Think a trip to Disney World is too expensive for your family? Well, think again! There are many ways to save on your dream family vacation without promising your firstborn to Mickey Mouse.

Be Flexible

If possible, be flexible on vacation dates. It is possible to save up to $91/night by traveling in the off-season and avoiding the holiday season. Disney categorizes their calendar into different travel seasons for their hotel rates: The value season is the lowest priced, and the holiday and peak seasons are the highest priced. For 2013, the value season rates are available on Jan. 2–9, Jan. 13–17, Jan. 21–Feb. 13, and Aug. 4–Sept. 14. Also some close-to-value-season fall rates are available on Sept. 15–Oct. 10, Oct. 14–Nov. 22, Nov. 30–Dec. 12.

Buy Discount Cards

If you live near a store that sells discounted Disney gift cards, purchase them to pay for your vacation. For example, if my local Sam's Club sells $100 Disney gift cards for $97 each, and a Disney vacation totals $3,000, I could buy 30 $100 gift cards for $2,910, saving a total of $90! Or if my Target store sells Disney gift cards and I have a Target credit card, I could save 5% on my purchase of the gift cards.

Bring Your Own

Disney frequently overprices necessities and basics, but by planning ahead it is possible to avoid overpaying on many items. A few great things to bring along include a stroller, lunch, water bottles, glow-in-the-dark toys and sticks, princess and pirate costumes for your children to wear, ponchos and umbrellas, misting fans, etc. If you are driving to Orlando, you should have no problem bringing all you will need. If you are flying, mail a box of items to the hotel, and arrange to pick them up at the front desk upon check-in.

Consider a Disney Visa Card

Sign up for a Disney Visa credit card, pay it off monthly, and save up Disney points to help pay for your dream trip. Disney Visa is currently offering a $50 Disney gift card as a sign-up bonus for new cardholders! I pay all my monthly bills on my card and save up $300 – $400 per year of Disney points to put toward my yearly vacation.

Use an Agent

Book through an authorized Disney vacation planner. Since I am a vacation planner, I can tell you firsthand how much time using a Disney travel agent can save. My job is to spend time listening to what you want to experience on your perfect trip and use my knowledge and experience to put together all the available options for you to consider. The icing on the cake? My services are completely free to you! And I will watch for available discounts to apply to your booking after you book so you can be worry-free on missing a deal.

Each of these tips will help you save for your next Disney vacation, and before you know it, you'll be at the happiest place on earth. There is a catch: After you've gone to Disney World once, you'll be hooked for life!

This has been a guest post by Sara from Decatur, IL
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Five Ways to Save Big on a Disney Vacation