Wish you were like the others and thinking about a summer vacation? Or were you unable to go on spring break this year, but wish you could have? Wish you had more money for vacation? Even if you don’t have the money this year, by next year at this time you could find that you have a lot more put away for vacation than you thought was possible. The key is saving up all year-long.
I used to be teased that I go to work to afford vacation. It is the motivation needed to get me through long work weeks, long workouts, tiring obligations, etc. I LOVE VACATION! It’s possible for me to go each year, and now even multiple times a year, because I save, and do with less during the rest of year, and it’s so worth it for me.
Below are some money-saving tips that you can use to enable you to have a vacation fund.
Save money going out to dinner – sign up for “deal of the day emails.” Groupons, or group coupons, are great. They even have same day groupons that you can purchase the day you want to use them. Save half off dinner out and put the other half in your vacation fund.
Another tip, if you are planning a getaway where you will have access to a car, sign up to receive groupons in that city as well. You and your family can get deals on bowling, dinners out, other activities, etc., at a great price. Restaurant.com is another great place to look for dining out deals. You can even get Character dining at Disney on occasion for as little as $2.00. (This would be for dining at off-property resorts.)
Get cash back for your shopping by using Ebates to do your online shopping. I recently earned around $23 just for doing my regular online shopping. To date I’ve earned nearly $415 from online purchases I was making anyway. It is FREE to sign up. You shop at your normal stores (Macy’s, Target, etc.) – they have pretty much every store (sometimes even Amazon offers you cash back.) Ebates pays you cash back each quarter via a check. There’s no catch, you just start your shopping from their site. You can use that check as a supplement to your vacation fund.
Sign up for a dining frequent flier club program. Delta has SkyMiles Dining. Likewise with online shopping, you can earn frequent flier miles for items you would purchase online anyway by signing up for Sky Mall, or a similar program with your preferred airline. There is no charge for either of these programs, and it does not cost any money if you were planning to go there already to eat/shop.
But to save money – eat out less. It is at least $35 for 2 people to go out for dinner, and that’s with coupons. Do this 3-4 times a week and that really adds up in a year. But if you have children and are going out to eat, dine where the kids can eat for free with a paying adult. Check out http://mykidseatfree.com/welcome.asp for places with free dining for kids. Bring a lunch to work most days of the week. Saving you $5-$15 a day for 3-4 days a week.
Limit the purchase of beverages as restaurants- pop/soda, liquor and wine add up over time. If you go out twice a week for dinner and each have a pop or an adult beverage with your meal you are spending an additional $15 with tax and tip each week for something you can wait and have when you get home. Only purchase extra drinks on special occasions. Same goes for coffee, unless it is a special circumstance – make your coffee before you go to work and save on the $4-$6 a day coffee habit. Even if you drink cheap coffee and spend $2 a day for each work day, you are spending approximately $520 a year on coffee.
Actually look at the sale ads that come with your paper or in your mailbox each week. Buy the things on sale that you use regularly. You do not have to do the extreme couponing, although you could, but just buying on sale saves you money. Similarly – observe the prices per items at the stores that you shop. If you find an item is cheaper at the grocery store, or big box store, go there are opposed to the drug store. Save money where you can.
A ‘goes without saying’ tip: pay off your credit cards at the end of each month! It will save you unnecessary interest payments. If you cannot afford it, do not buy it.
Use your local library. In addition to books, you can borrow (typically for free) movies, cd’s and video games. This could really cut down what you spend on rentals, iTunes music and trips to Game Stop. Check to see if your library has the item first before shelling out the money. Even a couple dollars adds up over time. Most libraries offer online search and request systems which saves time. Before my trips I download ebooks that go right to my kindle app. If you have a serious gamer in your family, they can eventually be converted to enjoy games from the library. Check out this blog by a gamer that did just that.
Buy a reusable water bottle. Yes, I am telling you to buy something. Take the bottle with you everywhere – car rides to visit grandma, the grocery store, the gym. Just fill it up with a drinking fountain, or before you leave for the day, and save the numerous $1 fees per day for water. Don’t forget to take it with you on vacation too. You can fill it up after airport security to save you the $3 for a bottle of water. And the best part – it is good for the environment.
