Disney on a Dime {But seriously, I just did it}

So, we all know Disney is a money suck … or at least it can very easily become one! Well, I’m headed to my third Disney World trip in just under two years. This might cause many of you to categorize me as crazy, BUT there are reasons we do Disney over other vacation options.

First and foremost, as a single parent to a toddler, I look forward to any vacation that can keep my kiddo occupied and entertain me as well. Beach trips one on one with a toddler feel like they would be a big fat tease; no resting when an almost 3-year-old has open water to run into. Plus I have no desire to do sand sprints up and down the beach while I ensure he doesn’t get too far or run into the water. 

Also worth noting, children under the age of 3 can go to all of the Disney parks for FREE. That’s right, no charge! I have yet to pay for a park ticket for my son, plus the under three crowd eats at buffets for free (with the purchase of an adult meal)! Little do they know my child could eat Disney out of cantaloupe, chicken nuggets, and watermelon, so joke’s on them!

If you have read any Disney mommy bloggers, these tips might come as no surprise; but on the off chance that you haven’t lost yourself on Pinterest doing Disney research, here are some top tips for going to meet the Mouse on the cheap.

  1. POINTS!! We are flying and staying on sight using points, and the total out of pocket cost is going to be UNDER $100 for 4 days. If you don’t have a reward credit card yet, I would suggest either Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), Marriott, or Southwest. All three brands can transfer points back and forth; and there is an SPG property on sight at Disney that averages at 10,000 points per night per stay. Additionally, I fly for work regularly and we are flying via points I’ve racked up on Southwest! 
  2. Disney Gift Cards! Now this is a bit more tricky, but for all my Target moms out there, this is a no brainer! You can BUY Disney Gift Cards at Target using your Red Card and receive 5% off the cost of the gift cards. I used Disney gift cards to pay for our tickets + had $200 worth of cards for park purchases (food and souvenirs). This not only gives you an automatic 5% discount on all of your purchases, but it also gives you a spending limit!
  3. Breakfast! If you are going to do a buffet or character meal, go for breakfast! These meals are significantly less expensive for breakfast service, and there is an added benefit of everyone filling up for the day! And, I typically snag a couple of bananas from the buffets for snacks during the day.
  4. Snacks! Bring your own snacks and water bottles. You can bring any food you want into the park. Same as what I suggest for flying, avoid anything too sticky. Granola bars, bananas, goldfish, and pouches are all winners. There are water fountains everywhere for refills as well!


For a quick tally so far on this Disney trip:

$84 for the hotel (you have to pay the taxes and fees per night even when using points)

$23 for the flights (I have companion status and paid $11.50 for me and for my son to convert the points)

$190 for gift cards of $200 value (this should cover all food and one souvenir on a 3-day trip)

Total at the start: $300 for a 3-day trip to Disney for me and my toddler!

I will do a full trip report on the backend to share how our actual costs shake out. But Disney can be affordable if you strategize and plan just a little!

Sarah Joy Hays is a native of Louisiana and graduate of LSU! She returned to Baton Rouge in 2015 after 6 years living and working in DC. She is a proud momma to an enthusiastic, red-haired toddler and is navigating all of this as a solo parent; fully relying on group texts with other moms, coffee, and Jesus. Sarah Joy, or SJ, has devoted much of her abundant spare time to the Moms on Campus, South Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church, and her newly founded Foundation that will focus on emergency disaster response. She claims to love to read, journal, and cook; but only manages one of the three out of daily necessity. SJ dreams of having a Target collaboration based on coffee mugs and dry shampoo one day… till then she will enjoy running her bakery CounterspaceBR and growing a consulting business!


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