Four Hacks for Saving Money for Walt Disney World
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When the Disney World bug bites you, it’s hard to imagine not visiting every year. We took a few years between the first visit with our kids and our second. After that, I was on a mission to find a way to pay for a trip every year and maybe even multiple trips per year. There are tons of articles about how to save money at Disney, but how about some secrets for saving up the money to get you there in the first place? These are my four best hacks for saving money for Walt Disney World!
Slow and Steady
No matter how good you are at finding deals, I’ve never found the “Free Walt Disney World Trip” deal. Even though these other ideas might help you get some free money for that trip, you are still going to have to contribute something yourself. For me, it’s a “slow and steady wins the race” mentality. I especially have dreams of visiting every Disney Park one day (I’m already checking out Hong Kong Disneyland and this awesome guide). Picking a way to squirrel a small amount away consistently means you’ll have enough for that trip a lot quicker than you thought you could:
Set Aside Money in a Separate Account
Transferring money to a separate account BEFORE it hits my checking account is the best way I’ve found to save up for that trip. It’s a great budgeting tip for any large purchase, but I’ve found it works exceptionally well for a travel fund too.
Set up a separate savings account
If you can set up a separate account that doesn’t require a minimum amount (we don’t want to get hit with fees!!), go for it! You can have your main account set up to transfer a certain amount into the travel account each month. A lot of companies also allow you to split your check and deposit into two different accounts. If possible, my preference is to always have the money out of my check before it goes into my account. Less temptation that way!
There are several types of accounts you can use to stash away money to get reimbursed at a later date. For example, a Flexible Spending Account for childcare expenses. If you are lucky enough to have a company that provides a dependent care FSA, sign-up! You can put up to $5,000 per year away for your children’s childcare expenses. At the end of the year, you submit receipts for childcare expenses and get reimbursed up to that $5,000 you have been squirreling away. The things that make this ideal for Disney savings are (1) it comes out of my paycheck before I see it and (2) I can’t automatically transfer money out. It is a deliberate action to get reimbursed.
For our second trip, I saved all my reimbursed money to fund our entire weeklong trip to Walt Disney World. It’s not “free money” since you already paid for the childcare, but it’s a way to save that you don’t normally think about and don’t have easy access to. This means it’s more likely to stay funded. If I can’t swipe a button to transfer money out of it, it has a better chance of lasting!
If you don’t want to set up an account, one of the easiest ways is to use the envelope method. Get an envelope for your Disney trip and put a pre-defined amount of cash in it each month. Slow and steady, and you’ll one surprised how quickly it adds up! I’ve seen some people set a particular denomination (like every $5 bill goes in the envelope) requirement for their envelope. The key here is making it a habit so you don’t even think about putting away all those $5 bills.
If you are going to save, you might as well do it in style too! Check out these fun envelopes or cases for saving those Disney dollars:
Credit Card Rewards
Everyone has their favorite credit card rewards program, but for me there are two that pay the biggest dividends: Southwest Chase and Disney Chase. I use one for the flight to Walt Disney World and one for my purchases while I’m there.
I was not a big credit card fan for a long time. I don’t like having debt, but I also don’t like turning away free money. When I was researching a credit card, one of the biggest things for me was the ability to set an “auto-pay” for the full balance each month. This way, you avoid any possibility of missing a due date and incurring big fees. It also meant for me that I can be sure to stay debt free while also racking up my free money/points! Chase makes this feature super easy to use, and it was one of my deciding factors in choosing their card.
I split our purchases across our two Chase cards. The Southwest gets everything except gas, groceries, and dining (more on why later!). You get double points when you use your card to purchase flights or other travel items from a Southwest partner. Your points can also set you up for A-List or A-List Preferred status, which come with a combination of free early check-in, onboard WiFi, and free drink tickets. The points also add up to the ultimate: a companion pass. One person can be designated to fly free everywhere their partner flies. When booking your next Walt Disney World trip, it means you fly completely free.
If we are traveling once per year, we usually have enough points racked up to pay for the trip entirely . For us, this means our regular purchases result in 1 free flight to Disney per year for our family of 4!
The Disney Chase gets gas, groceries, and dining since you get double points for all of those. This means we get 2% in Disney cash for all of those purchases. Let the dollars pile up until it’s time for your trip. You can transfer them to a Disney Gift card and use that to pay for all kinds of things. Some ideas:
- Dining – If you are going to forgo the dining plan (we usually do if we are staying for 5 days or less), the gift card can be used to pay for all of your dining while at WDW.
- Tickets – Yes, you can buy your tickets with the free Disney cash you’ve been collecting! We sprung for annual passes a few years ago, and the Disney dollars can almost cover the cost each year.
- Souvenirs – No matter how much you try to buy in advance, everyone wants a souvenir while they are at WDW. We have gone before and set a rule the we only use the free Disney dollars. When we are out, we are out!
- Christmas Presents – When Disney puts on the big 50% off sales for Disney Princess Dresses, I’m there with my Disney reward points to snag some free christmas presents! The reward points work on DisneyStore.com and in person at a Disney Store.
There are some other big benefits to the Disney Chase that we enjoy while at WDW. Our favorite are the special character experiences. In Epcot, there is a Disney Chase Character Experience next to Figment’s ride. This one stands out because it has TWO characters inside. There has never been more than 3 other people in line so you get a lot of time to spend with the characters, playing and laughing!
There is also a character experience at Star Wars Launch Bay. While everyone else was waiting in a 30 minute line for Kylo Ren, you walk right in! One of the fun things about the Disney Chase experiences is that they change up the characters so you never know who you might find!
Gift Card Deals
You will see all over the blogs about purchasing Disney gift cards at special deals. The most prevalent is probably the Target Red Card. It gives you 5% off on purchases, which means you can save 5% on Disney Gift cards. You can be on the lookout for other gift cards deals, especially around Black Friday! For example, this past Black Friday, Fred’s offered 15% off all gift cards, which included Disney gift cards. Get 15% off the gift card AND pay for it with your Disney Chase and you are up to 17% free money!
Ask your company or HR department if you are in any special buyers groups. We get access to special groups and discounts for Disney tickets (and tons of other stuff….like 25% off our cell phone bill!) all because our Materials Management department does a great job signing us up for different buyers groups and discounts. A prevalent one is called LifeMart, and they offered a 7 day park hopper for the price of 5 days earlier in the year!
Until you win a contest or get on the Disney Mom’s Panel, you aren’t going to score that free trip to Walt Disney World. That doesn’t mean you can’t go though! There are some good ways to save up the money to make your trips a reality!
- Slow and Steady Savings
- Set up an automatic transfer to a separate account
- Savings Account
- Reimbursement Accounts
- Envelope Method
- Set up an automatic transfer to a separate account
- Credit Card Rewards
- Airline Points – Get enough for free flights
- Disney Chase – Get up to 2% cash for everything you spend in straight Disney cash!
- Gift Cards Savings – Snag some awesome deals and get 5-15% off on gift cards to pay for your trip
- Buyers Groups – Use all the savings you can and find out if your company offers discount deals for Walt Disney World trips