How I Plan to Take My Family of 4 to Disneyland on $1,536
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There's no two ways about it: a Disney vacation is going to set you back. Fortunately, my family has been planning our Disney trip next month for about a year so we've done a pretty good job of researching the best prices and finding ways to cut costs. Here's how we're taking our two kids to Disneyland on $1,536 without making it a "budget" vacation.
Tickets & Accommodations: $1,275
We ended up booking a package through Costco. Why? Because Costco usually has the best deals around on Disney tickets and hotels. If you want to spend more money ($3,500+) you can get extras like a Disney Gift card of up to $100, a collectible Disney pin, and an attraction photo.
For accommodations, we skipped the costly Disneyland Resort packages and went with a more budget-friendly Good Neighbor Hotel.
We ultimately decided on the Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim. Not only is it close to the park, it's also a big step up from most of the budget-friendly motels in the area that still run about $85 a night during the off-season.
Here's a look at the cost of our Costco package and how it compares to getting everything separately.
Our total package cost $1,275, and includes the following:
3-day Park Hopper tickets with Magic Morning (one hour early admission) (This costs $814 purchased through Disney)
Premium Character Dining ($132 value even counting the discount from GetAwayToday.com)
3 night hotel stay.
The 3-day Park Hopper tickets, if purchased through Disney, cost $814 on their own. The Premium Character Dining is a $132 value even counting the discount from GetAwayToday.com. This nice perk kills two birds with one stone: our daughter gets to meet a Disney Princess AND we get a free sit-down meal at the park.
If you subtract the cost of the character dining tickets and park tickets, that means our room only costs $329 for three nights, or $110 a night. Not bad!
Other Ways to Save
Not a member of Costco, but still want to save on tickets? Here are some ideas that can work for you:
Look for any discounts you qualify for. The best discounts are available to military members and their families as well as Southern California residents.
Check your grocery store for Disney tickets. If you buy tickets at Safeway or Fred Meyer, you can get a slight discount on the ticket price plus earn rewards using your loyalty card.
If you're planning to go to other destinations in Southern California, buy a ticket bundle. A CityPass can save you more than $100 if you want admission to Disneyland plus Legoland, Seaworld, and the San Diego Zoo.
If you want to save on accommodations, I recommend watching travel deals sites like Jetsetter because you might find something in the Disneyland area. You can also try Hotwire. Make sure you plan for the off-season when hotels are almost half as expensive.
Whatever you do, don't try to buy partially used tickets as it will NOT work.
Eating at a theme park can easily set you back $80 a day. Even a hot dog on Main Street will set you back almost $7!
The good news is Disneyland allows you to bring in a cooler and food. We plan to skip the restaurants and stands for the most part and pack our own food. Fortunately, our hotel room has a fridge so we can go shopping before we head into the park.
Here are some of the goodies we're bringing in a backpack:
Turkey and cheese sandwiches
We also plan to take advantage of the Premium Character Dining that comes with our Costco package to enjoy a sit-down meal. We're also going to eat outside the park once we leave each day. Our total in-park food budget is $50.
Personally, I'm big on souvenirs. I don't necessarily need to spend a lot, but I like to pick up something wherever I go. This year, we're taking advantage of our Chase Disney Premier Visa Rewards card to take home some goodies.First, we picked up some Disney gift cards at an online discount gift card store, then paid for them with our Disney Rewards card to earn Disney Rewards Dollars on the purchase at a rate of 1% back.
We ended up buying a Disney gift card worth $143.28 for $131.10 -- an 8.5% discount! On top of that, we earned an extra $1.31 back in rewards on our Disney Premier Visa.
Want to save on your own Disney gift cards? Here are some ways you can save:
Buy Disney cards at Target using your Target RED debit card to get 5% off.
We're using the Disney Rewards Dollars we've saved up over the last 18 months to buy souvenirs and anything else we might like at the park, including any snacks we want that don't fit into our food budget. You can pay for merchandise at most Disney locations directly with Disney Dream Reward Dollars instead of money after requesting a Disney Rewards Redemption Card (which you pick up in the park). The Disney Premier Rewards card earns 1-2% back on spending and you can redeem your rewards for Disney tickets, vacation packages, or merchandise, as we're doing.
The Disney Premier Rewards Visa also includes some nice in-park perks to save money, including 10% off merchandise when you spend $50 or more. We'll combine that discount with our discounted gift card for major savings.
Want to learn how to use credit card rewards to save even more on your Disney vacation? Check out this article.
If you want to save money on souvenirs, you can also get creative. Why buy shirts and princess costumes at Disneyland when you can shop the sales at the Disney Store or pick up Disney gear at Target? You can also pick up small toys like light-up Princess spinners and glowsticks at the dollar store to avoid spending a fortune at the vendor carts.
Well, that's our plan. See any areas where we could be saving more? Do you have any tips for saving money on a family vacation? I'd love to hear them!
Credit Shout is a community of personal finance experts dedicated to helping you save money and make smart financial decisions. Learn how to master your credit card rewards, improve your credit score and start eliminating your debt.