10 Tips to Save Time and Money at Disney World

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That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.
— Walt Disney

There’s something undeniably magical about Walt Disney World. The unmistakable smell of vanilla in the air, the feeling that a grand adventure might soon find you, the possibility that nothing will ever be impossible for you… It’s no wonder Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world. But with an annual attendance of over 52 million people, there are bound the be some roadblocks on your journey to a happily ever after time.

Strollers and line-cutters and family reunions galore! We’ve almost come to the unspoken conclusion that our ultimate Disney vacation will end up being a huge money sucker that zaps you of energy AND all patience. But it doesn’t have to be! After all, if you’re going to fork over the money to go to Disney World in the first place, then you might as well make sure it’s enjoyable, right?

I’ve by no means perfected the Disney trip and everything I do know I’ve learned from my husband, whose quite possibly a bigger Disney fan than me… NAH! But growing up in Florida has it’s perks and he’s taken all his childhood knowledge and applied it to all of our trips (which are averaging around 3 a year!)

Now I want to share some of those tips and tricks that we’ve used for our Disney trips to help you with yours. Whether you’re saving up to take the family one of these days, or you’re a full grown adult who needs their Disney fix, these tips will help you save both time and money, two of the most difficult things to hang onto. Apply these tips and you’ll start to find the magic in your trips.

10 Tips to Save Time and Money at Disney World

1. Check Crowd Calendars

Before we plan our tip, Jeff will check multiple crowd calendars online (which you can find with an easy google search) to estimate when the heavy, moderate and light traffic days are. Now, these are just estimates based on previous years, but they have served us well in planning our trips around the more moderate to light days. This will mean less people on the streets, in the restaurants and in line. It only takes a few minutes but it will save you A LOT of time at the park.

For example, summers are insanely busy. We NEVER go in the summer. Too hot and too crowded. But, we will go in early May, after spring breaks are over and before school lets out. Or we’ll go at the end of September when the weather is cooler but before the Halloween crowd shows up. There are always less busy days around your favorite holiday, so you don’t need to sacrifice those for a good trip!

2. Chase Disney Cards

We love Chase and one of the awesome features they have is their Disney credit and debit cards. Jeff and I both have their Disney debit cards and when you use it at the parks, some places will give you a discount equal to an annual pass holder.

One place I know of is Joffrey’s Coffee, which I’ll talk about soon, who gives you 10% off for using you Chase Disney debit or credit card. Some restaurants, shops and stands will also offer discounts. It doesn’t cost anything to get them. You just need to have an account with Chase Bank. Easy peasy!

3. Hotels Outside the Parks

Now I know it seems magical to stay at an official Disney Resort and if that is your dream then I say go for it! Or start saving now for the future. But remember that when you go to Disney, you tend to spend very little time at your hotel. Instead of blowing all your money on a resort that will make your towels look like Mickey (which I get… it’s cute!) stay at a hotel or resort and use your rental car to get around.

This is what Jeff and I do every single time and it’s worked out AMAZING! Some of our favorite places to stay are the Polynesian Isles Resort, the Hilton Garden Inn at Sea World, and The Berkley Orlando (which also has no resort fees!) They are all nice, clean and only a few miles away from the parks.

Do some research and stay at a nice place where you can relax, get some sleep and come and go from the parks as you please. Now that’s a vacation!

4. The Resort Tram

This tip we happened to stumble upon one hot Florida day when the line for the tram taking us from the ticketing center to Magic Kingdom was crazy long. We glanced over at the tram next to it, which had no line, and a fella who was walking up said, “Hey, you know these trams go to the same place, right? They just stop at the resorts along the way.” What!

We had no idea. So we hopped aboard instantly and waved goodbye to all of the sweaty people standing in the heat as we headed off to the Magic Kingdom.

This tram does stop at the resorts along it’s route, but it only spends about 5-8mins at each stop. There are two resorts on the way to the Magic Kingdom and one resort on your way back to the ticketing center. Besides, when you’re trying to stay out of the heat as much as possible, it’s so nice to relax on a tram with air conditioning… sipping on your Joffrey’s Coffee ;)

If the line for the normal tram is giving you a stomach ache, then hop the resort tram and breath a bit. There’s really no rush!

5. Disney Diversions

Multiple times a day, Disney puts on a large parade or street show, where people (especially those with children) will line the streets to catch of glimpse of their favorite Disney Princess or surround a street show in hopes of being a part of the act. But this is when we hit the rides!

