Best Disney savings tips for a newbie.

Discussion in 'Budget Board' started by SamiGage, Sep 19, 2012.

  1. SamiGage

    SamiGage Earning My Ears

    Sep 15, 2012
    My boyfriend and I are taking our first trip to Disney together (he went once when he was younger and I've been a couple times but never on a trip I planned myself.) Our trip is January 7-14th, and we are going to celebrate my 26th birthday. We are staying in at the Port Orleans French Quarter in a King room I believe it's called? We have a 6 day park hopper pass and we have the dining plan that allows us one sit down meal, one quick meal, and one snack daily.

    I would love to know where we could cut corners and save a little money and/or the best ways to do that. For instance, we are not big breakfast eaters so I figured it might be smart to throw a box of granola bars in our suitcase to cover that meal? Any more ideas or tips are greatly appreciated.
  2. DisneyWorldbuff

    DisneyWorldbuff Colorado

    Jul 5, 2008
    If you're not big into breakfast, you could always use a snack credit for a muffin, croissant, fruit, etc. bringing some snacks from home is a great idea too. Utilize your refillable mugs while at the resort and ask for ice water at the parks to save on beverage costs. Make good use of your meal credits and have a wonderful trip. The Dining Plan is a great way to know your expenses up front, just don't forget to factor in tips for table service meals.
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  4. AuntieKels

    AuntieKels Mouseketeer

    Jul 12, 2010
    Bring a hydro flask bottle with you and fill it with ice water before you get to the park. You can also get a cup of water (or water bottle refill) for free at and CS location. Don't spend $5 on a bottled water in the park!!
  5. alyssa810

    alyssa810 <font color=purple>It's much more fun on the boat<

    Jan 1, 2001
    sign up for the Landry's select club- it's $25 but you get a $25 credit on your account pretty quickly after you sign up. You also get a $25 credit for your birthday, so you could have $50 right there. You can use it at Rainforest cafe or T-rex in downtown Disney among other places...we used to throw a box of pop tarts in the suitcase too...
  6. xCourxCorex

    xCourxCorex DIS Veteran

    Jan 27, 2005
    I just returned from a trip with my bf .. a similar vacation to yours! We had 6 day park hoppers, with the regular dining plan. I packed some Fiber One and Nature Valley bars, and pop-tarts, although we did not eat those for breakfast everyday. Some days we used snack credits for pastries at the food court/bakeries and drank water (we have Brita bottles that filter tap water).

    We got either alcoholic drinks or an appetizer at our table service meals, which we did have to pay for out of pocket. Our total costs ended up being $140 on extra food and drinks (this included beer, wine, cocktails, extra snacks or appetizers not included on the meal plan), and $94 on tips for our table service meals. We also spent around $138 on souvenirs which was high for us, but I bought 2 ornaments as gifts for family; bf got a t-shirt in the UK store in Epcot, mugs, frames, 2 digital downloads of ride photos, etc. That cost could have been WAY less if we wanted it to.

    I found it helpful to look around at the menus and snack options at all the parks and resorts before we went to know the average price for these items (so as to not "waste" a snack credit on a $2 treat). Some of the "higher value" snacks could be Pineapple floats/Ice cream floats, cookies at the Karamell Kuche in Germany pavillion (were $4.50!) cupcakes, larger pastries, funnel cakes (although not every place that sells them takes snack credits. We got ours at Sleepy Hollow in MK).

    Another thing to keep in mind is the tip amounts on your bills for table service. It will calculate the amount for both 18% and 20% of your bill... but you're not obligated to give that amount (2 times we tipped less than was a buffet, and the other I felt the service was a bit lacking).

    I got a Disney Visa credit card, and racked up reward points, and took the reward card and paid off some of those expenses that we charged to the room.
  7. ceecee

    ceecee DIS Veteran

    Apr 6, 2001
    If you're not big eaters you can share a lot of meals and still have plenty, you get dessert with the DP. We used a lot of our snacks for breakfast foods like muffins from the bakery (picked them up after Wishes for the next day) since we had to wait in line for the muffins the bus crowd back to the resort was less. We stayed at PO Riverside as well for the first time (CSR was booked and that's our favorite)it was very quiet and beautiful so I'm sure you'll love it since you don't have kids with you. You should be fine with food on the DP we usually have snacks left, so we buy a bag of candy in the gift shop for the plane ride home.
  8. Marionnette

    Marionnette Children see magic because they look for it

    Sep 26, 2009
    Bottled water is $2.50 (not $5 as previously posted), but I do agree that you can trim costs and save your snack credits by bringing a filtered water bottle and refilling it at the water fountains instead of getting bottled water or sodas.

