But I still hadn’t covered half of what I learned, so this week I will share what I learned about food and souvenirs and other tips to make your trip memorable but cheap as possible.
The dining plan isn’t cheap. It’s roughly $155 each day for a family of four, and you must stay at a Disney hotel to purchase it. The Deluxe Plan includes one sit-down meal (think typical restaurant fare), one quick-service meal (think burgers and fries), one snack (cupcake, ice cream, cookie) and a refillable mug for each member of the family.
But here’s the scoop: You can bring food and drink into the park. I brought goldfish-shaped crackers, granola bars, apple juice boxes and water each day. My backpack was checked each day, and our food and drinks were allowed in with no problem.
The first night we got into Florida, I drove to a nearby Walgreens and picked up a half gallon of milk, cereal, bananas, plastic bowls and spoons, a case of bottled water and a few bottled coffees for my husband for quick breakfasts at the hotel. (I would have brought all those things with me from home, but we had limited trunk space.) We brought the crackers, granola bars, candy and juice boxes.
There were a few things we did splurge on at the park. At Disney World, we bought Le Frou’s Brew, Dole Whip, cookies and one character dining dinner. We used the food we brought in with us for an on-the-go lunch and rounded it out with a few treats. At Disney Hollywood Studios, we ate at the Pizza Planet of Toy Story fame.
Having a room on International Drive was handy. There are Disney souvenir stores all over the place and they are much cheaper than on site. I bought two Mickey and Minnie rain ponchos at $3.99 each (because of the weather forecast), two autograph books at $2.99 each, three Disney pens for $5, a Minnie purse for $4, two T-shirts for less than $10 each, and two stuffed animals at $10 each.
If you know you are going to Disney and have time to prepare, check the Disney store online for licensed merchandise on clearance, including T-shirts, backpacks, autograph books and toys. The ponchos came in really handy because it rained every day and the Disney World price for a poncho was $8!
Each night, I packed my backpack for the next day. Each day I carried a bottle of sunscreen, two spare outfits for the kids, hats and sunglasses, the ponchos, two umbrellas, our snacks and drinks, our camera, the kids’ autograph books and pens, glow sticks from Dollar Tree, my cellphone and a basic wallet with just my ID, debit card and one credit card. The items were inside sealable plastic bags to organize them and protect them from rain and water rides.
You’re probably wondering why I packed glow sticks. They were for the Electric Light Parade held at night down Main Street. As soon as my kids see those vendors selling all the light-up toys, they start begging. When they started seeing all the other kids with light sticks, I pulled out the Dollar Tree glow necklaces, wands and bracelets. We ended up sharing a few with the crowd around us. It made it fun because we were the only ones who had them and my kids were happily glowing away throughout the parade. No whining and no feelings of being left out.
Being frugal doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, especially when we get to meet a special mouse and a few princesses.