Going to Disney World? 5 Tips and Tricks for a Fun, Frugal Vacation

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Are you planning a trip to Disney World soon?
Here are some tips and tricks that we used to make our trip fun and frugal
  • Plan, plan, plan and then be flexible!

There are some fantastic resources available to plan your trip.  I made a calendar with columns for each day, by hour, and then filled in the attractions we didn’t want to miss, any dining reservations, weather predictions, and notes.  For example,


  • Sunny and 80 degrees
  • Magic Kingdom
  • 2:00  Parade
  • 5:00 Character Dining at The Crystal Palace
  • Don’t want to miss Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, It’s a Small World, Country Bear Jamboree
  • Take traditional picture sitting on wall in front of entrance

The Disney website is your first stop when planning our trip.  One of my favorite features is that you can sort by age – Rosie is five, so its very helpful to be able to sort the attractions, for example, by those who appeal and are recommended for preschoolers.

The Disney Mom’s Panel is a fantastic resource for finding details about the attractions you would like to see and finding answers for questions you might have.

All Ears is a comprehensive non-Disney website that has helpful information for planning your trip, including a great packing list.

Either print one out ahead of time, or pick up park maps when you arrive.  Then mark the attractions that you don’t want to miss.  When you get to the parks, use your map and check it before you leave an area to make sure you haven’t missed something you wanted to see.  It’s easy to miss seeing specific rides or attractions with all the things going on around you!

BUT, when all your planning is done and you’ve arrived at the Parks?  Let go!  Remember the most important thing is that your family enjoy their vacation! It’s not about checklists, accomplishments, and schedules.  It’s about fun and happy memories.  Despite all my plans, one of Rosie’s favorites last year was the Carousel.  She wanted to do it “again and again”.  We have a Carousel at our local shopping mall!  My first inclination was to say, “We could have just stayed home and gone to the mall!”  But, then good-mommy took over and I remembered – it’s about fun!  If a carousel is what she enjoys doing, then a carousel-it-is.

2010 Disney Mugs - Photo courtesy of www.disunplugged.com

  • Pack Snacks and Buy Refillable Mugs

By packing simple snacks to take with you to the parks, well, really everywhere, you will save money and meltdowns.  Kids need to eat frequently and are often “suddenly” hungry.  The lines can be long at eating places in the parks and the prices steep.  If you have fruit snacks, cheese crackers, candy, dried fruit, etc. packed in your bag, you can avoid the waiting and expense while you keep the energy level up.

The Disney resorts sell cute, durable plastic Disney mugs (we’re still using our two year old ones) for approximately $14.  That sounds expensive, but while you’re there you can have unlimited refills of soft drinks, coffee, and hot chocolate.  The convenience is nice as well, it’s self-serve, no waiting in lines to pay.  A word of caution, it is only refillable at resorts not the parks.  But you can fill it up when you’re leaving for the park and refill with free tap water at the Park.

  • If you have small children who want to see the characters, use an autograph book.  At Epcot, collect the masks (or current craft) at the Kidcot stops.

You can buy one in advance, or when you get to the park, but an autograph book is one of the best ways to enhance the character experience for your child.  It especially helps if they are afraid or intimidated by a character.  An autograph book provides them with “something to do” and a reason to approach a character.  It’s also a great souvenir!

At Kidcot stops in Epcot, kids can decorate a craft to take with them.  When we went, it was masks that were then attached to a stick.  Kids love to “collect” things and it gives you a reason to go into each country pavilion and helps teach a characteristic of each country.  These are fun, awesome, and free!  Triple play!

  • If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, use online check-in.  Plan for a stroller.

Ten days before your arrival, you can use online check-in.  This will make your actual check-in faster and allows you to request a first-floor room, close to transportation.  This will save you time and steps on your vacation.  It’s surprising how much time you save when you don’t have to wait for an elevator or climb stairs!  Go to “My Reservations” and click on your trip, or if you don’t see it, try “Retrieve Reservations”.  Then look for “Online Check-In”.

Even if your children are not using a stroller regularly, you may want to plan for a stroller at Disney.  The parks are so huge – it’s a lot of walking.  It’s also nice to have a stroller for your bags!  Disney strollers available at the park are clean and roomy.  Downside?  They are hard molded plastic, so not good for infants and expensive to rent.  Alternatives are to bring your own or use a non-Disney rental company, like Orlando Stroller Rentals.

