How I saved $1335 on my Disney Trip

Okay we all know that Disney trips can be SUPER expensive, especially if you’re traveling with a family, book the dining plan, and want to experience a lot of the magic while you’re on a trip.  There has recently been a lot of circulation of an article on how Disney has “left the middle class behind.”  I agree with the article to an extent, but with good planning, and a savings plan there is no reason that middle class families can’t enjoy a magical Disney vacation.

With that being said, I want to share with you how I earned $1335.00 towards my Disney trip using “Swagbucks.”

To answer your first question, “What is Swagbucks?”- Swagbucks is a website where you earn virtual currency that you can redeem for real gift cards.  You do activities like watch videos, complete surveys, and search the web. (Come back tomorrow to read my “Swagbucks 101” that I’ve compiled on the most effective ways to earn swagbucks!)

So now let’s get down to the meat and potatoes-

Click the link to join swagbucks- http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/amcoope2

Swagcash

Swag cash

How I’ve saved $1335 on my Disney trip with Swagbucks

Starting in August 2014, I started saving my swagbucks up for our 2015 Disney Trip.

After doing some research I discovered that you can use your swagbucks to get Target and Walmart giftcards. Last year I redeemed my swagbucks for target gift cards and in turn used them to purchase Disney gift cards. Upon further research I learned that I could use my Sam’s Club membership for additional savings. (You can purchase a $50 Disney gift card for $48.88 or $150 in Disney gift cards for $142.88) Since August I have redeemed my swagbucks for $900.00 worth of walmart gift cards, and turned them into Disney gift cards for my trip.  Our trip is in July, so it is my hope to have an additional $100.00 by the time we leave!  (Also if you have multiple adults in your household, you can have multiple people earning! My husband has earned $200 in walmart giftcards for his spending money!  His goal is an additional $100 before we leave in July.

Another way you can use swagbucks to offset vacation needs is amazon giftcards. For our 2014 Disney trip we needed new luggage.  We found a 5 piece Samsonite Luggage set on amazon for $99.00.  I used my amazon gift cards that I earned on swagbucks to purchase those. With amazon’s nearly limitless supply of items you use the gift cards to offset the cost of your trip in many ways!

Break down

Ashley’s Walmart gift cards- $900.00

Ashley’s Starbucks gift cards (to use in the park)- $35.00

Craig’s Walmart gift cards $200.00

Ashley’s additional expected gift cards – $100.00

Craig’s additional expected gift cards- $100.00

Interested in more money saving trips and help booking your Disney vacation?  Contact Ashley@charmingtravelsllc.com  She is a Disney pro and will help you take care of all of your planning needs!

ashley@charmingtravelsllc.com

ashley@charmingtravelsllc.com

Starbucks is coming to Hollywood Studios

Starbucks has made it’s way into the Disney Parks.  The first Starbucks went into the Magic Kingdom at the Main Street Bakery,  the second at Epcot at the Fountain View, and then two were added at Downtown Disney.  The addition off Starbucks at Hollywood Studios will mark the 3rd in a Disney Park.  It will be going in the Hollywood Blvd area, and is slated to be opened in February 2015.

This Starbucks will be known as the “Trolley Car Cafe” and take the place of the former L.A. Prop Cinema Storage store.

Cinema-storage-sign

FYI- You can use Starbucks gift cards at these locations, Disney gift cards, and Disney Dining Plan (also Cash and Credit).

Starbucks Disney Parks cups

Starbucks Disney Parks cups

Reflections of Vacation + Tuesday’s Tips

Good Morning Mouskaholics,

First of all, I wanted to thank you my readers for following me on my journey to Disney this past week.  Craig and I had a wonderful time.  Today will be a short post, mostly because I’m exhausted and will need time to collect my thoughts and topics from this past week!