The final tip, obvious but important, add a “Vacation” line to your existing budget. Even a small line item to start will add up. Then if you have a surplus at the end of the month/pay period, assuming that you do not have credit card debt that you should pay into, transfer any extra unspent money into your vacation fund. If you do have credit card debt, and still want a vacation fund, then divide it up – a portion of the surplus into the credit card payment, and a portion into the vacation fund.
For those of you who do not think you can squeeze any money into a vacation fund on your budget, then keep track of your spending and expenses for a month/2 weeks, and see where you are spending your money. You might have more than you think after you cut some coffees, pops, lunches out, etc.
Do you have a money saving tip to share? Post your tips in the comments below.
Now that you have learned to save money for your next trip, contact your Travel Agent to get some ideas on where to go. If you do not have one, contact, Christy.
This is my trip report/review of my family vacation aboard the Disney Fantasy. We traveled mid-July 2015 in cabin 5650. Traveling was myself, my husband and our two-year old son. Grandma also came with us and was in a handicapped accessible cabin (8184) by herself.
We booked this cruise less than 4 weeks before the departure date. As a result we were forced into second seating for dinner which just wouldn’t work with my toddler. [Dinner would have started a half hour after his bedtime.] We were placed on a wait list and I am very happy to report that our request was approved and we were moved into main/early dining before the start of the cruise. [I was able to confirm this by logging into my account and reviewing the cruise details. Under the cruise details it indicated we were in main dining.] I received this information about 3 days before the cruise. This took so much stress away for that first day. Had I not secured main dining before the cruise we would have had to go to the designated area the first day of the cruise to make the request one more time. The one time we experienced this in the past we were moved, but not until the second day of the cruise. [If you have any questions about how this works, feel free to ask me in the comments. I also have a full post on moving your dining time here.]
We were on the Fantasy, the newest of the Disney ships. She is stunning. Her atrium is absolutely gorgeous. There is a whole peacock feathers theme going that is just beautiful.
5650 is an extended verandah cabin on the 5th floor on the Disney Fantasy. (Category 5E.) The Disney literature indicates this is a ‘family stateroom’ meaning the interior of the cabin is larger than the standard sized cabins. It was wrong! The cabin itself may be smaller than a standard verandah cabin but I cannot be sure. It was small and tight in the cabin. The balcony however is amazing! It is one of the largest I’ve seen. It has two chaise lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs with a small table, and 2 lounging type chairs with adjustable backs. Plus there was room for my little one to run around. (And the running track was beneath us and not another cabin so we weren’t disrupting anyone.)
As you can see, the cabin is tight. On our first Disney cruise on the Fantasy, we were in a family verandah cabin. Our umbrella stroller could fit open next to the closet- that would not have been the case in this cabin. There was also a coffee table in front of the couch, as well as our son’s pack and play that made moving around the cabin impossible. We eventually opted to have the chair under the desk removed, where the coffee table (which we doubled as a toy box because it had storage space) fit perfectly. We also removed the pack and play and our son slept on the couch with bed rails. That ended up working really well and gave us much-needed floor space.
This cabin is adjacent to a portion of the kids club. The hallway actually dead ends into the kids club, Disney’s Oceaneer Lab; however, it is not accessible from this end of the hallway. Outside in the hallway you can hear ruckus from the kids club but rarely in the cabin. The biggest problem was at night when they would clean the Oceaneer Lab. We use a sleep machine at night in our house so we have an app that does something similar when we travel. [The app we use is Sleep Machine Lite, version 3.0] The sleep machine mostly quieted the noise, but there were a couple of nights where the late night cleaning woke me from sleeping in the middle of the night.
The best part of this cabin was the balcony size. The size of the interior of the cabin made it a little tough overall. (We definitely prefer a cabin with at least a little more square footage.) The location, except for the kids club noise, was good too!
Sailing in the summer vs Winter:
I’ve been on a LOT of cruises and this was my first in the summer. The biggest difference was how calm the seas were. There was no weather really to speak of. As of the 5th day of this cruise, it only really rained significantly once. And that was at about 6:30 p.m. It also rained really hard for 25 minutes or so when we were at Castaway Cay. One of the other main differences is the heat of course. It is much hotter and more humid in the summer than the winter. Finally there is the amount of daylight. It doesn’t get dark until later which is nice. It was often a surprise to walk back to the cabin after dinner and still be able to see outside. When you cruise in the winter it is always dark by 6 p.m.
