Let me set the scene for you: You and your family are parading down Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom. You gaze in awe at the hot Florida sun peeking over the elegant pink and white Cinderella Castle. Your little brother is tugging on the edge of your dad’s Mickey Mouse shirt to pull him in the direction of a nearby ice cream stand. Your father’s eyes bulge out of his skull as he gawks at the price. Four dollars for an ice cream sandwich? Just because it’s shaped like the iconic mouse that represents Disney World?
But somehow, that initial shock that rocks through your body when seeing a price wears off after only a few hours at Disney World. They entrap you into believing that you are paying for something that is truly better, when, a lot of times it’s quite the opposite.
After spending nearly two weeks this past summer in Disney World, I was deluded to believe that thirty-four dollars was a reasonable price for a shirt. I strutted through Epcot in my Alice in Wonderland tank top the entire day. Seeing as how it was inevitably dirty after spending hours in the hot Florida sun while being cramped onto rides and shoved into shows with sweaty strangers, I set it on a gentle cycle in the wash. To my horror, the detergent faded the cheaply made print on the cloth. I was outraged–I could get a shirt from Walmart with better quality and a much lower cost. Now, months after my vacation, the shirt hasn’t even made an appearance in my sophomore year.
I went through the rest of my vacation regarding every price tag and menu item with pure disgust. Isn’t the whole point of Disney World to provide family fun? How was any large family supposed to afford such an expensive vacation?
The smiley workers are trained to entice you with every shirt, every stuffed animal, and every food item. I like to call this the “Disney spell”. It’s as if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother herself bopped you on top of the head with her magic wand, glazing your eyes over and entrancing you to morph into a brainwashed tourist that will purchase everything impulsively.
Somehow, the menacing Fairy Godmother must have missed our family, because we came up with some tips to not become a poor street rat like Aladdin on your Disney vacation.
The first tip is the most important one that will save you an exponential amount of money: don’t stay on Disney property. You may be tempted but the only real difference between staying in a hotel is the decorations. I stayed in a large condo with a kitchen and three bedrooms that was half the price of a cramped, one room Disney resort room. I love my family to death, but two weeks in a small hotel room would drive me insane.
Tip number two: bring your own food into the parks. I know that Disney’s word famous turkey legs can smell divine, but resist the urge. The tantalizing entrees in the Be Our Guest dining hall might seem worth the contents of your wallet now, but in the long run, packing a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will get the job done just as well–probably even healthier too.
This tip goes hand and hand with the previous one. Bring a water bottle! There’s nothing Disney World hates more than free handouts, that’s why it’s a little known fact that they provide free water. Don’t spend three dollars on a soda, just ask for a few cups of water to fill up your water bottle throughout the day to quench your thirst.
My final tip is to have fun! You don’t have to be a penny pincher the entire vacation; some things are worth the money, like buying those adorable Mickey Mouse ears for your five-year-old son or a princess wand for your daughter in the stroller. In fifty years you won’t remember what you spent on your souvenir t-shirt; you’ll treasure the memories made.
So whether you’re traveling to Disney World this winter break or fifteen years from now with your children, remember these tips to save a few bucks and having fun doing it.