How I Saved 35% on My Walt Disney World Vacation

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a week at the most magical place in the world – Walt Disney World.

Whew!

I now need a vacation from my vacation!

Here’s the amazing part:  the bill they put on my door on our last day–after a week’s stay–was for $600.

My credit card statement will be for $600 after a week of Disney.

I can hear you now: did you sleep in your car?  Sneak into Walt Disney World and do the rides at night?

Nope.  None of those are true. first, we had a 100% authentic trip. First class. We stayed at the resorts (Specifically, the Saratoga Springs resort). We swam in the pools. We ate the Mickey food. It was the entire “stay on-site” Disney experience. Given, this isn’t everything we spent (I’ll explain that in detail below), but we made ourselves a heck of a deal that you can have, too.

My youngest child kept on talking about his “other house” and we couldn’t understand what he was talking about until he said, “You know, Dad, the one with all my toys and bikes and kitty?”  Oh, yes.  Your real house.  Apparently, Walt Disney World was his real home now, and our house was his other house.  Disney knows what they’re doing.

 

The Details

You must plan to get most of the deals I’m going to outline:  If you’re looking for a quick trip this weekend to the House of Mouse and want to save a ton of money, I can’t help you much.  (Check the bottom of this piece for a last-minute newsletter to sign up for that will give you a few sweet deals.)

We started our research in June, which by some standards is too close. If I were to do it again, I would’ve planned this in March.

Savings #1

You know that Disney has timeshares, right?  (Don’t worry, this isn’t a timeshare pitch – in fact quite the opposite).  Each year, the timeshare owners, or Disney Vacation Club owners, receive a number of points  to use however they please.  Those points can accumulate for a couple years, but eventually they expire and become worthless.  If you know anything about the timeshare market, a lot of people have them, but they’re like boats.  The best two days to a typical boat owner are the day you buy and the day you sell your boat.  Many people hate their timeshare after they buy it, but they’re difficult to sell, so they waste them.

That’s until David showed up.  He runs a website DVCRequest.com where he buys Disney Vacation Club (DVC) owner’s points for cheap and sells them on the market after taking a small cut.  It’s a brilliant plan.

Here’s how it works:

First, head to his site, www.DVCRequest.com and begin the search for how many points/dollars you’ll require to stay at your favorite Walt Disney World resort.  Let’s take a hypothetical vacation the week of February 17, 2013.  On the left hand side, click “Points Calculator” and select the dates you wish to travel.

Now, a list comes up with all the Disney Vacation Club properties (you’ll notice they’re all super-duper nice!) – as I mentioned, we stayed at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa in a 1 bedroom condo – which, for that week costs 203 points.  David charges $13 per point, so that’s $2,639, right?  When I went on the Disney website and selected the same resort, same days, same room, it came up to $3,956, that’s a savings of 33%, or $1,317 for the same week, same room!  Are you kidding me?!

After you select which week you’d like, you complete David’s very quick process, pay a small deposit of $91 to get started, and they begin looking for rooms that meet your need.  If they can’t find a Disney Vacation Club room, you get your $91 back.  If they do, then you fill out an online contract and pay the room rental fee right there!

Done.

Now that’s part of my strategy about my Disney vacation.  By paying for the room in June like I did, it’s one part of my trip cost completed.  I’ve already received that credit card bill and paid it, so from a cash flow point, I’m now 4 or 5 months removed from this bill.  Kind of like Christmas – once you get to March, the damage is usually all done with, right?  It gets better…

Savings #2

The next thing we did, since we were staying in a Disney Vacation Club condo with a full kitchen, was to order our groceries online using a site called www.gardengrocer.com .  Disney will store your groceries for you in their freezer and refrigerator until you arrive (of course they shop fresh for you) and for a small mark up (milk was about $4.50 per gallon) you find waiting for you a fridge full of groceries.  Now you don’t need to worry about the Disney Dining plan, which saves another $700-$1,000 per family, depending on what plan you avoided.  We spent about $200 with them and another $300 on food at the lunches at the park and one dinner out, so we saved a couple hundred bucks this way.

Savings #3

Of course, you have to actually go to the parks, right?  Well, we saved money here, too.  Head to the site: www.undercovertourist.com and take a look around.  We opted for the Buy 3-Get 1 Free plan, so we were able to see all four Walt Disney World parks (although we skipped one and did Magic Kingdom twice).  We figured we didn’t need Park-Hopper options, since we have little kids and when we were done…we were done.  A neat little benefit they throw in is their Undercover Tourist app for the iPhone which can keep track of ride times, dinner reservations, parade times, and fast-pass lines.  Pretty handy feature.  So there we saved another $200.

