round up when I enter it. For example, if I have spent $13.50 somewhere, I enter $15 in my check book. Every couple of months I will figure out how much extra is in the checking account and transfer it to savings. It doesn't even feel like we are saving money!

Elaine: We save our change. At the end of every night we empty all the change out of our pockets into our special "Disney" jar. We also toss in any $1 bills. At the end of the month we cash it in and put it into our travel savings account. This past December we pulled out our money from our savings account and had over $400 in there... Also, our tax return always goes straight to travel, no matter what. Since we know we will spend it if we just put it in the bank, I buy Disney gift cards for the amount of the tax return. This way we have the money for Disney and we don't spend it on other things.

DShealer: Any time I save money on anything, the amount saved goes into the Disney fund, whether it's 50 cents or $5.

Susan E. Kozicki: Use coupons at the store. When you get home, put the amount of money you saved using coupons in a jar and save it.  Also if you get "buy one get one frees" you could put the free money you saved in the jar.

Clean out the closets and take clothes to consignment shops, or have a garage sale and put all the money away for Disney.

Meglowmaniainc: My daughter wanted to celebrate her 25th birthday at the Magic Kingdom.  Money is tight so we decided to see how cheaply we could do the trip. We did the following:

-- Signed up for coupons from Retailmenot.com
-- Booked a low cost flight on Southwest, and checked often to see if there was a price reduction ( saved $20 a ticket)
-- Used a hotel broker with a discount for the Regal Sun Hotel on Hotel Plaza Road. Paid $205 for three nights (weekend) and it included resort fee (great pool), and taxes. (The cheapest Disney hotel was Pop Century for $109/night.) Since it's on Disney property the transportation was great, and it was an easy walk to Downtown Disney.
-- Checked the Goldstar.com web site for entertainment deals.

Having been to Disney many times, and stayed on property many times, I found this trip was almost 45 percent cheaper, and maybe even more stress free than other trips.

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PLANNING AHEAD SAVES
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Trudi Sabaj: We have been going to WDW every two years because that's how long it takes us to save the money so that we won't incur debt. I have an online savings account separate from our "real" bank, and have a small amount automatically transferred with each paycheck into my "Disney Vacation Account."  I chose a brand that actually pays interest. When it comes time to book the trip, the money is there waiting for us. There is no way we could have gone otherwise -- we stay on a very tight budget all year, and "live frugally" to be able to set aside this Magic Money for our every-two-years adventure.

Susan E. Kozicki: If your bank has a vacation club or Christmas club save money out of your check each week and let it grow.  If it takes more than a year to save for the vacation if you have to cash that out each year, just redeposit it for the next year.

Josh Olive: Travel during Value Season if at all possible; it's cheaper.

Hilary Sommer: Find the best hotel deal. This often means going off-season; we've gotten excellent rates at moderate Disney resorts by not traveling over major holidays and/or in the summer. (There are also great deals to be had by using Priceline -- but then you'll have to stay off property!) If you are lucky enough to have an annual pass, you'll get even better discounts.

MediaOhio: Price out your vacation on disneyworld.com and check back frequently. Even after you book it, check back because if price goes down, Disney will usually refund you the difference.

Dianne Spawn: I check the airlines to see who is having the best deals. For our upcoming trip in August I bought tickets for $66 one way per person. We live in upstate NY so we are not close. Even though I get them a long way out I save a GREAT deal of money.

Justine Fellows: Always ask about discounts. Discounts for room reservations, dining, park tickets and tours are sometimes offered for AAA members, military, senior citizens, Disney Visa card holders, and Florida residents. It's always worth asking!

jgdafamily: Travel from Tuesday to Tuesday. Airfare is consistently cheaper when you fly on Tuesdays.

DShealer: Each payday we figure out how much we can set aside for Disney Dollars or gift cards. We purchase these once a month. Sometimes it's $10, sometimes it's $50. If the money goes into the savings account, it might be used for emergencies (like when our son had his two front teeth knocked out on a dare). This way, the vacation money is the vacation money, and it can't go anywhere else.

