Monday, April 30, 2012

Disney Vacation Planning Part 1

My family is going on our very first Disneyland family vacation very soon. I’ve been there about 7 times before, but my kids (oldest is 3) have not. Needless to say, my brain is in over-drive and I am sooooo excited!

I’ve been scouring millions of websites for millions of tips on how to stretch our dollars, keep the kids happy on the road trip (8 hours if we drive straight through), and ways to make the memories last. Well, as best as you can with a 3 year old and a 20 month old. And a mommy with severe pregnancy brain J

Best stay for your money (choosing the best hotel for you)- Before you start budgeting, you will need a pretty good idea of where you plan on staying. There are cheaper hotels than the one I chose (by cheaper, I do mean, like, 50% off!), but since we would be there for 6 nights, I didn’t want to stay in a place that wouldn’t be welcoming to us at the end of a long day, or that wouldn’t give us a good nights sleep in preparation for the next day. I also only searched for hotels that had full free breakfast buffets. That would help cut down the cost of food significantly. Most hotel breakfast buffets have fresh fruit stocked, and in my experience, the staff usually has no problems with you grabbing a few pieces of fresh fruit to go. Free healthy snacks fort the park! Make a list of your hotel requirements, and start scouring the internet for the best deals. I like Expedia, but I ended up finding our hotel deal on the actual Disneyland website. It’s a Good Neighbor hotel.

The Up Front Money (hotel and park tickets)-We have a coin bucket that we throw all our change in at the end of the day. When full, we have found that it holds about $100 in change. We dump that into the Coinstar at the grocery store once a month, have it converted to cash, and put the cash aside. We also do the “Keep the change” program at our bank. All of the transferred funds are part of our Disneyland fund. We have earned some money for our trip by selling miscellaneous items on Craigslist (or buying items on Craigslist instead of at the store). Last month, due to low energy use, we earned a credit towards our next power bill. When I paid the bill, I withdrew the amount of the credit from our bank account and added that to our trip fund. And lastly, we did an impromptu eat from the pantry challenge (and no thrift-store or garage sales!) to put more cash toward our trip.

Our 3 year old son has some money saved too. When my husband goes out of town for work, whatever money is in is pockets when he gets home goes into my son’s piggy bank.

After a year of saving, we saved enough for 5-day park hopper tickets for 2 adults and 1 child and a 6-night stay at a nice hotel (more about the hotel later). With my son’s savings, he will be paying for our Character Breakfast (okay, may not so fair, but he LOVES paying for stuff, and I am sure he is going to love the experience!).

What are your creative ways to start saving for a big trip?