When Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971, the cost of admission was $3.50. Over the last 48 years, the cost of attendance has increased considerably, even when taking into account inflation, with a one day adult ticket setting you back $109. Let’s face it, it is expensive to take a trip to any Disney Park or Resort, but over my many years of visiting, I have found a few ways to save a couple dollars that you can use to buy that new Disney Dooney & Bourke bag that just came out.
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Over the next few weeks I will share some of the best tips and tricks I have compiled. Each post will focus on a different aspect of your Disney vacation, including getting to Disney, staying at Disney (or outside), eating at Disney, and playing in the parks! I would love for you to share your own “Disney vacation planning hacks” in the comments below!
Week 1 – Getting There
First things first, how are you traveling to Disney? Depending on where you’re traveling from, you may have a ton of options or it may be very limited. I travel from the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, so I have countless options when it comes to making my way to Disney and have taken advantage of many of them! Growing up my family of five would drive from New Jersey to Florida in our minivan, listening to Disney tunes for 20 hours straight. As I got older, we began taking the Amtrack AutoTrain from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida. Now as an adult, I choose flying because I can shorten my travel time by a ton!
I could go on for days about the many different travel options, but I’ll stick to air travel for today’s discussion.
- Do your research – If you are planning a last minute trip or have 6 months to go, you should always shop around. I know several people who exclusively fly one airline, and while that is excellent for raking up the frequent flyer miles (see tip 3), it also means you might be missing out on some awesome deals! Shopping around can be time consuming, so I Gone are the days that you only have to check on Wednesdays (reportedly the best day to purchase airfare) for flights. Nowadays you need to be checking each day, possibly a couple times a day to make sure you don’t miss the best deals. I am a fan of Skyscanner when it comes to doing my research on airfare because most airlines are included in their search results, even the budget airlines (aka Kelly’s favorites!). NOTE: When searching for flights online, be sure you do so in incognito/private mode – this mode will not store any cookies (search history data) – to ensure prices are not being jacked up to scare you into purchasing.
- Book at the airport – If you are traveling on some budget carriers, like Spirit, buying your tickets in person at the airport may actually save you some money. Spirit charges several convenience fees for tickets purchased online. Travelers have saved anywhere from $10 to $40 booking in person.
- Use airline miles – Always be sure to check if you have enough frequent flyer miles to cover all or a portion of your trip. I fly all different airlines depending on what is the cheapest and have a frequent flyer account with all. Yes, I hate having so many accounts, but why not at least give yourself the opportunity to earn some rewards while you fly!
- Be flexible – One of the best ways to save a few dollars is being flexible in terms of your dates of travel and the airport you fly out of and into. If you are flying to Disneyland, take a look at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA), and Long Beach Airport (LGB). For Walt Disney World, consider Orlando International Airport (MCO), Sanford International Airport (SFB), and Tampa International Airport (TPA).
- Pick the right credit card – Just about every credit card nowadays offers some type of rewards program. Many of the airlines have their own credit cards, like the JetBlue credit card, that offer benefits to cardholders including bonus points and special discount offers. If you are a loyal guest of a certain airline, this is a great option. For others, like me, who go for the cheapest option, check out other options, like Discover’s Cashback card. Instead of racking up points, you accumulate dollars that can be used for anything, including airfare!
- Leave the rolling bag at home – This one may seem impossible if you are like me and love to bring a pair of Minnie Mouse Ears for each day, but it’s well worth it! I traveled on American Airlines and Frontier Airlines for a 48-hour trip to Walt Disney World at the beginning of the month and found that I could cut my airfare in half if I didn’t purchase a checked or carry-on bag (just shows you how much those prices have increased over the year…). Considering I would be there for a short time, I opted to bring on just a personal item. I purchased a Hynes Eagle 38L Flight Approved Weekender Carry on Backpack and it was perfect. The backpack zipped around, like a regular piece of luggage rather than at the top like a normal backpack. It included several packing cubes that I have used for other trips as well.
- Sign up for email lists – Ugh, I know what you’re thinking, “sign up for another email list so my inbox can be filled with spam?” Trust me on this one. I get a ton of emails from Frontier and JetBlue, two of my most used airlines, but I have been able to get flights as cheap at $100 round trip from Newark to Orlando by taking the extra 15 seconds every day to open the email and check out what their current offers are.
Next week there will be a bit of an interruption in this series, as I am heading to the 2019 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California (paid less than $250 for my round trip flight using my tips above!), but check back in two weeks for a ways to save when staying at (or outside of) Disney!