Adam and I visited about whether or not an Annual Pass is worth it, whether Coronado Springs or Port Orleans--Riverside was the better moderate resort (just add queen size beds to Port Orleans--Riverside and they would win hands down), and how free dining offers seem to be the special that DVC members can't get their hands on. I told Adam that I was happy to visit about Disney with him and wished him a good evening. Our phone call got me thinking. . . specifically about ways we save the green (money) when traveling to Disney or traveling in general.
Here are some ways:
- Plan ahead--especially if we are flying. If we are flying to Orlando, Air Tran is our favorite airline as they have non-stop flights daily from Moline and Kansas City. They now offer non-stop flights on the week-ends from Des Moines. Air Tran has their best fares come on-line 6-9 months ahead. If we are flying to Houston, Continental is our preferred airline as they have a reasonably priced non-stop flight daily from Kansas City. That same non-stop flight from Des Moines is typically double or more in price.
- Take advantage of special offers either directly with a resort hotel or on-line. The last time we were at Disney 3 different special offers were being advertised. With the help of our travel agent, Shauna, we were able to compare all 3 deals and get the best one. We ended up saving 42% on our resort stay, theme park tickets, and dining. That is a significant savings. Once Disney or other vacation destinations have your e-mail, it is quite likely that you will receive special offers via e-mail. We were able to save 40% on a Great Wolf Lodge stay due to an e-mail special offer.
- Budget for souvenirs and extra expenses. Rather than charging purchases to the room and ultimately a credit card, we pre-pay Visa gift cards--both the husband and I had one--and use those for the "I just have to have that" purchases.
- A big vacation expense can be food, so at Disney we take advantage of the Dining Plan. We have had the Dining Plan on all of our trips to Disney and have been lucky enough to have free dining 3 out of 6 visits. Disney now has 3 different dining plans--Quick Service, Basic, and Deluxe. We stick with the Basic which offers a counter service meal, table service meal, and snack per person per night of your stay. We then pack individual cereal boxes, granola bars, and juice boxes for a get us up and get us going bite to eat in our room in the morning. This means that the only food expense we have while traveling would be getting to/from the resort and tips as the table service meals. If you are traveling to Universal, know that your AAA membership card can save you 10% when purchasing food in the theme parks.
- This tip actually falls into the plan ahead category but it is if you can buy it and bring it, it will probably be less expensive. For example, we purchase "glow" necklaces/bracelets at our local dollar store and take them with. For around $2 total, each of us sported a glowing necklace at an evening function at Disney. This saved us loads off the come buy this lighted toy selection. We also buy 88 cent one time use ponchos in the camping section of our local Wal-Mart store and take with us. We have also purchased reusable ponchos for each of us for under $4 each and take those, too. A typical poncho at Disney is around $8-$12. If you want an inexpensive mat for the ground to watch a parade, spring for a colorful, disposable table cloth at the local discount shop. These are just some of the examples that buying ahead and taking with can lead to savings.
- OK, you've purchased some souvenirs and now there is no room in the luggage, what do you do? There are multiple options here and we use the last one. First, you could opt to have either your new purchases or your extra luggage items shipped home for a fee. Second, you could buy another suitcase and pay the extra baggage fee for the trip home. Third, you could buy new larger suitcase and hope you are under the baggage limits so you don't have to pay the extra fee on the way home. Fourth, you could pack a small suitcase--carry on size--inside your larger bag and use it to bring items home (OK, we do this one, too, on occassion). Fifth, you could pack items you are willing to leave behind to make room for new items. Yes, we do this. If we are traveling in the spring, last year's summer clothes go with us as the boy is about to outgrow them and I know they won't fit by summer--so we just leave them there--and make room in our bags for new purchases.
- Take a power strip. Yes, I said power strip. It is amazing how many electronic devices even a family of 3 can take/need on a short trip--camera battery charger, phone chargers, DS charger, DVD player charger, etc.--and often outlets in a hotel room are scarce or hard to get to outside of the bathroom. With a power strip, you can find one outlet and then charge all of your electronic items in an easy to reach/find location. Being able to charge your electronic items will save you from buying batteries or even worse, a new item altogether. We knew of a family who forgot to bring the camera battery charger and ended up buying several disposable cameras as they weren't able to purchase a new camera battery and didn't want to buy a whole new digital camera.
Once you have your plans and your bags packed, make room for fun, memories, and magic. Afterall, those are the most important items to bring home in your luggage!