Activities on Board and Random Bits of Information:
As soon as we booked the cruise I went online to Disneycruiselineblog.com to look for postings of the Navigators (Disney’s daily paper with times of activities, among other things) from a recent previous cruise with the same itinerary. I noted that they had a Disney Jr. character breakfast and I also noted the times of the shows, etc.The itineraries won’t be exactly the same, for example the same character won’t be in the same location on the cruise from week to week, but they remain similar.
As I indicated, upon boarding the first day, we would have had to change request to be changed to first seating, but the cruise line had us on a wait list and they had moved us before the cruise- that was a fun surprise.
That first day we also went to get our tickets from guest services. They did, in fact, offer a Disney Junior breakfast. They also offered tickets for the Princess meet and greets and for Anna and Elsa.
In our room was a schedule for toddler specific activities. We went to Wake Up with Disney Junior, The Disney Junior Pirate and Princess Party, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. There was also ‘toddler time’ advertised that we never made it to. (At toddler times on past cruises they would have various toys or games out specific for toddler aged cruisers. The parents could participate with the kids or watch from afar.) Wake up with Disney Jr. was our favorite. There were a bunch of songs and dances that were enjoyed by the 4-5 and under crowd. My son loved watching the songs with movements, but didn’t participate much. Spoiler alert: during this cruise and the previous one, there was a character that would make an appearance at the end for the last couple of songs during Wake Up with Disney Jr.
My son, mostly with his grandma, did a few character meet and greets as well. There are decent sized lines for them, but he really enjoys them, and it is a good activity for he and grandma to do together.
We visited Nemo’s reef- the splash pad for diapered babies and toddlers. Officially from Disney it is for children under 8 (which is a bit old in my opinion) and is the only water area that can be used by those in diapers. We found it was the calmest and the least crowded before lunch. There would be older kids there that would run free and I personally wish Disney would do something to limit that. If your child doesn’t need to be supervised, they shouldn’t also be where the diapered children are. There is another splash pad for older children.
On the morning of the last sea day my son just wanted to take it easy and hang in our cabin. Grandma wanted to take him somewhere (I believe to see the princesses) but he wasn’t having it, so we just watched a couple Disney movies on their on demand system. There is no additional charge to watch the on demand movies. I believe this service is just available on the newer ships- the Dream and Fantasy.
We took a couple of opportunities for family pictures towards the end of the cruise. You don’t have to pay for these pictures either, but you can purchase them if you want. They were even able to crop one of the pictures to make it better suited for us.
The Ports of Call: Our cruise stopped at St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay (Disney’s private Island.)
We got off around 9 a.m. and went to the beach in the downtown area that is a water taxi away. It was $7 per adult and children 3 and under (I think) were free. Blake was for sure free, I am just not sure at what age you have to start paying for kids.
This particular beach is right off the ferry. A pushy lady immediately stalked us to buy a chair from her, which we ultimately did but on our terms. She wanted $25 for 2 chairs with an umbrella and pushed us towards the edge. We moved over more (where we wanted to be) and I told her we would pay $15- she tried for $20 but I stuck to $15 and that is what we paid. Honestly, they gave us great service because we wanted a larger umbrella and it would close or needing adjusting, and they were there for that. We also received wifi- it was not that great of a signal on the beach, and so that might be something that others would want to look into before committing to a restaurant/bar to buy the beach chairs from. I also went into their bathroom and it was not better than an outhouse. I was not impressed, but it was better than not having one I guess. We were only at the beach for a couple of hours (which is why we chose this particular beach location) because we wanted to be back on the ship for lunch and then to put my son down for a nap.
On this day we were also out early and went to a resort. I was able to set up a day pass ahead of time as a travel agent, but you could contact your travel agent to have them book you a day pass at a hotel/resort offering day passes in the area. We went to Dreams. Our son really enjoyed playing at the pool a little and on the beach. We had some issues with them not being able to handle food allergies, so we couldn’t stay long. My husband also wasn’t a fan of their food at all. Initially we were going to have my son just nap in the stroller but we ended up having to get back for me to have lunch and so we put my son down for a nap on the ship.