    Use your snack credits to buy breakfast items or a mid-morning snack to tide you over until lunch. There is a thread on the Restaurants board that lists the items that you can get with your snack credits. There's something in every park. Check it out here:

    Since you have the regular dining plan, you should be fine for food. If anything, you might end up one or two meals short because the dining plan is per night and not per day. In other words, you will get one snack, one counter service and one table service meal per person per night of your stay. That means that for your 6-night stay, you will each get 6 snacks, 6 CS and 6 TS. If you have an early arrival and/or late departure, you will need to have a couple of extra meals to get you by. One way to do this would be to share a counter service meal so that you can stretch those credits a bit. Some people can do this easily. Others find that it doesn't provide enough food for 2 adults.

    Personally, if I was looking to cut corners on the budget, I would drop hopping from the tickets and remove the dining plan from my reservation. The dining plan really is not a good value, IMO. Check the menus on to see what the prices are like ( ). Keep in mind that there is a 6.5% sales tax on all food and you will need to tip at the table service locations.

    I would also check the codes and rates subforum on the Resorts board often ( ). There will probably be some sort of discount or promotion for the week that you are in Disney but it might be a couple of months before they announce one.

    If there isn't a good package deal during that time, I would do a room-only reservation and buy my tickets from It will save you a couple of bucks.

    Good luck with your planning. Early January can be a good time to visit Disney due to low crowds. It can be very cold. I was there just after New Year's this year and we wore our winter coats, hats and gloves pretty much every day.
  9. brymolmom

    brymolmom DIS Veteran

    Jun 8, 2005
    You could consider dropping the hopping if you're really looking to cut corners. One park per day is plenty.

    Other than that - With room, tickets, meals and transportation already in your package and paid for before you go - The only other place to 'save' money is by limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and/or how many souveniers you buy.

    We never buy any additional food with the dining plan. Like you suggested, we bring a box of cereal in our luggage and between that and the cinnamon loaf or chocolate muffins from Main St Bakery (that we split because both are huge) - our breakfast is covered.

    Like the idea about filling up a sports water bottle too. No snack credits spent on water bottles!
  10. HM

    HM My tag from the Tag Fairy is now too long to use.

    Mar 8, 2001
    Keep your eye open for discounts for your stay. Right now you are probably paying the rack rate for your vacation. Sometime this fall, WDW will offer discounts for January dates and hopefully your trip will fall in those dates. You'll just need to call and have the discount added to you reservation and you'll save $. There is a thread at the top of the Resorts forum that will probably be of help to you for looking for those discounts.
  11. SamiGage

    SamiGage Earning My Ears

    Sep 15, 2012
    Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions! I will definitely keep looking for discounts and we will do some advanced planning for lunches we may be able to share in order to do possibly do some fancier 2 DDP credit dinners. Thanks a million!
  12. Maddie2

    Maddie2 DIS Veteran

    Feb 21, 2004
    We have gone in January twice and LOVED IT!!! Best time of year to go, IMO. The temps were usually in the high 70's/low 80's during the day, which, I think, is PERFECT. It cooled down a bit in the evening, so we took along light jackets and avoided the water rides and we were fine.

    Money saving ideas:

    * Share CS meals - Cosmic Rays @ MK comes to mind (chicken/rib combo is HUGE). They don't usually let you share at TS meals.

    * Save desserts for snacks or breakfast (rice krispie bars, muffins, etc).

    * We love our BRITA water bottles. You can fill them up at drinking fountains. CS locations will usually fill them as well.

    * Souvenirs: Disney outlet a few miles away. If you have young children to buy for, pick up some items at a nearby $1 Store (Dollar Tree has lots of Disney items) before you go.

