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Our Favorite Disney World Planning Tips From All of You!

We took an unofficial poll on Facebook yesterday to ask fans how important planning was for a theme park vacation. Now, we know that’s a little bit of a loaded question, since if you’re buying your tickets from us, you’re at least planning a little bit. We also know that most of you are looking to save money on your theme park vacation, and doing research is crucial to saving $$$.

What we didn’t expect was all of the planning tips we received, not to mention the number of creative ways to make planning and saving money for theme park vacations easier. With that in mind, we wanted to share a few of our favorites. And please, add your own tips in comments below!

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Donna G  I create a spreadsheet that includes each day’s plan, park/parade/etc. times, confirmation #’s for reservations. A copy of the spreadsheet goes in my bag that I take to the parks andanother copy stays at the hotel, giving the family easy access to it, so they know what to expect each day and it greatly reduces the number of times I answer the question “Where are we going today?”

Frog Family Says: We actually do something similar ahead of our trips using Google docs. We add our day-by-day itinerary, including the parks we’re visiting, park hours and reservation numbers. I always print a copy ahead of the trip (just in case), and we can also access it electronically.

Margaret E I sit down with the kids, and read through all the attractions in each park. They make a list of ‘must do’ and ‘optional’ attractions. There is so much to see and do, and having the list helps prevent distractions, whining, complaints, etc. We hit all the ‘must do’ things first, everyone is happy that they got to do their picks, then we can do the other options if there is time and energy.

Frog Family Says: I love this suggestion! For elementary-age kids and older, it’s a great way to get kids actively involved in trip planning and encourages reading (always trying to encourage more reading :) ). Plus, it seems like a fool-proof way of ensuring there’s no whining later that “I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do.”

Coral Reef

Mindy P If dining is NOT free, and if there are only 2 of you, skip dining reservations except at your MUST DO restaurants, and eat at the bar.

Frog Family Says: Many of the “must-do” restaurants are must-dos because of the theming. Dining at the bar is a great way to take in the atmosphere, and it saves you from waiting for a table — or not getting in at all.

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Lynn S Planning ahead is a must – you need to know what you are doing each day or you might come back from your holiday of a lifetime and have forgotten something you want to do. We got our 3 kids to make a Top Ten of things they wanted to do and we tried to make sure that everything on their list got a tick. For the ones we didn’t tick off – they are saved for the next time. I agree with Sarah above about the spreadsheet and always be prepared to keep it flexible! My favourite tip is this : parking at Universal Studios is cheaper after 6pm – drops to about $3 – so we stayed around the pool all day, went for a late lunch and then headed over to Universal early evening and had a great time because we had relaxed all day, it was slightly cooler and the queues were not as long! Can’t do that with Disney World as they charge you the same to park no matter what time you arrive – just don’t forget your water bottle!

Frog Family Says: Similar to Margaret’s suggestion above, this is a great way to ensure that the kids get to experience their must-dos. I think this is also a great idea for adults and especially if you are traveling in large groups to make sure no one is left out.

Pressed Penny

Therese H Very important. We saved money by bringing most of our lunches and drinks. We also bought a lot of the souvenirs at WalMart. Cheap souvenirs are the coin pressing machines located at every theme park. I have the app called “Penny Finder”. They just added international locations. We also bought the refillable souvenir cups that we were able to refill our entire trip.

Frog Family Says: We love collecting pressed pennies! Because each penny is different, they truly are one-of-a-kind souvenirs, and they are inexpensive. We always make sure we have a good penny and quarter supply before we head to the parks, because there is nothing sadder than when Lily can’t make a pressed penny! She loves putting the coins in the slot and turning the crank.

Stephanie R During the year, I keep a “Disney box”. It’s a large plastic tote that contains things that I only use when we go on our Disney vacation. For example, our Disney backpacks and water bottles. Throughout the year, I fill it with Disney books, small toys, glow necklaces and wands from the dollar store, ponchos, or anything I think will make the kids happy and save me money! My “Disney box” makes it so much easier when it gets time to pack for vacation. I have everything in one spot!

Frog Family Says: This is a great idea for those families who make an annual pilgrimage (or more) to the Happiest Place on Earth! This is also a great idea for those parents who buy souvenirs before they leave — just don’t forget to keep it out of reach of little ones!

What are your tips for saving money or time at the Orlando theme parks? Share below!

And for those of you getting ready for a trip to the parks, you’ll find a ton more tips, resources and advice inside our PLANNING PAGES.

Related: How Much Planning Should You Do for a Disney Vacation?

Hoppy planning!
–Mommy Frog

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14 Responses to “Our Favorite Disney World Planning Tips From All of You!”