The current prices for stroller rental are here.  This is what I found:  $15.00 USD per day for a single-passenger stroller; $31.00 USD per day for a double-passenger stroller; $100 USD credit card deposit is required per strollers rented at the Downtown Disney Area. The rented stroller must be returned to the original rental location to receive a credit card deposit refund.  For multiple days,$13.00 USD per day for a single-passenger stroller; $27.00 USD per day for a double-passenger stroller.

Another benefit of your own stroller or non-Disney rental is that you don’t have to leave it at the park, you can also use at your resort or other locations.

Bracelet available at http://www.idmyparents.com/

  • Child Safety – Safety Bracelets, Photo

Practice with your child what to do if they get separated from you. *anxiety, just thinking about it*  Teach them to recognize a Disney Cast Member and how to ask for help.  Practice their name, your name, phone number, and address.  Remember you want them to know your cell phone number, not home phone number!

If your child doesn’t know their phone number, or may forget it when scared, there are lots of safety bracelets on the market that you can place on wrists, ankles, shoes, etc.  Write your cell phone number so that someone can call you in the unfortunate event that you are separated from your child.  I’ve also read recommendations that you take a photo of your child everyday.  In a panic, you may forget what clothes they are wearing and photos can help describe them for searches.


  1. 1

    Kelly those are such helpful hints!! Thank you for sharing :)

    Shopper Gal

  2. 2

    Thank you for the great ideas!

  3. 3

    Kelly, This is great. I wish I had seen it before we went on our trip in November. LOL! I am inviting you to link this up on Friday in my Frugalista Fridays blog hop. Or, if you are willing, I will spotlight it as a guest post. The theme for the next 3 weeks *IS* frugal travel. I have a guest blogger who has done a 3-part series for me. But, this post is certainly perfect as an additional guest post. Let me know!

  4. 4

    Great tips! We can’t wait to take our daughter to Disney for the first time in October.

    I’ve Stumbled this post, mine is at http://librarygirlreads.blogspot.com/2011/03/qigong-illustrated-by-christina-j-barea.html

  5. 5

    Thans for the post, I vow to one day take my children to Disney!

    Stumbled this post, here’s mine!

  6. 6

    Stumbled you! Awesome post. My post (at my new blog!) is: http://www.talkingkids.org/2011/03/preschool-stuttering.html


  7. 7

    Great tips. Disney is very overwhelming if you don’t plan properly.

    Stumbled this post. Mine is


  8. 8

    I have never gone with a child so this all invaluable info!

    I stumbled your post and would love if you’d stumble mine!

  9. 9

    Wow! Those are some good tips. Very informative.

  10. 10

    Wow, thanks for the tips, we are starting to plan a trip to disney.

  11. 11

    Tips for universal? Heading there in 2 weeks!

  12. 12

    Some good tips. Just remember most kids over age 4 don’t need a stroller and won’t use it often or just complain about having to use it. Strollers are a pain in the park anyway because you are constantly loading and unloading your child and your stuff from the stroller.

  13. 13
  14. 14

    Excellent tips! About the stroller, you can take your own even if you’re flying. They don’t count as luggage and will be taken as you board your plane. If you rent a car or drive to Disney, drive to Walmart and buy a cheap umbrella stroller.

  15. 15

    Great tips. I hope to be able to take our boys one day.

  16. 16

    Fabulous tips!! Also, if you have a child that needs a breathing treatment EVER take the stinking machine with you. We didn’t and Tank got really sick – we spent all day trying to get our doctor to call us in a prescription then finding a medical supply place. The insurance wouldn’t cover the machine since we already had one and we ended up spending about 400 dollars of our saved money on it!

  17. 17

    Great ideas! I haven’t been to Disney since I was in high school, but I have to agree, the refillable cups make a huge difference. They seem steep when you first make the purchase, but they totally pay off in the end. I can only imagine the savings with a whole family.

    I love the idea of collecting the kidcot crafts, too. Great souvenirs and much more meaningful.

  18. 18

    Thanks for the great tips! Funny, when we went as kids, we stayed at the Continental Hotel (which was having a video game convention at the time) and all we wanted to do was play video games. My dad did mention that we could have stayed home to do that!!

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