So first, here is Tuesday’s Tip-

When saving for your Disney vacation, find a way to get Disney gift cards for your trip.  Around here, Giant Eagle offers fuel perks, and if you watch carefully you can get double fuel perks or even grocery bonus coupons for purchasing your gift card.  We saved close to $400.00 in gas and an additional $120.00 in groceries by purchasing gift cards from Giant Eagle.  If you don’t have a Giant Eagle around, check out Sam’s Club.  They don’t offer the bonus fuel, but you can save a few bucks on each gift card.  They sell a $50.00 gift card for $48.88.  Not a huge savings, but if you’re paying for your entire trip with gift cards (which you can on the disney website) or taking spending $$$  that can save you quite a bit.  Let’s say you purchase $1200.00 in gift cards to pay for your vacation.  With the gift cards you’re only paying $1173.12.  That’s 27 bucks back in your pocket.  If you take an additional $500.00 for spending money, that’s another $11 in savings.  I believe that fuel perks are definitely the way to go, but if they don’t offer a deal like that near you, then check out Sam’s club for the savings!

Additional gift card info you should know-  If you’re staying on Disney Property they set up your magic bands with charging privileges.  You link a credit card to your account and you essentially can charge anything that you purchase back to your room.  Even if you charge items back to your room, you can still use your gift cards!  Even though it’s linked to a credit card, they don’t have the charges go through automatically.  The concierge at the hotel told me that if you get past a $500.00 limit they will then charge the card.  If you stay under $500, it will not charge it until midnight the night before you check out.  So every two days or so, I would stop down at the front desk with my gift cards and they would apply those to the balance vs. charging my credit card!  It was much easier than carrying a bunch of gift cards around the park and trying to pay with them!

Reflections from my trip-

I will be brief here.

1) I pre-blogged last week, and posted my itineraries as they stood before we left.  I took two afternoons and posted all of my blogs before we even left and then scheduled them to post while I as gone. (Just in case anyone was wondering how in the world I had time to blog while I was at Disney).

2) There were days that didn’t go exactly as planned and that’s okay.  Being flexible is something you have to do while on a Disney trip.  Your fastpass may have to be used later because of weather, you may not be able to go swimming when you’re at the resort because of lightning, you may need to pick an attraction that you wouldn’t normally do because it’s hot out and you just need to sit in the A/C for a moment!

3) I have learned that going at this very hot time of year, it is absolutely necessary for me to go back to the resort and get a break from the parks.  There was a time in my youth where I could hit early extra magic hours in the morning a park and stay through closing time.  At 30 years old, that is not the case.  I need a break.  If you have kids I bet they need a break too!

4) The next vacation I plan will absolutely NOT have 6 park days back to back.  I need a break in between parks.  At most, I will plan 2 days of parks in a row, and then a break.  Break days are great for either swimming at the resort or a water park, and shopping at Downtown Disney.  I had a GREAT time on my vacation, but I am exhausted.  This could have been a much more relaxing trip had we even done 1 less day in the parks and taken a day off to recoup.

How to Plan your Disney Vacation

Disclaimer about this post, I am a mouskaholic and love all things Disney.  This is how I plan my Disney Vacation.  Just because this is the way that I plan my vacation, doesn’t mean it is how you have to plan your vacation.  Everyone has their own way of doing things, and it doesn’t make it right or wrong, just different.  If you’ve never planned a Disney vacation before this is a good starting point though!

 

Step 1)– Look at a calendar and see when is the best time for your family to go.  Time is important when you’re planning a Disney vacation, and if you want to maximize your vacation, this is a step that can be planned carefully.  Also research the best time of year to go to Disney and see if that works for your family.  Often in the fall, Disney will run specials with free dining plans, and discounted room rates, BUT, if you have kids in school, you’ll have to decide if you can take the kids out of school for the trip or not.  It may seem small, but picking the time to go is a big step.  (Side note, I learned the hard way this year that planning to leave the day after school was out was a BAD choice!  We ended up having what seemed like a BAZILLION snow days this year, and ended up having make up days!  I swear calling Disney to cancel my vacation was one of the worst days of my life… no exaggeration.)

calendar

Step 2)– Visit the Disney World website and create an account if you don’t already have one.

