Magic on a Budget

We recently returned from a Disney trip with some of our good friends.  It was a great time with 5 little girls (we had a 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 year old).

It was super fun to travel with another family with children around the same age as ours.  We found that having some friends to share in the excitement made the time pass a little quicker in long lines, as well as having extra sets of parental eyes and hands at all times.  

But, let's not kid ourselves--it takes a lot of planning, effort, and money to make a trip to Disney happen.  However, I have compiled a list of tips for those of you considering taking the big trip in the near future.  I hope this helps, and feel free to add your own tips at the end!

1.  Stay at the cheap places.  We stayed at one of the Value resorts because in all honesty, the cheap room looks the same as the Grand Floridian when your eyeballs are closed at the end of the day.  Sure, it was a little smaller and maybe not as posh, but overall, it worked just fine.  

2.  Bring your lunch into the park.  Disney does not care if you bring in snacks, sandwiches, or drinks into the park in a small soft cooler.  We saved a ton of money by being able to offer our kids sandwiches, M&Ms, and other snacks at lunch and throughout the day--snacks we purchased on the cheap at our neighborhood Target. 

3.  Eat breakfast in the resort.  We brought our pop-tarts, donuts, and honey buns along with juice we kept in the cooler.  This saved us time and money.  

And on that note. . .

4.  Bring a cooler or your own mini-fridge.  The resort will rent you a fridge for $10 a day--that's an expense that could be spent elsewhere.  With your cooler you can keep your own drinks and cold foods in your room.  There are ice machines in each resort.  

5.  Bring sandwich bags.  You can visit the delicious Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney--and keep half of your sandwich for your next meal.  We did this a few times.  Earl is a personal favorite--think Panera but better and cheaper.  The sandwiches are $5.99 (for a large sandwich) and soup cups are $2.99.  The broccoli and cheese soup is OFF THE CHAIN!!!

6.  Bring your own bottled water or sports drink.  Save the bottle and fill it up as needed each day.  You may also wish to bring a bottle cleaner and a small bottle of dish detergent if you want to bring non-disposable bottles.  

7.  Buy ponchos ahead of time at the dollar store.  You can get 2 for $1.00 vs. $8.00 for 1 at the parks.  Trust me.  It's going to rain.  Put them in a quart ziploc bag and throw them in your bookbag or your soft cooler.  Hang them up at the end of the day and then stuff them back in your bookbag the next day.  

8.  While you're at the dollar store, buy some glow sticks for your kids.  Rather than paying out the nose for the skirt-flipping-spinning-light up-Minnie Mouse (no joke), give your kids a glow bracelet or necklace before the carts start making their rounds in the park.  Your kids just want a glowing item--they will not care that you brought it from home.  My girls ALWAYS ask for a glow whatever, but they didn't even ask this trip because they already had something.   

9.  Invest in the Unofficial Guide for Disney World.  There is an online version as well as a book available.  The author is a genius and visits Disney regularly.  He offers the best ways to visit the park to maximize your visit.  This will save you time and money and hassle.  His app also gives you current wait times at each park for rides.  It is well worth the money!

10.  Research the secret targets for the Buzz Lightyear ride.  Christacular got DESTROYED by Molly the first time we rode it.  Make sure you know the targets to hit so your kids won't taunt you the rest of the time.  

What about you?  Any tips to share with the group? 

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