Are you planning a trip to the happiest place on earth? If you’re anything like me, it’s even happier when you get the most for your money. We travel to Disney World every year with our three girls! With my frugal ways, I’ve figured out how to streamline expenses without sacrificing that “vacation” feeling.

1. Know Where To Save

To get the best deal on your hotel/ticket package use a travel agent.  I like Small World Vacations. If you choose an agent who only books Disney vacations, you can be sure all discounts will be applied to your trip. Your travel agent’s job is to get you the best price.  They get paid commission, but that money doesn’t come from you. They’ve called me three separate times before my travel date to tell me that a new promotion had reduced my package price. I would never have known about those discounts if I had booked my vacation on my own.

2. Dining

You can bring your own food into Disney parks, but they offer a fantastic dining plan.  There are three levels to choose from, and a few times a year it’s offered for free! I’ve used this the last several years and have been able to eat at Disney’s best restaurants for only the price of the tip. You must be booking a hotel/ticket package to take advantage of this, so ask your travel agent when this promotion is available.

If you aren’t staying on Disney property there are a few other ways to save on meals. Bring your own refillable cup into the parks. They will give you ice water at any food location. Bring cereal bars and other packaged snacks, as well. In Disney hotels they have microwaves available in the food areas. I’ve made popcorn or canned spaghetti for my kids and they love it!

3. Costumes

Whether you have a fairy tale princess or a swashbuckling pirate, Disney is the place where it’s okay to let it all loose! If you buy a princess dress in the park, they cost $59.95. The crowns, shoes and wands are additional. Buy the dress (or pirate costume) before travel.  Try eBay, Disneystore.com, or get them after Halloween.  Even my two year old wants to wear a princess dress, so plan accordingly!

4. Pin Trading

If this has no meaning to you now, rest assured, you will leave your Disney vacation as a pin trading expert. Disney cast members all wear lanyards laden with the colorful Disney pins. They will trade any pin on their lanyard for one of your pins. This is one of my kids’ favorite parts of the Disney experience. They love to search for pins to complete sets or find their favorite characters. One downside: these pins are expensive.  I spent $10 on a pin only to have my daughter trade it ten minutes later.  Luckily I found a cheaper way, eBay. You can buy Disney pins in groups of 10 or more for less than $1 per pin!

5. Think Ahead

On one vacation my little one came down with the flu. I paid $7.95 in my hotel gift shop for children’s pain reliever. I cringed, knowing my stockpile at home had boxes of them. Now I plan ahead, packing an emergency bag for every situation. I bring parkas, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, travel size medicine, diaper rash cream, bandages, batteries and scissors (don’t know why, but we always need scissors). It’s better to bring it and not use it than to break your budget on something you already own. Other things to consider bringing are autograph books and cool air misters. If you’re traveling during the summer, those air misters are hard to pass up, but with a $15.95 price tag, you’ll be wishing you had bought it on Amazon!

6. Packing

This is my favorite tip for Disney travelers with small children.  I use gallon size Ziploc bags to pack my kids clothing. Into the bag goes the outfit for the day. I write the child’s name on the front and a number for each day. This way it stays neat and makes it easy to see what you have.  I always keep one bag with a complete outfit in my backpack to take to the park. Little ones often need a change of clothing throughout the day. You can reuse the bags next year or save them for another purpose. Other than the bags with the outfits, I only need to pack pajamas, sweatshirts and a pair of pants for each child.

7. Save on Souvenirs

Disney has such great, unique gifts that it can be easy to ignore the high price tag. If you are renting a car, there are two great Disney outlets within a few minutes of Walt Disney World. They have the same high quality Disney merchandise at a fraction of the price charged in the parks. I’ve purchased sweatshirts there for $3.99 and stuffed animals for $1.99!

So add these tips to the many others that you’ve gotten from family and friends and have a magical vacation!

This has been a guest post by Sandra from Woonsocket, RI
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7 Ways to Save on Your Disney Vacation