These shows and parades are what Disney calls “crowd control” and they can be your cue that a lot of people will be distracted for the next 20min or so and won’t be going on rides. This is a great time to high tail it over to a ride you maybe don’t have a FastPass for and enjoy a little less people in your life.

6. Soda Fountain Free Refills

One thing about Disney is you pay for everything and you rarely get things for free… like refills. Most of the soda fountains are located behind the counter and what you get is all you get. But there are a couple of places that Jeff and I have found that have soda fountains out for the people to use. That means, you could buy a soda once and come back and get refills all day!

Two of these places we know of are the Electric Umbrella in Epcot and Backlot Express in Hollywood Studios. These also make great lunch places if you’re looking for something that’s not too big or expensive. Besides, who doesn’t love their iced cold diet coke to last all day!

7. Joffrey’s Coffee

I love coffee. It’s just the way I am. It’s also the way Jeff is and you better know that we need our coffee fixes while on vacation… especially while on vacation!

While there are a couple of Starbucks around the parks, they are crazy expensive! More so than normal it seems. And if you want to get coffee outside the park, it’s usually bad by the time you make it in. Joffrey’s Coffee shop is one of those places that is a God send! Delicious coffee, affordable prices and several locations around each park. It’s hands down our favorite place to grab a cup at Disney.

My favorites right now are the iced vanilla latte and the frozen cappuccino (if you’re in the mood for a sweet treat). They also give discounts to chase Disney card holders, like I mentioned earlier. There’s usually never a long line because I don’t think people are too familiar with them. There also happens to be a location at the transportation and ticketing center on your way to Magic Kingdom. Remember how I said I like to take the resort tram with my Joffrey’s Coffee in hand?

8. My Disney Experience App

This is hands down one of the greatest tools Disney has for making your time in the Parks a breeze. One feature that a lot of people don’t know about is ordering online. A lot of restaurants and food stands have “online order” lines that are usually much shorter! This is for people who have used their My Disney Experience App to order food using the card they put on file. You order, pay, choose a pick-up time and simply walk up to the counter and grab your food. All of the people in the regular lines will watch you with a sweaty jealously :)

The other feature that the app is probably used for the most is scheduling FastPasses. Ever notice those FastPass lines for your favorite rides? Yeah, that’s where you get those. You are allowed up to 3 FastPasses at one time per day, and once you use up all 3, you can start scheduling more one at a time for the remainder of the day. You can generally schedule them up to a week in advance and Disney Annual Pass holders can schedule them up to 30 days in advance.

My biggest advice? Pick the 3 busiest rides you want to go on in that park to schedule FastPasses for and then wait in the smaller lines (perhaps with a Dole Whip float you picked up in the online order line) and enjoy the magic Disney puts into them. Jeff and I are on top of our FastPasses and we rarely ever stand in line for more than 30min…

Some of the rides I would recommend scheduling FastPass for?

Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain

Hollywood Studios: Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, Rockin’ Roller Coaster or one of the shows (Rockin’ Roller Coaster has a single rider line which we normally use because you really don’t experience the ride with the person sitting next to you. It’s too fast and too dark)

Epcot: Test Track and Soarin’

Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na/vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest and DINOSAUR

Remember you have one hour to use your FastPass (for example from 12pm-1pm) but Disney does give you about a 15min grace period at the end.

9. Check the Wait Time Before Using a FastPass

One quick tip about FastPasses is if you have one scheduled for a busier ride and you notice the normal line waiting time has gone down, then as long as you have plenty of time left to use your FastPass, go ahead and wait in the normal line, then run back and use your FastPass. That way you get to ride twice!

For example, let’s say you have a FastPass for Splash Mountain from 3pm-4pm. It’s currently 3:05pm and you arrive at the ride to find that the normal waiting time is only 25min… very rare for Splash Mountain! Wanting to take advantage of this short wait time, you could go through the normal line, ride the ride and then pop back out with enough time to use your FastPass!

To do this, you’ll need to go and check on your ride at the beginning of your FastPass. That way you would have enough time to get through the ride before your FastPass expires.

10. Disney’s Annual Pass

And now for the grand finale… Disney’s Annual Pass! I know what you’re thinking…. “aren’t those like really expensive?” Well, they certainly are not cheap. But they have been well worth the money for us. I feel you get your money back by your second trip. So by biggest advice for you Disney fans on a budget is to pick a year where your vacations will be to Disney and then invest in the annual pass.

