We all love the planning...deciding on the time to go, where to stay, what to do, etc. We love while we are there, and the anticipation is palpable. It always goes sideways, however, when it comes to money. Disney is affordable...but definitely not cheap. That being said, there are ways to maximize your potential to not get a big hit in the pocketbook before you go.
First off, we all know to save. Saving a little bit here and there is huge when it comes to any big purchase, and a Disney vacation is no different. Taking even as little as $50 per week will get you a long way toward getting the trip totally paid for. I never advocate leveraging your credit in order to pay for a trip, but if you can save bit by bit and pay it off, that's the best way to go. Booking directly through an Authorized Disney Travel Planner is the best way to do that since the trip is booked with a small deposit and then can be paid slowly off until 45 days prior to travel.
One specific way to save is to take the earmarked (pun intended) and purchase gift cards. You can pay for your trip using Disney gift cards just as you would money. The client I mentioned above paid the final $2800 of their trip all in gift cards they had purchased and saved over the last few months. That way, the money is gone from your budget and can only be used for that purchase. It keeps you honest, in a way.
Truth be told, you can take this one much farther as well. For example, I've seen Southwest Airlines gift cards at stores as well. If you know you are going to fly Southwest, begin to purchase gift cards in small increments to save for the trip. Food is another way to save here. Disneyland, which I haven't spent too much time talking about, is much different than Disney World in that it is much easier to eat out of the park at restaurants instead of in. In fact, it's a way to save on costs while visiting that park. Why not do a bit of research and see what restaurants are around your hotel (if you don't stay at one of the three Disneyland Resorts) and purchase gift cards for those? Again...earmarking the money before you go so that you can plan. You can also use the Disney gift cards to pay for meals...just use them like money in the parks at both quick serve as well as table service restaurants. (Keep in mind, you can't use a gift card to leave a tip, so you will need to have some cash on hand for that).
Taking it one step further, if you purchase your gift cards at whatever local store sells them with your Disney Visa card, you can make your money go even farther. Each purchase on your Disney Visa gets you Disney dollars you can put on a card to use just like cash at Disney, on Disney.com, or in the Disney Store. It's all about making the money work for you, right? The Disney Rewards Card can be used like cash at the parks, or can be used (like we do) to get those gifts and things we might want to purchase in the park beforehand at Disney.com.
Lastly, there is no reason not to take it a little bit further. Our local Kroger grocery store has a gas pump in front. We have a Kroger Plus card that gets us fuel points for each dollar we spend. If we accumulate 100 points, we can take 10 cents off per gallon of gas, up to 35 gallons. If we make it to 1000 points, we can use up to $1 off! Now....stay with me here....Purchase your gift cards for the trip with your Disney Visa Card, while Kroger is doing 4 times fuel points....that gives you Disney Reward Bucks for the purchase, Fuel Points that you can use to fill up your car, and gives you the savings flexibility to pay for a magical vacation without breaking the monthly budget. Win, Win....Win!!
Remember...it's all about making the money work for you. If you can get something out of a purchase more than that purchase, do it! It makes it all worth it in the end.
Have a Magical Day!!