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

Setting up the account is very simple,  there is a link at the top of the page that says create and account.  It will direct you to a page with some preliminary information, enter it, make a username and password and BAM, let the planning begin 🙂

Step 3)- Research the resorts.  From that main Disney website page click on “Places to Stay”.  Look at several resorts and figure out what is within your budget.  There are three levels, Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.  There are differences both in price and amenities between these resorts.  I recommend picking three different resorts… you’ll see why in the next step 😉

Step 4)– Begin pricing your vacation!  You’ll do this from the main Disney World page.  Right at the top, you’ll enter your dates, how many people are going on the trip, and the resort.  Price out the vacation with your top choice in resorts. I would then check out the pricing with one or two other resort options.

This step is a little involved.  After you leave the main page you will have other options to select  a)Which room type you’d like b) how many days worth of park tickets you’d like c)Whether or not you’d like to add the park hopper or water park options d) Whether or not you’d like to add the dining plan (If going with this option, you’ll then need to select which dining option you’d like to go with).

Disney Website Homepage.  Price your vacation

Disney Website Homepage. Price your vacation

At this point I write down the price and details and then price it another way, different resort, different number of park tickets, etc. to see what is going to work best for us.

Step 5) Choose which option is best for your family and your budget.

Step 6) Book your flights.  I always book my flights before my vacation.  The reason being is that I like to be able to enter my flight information when I book my Disney vacation, so that I don’t have to call later and schedule my Disney Magical Express.

Step 7)- Book your vacation!  To book you’ll have to have a $200.00 deposit.  This can be paid by credit card or with Disney Gift Cards!

Disney Gift Cards

Disney Gift Cards

 

(If you’re in the Northeast Ohio area, I HIGHLY recommend going to Giant Eagle and purchasing Disney Gift cards!  That way you get the fuel perks!  Christmas time, and over the summer will sometimes run 20 cent fuel perks for gift cards!  Seriously, I saved close to $400 in gas this year by buying my Disney gift cards!)

Step 8) Start to plan your itinerary.  Using the Disney World website, find out which days over your vacation offer Extra Magic Hours at each park.  Extra Magic Hours are special times that are available for guests staying on Disney Property.  They will generally open the park 1 hour early, or stay open up to two hours after park closing for guests staying on property.  With that being said, I choose which park we will attend on a given day based on the available extra magic hours.  You can find out which parks have extra magic hours by following these steps

a) From the main page click scroll over “Theme Parks and Tickets” and Select a park.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.40.06 AM

b) Select a park, and click on the calendar for that park, check the dates and see if there are Extra Magic Hours available.  This step takes a while because I check for every day that I will be there, and for each of the four parks.

Extra Magic Hours available

Extra Magic Hours available

 

c) I build my itinerary based on which parks have extra magic hours for the day.   On some trips we’ve had the park hopper option, and have gone to a park in the morning that had early Extra Magic Hours, and then ended the day with a park that has evening extra magic hours!

Step 9) Dining Reservations.  Now you know what day you’ll be in which park, so you can make your dining reservations.  If you’re wanting restaurants like Be Our Guest Restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or Le Cellier Steakhouse, try to make your dining reservations as soon as possible.

Not sure which restaurants you want?  You can again use the Disney website to research the restaurants.  Click on a specific park, then the dining link

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.49.48 AM

This link will show you all the restaurants within a park.  You can narrow your search to include only the table service restaurants, and then check out their menus.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.51.43 AM             Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.52.54 AM

Step 10) Alright, you’ve covered most of the main steps.  When you reach the point where you are 60 days away from your vacation, you can then book your fast passes for the rides you want!

Fast pass selection window

Fast pass selection window

 

Step 11)  Okay, now here’s the hardest part… WAIT for your magical vacation to arrive!  I also recommend researching at this point.  This is the time to read up on the Disney parks, check out cool Disney blogs (cough cough… Confessions of a Mouskaholic) ask questions from friends and family who have been there before, and look for ways to enjoy your vacation more!

 

Alright, I know that I just threw a TON of information your way, so if you have a question PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, or send me a message on the facebook page!  www.facebook.com/mouskaholic