    * Watch for codes - in 2008, we had buy 4 nights, get 3 nights free and in 2011, we had free dining (both in late January). Are your dates flexible at all?

    * Would you be open to downsizing your resort choice? We have always stayed at the Value resorts and been just fine. It's different for everyone, but the price difference wasn't worth it to us - esp since we are out in the parks most of the time anyway.

    * Do you have an opportunity to make a grocery store stop? We really enjoyed having a few fresh items - grapes, oranges, carrots, etc. Granola bars are fine, but with the meal plan, you will find that you are eating all of the time - and having something fresh is nice.

    * We've had a meal plan 3x over the years and always end up with lots of leftover snack credits. We use them on the last day in the gift or candy shop and pick up souvenirs to take home - candies, cookies, etc. I stocked up on Mickey rice krispie bars and they became Valentines!

    * Additional souvenirs: Many counter service locations in the resorts sell Mickey-head shaped crazy straws for 50 cents. GREAT to take home for friends - especially if you need a bunch! We have found them at Pop Century and All Star Movies and I would think they would have them at other resorts as well (near the register in the CS area).

    * Are you purchasing the Disney Photopass? If so, there are sometimes coupons/deals if you pre-purchase it.

    * If you have a Disney VISA, check the bonuses. We have always rec'd a free Photopass photo in Epcot.

    Have a great time!!!!!!!
  13. Smile4Me

    Smile4Me DIS Veteran

    Apr 12, 2007
    Unless you are an avid pop drinker and don't mind always walk back and forth from your room or the pool to keep refilling the mugs-don't get the refillable mugs! We mainly drink water, so bought some bottled water and then took advantage of the free water at Counter service locations.

    You could also cut corners at home like saving all your change and dollars in a jar between now and when you go to have extra $$ for when you get there, committ to a budget for Christmas presents and STICK to it for friends and family, or opt for only homemade gifts. Call and see if you can lower your rates for tv, phone, etc and put that money toward your trip!

    Have a blast! 5 years ago i started planning a trip for myself and one day asked the guy I had been dating for about 4 months if he wanted to go to,,,and four disney trips later, including last year when we got engaged at Port Orleans , and now we're getting married in 3 weeks!! (with a trip to florida two weeks after!!)
  14. SamiGage

    SamiGage Earning My Ears

    Sep 15, 2012
    Thanks for the detailed response! I am definitely getting some Brita bottles to take and will take you advice about repurposing desserts as breakfast- that's the nice thing about being two 26 year olds on vacation in Disney, you can have dessert for breakfast :cool1:

    We don't have any children to buy for but I'll def keep an eye out for lil souvenirs like the straws to bring home for me to remember our trip by- I don't need anything big. And I haven't looked into a PhotoPass- what are your thoughts on them?

    Dates are kinda flexible- we are already booked so we would incur a $300 airline change fee, but if the savings was great enough then it might be worth it. Also, my birthday is the 12th so I'd like to be there for that but again if there was a big monetary difference I am flexible.

    When you talk about "codes" do you mean Disney discounts or something else? I know we can use discounts that are released after we have booked, but I don't know the best place to find them (other than just continually checking Disney's website.) I recently subbed to a thread here all about Jan 2013 discounts and I'm hoping that will give my newb brain some much needed knowledge, but anything you can give me would be great too.

    As far as resorts go, I'm with you on staying in a value resort but my bf was insistent on a mod- I know he wants this to be a special trip, so I think he feels like there will be more ambiance at POFQ. We both also really want to travel to NOLA so that was another reason he picked this resort, and as he is paying for the trip I should complain. I just want to do my best to try and save him as much money as I can, as he won't let me put a dime towards this trip.

    I mentioned the Disney Visa to him today and he said it sounds like a great idea, so hopefully I can urge him towards that. Do you sign up right through Disney for that?

