How to Budget While at Disney
Budgeting for a day at the park is a bit like going to the grocery store with your kids. You have your list that covers all the meals and probably even a couple snacks and treats, but you get there and see that your favorite food is on sale, your kids try a sample of something delicious that you have to buy, and let’s not forget about all of the impulse items you find near the checkout line!
Same thing is true with Disney. There are things all over that you never even imagined existed, much less that you needed, but when you’re caught up in the magic (seriously hard to resist) you give in and go a bit overboard!
Not to worry, it’s absolutely possible to have a great time while you’re in the parks and not overspend! Below is a short list of tips and tricks that I’ve collected over the years that will help keep you on budget no matter where you travel!
1. Never charge things to your room!! It’s so easy to lose track of everything you’ve spent and then wind up with a huge bill at the end of vacation. Magic bands and mobile food ordering make it so easy to just charge it to the room so if you can't resist, go to the front desk every night and pay off the charges you made that day.
2. Give the kids a gift card or cash so they have a set amount everyday to spend on whatever they want. It doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe $10-15 so they can afford an ice cream cone or a small souvenir. If they see something they want that’s more expensive they can save their daily cash to buy it later. This not only helps alleviate the constant asks for the many goodies of Disney but it also helps them learn about budgeting.
3. Try to use cash as much as possible. There’s something a little different about handing over physical money rather than a credit/debit card that makes you more aware of what you’re spending.
4. Hang on to your receipts and add them up at the end of each day. The little things you purchase during the day may seem inexpensive but they can really add up! Adding up your receipts is a great wake up call to how much you are actually spending.
5. You can bring food and drinks with you into the parks so do it! Not only does this help you to save money but you are also able to eat the things that your family loves and do it the moment you get hungry, not after standing in line. Remember that you can no longer bring loose ice so ice packs are the way to go.
6. If you do want to eat at a table service restaurant, go for breakfast or lunch. Dinner is always the most expensive meal of the day and can often be the "witching hour" for exhausted children making the experience expensive and unpleasant! An added bonus to making a table service reservation for breakfast is that you can get into the park before it’s even open for the day!
7. Try not to buy anything at the park that you could have brought from home. First on the list is sunscreen, but you should also have a poncho, autograph books & pens, lip balm, sunglasses, extra socks, band-aids (you can get them for free at First Aid stations but who wants to look around for one of those when your feet hurt or you're bleeding?!), and a refillable water bottle.
8. Take advantage of the freebies & cheapies you can find around the parks. Yes, they actually do exist! There are pressed penny machines all over the parks and they make great souvenirs (that also don't take up a ton of space in your suitcase!) so make sure you bring lots of pennies and quarters. The World Showcase at Epcot has Kidcot Fun Stops with activities for your kids to do, and you can sample flavors of Coca Cola from around the world at the Cool Stop in Future World. The Main Street Bakery often has trays out with free samples and at the end of the day, all of the WDW resorts have Movies Under the Stars.