Hello everyone! We are 90 days out from our next trip to Disney, so in today’s blogpost, I will be giving you the inside scoop on how we prepare for our trips!
DISCLAIMER: These tips are primarily for members who are Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, and Retired
We are taking a trip to Disney at the end of the year for baby boy’s birthday. This will be our fourth trip, and I would say I am quite an expert, but there are some things that I do differently from others. Here is how I normally plan out our trips.
As I mentioned, my tips are geared primarily to military members, BUT if you have a friend who is Active Duty, Guard/Reserve, or Retired, ask them if you can tag along on their next visit. NOTE: MEMBERS ARE ALLOWED TO BRING ALONG UP TO 6 GUESTS (INCLUDING THEMSELVES). Why not reap the benefits, too!
So here is how I do it…
Visit your Base International Travel and Tourism (ITT) office
SPOILER ALERT: This is the only step in the process. Lol. Every base has an ITT office on it. Where it is located will require a little research. You can call your base information to get the number and call them personally. Or Google “(BASE NAME) ITT” and you should get the number, and they will direct you to their location. They are mostly located in the Recreation Center or Base Exchange.
Once you get the number, give them and call to get a few quotes. I do this because I am located 30 minutes away from the military installation in my location. When you call, they will ask if you are wanting to buy tickets, book a room, book airfare, etc. I tell them exactly what I am looking for:
– Ticket rate for the calendar year
– Room rate for two moderate rooms at Disney
– Room rate for two value rooms at Disney
– What is the rate for the dining plan
They may have to call me back to give me the information, but THEY ALWAYS CALL BACK. That saves a 30-minute drive until I am ready to put everything in motion. Once they call me back, I head over and book my room. We always stay on grounds because there are a lot of perks when it comes to staying on Disney. Military members even receive a discount on their rooms, so WHY NOT?!
During my initial visit, I make the decision of how many tickets I will purchase, and what type of hotel I would like to stay in. We tend to stay in their Moderate hotels (equivalent to Hilton Garden Inn), but they do have Value hotels (equivalent to Candlewood Suites) that are just as good. I purchase the tickets and place my required deposit. From that point on, once a month I purchase an additional ticket and pay on the room until up until a week before we head out on our trip. Now, the hardest part is done. Let us move onto the fun stuff.
HOW MUCH MONEY TO BRING
For our trips, I consider every detail, from the tolls to the incidentals we have to pay at the parks. Here are some things that I consider into my planning process:
Souvenirs (all you need is $100)
This will be our fourth trip, so I do not see us coming back with too many souvenirs. Neither should you! However, if you have a toddler, they always have an instant need for something when they step into a store, so factor that into the budget. This time around we are going to buy our essentials from the local shops around us. Dollar Tree is notorious for having Disney products, so we will purchase things like water bottles, totes, and cups from there. We also have a local Disney Store. They are constantly having sales, so you will be saving loads of money and you purchased all your souvenirs beforehand at a discounted price.
Rental/Gas/Tolls (expect to spend $500)
Because we have purchased new vehicles this year, and they are half the size of the SUV we previously owned, long rides are not comfortable. We are adding a rental expense into this trip this year for the comfort. I know you are thinking “why don’t you just fly?” Ironically, it is still cheaper to drive than flying (saving approximately $500). We always make sure we factor in $5-$10 for tolls since once you hit Orlando’s expressway, they are everywhere. We try to stop before hitting the main toll, so we only pay $5 total for going and coming. However, life happens when you have children, right?
Incidentals/Disney Parking (expect to spend $100)
Ugh! This is the sad part of taking a trip to Disney. They are always coming up with some new way to take my money. lol. Disney is now requiring visitors to pay for parking at the hotel. The parking fee is a daily fee for however long you will be there. Do not worry. The fee is not due until check-out.
Picture Pass ($100)
Another hidden gem that we decided to get this time around is the Disney Picture Pass. Normally $200, military personnel can show their ID at check-in, and receive an instant 50% off. This gives you the rights to all the pictures Disney photographers take of you in the park. If you have the extra money, get it. If not, do not worry, you can use your own camera. NOTE: Disney Photographers get amnesia when they use your camera. Do not say I did not warn you. Expect blurry pics. However, no one is a stranger at Disney. So, feel free to ask someone to take pics of you with your camera.
Character Dining (roughly $250 for a family of four)
Unfortunately, we are not planning to do anything character dining at the moment, but I wanted to mention it because this is the best way for your little ones to meet a lot of the Disney characters in a controlled environment.
So, tallying up all our expenses, our trip will cost:
Food & Souvenirs $600
Picture Pass $100
Total: $1675-$1700 for a family-of-four trip to Disney World
I hope this gives you an idea of how affordable it can be to visit Disney World. Yes, it might be hard to say no to all the pretty glitz and glamour once you get there, but just stick to your guns and just enjoy the memories. Feel free to comment below on your tips on planning the perfect Disney Trip!
finally getting to use the wristbands during our last trip
Dancing during the “Move It Shake It Parade” at Magic Kingdom
Having a little fun with Baymax