Let’s be honest: There are reasons why we are willing to pay when places like the Disney Parks overcharge us for things that would cost a fraction of the price in the real world. For one, we are on vacation, so the money in our pockets may be considered a bit more disposable than when we are home. Plus, it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment when we are living “in the bubble” for a week; suddenly, we forget that we usually spend $2.50 for an entire case of water at home, but in the parks it is the cost of a single bottle. So, we have to rely on our “still at home” selves to save some money for the “on vacation” spendthrifts we become! Here are some things that you can purchase while you are still at home that could potentially save you a bundle when you are in the parks.
1. Rain ponchos
Florida is known for its daily rain showers, sometimes only lasting a few minutes, sometimes lasting all afternoon. While looking through the photos from a typical family’s Disney World vacation, you would be hard-pressed to not see at least one picture of people in rain ponchos. Disney charges a little less than $10 for a poncho, so a family of four is spending close to $40 for ponchos. The good news is that these are destined to be family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation. OK, not so much. They are plastic and they have a picture of Mickey Mouse on the back. Also, if it rips, Disney will replace it free of charge. Otherwise, there is no reason to have to pay that amount. Most Targets, Walmarts and dollar stores sell ponchos, many times in a 2-pack for $1.00. Honestly, these are trash bags with a few holes in them, and you are usually better off using them and throwing them away rather than trying to dry them and reuse them; but that sounds better than lugging around wet plastic for the week anyway, doesn’t it?
2. Bottled Water
Dealing with hydration, especially in Florida, is a top priority for any Disney vacationer. Free water is plentiful in the parks, either at the tap or at counter service restaurants. Many of us, however, have grown accustomed to bottled spring water. Disney charges $2.50 for a single bottle in the park. This isn’t too bad; the same bottle at a movie theater or a ballpark may cost you twice as much. But it adds up. Let’s say you drink 4 bottles a day, for 7 days: $70 multiplied by the number of people in your family. Many online retailers (Amazon, Staples, etc.) sell cases of bottled water that can be ordered and shipped to your hotel prior to your stay. These are usually priced higher than the case you would buy at your local supermarket, but they still represent a significant savings. For example, a recent search on Amazon turned up a 35-pack of spring water for $22 with free shipping. When you get to your hotel, you would have the water sent to your room with your luggage. In the morning, everyone grabs a bottle or two and it will save you a few bucks (or some snack credits) in the park that day.
Buying souvenirs is an important and fun part of many family vacations. Chances are, all the money-saving preparations in the world won’t stop you from buying that really cool Epcot thimble when you see it and fall in love with it. But, sometimes it can become frustrating to continue to spend money on things that are being sold back at home for a lot less. Here are a few tips to help you out with souvenirs. First, hit up the Disney Store before you leave. Check out their clearance section for t-shirts, toys and other fun items. Don’t tell the kids about them, and you can surprise them with little toys and gifts throughout the trip. If you are into Vinylmation, check out that section of your Disney Store as well. Many times, there are great deals (Buy 1, Get 1) or clearance sales (I’ve seen them marked as low as $2.99) on these collectibles. The deals may not be on the type you want, but these make great traders in the park. A couple of traders can keep a child collector busy for the whole vacation. Finally, check out the dollar store for nighttime entertainment souvenirs, like glow sticks or other glow-in-the-dark toys. Many of the toys sold during parades and fireworks can cost $15 or more. You can be a real hero if you break out a huge package of glow sticks to give to your family (and maybe even your sidewalk neighbors, too!) while you are waiting for the nighttime parade to begin.
While these tips won’t stop you from spending (perhaps more than you wanted) while you are on vacation, they can help you avoid overpaying for some things, saving extra money for another Mickey Bar or Dole Whip Float!