Here are some ways that the Annual Pass has helped Jeff and I save time and money!

  1. You can park hop as many times as you want. No need to purchase any tickets. You can also sleep in and head to the parks whenever you want because you don’t need to be there all day to feel as though you are getting your money’s worth. You already are!

  2. Free parking at all parks. It’s usually around $20-$25 per day per park! That adds up real quick! Just flash your pass and a photo ID and you’re good to go :)

  3. A lot of restaurants, food stands and shopping stores give annual pass discounts from 10, 20 and sometimes even 30% off! You can find a complete list of where this discount is offered and how much it is HERE!

  4. Ever notice those snappy magic bands everyone’s been wearing to the parks lately? Well you get one in a color of your choice for free! No need to hold onto tickets. It’s all loaded on your band. It also connects to your My Disney Experience App to hold all of your FastPasses and reservations!

  5. Since selfie sticks are not allowed in the parks, it’s hard to get a good photo of you, especially with all of the people! But with the annual pass, you get all of the professional photos offered on the streets for free! Remember all the photographers standing around? Yep! Just get your photo taken, let them scan your magic band, and your photos will be waiting for you in your App, where you can download them for free for up to one year. Perfect for couples who want some nice photos :) **Also, if you or your loved one are planning on running in any of the Disney Races, you get all of those professional photos for free too! They are incredible!

  6. There are even special hours that the park has open to Annual Pass holders only. You can find these with a simple google search and you may want to take advantage of these!

Well there you have it. Our most practical tips for saving time and money at Disney World. These by no means are all the ways to save, but if you’re planning a trip in the near future, I highly recommend putting some of these into practice. And you’ll probably start finding your own ways to save.

The point is that going on a Disney vacation is more possible then you may realize. It just take some planning, intentionality and a few insider tips to get you there. Don’t buy into the hype that Disney is miserable. Sure there are plenty of miserable people there but you don’t have to be one of them! Enjoy the magic of the parks and be swept away in a world of possibilities. If you’re anything like Jeff and I, you’ll come back more refreshed, inspired and driven than before.

But they say if you dream a thing more than once, it’s sure to come true.
— Princess Aurora

Here’s to dreaming big!

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How to Get Out of Debt FAST!

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I bet you’ve got some dreams. I bet you’ve got some ideas for your life and I bet your bank account doesn’t always line up with these ideas. Am I right?

The truth is we all have an idea of how we picture our life looking and rarely does this ever line up with our reality. Most of the time, I would say it’s because the finances are just not there.

Money can be a sore subject. It can cause a lot of fights in marriage and can be a never-ending source of grief and frustration. But I would say from my own experience, it’s usually not a lack of money that’s the issue (or the main issue), but rather a huge pile of debt that month after month never ceases to remind us that our money is not our own.

Sure, we can budget, eat ramen and sit at home watching Netflix for fun in order to save money, but if debt is in the picture, you will never be able to find the extra cash to live the life you truly want to live. That is why I feel it is so vital that you work on getting yourself out of debt and out of it FAST!

Because the sooner you’re out of debt, the sooner your money is actually yours to do with what you will (not what you have to).

Before Jeff and I got married, he used to say that he would put more money into his savings and just pay the minimum on his credit cards because he felt he had more money that way. However, he quickly realized that $10,000 in savings with credit card debt, isn’t really $10,000 in savings. That money doesn’t accurately represent what you have if you still owe money to someone else.

Unfortunately in our American culture today, it’s considered “normal” to have debt, to pay a monthly car payment and to owe interest on things because you bought them before you could afford them. If this is what you believe, then it will be the way you live. But it doesn’t have to be! And in this post, I want to share with you some tips that Jeff and I used to get out of debt as fast as humanly possibly. And I can honestly say that it was well worth the effort.

 

How to Get Out of Debt FAST!

 

1.    Stop Adding Debt… and Stop it NOW!

I know this might seem obvious but too often, we feel like we need our debt. It becomes a familiar part of our life to the point where we can’t imagine ourselves not charging certain things. You can survive without your debt. And if you’re really serious about taking back control of your money, then this is the first and most vital step to starting this journey.

Maybe this means you won’t be eating out so often. Maybe this means your weekly trips to Starbucks will turn into at-home coffee pot drinks. Maybe you need to cancel some subscriptions until you’re out of this hole. There are always things we can cut out or cut back on to save money and this is the time to analyze where you spend money and adjust accordingly.

Think of it as a temporary sacrifice to live the life you truly want to live.

