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My daughter and I had a blast on our short spring break trip to Walt Disney World. The sunshine, warmth, and flowers completely lifted my spirits! In this post I’ll share details of our trip plus all the ways I saved money during a generally expensive time of year to travel to Disney World.
First, I was lucky to be able to fund most of the trip from a targeted offer I received in the mail at the end of last year from US Bank. The offer was for a 50,000 point sign-on bonus if I opened a Business Edge Select Rewards credit card after meeting the minimum spend. I’m currently only using business credit cards since they don’t affect my chances to meet Chase’s 5/24 rule, so I was very excited about this offer. I earned about $550 in statement credit from this card, which I used to fund this trip to Disney.
Lodging – $0
Our first two nights were at Disney’s All-Star Sports resort, and our last night at Disney’s Polynesian. I chose All-Star Sports because it was the only Value resort I hadn’t stayed at, plus I got a great Annual Passholder discount on the rate. I paid $260 for two weekend nights during Spring Break, which is one the most expensive times to visit! If you aren’t a passholder, you can get the best rates for room-only reservations at Disney resorts using Orbitz discounts (you can read all about how to do that in this post!)
Our room at All-Stars Sports was in great condition and we were upgraded to a preferred location near the main building. I always seem to get the best rooms, thanks to the tricks I shared in this post on how to get the best room locations at Disney World. The resort was my least-favorite of the All-Stars, mainly because it just wasn’t very “Disney” and sports just aren’t my thing.
If you get my email newsletter you’ll likely know that I was super excited to score a night at the Polynesian with cheap DVC points. I found some last-minute points for rent for only $9 per point on the MouseOwners Rent/Trade/Transfer board. Since points normally rent for between $13-$15 per point, this was a nice deal, and finding availability at the Polynesian was icing on the cake! I paid more than I have ever paid for one night in a hotel, but the experience was absolutely worth $200 to me.
Our studio villa at the Polynesian was spectacular and the resort’s amenities were top notch. I am writing a resort review for ResalesDVC and will be sure to share a link to it here when it’s finished! If you want to learn how to rent DVC points to stay at Disney deluxe resorts at a big discount, check out this post.
So in total I spent $460 for three nights during spring break. Considering one night in our room at the Polynesian easily costs over $600 without my money-saving tricks, I think I did great. I used my US Bank points to cover these costs, making my out-of-pocket expenses $0.
I used airline points and miles to fly us to and from Orlando from Raleigh-Durham. I used 15,000 Delta miles to get us there on an 8:30 am flight (thanks to my Delta SkyMiles American Express Card, which I highly recommend if Delta flies out of your home airport) and only 4,300 Southwest points to fly us home since my daughter flies free with my Companion Pass. I had to pay taxes on both flights which was a grand total of $22.
We used Disney’s Magical Express to get to and from Orlando International Airport and we had the best experience I’ve had yet with the Magical Express when we arrived. Our Delta flight arrived 20 minutes early, we walked right onto the bus without waiting, the bus pulled away in less than five minutes, and our resort was the first stop! We were at our resort 45 minutes after our flight was originally supposed to land, which was totally incredible. I usually plan on it taking 90 minutes to get to the hotel, so this was a nice way to start our trip.
What was not-so-magical was that at 6:00 pm our bag has still not been delivered to our room. I usually plan for bags to take up to 5 hours to arrive, but this was well beyond that. It was delivered a few minutes after I called Bell Services who said they were swamped with arrivals that day (which I believe since it was the first day of spring break for many people).
When we wanted to move from All-Star Sports to the Polynesian, we took a ride on Lyft for about $8. We even got picked up right by our room so I didn’t have to lug our bags to the front of the resort! I highly recommend using Lyft and Uber to get around Walt Disney World since they are much cheaper than taxis!
Park Tickets: $0
We only went to a theme park for one day and it was Epcot for the incredible Flower & Garden Festival. I have an Annual Pass (I upgraded my park hopper ticket during our trip last November) and I had to buy a one-day ticket for my daughter. I used a $25 Disney gift card I won from a giveaway on How to MCO (which is an amazing resource for planning trips to Disney and the Orlando area) to help pay for her ticket, bringing the cost of her ticket to $95.
The Flower & Garden festival was even more fun that I thought it would be. Epcot is always beautiful, but Disney pulls out all of the stops for this festival. You can read all about why kids will LOVE the festival in my post for ResalesDVC.
I think Elsa was my favorite character topiary at the festival. She’s so cool, isn’t she?
I was on the fence about upgrading to an Annual Pass last year but all of the dining discounts that are being offered this year to passholders helped me decide to get one. I took advantage of room and merchandise discounts on this trip, as well as using the pass to get into Epcot. It has nearly already paid for itself, even before our family trip to Animal Kingdom Lodge this September.
I used the remainder of my US Bank credit card points to pay for this ticket, so I spent nothing out of pocket to visit Epcot for the day.
I had to really make an effort to keep our food budget in check, since my favorite thing about visiting Disney is the food! Here are all of the ways I saved money on food expenses on this trip:
1) We ate all quick-service meals and snacks, as opposed to dining at any table service restaurants. I think the food at many quick service locations is just as good (if not better) than table service dining, and has much better value. We loved snacking our way around the Flower & Garden festival “Outdoor Kitchens”, which are just the Food & Wine festival booths “re-imagined” for the spring. I found the food at the outdoor kitchens to be either great or blah, not consistently excellent like at Food & Wine.
2) I brought breakfast and snack food with us from home as I do on most trips. I took this picture of my daughter’s breakfast one morning to show that you can pack a variety of breakfast food in your checked luggage, including fresh fruit and shelf-stable yogurt! Fruit and other breakfast items are SO expensive at the resort food courts, so I try to bring as much as I can from home. Since I was traveling alone with my daughter and couldn’t leave the room to get coffee in the morning, I even brought my individual-sized coffee maker and creamer so I could have caffeine as soon as I woke up!
3) I took advantage on my annual pass discount of 20% off many locations, even quick service spots such as Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian. After our discount, I paid only $13.53 for dinner for both of us one night at Captain Cook’s. This is of course unheard of at Disney World! With her kids meal and my Pork Nacho entree that was big enough to share, we had plenty of food for dinner.
We even saved 20% on Mickey waffles… Hooray!
In total I spent around $180 for food for us on this trip. Not too bad considering all of the excellent food we ate and the high cost usually associated with eating at Disney World.
After I used my US Bank points for statement credits and my gift card, I was out $210 on our four-day spring break trip to Disney World. We spent a lot of time at the pool, which is exactly what my little one wants to do on vacation anyway. I used a bunch of tactics to save money, which allowed us to go on a super fun “work” trip and still stay within our budget for the month. I hope this post inspires you to get creative and find ways to save money on a vacation to wherever you love to visit!