A Disney (DIS) destination may be the “happiest place on earth” for kids, but for many parents it’s a little too expensive to make it all that happy. With amusement park admission prices up another 9% this year, trips to Disney are increasingly one of the most expensive places for families to vacation.
And it’s not just the ticket prices that’ll get you. Once you’re in the park, there is a constant barrage of spending traps placed strategically to get your kids to ask you to spend even more. Failing to plan for ways to save throughout your trip can set you back hundreds of dollars.
“To save time and money, you’re just going to have a better vacation if you’re a planner,” says Joanie Demer, co-founder of The Krazy Coupon Lady. Yahoo Finance interviewed Demer to learn some of her favorite ways to spend less and enjoy the vacation even more.
Book FastPass rides 30 to 60 days before your trip
There’s nothing worse than standing in a long line for two hours (with whiny kids in tow) for a ride that only lasts a minute. To avoid this, reserve your rides in advance with the FastPass. Everyone gets three free passes with their ticket purchase so the key is to be the first to book it.
Demer advises that you set your alarm for 7 a.m. exactly 30 days before your trip. If you’re staying at a Disney property, you’re allowed to book your FastPasses 60 days in advance. Without these reservations, expect to stand in line for double the amount of time that’s estimated on the sign in front of each ride.
Take advantage of the MaxPass
Keep in mind that each Disney destination has different FastPass options so it’s worth taking the time to look it up before you go. For those visiting Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., the MaxPass is available for an additional $10 per day per visitor.
Using this feature by downloading this app helps maximize your experience so you can book FastPass rides from your phone and make selections in other theme parks while you’re on the go. “It ends up saving me money because I no longer book multi-day Disney vacations because we can get everything done in a day, thanks to this extra $10,” says Demer. A Disney representative told Yahoo Finance that this MaxPass feature is currently only available in Anaheim.
More Disneyland-specific savings
If you want to make a whole vacation out of your stay in Southern California, Demer says the single best way to save is to take advantage of the CityPASS that’ll get you three days at Disneyland Resort, one day at LEGOLAND, and one day at SeaWorld. Buying this bundle will save you about 30% on each ticket and costs $367 for those ages 10 and up and $337 for those ages 3 to 9.
The best times to visit Disney
Crowds magically disappear and prices drop at the heels of both peak seasons: January and September. Demer goes to Disney with her family during the first week of school in September for the great weather and the short lines. “You’re going to miss all the germs and the head lice and the awful stuff that goes around that first week and you don’t have to worry about booking FastPass rides because it’ll be much quieter at both Disneyland and Disney World,” says Demer.
Meet Disney characters during breakfast
A popular add-on experience is a character meal where your children will be greeted with many of their favorite life-size Disney characters as they’re dining in a fancy Disney hall. Breakfasts will cost much less than dinners and Demer likes to take her family for a late breakfast buffet so they can fill up and skip lunch.
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