  1. Dave says:

    Buy inexpensively in advance any LED or glowing wristbands, twirlies, rings, necklaces, wands, earrings, mouthpieces, swords, shutter shades, or anything that will flicker, glisten, gleam, or flash. Decorate every member of the family in this garishness. Parade through the parks at night and enjoy the gasps, finger pointing, and inquiries similar to “Which cart did you buy that from? It must have cost a fortune!” as you answer with a knowing smile “I paid pennies for this stuff on eBay.”

    Use Dropbox or other cloud service to sync the master spreadsheet. ADR confirmation numbers and times, hotel reservation information, car rental information, and “Park(s) of the Day” information are all available instantly on your smart device.

    Collect spare change and dollars in a “Disney Jar” at home. Just before heading out to WDW, exchange the cash for a Disney gift card at a retail store.

    • FrogBlog says:

      Hey Dave,

      Love the idea of the Disney jar! Sounds like one we’ll need to implement.

      Thanks for sending!
      – Mommy Frog

  2. Refillable cups are great for the resorts but no one wants to carry the cups or even bottled water around all day so remember you can ask for FULL SIZE cups of ice water at any Quick Service dining location! No limit so you are able to get one for each member in your party. Stay hydrated and you will enjoy the parks so much more.

  3. Lisandra González says:

    Recomiendo visitar los parques grandes primero ya que los ánimos están arriba (US, IOA, Magic Kingdom y Epcot) Luego se pueden visitar parques más pequeños cuando el cuerpo está más cansado. (HS, AK, Parques de agua)

  4. Danyalle says:

    We are visiting as a couple next year and love all your ideas. Thanks for sharing them. We pin collect and buy bulk ahead of time and then trade up for the ones our kids want.

  5. Stephanie Moore says:

    We saved up for Disney by putting loose change into a bucket. Now, it didn’t pay for the entire trip, but it did help with goodies for the kids. The kids also put any money they received from grandparents in the bucket as well, so it taught them how saving can pay off.

  6. Peter Godshalk says:

    We have a certain amount from each paycheck automatically deposited into what we call our ‘Disney’ account. When we have an upcoming trip, my wife and I buy each other Disney gift cards in lieu of gifts. Buying Disney gifts cards at Target, if you have their RedCard, will save you 5%, it’s not much, but every little bit helps!

    • FrogBlog says:

      Hey Peter,

      This is one of my favorite tips! I have noticed the Disney gift cards at the Target near us, although I know not everyone has them near where they live.

      – Mommy Frog

  7. shenika says:

    Im a single parent of 2. I ask my kids which parks they want to go to first..then buy 1 ticket at a time a month or two apart from undercover tourist.( I can’t afford to buy them all at one time) My favorite thing is to tell my kids save their spare change or some birthday money so they can buy whatever they want with their money they saved..my 8yr old saved $170…which a lot of it was change he found on the ground over the course of a year..people just don’t bother to pick up pennies anymore! Well my son turned ALOT of pennies dimes & nickles to a visa gift card he used in and outside the parks! He’s already saving for next year..we just left Orlando 2 weeks ago!!!!

  8. Krista says:

    Target has a 5% rewards card for using their pharmacy. Here is a link to sign up http://bit.ly/12i8IZa You can use your 5% off on Disney gift cards sold at Target! Bonus: Buying Disney gift cards is a great way to save for your next Disney trip. They can be used to pay for resort stays and meals!

  9. Tory Western says:

    If anyone else has a very “giving” extended family, you are sure to end up with entirely too many toys for Birthdays, Christmas, and Easter (yes my family gives Easter presents to everyone). When they ask what the kids are into, we always encourage Disney gift cards. My mother has been giving the kids Disney cards for the last couple of years. The kids always have enough cards to pay for their souvenirs and sometimes we even use them for extra meals. Since we usually stay off property and use Undercover Tourist for tickets, it can sometimes cover all our cost at the parks.

  10. Patty says:

    my daughter and I are heading to Disney World in August. We have been buying Disney gift cards at BJ’s which discount each a few dollars. It adds up and saves money.

  11. Jacob says:

    Print out theme park maps and plan where you are going and in which order. This saves you from wasting time criss-crossing the park like many families do by pointing at a ride they want to go on (often halfway across the park) and wandering over to it. Remember to include which rides you will likely get FastPasses (Disney only) or similar tickets for and specify this on your map using a different colour or with some sort of annotation. When I plan my trip I like to use Under Cover Tourist’s Skip the Line Info (http://www.undercovertourist.com/planning/skip-the-lines-frog-tours.html) to tell me where to start first and how to navigate the park. You could simply print the link above or view it on a mobile device and use that but I think having it drawn visually on a map is very helpful, especially with kids who are asking, “What’s next?”, every few minutes.

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