 

2.    Start and Maintain a Monthly Budget

If you aren’t already doing this for you and your family, then do this ASAP! This is where you will understand how much money is coming in, versus how much is going out, and where it’s all going out to.

If you want some help setting up a budget, you can watch my video HERE where I explain how I set up our budget and what I include. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar App. I use the free version, which requires me to input every transaction myself, which I love. It keeps me constantly updated so I always know where we stand financially. Something I never felt with my money before…

This may seem tedious at first and you may not see extreme results immediately. I think it took us about 3-4 months or so before I started seeing substantial results. But within 1 year from making my first budget, we got completely out of credit card debt, paid off one car, paid cash for another, bought our first home and traveled to Disney World about 3 times… and ALL we did was start budgeting. It is possible. You just have to be faithful and consistent.

 

3.    Create Your Debt Snowball

This is from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and it really helped Jeff and I see our debt from a more manageable perspective.

First, write down each debt sum that you owe (totals) from smallest to largest. This could include credit card debt, car payments, student loans…  Every debt you owe minus your mortgage. This you would attack at a later time if you desired, when you’re more financially stable.

So for example, if you have $600 on one credit card, $1,200 on another, and $4,500 left you owe on your car, then this would be what you would write.

$600

$1,200

$4,500

Taking on all your debt at once can be overwhelming and you certainly won’t feel capable of ever getting out of it. But if you make this list, then you’ll only focus on paying off one debt at a time, starting with the lowest (top) debt.

Continue to pay the minimum payment on everything else and then start to attack the smallest debt. Find money in your budget that you can spare and anything that’s extra or left over, throw it at the debt. Once it’s paid off, then you’ll cross it off and move on to the next total.

What you’ll find is that the more debt you pay off, the more money you’ll have to pay off the next debt. So that when you finally get to the largest debt you owe, you’ll also have a lot more money to throw at it each month than you do right now. That’s why it’s called a debt snowball. Your money grows along with your confidence in your ability to actually pay this off!

 

4.    Post Your Debt Goals

Now hear me out. I know this may seem embarrassing, but I believe it’s very important. Write your debt snowball out on a small index card and post it somewhere where you’ll see it every single day. We put ours on our fridge and it became a constant reminder of where we were and where we were headed.

Because when you post it, you own it, and then you attack it. If you don’t post it up, you won’t attack it with the same determination that you would if you saw it every day when you get your coffee. It’s not about identifying with your debt, but it’s about owning up to where you are and keeping a vision before you of where you are going.

 

5.    Have a Debt-Free Goal

Sometimes the concept of being “debt-free” isn’t enough to drive us to pay off our debt as fast as we can. Because most of us have never lived debt-free lives, we don’t fully understand what this kind of life would mean for us. So make a debt-free goal for yourself that will dive you to the finish line.

For me, it would for sure be a vacation that I had only ever dreamed about going on. What is it for you? What would be so great that it would cause you to say “no” to some things right now, so that you could say “yes” to (blank) later?

However, this goal, depending on your debt, could be pretty far off in the future and you’re going to need something to get you excited for the here and now…

 

6.    Create Mini Goals for Each Debt Sum

Every time you pay off one of your debts in the debt snowball, give yourself a mini reward. Maybe go out eat, to a movie or buy something nice for your home. Once you pay off a bigger debt, go out to a nicer dinner, or to the symphony.

Make it work for you and work it into your budget. When you cross off that debt, you need to remind your brain that this is not only a good thing, but you are going to get rewarded for what you just did. This will cause it to become more of a habit and something you look forward to doing, versus something you have to do.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
— Luke 16:10 ESV

The journey ahead may take longer than it did for us, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be miserable for the next three or so years. Paying off debt is fun! It becomes addicting to cross it off and attack it because you start taking back control of your money and realizing the kind of life you could be living.

It’s a biblical principle: when you’re faithful over the little, God will make you faithful over much. Tithing is great because it keeps our hearts trusting in God as our provider. But it’s not just 10% that belongs to Him. It all belongs to Him and we can be good stewards of our money by taking ownership, getting out of debt and actually start to create wealth to use for His glory.

If you’re struggling in your finances, please don’t get discouraged or condemned. This is something almost every single one of us deals with and the enemy wants to keep you down by beating you over the head. Don’t receive his condemnation. It’s not too late. You can do this. It is possible. All it takes is the courage to make that first step.

Let’s take back our lives and start living our full potential!