    Sorry for all the questions, I just never knew planning a trip like this took so much forward planning! :rolleyes2 I know it will be totally worth it in the end though :blush:
  15. SamiGage

    SamiGage Earning My Ears

    Sep 15, 2012
    That's so super sweet! Congrats on your upcoming wedding :woohoo:
  16. ntink

    ntink DIS Veteran

    Nov 24, 2005
    I would skip the Brita bottles so you have less to carry. As someone mentioned before, you can get free ice water at all counter service restaurants. On our trips, we were mostly given the largest size cup of ice water.
  17. bettymae1121

    bettymae1121 DIS Veteran

    Jan 5, 2010
    Our trick is to buy (yes buy!) a bottle of water on our first day and just keep refilling it, after a fey days if it's getting icky we just buy another. Cheaper than buying one each time we're thristy but if we lose the bottle it's not a big deal either. Also keeps the luggage light come to/going back home.

    While I liked the dining plan when we used it last year with Free Dining (it was the only discount available to us) if there wasn't a Free Dinning offer I wouldn't get the plan. DH and I would rather split an app and get two entrees rather thant each get and entree and desert. I also don't want to worry about what is a 1 vs. 2 credit restaurant. I don't know if it would save us money, but not doing the dining plan I think gives us better flexibility. But the plan still worked ok for us, I'd use the snack credit for breakfast (DH isn't hungry in the mornings) and I'd eat it while waiting for the bus. Lunch would be QS and dinner we'd do TS.

    For sure I'd skip the hopping pass, espeically for a week long trip. Also we don't bother getting a park pass for our arrival day, by the time our flight gets in and we're at the resort, 2/3 of the day is shot. We relax at the hotel or go to DTD for the night, then turn in early to get an early start the next morning.

    Additionally we will only get a park pass for our last day if our flight is in the evening. Assuming we're packed and ready to go we can stay at a park until after lunch and still make our flight. But sometimes we get a morning or early afternoon flight back so a park pass is a waste. So depending on your flight arrival/departure times you may be able to shave 2 days off your passes.
  18. cjlvsccm

    cjlvsccm DIS Veteran

    Dec 17, 2008
    All great suggestions so far. I'll add to check out the for shirts and souvenirs before you go! Through this Sunday you can use promo code PARKFREE for free shipping, and there is currently a sale on thermal tees! If you're not ready to buy right now, sign up for their email notices of sales and promos.

    We really enjoyed POFQ, have a great trip! :wave2:
  19. SamiGage

    SamiGage Earning My Ears

    Sep 15, 2012
    This is so funny- I am on right now, no joke! I got a tee, a thermal, and a fleece for me and a fleece and a t for my boyfriend to put away for Christmas. I am using the code you gave me and I logged in through ebates so I'll get another 3% back. Every little bit helps!
  20. curseofcurves

    curseofcurves Mouseketeer

    Aug 12, 2009
    If you are considering signing up for the Disney Visa, look around for sign up offers first. You won't have much time to build up many reward points before you go, but if you found an offer for a $100 GC or something for signing up it may be worth it. (I got a $200 Disney GC for signing up last year.)

    Personally, I would opt for the brita bottles or something similar. The tap water in the Disney parks has a bad taste to me and those would help. Some people don't mind the taste, though, so it's personal preference.

    Also IMO, my BF and I find the best deal to be: using a room only or AAA discount for the rooms, buying tickets from Undercover Tourist with the discount you get in the Mousesavers newsletter, and paying for food out of pocket when we want it. I also would get rid the park hoppers. When we did 6 days, we did each park once then picked our two favorites to do again. The dining plan is really up to your personal preferences and the best way to find out whether it will be good for you is to check out the menus on allears and add up all your prices. It's all very subjective based on your appetites(We find portions quite big across the board and often share a meal+side/dessert), which places you really just want to try, whether you want to take time from the parks to go to a sit down restaurant, etc.

    I would do a comparison between your current package (room, dining, tickets + tips for dining) vs. (UT tickets with mousesavers discount, room only discount, buying meals out of pocket).

    Good resources to use would be: Mousesavers website - Will give you ticket prices using the discount from UT. Will also give you an idea on what room/package discounts will become available for your dates based on last few years. Allears gives you an idea on prices for food and menu items so you can decide where and possibly how often you want to eat.
  21. rebeccalb10

    rebeccalb10 Mouseketeer

    Mar 12, 2009
    I could be wrong but I don't think the QS distinguishes between Adult & Child. Don't waste them on the Kid's meals.

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