Updated: Oct 29, 2020
I’m the worst type of addict possible and it’s been a year since my last hit. I was bit by the Disney bug in 2014 when I went for the first time with my boys. I cried each day in the parks because I was so grateful to give the experience to my boys and do something I’ve always wanted to do. Before my divorce, we took the boys twice. My ex-father-in-law is retired Air Force and a DVC member to boot. We only had to cover the heavily discounted tickets.
That nice set up ended for us in 2017. Now a single mom living on a teacher’s salary (with little to no child support), I wanted to continue to go each year. It’s so hard though financially.
So, here are some things that worked for us on our trips.
1. Take snacks/bottles in your backpack.
We usually raid the local Walmart and Dollar Tree to grab snacks to take in with us to the park. Think Goldfish, pretzels, popcorn, etc. Everybody has their own reusable water bottle too. When the boys were younger, I did take in apple juice.
2. Get your souvenirs elsewhere.
There are a ton of gift shops around Disney that sell similar items. There’s even a Disney Character Warehouse (sells highly discounted Disney Park merchandise). The Walmart near our condo has a TON of Disney stuff. It’s like the first half of the store. Be sure to pick up a Disney poncho there -- you will encounter rain and it’s better to be prepared.
3. Take off days.
My nearly 64-year-old mother travels with us each time we visit Mickey. It’s getting hard for her to get around and she tires easily. We’ve started taking ‘off days’ in between park going to give our bodies a chance to rest.
4. Check sites like Groupon or LivingSocial.
We’ve done some pretty cool stuff on our off days from Groupon. We went on a tour in a monster school bus of a citrus farm that had wild cattle. We’ve spent a day at Dave & Buster’s for the boys to play video games. There’s so much to do in Orlando that isn’t going to a theme park. Just dig a little.
5. Mickey Money
This is possibly the BEST idea I’ve come up with for our trips. My boys both have August birthdays and we usually go to Disney for fall break in October. Family members know our Disney obsession and usually give the boys Disney gift cards (which are red with a Mickey face on them). The boys deemed it their ‘Mickey Money.’ Each trip I tell the boys their daily ‘allowance’ for souvenirs (I divide the total by the number of park days). I remind the boys that I will pay for any food or drinks we NEED, but they have to use their money if they WANT something.
Even at 5 years old, my youngest was a little reluctant to buy anything just in case he saw anything later that was better. The boys would come up to ask how much something was and if they got it how much they would have left. We still use Mickey Money now that the boys are 7 and 9. I love showing them about money management AND it has dramatically reduced the amount of ‘I wants’ in the parks.
6. Disney Fairy
My boys are catching on to this one (my oldest has Autism and is so logical he’s figured it out). Before our trips, I usually go to the Dollar Tree or Dollar General to grab a small Disney related gift for each day of our trip. The idea is that the Disney Fairy watches you all day and if you mind your parents and treat others kindly, she’ll drop off something while you sleep. I usually don’t spend more than $20 on these at the Dollar Tree (think coloring books, activity sets, stickers, pencils, etc.). This too can help reduce the ‘I wants’ from the boys too.
I hope our family Disney tricks help make your trip a little more magical. There’s nothing better than making memories at the most magical place on Earth.