|The newspaper the husband is reading was FREE|
Saving money and Disney vacations are two of my favorite things. When I get to combine them, it is a bonus! Here is how a “couponer” makes the most of a Disney vacation while saving money:
Rewards Programs—Let’s start here as I used at least 4 rewards programs to make the most of our vacation. We fly frequently and belong to many frequent flier programs. AirTran’s A+ has the best return on points for travel. We each had earned enough A+ points for a FREE upgrade to business class. All I had to do was phone the airline 24 hours before travel and ask to use the points for an upgrade. We got seats in business class which meant no baggage fees, free food choices beyond pretzels, and free alcoholic beverages—which the husband took advantage of. That one phone call saved us over $75 in baggage fees alone and we earned credit for the flights for future upgrades.
We also belong to Hilton Honors which gives us points for stays at any of the Hilton family hotels. Our pre-flight stay was a park-n-fly at Embassy Suites in Kansas City near the airport. While we didn’t have enough points for a free stay, we earned points and got a discount using our AAA membership. The free breakfast and free shuttle to/from the airport added value to our stay. And, we were still racking up points for future use.
Landry Select Club is another rewards program/membership that pays you back when you dine at Landry restaurants which include Rainforest Café and T-Rex Café, both of which can be found at Walt Disney World. We had accumulated $50 in rewards for the club and another $100 in Landry gift cards using Swagbucks—click here to get started earning Swagbucks. We ate at both Rainforest Café and T-Rex Café for FREE with enough gift card credit left over to get the boy a souvenir at T-Rex Café AND the Landry Select Club saved us 10% on that purchase. Those two dining experiences only cost us the tips, which we paid in cash AND we earned points towards more rewards from Landry.
Since we were heading to Kansas City the day before we flew, we made the most of it with a trip to Schlitterbahn Water Park. I had acquired two free tickets using MyCokeRewards points so all we had to do was pay for the boy’s ticket—which was still $33. Imagine paying for all 3 of us! Cha-ching! Schlitterbahn allows guests to bring in coolers, so we packed lunch and drinks to take with us. Parking and tube use was also free, so we had a full day for $33.
Hy-Vee Fuel Saver Rewards program also saved us tons of money on gas driving to and from Kansas City. We paid $20 for gas—total—to make the round trip drive!
Coupons: Yes, you can use coupons and vouchers while traveling to Disney!
After our day at Schlitterbahn, we needed dinner. I had printed out coupons on Amazon Local for buy one, get one free Whoppers from Burger King, which was just a few blocks from Schlitterbahn. Guess what we had for dinner? We combined that with the free Manager’s Reception at Embassy Suites for a lovely evening.
Our AAA package contained vouchers for various purchases and experiences. The boy played in the resort arcade for free using one of the vouchers. We also brought home souvenirs from Planet Hollywood for free, AND had an afternoon snack there for FREE using the $15 food voucher located in our travel packet. And, by using AAA to book our vacation, we are earning AAA Travel Rewards for discounts off future travel.
Getting the most out of your park tickets and dining plans: For our trip was had a 9 day base ticket (the more days you have the less you pay per day) so we had great value in our park tickets, then we added Water Parks and More Fun for $59 per ticket. Because we had a 9 day ticket, adding Water Parks and More Fun gave us 9 additional entries to Water Parks, DisneyQuest, miniature golf, or Wide World of Sports per person. Given that entry to the Water Parks and DisneyQuest is $45 per person per day and we went to two water parks and DisneyQuest, we can out ahead by adding the Water Parks and More Fun option to our tickets. If we had only used that option once, we would have lost money.
We also had the basic dining plan on our tickets—one table service credit, one quick service credit, and one snack credit per person per night of stay. We zeroed out all of the credits. I had lost track of the quick service credits somewhere in the middle of our stay and phoned our resort front desk. A check on the computer gave the total and we were in good shape for the rest of our stay.
When we were checking out of our resort, the Cast Member checked our “account” to notice that we had no room charges and had no dining or snack credits left over. I was overhearing other conversations about room charges while people were checking their bills or even limiting room charges. We did good. . . especially for 11 nights/12 days!
Strategically planning your stay: We strategically planned our stay to be less expensive. Huh? How do you do that? Well, the most expensive nights at a Disney Resort are Friday and Saturday nights. We checked in on a Monday and left the following Friday, only having one week-end during our stay. This also allowed us to fly on a Monday (less expensive day to fly) and a Friday (which was also less than flying on a Saturday or Sunday).
We also took advantage of a percentage off special for our resort stay which then gave us a refund which we then used towards our Photopass + prepurchase of $149. Both Photopass and Photopass + are available for purchase prior to your vacation at a discount. Let’s do the math. . . $149 for 980 photos before editing. . .that makes it about 15 cents per photo AND we brought home five 8 X 10 dining photos that are sold for $35 each. Yeah, we came out ahead on this one!
When Bell Services picked us and our luggage up (there is no charge for this, just a tip) when we checked out of the resort, we were the first pick-up and it was 8:15 am. That means the resort wasn’t doing banner business, at least for Bell Services. I inquired as to why that might be and was told “the economy” and how it can be expensive for a family to travel to Walt Disney World. Yes, it CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t HAVE to be expensive.
Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t pinch pennies, only watched them carefully. The boy came home with new toys including Lego’s which were partially purchased using Lego VIP rewards points which also allowed us to get a FREE Lego set. We also brought home souvenirs, but they were purchased using a 20% off discount code found on a Quick Service receipt. One receipt was from an order for 3 glasses of ice water which were FREE and then that receipt was used to save over $30 on souvenir purchases and we paid cash rather than “charging” them to our room.
I am going to venture to guess that the thinking or brain power behind some of our savings can be too cumbersome for some folks and they get caught up in the adventure or overwhelmed by the sites and sounds that are inevitable at Disney (I will write another post about the noise level). Yet, by doing a bit of planning and strategizing, savings can be had and some significant savings at that.