A Disney vacation is not exactly cheap. Worth it? Absolutely! But cheap? Not so much. For many families a Disney vacation is literally a once in a lifetime event, but even for others who are lucky enough to go more often, it still takes some saving up to be able to go. There’s the hotel, and park tickets, and food, and transportation to pay for.
1. Start a savings account! Even just a couple of months ago I would have told you to go start a Disney Vacation Account, but sadly that program has ended. It was a pretty sweet deal – you picked a date you wanted to go, how much you wanted to save, they calculated how much you needed to pay in every week (or month or however often you wanted to contribute), and bam! Automatic contributions. I never had to think about saving for Disney. Now, I know what you’re thinking – you can do this with a regular savings account at your bank. Yes, yes you can… and you should! Seriously, if you haven’t already, go start a vacation savings account and set up automatic transfers into it. The thing about doing it that way is… if you have no willpower at all (like me), it can be too easy to transfer the money back out of your savings account. But hopefully you’re more disciplined than I am.
2. Buy yourself some gift cards. I like to toss a gift card into my grocery cart, maybe not every time I go to the store, but at least every couple of weeks. Not a huge amount, sometimes as low as $5, sometimes $25, it all depends on what my budget can allow. This way it doesn’t actually feel like I’m costing myself any money – its just… part of the groceries! And, our local grocery store offers double fuel points for gift cards (and sometimes they do 4x fuel point weekends!), so I wind up saving on gas too. Win, win. The other place I like to buy gift cards is Target. If you have a RedCARD you’ll save 5% on your Disney gift card purchases. More win! Back when I started stockpiling gift cards for vacations, Disney gift cards could not be combined. If I had 37 gift cards with $5 on each, sure I had $185, but I had to carry all 37 cards. Which, actually, I did… more than once. Thankfully, Disney got hip to the times and now you can make an account at DisneyGiftCard.com and register cards, and transfer balances onto just one card. They do cap out at $1000, so if you need to bring more you will still need more than one card.
3. Ask for gift cards if people insist on giving you gifts. Sure, asking for presents can be tacky and embarrassing… or you can just go for it. I mean, if they ask you what you want… I have no shame in my Disney game and will tell anyone who asks that I’m saving for a Disney trip and would love some gift cards. The usual response is an eye roll and a “didn’t you just go to Disney” to which I respond “mayyyyybe….” (like I said, no shame in my Disney game). Also, even if you have better manners than I do and you don’t actually request the gift cards outright, if you talk about your upcoming trip and saving for it, sometimes people will come up with the idea to gift you gift cards on their own. The thing about this category is that you should never bank on it. Plan to fund your trip yourself, and whatever other people give you is just bonus!
4. Use reward points and cash back offers. Chase offers a Disney Visa credit card that builds up Disney Reward Dollars that can be used at most Disney locations – including Disney resort hotels. Unlike the paper Disney Dollars of yore, Disney Reward Dollars go on a Disney Reward Card that runs like a gift card. Disney Movie Rewards points can be redeemed for gift cards. I also like programs like Ibotta, where I get cash back for things I buy. It isn’t big money per item (often under $1.00 per item), but it really does add up, and then you can cash out every $20.00. Ibotta doesn’t offer a Disney gift card, but I have a Paypal account so I send the money there and go buy myself Disney gift cards. There are tons of programs out there like these, geared toward different lifestyles. I recently learned about Achievement, which rewards you with $10.00 to your Paypal account every time you hit 10,000 points – and you earn points by being physically active! I’m earning Disney money every time I go out and run. Sweet!
None of these things will build up big money immediately (unless you dump a large amount in your savings account or buy a big gift card, I guess), but when I said that they add up I wasn’t lying. My last few trips were paid for with my Disney Vacation Account (before it was canceled) and reward monies.
Heather here butting into Katie’s post with my current collection of cards, including my Tink Disney visa and my Disney visa reward redemption card, and some special Beauty and the Beast cards I ordered myself from DMR. The generic ones are waiting to be combined to be used to pay for DDP for our May trip!!