So, by the time I arrived on the Disney property last week, I’d already paid for my room (5 months ago) my groceries (last month) and my park tickets (2 months ago) so I only had to worry about what we spent while I was there…which was about $600.

Trust me, it’s a nice feeling to leave Disney spending only $600, even if you’d spent an additional $3,200 already.  But, for a family of four to stay at one of the nicest resorts on the Disney property in Orlando for under $4,000…food, tickets and all, I think we created a pretty good deal for ourselves.

This was my first time to Disney since I was my son’s age.  I’m sure I can make other changes to save more in the future – anyone have any ideas I didn’t use?  Post your comments below!

Photo: CKramer

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Author: TheOtherGuy

Full-time financial advisor, part-time blogger, part-time podcaster. Hangs out in Joe's basement a lot. 2 Kids. Despises snow.

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24 Comments

  1. Great tips for savings. And you are so right about the timeshares. Many people hate them after they have purchase and don’t use them. Most come with full kitchens so it is easy to save money if you are willing to cook a few meals.
    Thomas S. Moore recently posted..She Drives a Benz – I Drive a HondaMy Profile

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    • I wish timeshares weren’t such a hard sell. They can be really cool for people who know what they’re getting into. Most people fall in love with the here-and-now OR fall prey to one of those awful sales pitches, right? Those things can be ug-ly.

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    • Hey, John, can I borrow your mom and step-dad for my next vacation?

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    • I’d love to be your tour guide, Siccora! OG really hit the jackpot on this one. It all makes so, so, so much sense. My next trip to Disney I’m all over this.

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  2. This is awesome! I’m trying to bring myself to the realization that I may have to bring my kids to Disney World in the next few years. I had a bad experience when we went there for a seminar when
    I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was 8 months pregnant, overheated, peed my pants at the magic kingdom, and threw up on the sidewalk. =(
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..How to Be More Credit SavvyMy Profile

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    • Wow! That’s not a good day, Holly. I almost peed my pants at the Magic Kingdom, but it was Space Mountain’s fault.

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  3. We went to DisneyLand last spring. I wish I’d known about the timeshares, but not sure if they have those in CA. Our room wasn’t too bad. We booked well in advance. We bought Disney gift cards at the grocery store to pay for everything and got 4x gas points, so we saved about $35 in gas. We also took our own water and snacks into the park so not to have to buy $4 water. I did bribe my daughter with cotton candy if she would ride Tower of Terror and she did! We had a blast. It does cost some money, but if you plan, it’s doable.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Moving from Employed to Self Employed, What Am I Forgetting?My Profile

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    • Isn’t that $4 water incredible? Even $2 water makes me groan….

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  4. Thanks for the saving tips. We have a toddler now so we are guaranteed to plan a Disney vacation in the next couple years. I love the timeshare website, a brilliant business plan to say the least. Glad you were able to have a good time with the family without breaking the bank!

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    • Isn’t it funny that with a toddler you are “guaranteed” to go somewhere? I’d love it if I knew that people “had to” come to Average Joe’s Money Blog because…well….it’s what you do!

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    • 14! You need to go back. Disney as an adult is a completely different vacation. I think I like it better without my kids.

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  5. We’re doing a day in Disneyworld next weekend. We’re getting free flights (standby), free passes (we know people who work there), and then hopping a 4-night cruise. All totaled, our family of 3 will do a day in Disney and a 4 night cruise for about $800.

    But for a week of Disney, ON SITE, $4,000 is ridiculously cheap. I’ll keep these tips in mind for when we go in about 10 years (you know, when the kids are old enough to remember and appreciate it)
    Jacob @ iheartbudgets recently posted..How We Survived On $14 An HourMy Profile

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    • Cha-ching! That’s awesome. It’s good to know peeps in the right places!

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  6. You are so awesome for writing this. I read it when it came out Tuesday, but am still figuring out an efficient way to comment from my phone. I had no idea any of these existed….bookmarking….tweeting…the whole 9 yards!
    femmefrugality recently posted..Burgh Halloween PartiesMy Profile

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    • Stop telling OG he’s awesome. He doesn’t need an ego boost. Trust me.

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