Today I’m discussing a topic that I think is important to every Disney Parks fanatic: how we save for our Disney vacations. Our budgeting and saving strategies have changed over the years since I’ve been without an income, but I have been able find ways to bring in a little extra cash to help us save for our trips.
Since I have been at home with Lil’ Man, we base our vacation budget off of our tax return. That gives us plenty of motivation to not only get it done, but to do it early. Our budget is also determined by the state of our senior cats. We have what I like to call the Orlando Vacation Curse. Every time we head down to the Orlando area (not always to Disney), one of our senior cats gets sick. Living in the Washington D.C. area means that their care has been more expensive than in the past. I have on several occasions now called Disney to modify our resort plans, either removing a day or two or changing our resort, in order to get the money for their care. It’s in part why we joined DVC. We no longer need to worry about the resort budget as it has been prepaid for the next 47 years.
Disney’s Military Salute Program
First of all, our family is able to afford our Disney trips because of the Military Salute discount. You can find the current 2018 ticket prices and eligibility requirements here. The program also offers the following discounts off of resort stays:
- WDW Deluxe Resorts and Disneyland’s Grand Californian: 40% off
- WDW Moderate Resorts, the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, and the Disneyland Hotel: 35% off
- WDW Value Resorts and Disneyland’s Paradise Pier: 30% off
There are blackout dates, so don’t expect to use the discount during the holidays, and there are only so many rooms at each resort set aside at the discounted rate.
In the video I thoroughly review each program mentioned, giving you my pros and cons for each. If you’re looking for ways to help motivate your kids to save for the trip then you will also want to watch the first half of the video where Lil’ Man talks about how he saves his money for those not-so-cheap souvenirs.
Programs I use to Save Money for Disney
Note: I am not affiliated with any of these companies. I am not using any of my referral links in this post. I am simply putting this information out there to help you make an informed decision.
- Disney Visa Rewards Credit Card: We are not fans of credit cards in our house and we have a strict rule that we never carry a balance on the card. Everything is paid off in full each month. We use the card to get 1% back on large purchases as well as online purchases. The 1% back may seem small, but when you’re purchasing large ticket items like airfare or providing medical care for senior cats, you can get quite a bit of money back.
- Sunshine Rewards: This program offers rebates on online purchases as well as vetted surveys for you to earn a little extra money. Payouts can be made in forms of cash (PayPal), Disney and Amazon gift cards. I found this program four years ago through a DISboards discussion group.
- Ibotta: This is a phone app that you can use to save on both online and in-store purchases. They do not offer Disney gift cards, but you can always opt for cash or other store gift cards. I’ve been using the program for about a year and have saved a little over $200.
- Fuel Perks Programs: If you have a grocery store that offers a fuel perks program then you can potentially earn yourself a free tank of gas by purchasing Disney gift cards through the program. I filled up my gas tank for free several times while paying off our 2015 trip. I also used my Disney Visa Card to purchase the gift cards to get extra cash back.
- Airline Miles: I cut this part out of the video, but I have cashed in airline miles for our next Disney trip. I personally like to fly with Southwest since I don’t have to worry about luggage fees and I can cancel or modify our flights without being charged. After cashing in my points, it is only costing me $11 roundtrip to fly from Washington D.C. to Florida. The other tickets we purchased during a sale and cost $200 per person round trip.
UPDATE 11 July 2018: I forgot to mention Disney Movie Rewards! If you purchase a lot of Disney movies then you should sign up for this program. When you purchase a Disney blu-ray/DVD, you’ll find a DMR code inside. That code can be redeemed for points which can then be redeemed for Disney gift cards! You can receive a $5 Disney gift card in exchange for 550 points and a $10 gift card for 1100 points.
What other Disney Fans Use
- Target REDcard: If you are a Target REDcard holder, you can purchase Disney gift cards at a 5% discount. I personally do not use the Target REDcard as I had concerns about some of their fine print. Make sure you read through their terms carefully and that you are okay with how they might handle your information.
- Club Warehouses: You can currently purchase discount Disney gift cards at BJ’s and Sam’s Club. Sorry fellow Costco members, but there is currently no deal for us. Know that both warehouses have upped the cost of their Disney gift cards. You now will only receive about a 3% savings.
Where to Find Discounts on Disney Travel
Don’t fret if you do not have access to the Military Salute program. While Costco does not offer discounted gift cards, members may find savings through Costco Travel. We’ve used them for rental cars and have been quite happy with the savings. If you are a AAA member then you can access Disney travel discounts through their program. Also, ask your friends and family if they can recommend a good Disney travel agent. A travel agent can not only take away a lot of the stress of planning a Disney vacation, but he or she will have access to special travel agent discounts.