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Saving Our Way to Disney

ways to save for disney for family vacation

Are you wanting to take your family to Disney parks, but don’t think you can afford it?  It is an expensive adventure, but there are things that you can do to grow your vacation budget. Our kids were 12 and 9 when we finally took the trip last year.

My husband does a lot of work traveling, so we were able to spend air miles and some hotel points. We also used his work travel app to purchase discount tickets and reserve the rental car, but it was still several hundred dollars. We had an advantage over many others who don’t have these options. Even with these things at a free or reduced rate, we still had a lot of things to save up for. 

Food, souvenirs, other activities, shopping, and more can easily drain your budget. I began to research ways that other moms had saved money for their Disney trips.

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Ways to Make Money for Your Disney Trip

There are moms out there that have paid for their entire Disney trip by making extra cash! Many mom bloggers have shared their methods, so when I started planning for our trip I put together a list of ways I could earn extra cash. These are the things that I did to save up for our spending money.

1. Sell – The whole family cleaned out items that we no longer used or wanted. I posted these things on local Facebook sales pages, Ebay, Offer Up, Letgo, and told friends and family.  Of course you can have a real garage sale, but my husband has said no more garage sales. This accomplished 2 things – simplified life and made easy cash!!

2. Swagbucks – I read mixed reviews of this program, so I was very hesitant to sign up for it. Since we really wanted to go, I gave it a try.  I earned enough for a few gift cards in just a few months. The first thing I did was setup a completely new email that I would only use for promotional and commercial logins. I chose a name that included the words shop and save, so there was no personal identification involved. I used that email for all of the apps listed below. Here are my helpful hints for Swagbucks.

  • Do the Answer Polls on a daily basis – This only takes a few minutes and is guaranteed points.
  • Choose the Gold Surveys first
  • Answer ALL of the Survey Profile Questions
  • Watch videos (entertainment, news, and even recipes) – The secret here is to hit play and then do something else at the same time. I mostly listened instead of watching.
  • Shopping – They provide an online cash back program for thousands of stores. You may use them online or in-store depending on the rules. Their percentages are usually more than other online savings (Ebates, Retail Me Not, etc.).
  • Keep track of the points that you earn, take screenshots, and monitor your account often to make sure that they post (can take up to 30-60 days).
  • Customer service has always been quick to answer and helpful to resolve any issues
  • Take advantage of free SwagCodes – these are found on the Facebook page, website, Twitter account, blog, and through texts

3. Inbox Dollars – This program is similar to Swagbucks, and takes less time to maintain. You can take quick and short online surveys through the mobile app. You also earn points for just opening and reading their emails. Playing games, watching videos, using apps, shopping deals, and even web searching are options for additional points.

4. InstaGC – I didn’t use this app as frequently. It is all survey-based and seemed to take more time than I was willing to put in. If you like surveys and have the time it might be worth it to you.

5. IBOTTA – This is my FAVORITE savings program!!!  We all grocery shop, and this is so user-friendly. You sign-up for an account and choose the stores that you shop at most frequently. You can also link your store loyalty cards to the app, and then you don’t have to upload receipts! It automatically records your purchases and gives you applicable discounts. You can ALSO receive cash back for online purchases for participating stores. Groceries, beauty products, pharmacy, restaurants, convenience stores, crafts, travel, electronics, and so much more are included in the cash back program.  That means two ways to save! I acquired the most cash with this program. If you want to choose just one app to try, this should be the one!!

6. – You can use this website or app to print paper coupons or connect with digital coupons. This app will also pair with your store rewards cards.

7. Checkout 51 – I like this application because they offer bonuses for using certain promotions. There are times where I have earned a few extra dollars just for purchasing a particular product. You do have to read the fine print, as many of their offers involve buying multiples of a product. You can also upload your receipts to the app.

8. Savings Star – This app is a little different than the ones I have mentioned above. Before you make a purchase, you activate a rebate through the app. Then you choose your store and follow the directions to receive your rebate. The product list is smaller for this app, and does not allow as much variety as the other programs. I did receive some cash back using the extra rebates.

Use this Tip to Organize How You Earn Cash Back

This list gives you a wide variety of options to try, and you will find the ones that work best for you. I would suggest only starting with 1 or 2, and then add others as you feel more comfortable. It can be overwhelming to try to keep up with too many.

How do you know which app to use for which purchases?  

When I make my grocery list I go through and find the items I am purchasing on any of the apps. I make a list so that when I finish shopping I can open those apps and choose the products I purchased. Sometimes I can receive multiple points or cash back for the same product.

PRO TIP: This step is unnecessary if you have your app connected with your rewards cards. It automatically finds and applies the discounts for the store you made your purchases from.  Our usual grocery budget for our family of 4 is $200-$300 for every 2 weeks, which is quite generous, but I have a teenage son….enough said! With the apps I would say I average a total of around $25 cash back for each shopping trip. It will vary for each person based upon your grocery and shopping needs.

More Tips on Saving Money at Disney

If you save enough to go, here are a few tips for your days at the park.

Meal Planning

Reserve one main meal each day (lunch or dinner).  Do light meals and/or snacks for the other meals. We made sure our hotel had breakfast included.

Snack Budget

Plan out a snack budget and look at the list of things you would like to enjoy, and stick to it. Otherwise you can blow a whole entry tickets worth in one day!  

Drink Water

Purchase a small reusuable water bottle for each person in your family with their name on it. You can refill these with ice and water for free at any restaurant or drink and snack station. They will also just give you free cups of ice water if you don’t want to mess with bottles. We chose to not purchase drinks, except for with our meals.  

Bring Your Own Picnic

It is an option to bring your own cooler for a picnic, and you can check it in at the front gates.

Buying Souvenirs

Purchase souvenirs at Disney Springs or other local souvenir shops. My favorite t-shirt came from a pharmacy store! My daughter and I purchased Minnie Mouse ears at our hotel gift shop for less than $5 each as the ones in the park were over $20! These weren’t as big and fancy, but they suited our purpose for the day and were light to wear on our heads.

Where to Stay

As far as lodging, I will just say that we chose to not stay at a Disney resort. They looked wonderful, but we decided to spend that money on other things during our trip. We reserved our hotel through We chose a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel and loved it.  There were a lot of the Disney perks available (tickets, gift shop, shuttle to the park, Mickey waffles at breakfast, pictures in the lobby, and more). It was a very pleasant stay and we drove our rental car to the park each day. We liked knowing that if we needed to leave we didn’t have to wait on a shuttle to take us.

My hope is that this article provides some valuable tips to make your trip to Disney within your reach, and within your budget. We are so thankful that we saved up the money to go. It is our favorite vacation so far, and it really is the most magical place on earth! 

We are already saving for the next trip!

Shannon Wilson is mom to a preteen daughter and teen son. She has been married to her wonderful husband for 15 years. A former teacher, she now is blogging at Heart of a Homemaker.

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