If you’re planning a family trip to a Disney resort, you already know one thing: this trip is going to be expensive. We took our five kids and the experience was indeed magical. We loved everything about Disney, except for some of the prices. Since saving money usually involves planning ahead, I did some research. I knew that once we entered the park, all common sense (and our budget) would fly out the window if we weren’t careful. So to save my budget and sanity, I created a “magical” backpack for each child. I gave it to them just as we were heading out the door for the Magic Kingdom park. It creates a layer of excitement while meeting a frugal need at the same time.

The magic inside the pack

  • Water bottle: They can be over $2.50 per bottle in the park!
  • Plastic rain poncho: You spend all that money for Disney and what if it rains? I bought each child a small, adult poncho at the Dollar Store and we ended up using them one day! At $10 a pop in the park, this alone saved our family $70.
  • Sunglasses: Preferably plastered with Disney Princesses. The sparklier the better. Unless you have a boy, then buy Star Wars.
  • Mini notebook for autographs: Everyone wants to get Mickey’s signature! Strike that—they want all the characters’ signatures. You can usually find Disney-themed, miniature notebooks at Target’s Dollar Spot. This saved us from buying notebooks in the park and were great souvenirs!
  • Permanent marker: We asked the Disney characters to sign our kids’ backpacks—another free souvenir!
  • Lollipops and gum: There are enormous, colorful, spiral lollipops at every turn in the souvenir shops. Your kids will want one, trust me. Also, you can’t buy gum in Disney parks, so pack your own.
  • Snacks: Inevitably, someone will be hungry between meals. Protein bars, crackers, cheese sticks or other snacks will save you from tears.
  • Lightweight sweatshirt: It gets cool at night while watching the fireworks display, so another layer will save the day.
  • Glow sticks: Disney after dark is a sea of sparkling, flashing, light-up toys. These toys start at $15. Buy glow sticks or light sabers ahead of time at the Dollar Store! Bonus: The toys help you keep track of your kids in the crowds.
  • Money for a souvenir: You’re going to buy one. Or two. You just are.

Mom, you may want to pack these additional items in your own backpack: sunscreen, first aid, asthma inhalers, pain reliever or other medicine, hand wipes, a camera, or video recorder. Also, if you use Splenda or Truvia, pack your own because they don’t have it in the park.

Enjoy your trip. It will be magical!

This is a guest post by Sarah Beals from Halifax, MA.