JK: When planning for The World we always leave a three-day window at the beginning and end of our trip, allowing us to check for the lowest airline rates before we book. We look at airports within a 1-1/2 hour driving distance from home to get the best airfare and always leave and return during the week rather than weekends to lower the rates. You might be surprised at the smaller airports that have direct as well as less expensive flights, as well as lower parking expenses. Also try to book an early morning flight to Disney allowing you to spend more time there. The same goes for your trip home -- book a late flight and have a late lunch/early dinner on your last day before heading to the airport. We always get asked by family and friends how can we afford to stay 10 days instead of seven but with proper planning and knowing a few tricks you too can become a "Disney Weasel" (my bride's name when planning our trip) and beat the Mouse for an extended stay!     

DShealer: Only purchase things once. We repack the light-up toys we bought a few years ago. Same with the water bottle lanyards, pin lanyards, etc. Anything that you will repeatedly need each year, SAVE IT. We have a small container that is decorated as the "Disney Box." Since we drive to WDW, it goes with us every year. As soon as we get home, the autograph books, lanyards, light-up toys, etc. go in the box for the next trip. Taped to the underside of the lid is a list that I start replenishing with the very next grocery trip. I choose one or two things each trip, that way it doesn't eat into our budget (extra batteries, rain ponchos, refills for the first aid kit, and snacks closer to the trip).

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MISCELLANEOUS
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Cecilia Dandrea: Pack all your clothes in your carry-on. It can be done. We did it this past spring and saved $90. I used this money to purchase stuff at Disney World. Most air lines allow one carry-on per person weighing up to 40 lbs. If you do your packing right you should be able to fit a lot in.

Traci: I know this requires money up front -- We bought a DVC membership and 10 tickets each with park hopper option that don't expire. We only use about two tickets a week when we are down there. You get free parking when you stay on property. Plus having the kitchen you can cook to save money (although we think the dining plan is a great deal and saves some worry). Since we have the DVC and tickets purchased already, if things get tough the only extra expense we would have is gas, so we could still have a family vacation.  

Adele Camper: To help our monthly saving we've cut eating out down to once a week, and even then we usually get carry-out, which saves on beverages and tip.

Abby, Enfield, CT: My tip for saving money is to sign up for a survey-taking website like SurveySpot.com. This site emails paid survey invites to you. The paid surveys average about $3. I have been a member for just about a year now and have received $100 for the surveys I have taken. Many surveys that are sent aren't paid so make sure that you are focusing on completing the paid ones. Unlike other survey sites, this one is free to join and will not take a cut of your earnings when you wish to get a check mailed.

Crissy Stout: Instead of purchasing books, I use our library. If our library doesn't carry the book, we can use inter-library loan to borrow outside of our county. If I still cannot find it, I will try to buy it used on eBay or half.com... I also buy used video games, and resell them on half.com, because I can save and earn more money than at our local game stores... Months before going on trips, I am looking online for freebies like toothpaste and laundry detergent that are great travel sizes, free, and can be discarded when the trip is done to make room in the suitcase.

Cindy, Laurel, MD: My favorite tip is to join all the Disney websites and sit back while you receive special offers from Disney. 

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RELATED LINKS
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Mini-Mizing the Mouse, Part I: http://allears.net/ae/issue506.htm

Mini-Mizing the Mouse, Part II: http://allears.net/ae/issue509.htm

Annual Pass Discounts: http://allears.net/pl/apass.htm

Tables in Wonderland (formerly Disney Dining Experience): http://allears.net/din/dde.htm

Swan and Dolphin Discounts: http://allears.net/acc/sd_discounts.htm

Disney Vacation Club Discounts: http://allears.net/acc/dvc.htm

Searchable database of reader tips: http://allears.net/rta/tips.php


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.