Other Misc. things:
We did take our car seat because we needed it for the plane and transportation to the ship. In a standard room – not a family sized room, there would have been no place out-of-the-way to store the car seat in the cabin… We were fortunate that we just put it in my mother’s room. We really were happy to have the car seat. We used it in St. Thomas and that made me more comfortable than the open air taxis which are the norm there. To get a standard taxi we just asked the person directing people where a standard taxi was located. It was about a block away.
This was also the first time that we had my son not sleep in a pack and play when we traveled. On Disney the couch folds down/flips over and there is a bed for kids to sleep. We put on bed rails and used pillows across the top and bottom and my son slept pretty well there. He was apprehensive at first but it worked out.
We did participate in some adult only activities during the cruise. They usually have a singer or duo that play and sing a variety of songs and this cruise was no different. The woman on our particular cruise played in various lounges around the ship. We also participated in trivia one day.
Our favorite was dining at Palo for dinner and brunch. Palo is for guests 18 and up and is an extra charge restaurant. The food is terrific. Brunch is offered on sea days and has a buffet of breads, meats, cheeses, cold seafood, and desserts. Then they do made to order breakfast and lunch. The portions are such that you can order several different choices and they are all amazing. My favorites are the eggs benedict and chicken parmesan with risotto. SO GOOD!
Dinner at Palo is all sit down plated dining. Our favorite meal is the filet of beef. It is just amazing. We also always really look forward to the chocolate souffle. The best part is they are able to do a gluten-free option for me!
For most Disney cruises you are able to find a facebook group for your particular sailing. The group for this cruise organized a private mixology class for the adults. It was nice to do it with the group because it gives you instant friends. We learned about bar tending and drink making. During the class we made and drank 5 drinks (some are half servings…) The cast members doing the class were great and interactive. There is a surcharge for this of $20, and it is usually customary to add a small tip. One drink had to be modified to be gluten-free for me and they had no problem doing this.
Overall I think Disney ships carry noise a lot more than on other cruise lines. Or people let their kids go crazy more on Disney lines. One thing to remember is that kids can have fun without interfering with the enjoyment of others. So no loud behavior in the halls (is true for both adults and children), no allowing your kids to run through the halls, or play on the staircase, etc. Sadly people feel their children are on vacation and can just be kids. They forget that they are on a luxury cruise ship and it is not their entire playground.
All in all it was a great family vacation and we would not hesitate to cruise again in the summer. For more of my thoughts on cruising in the summer, check out this post.
For more information about cruising Disney, check out this post which goes in-depth about Disney and also compares it to Royal Caribbean.
Want to change your cabin before the start of your cruise? You can try upgrading at the pier for a significant savings.
Other cruise lines open up upgrades for people before the cruise sailing for a savings, Disney however keeps the posted price until the cruise, and then will drop it to let people move up categories once they have arrived at port.
This is the story of our quest to upgrade at the port prior to a 7 night cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy at the end of January.
Our plan was to get on the 8:15 a.m. bus from the Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside but we had just missed it and ended up on the 8:30 bus back to the airport. By the time we arrived at the airport, there was already a decent line forming for Magical Express check in to the port. I took my son and got in line to check in while my husband waited for the items to off load from the Marriott bus and then get them on the Disney luggage truck. (The luggage was placed on a truck right next to where we were dropped off by the Marriott bus and would next be seen delivered to the outside of our cabin on the ship.) I’d say Disney started checking us in shortly after we arrived which was around 8:45 a.m. We made it on the second bus to leave the airport that morning and sat about 6-10 rows back. We were probably on our way to the port around 9:15 a.m.
Upon arriving at the port around 10 and them doing their schpeal before we could exit the bus, we were somehow first to the security line. (My husband even caught up after getting our car seat and stroller from the bottom of the bus items.) We went straight to check in at the Castaway Club line and were a handful of desks away from the port upgrades line at the end of the row. They speedily checked us in and got us to the upgrade line by 10:23 a.m. There were family verandah concierge rooms available as well as one 1 bedroom- cabin 12000. But the price had just doubled from earlier reports. The family verandah (category v) went for $1,500 and the 1 bedroom for $3,000 based on our booked category of a deck 6 family verandah. [Disney bases the price of the upgraded cabin from the category that you were booked into, to the category that you wanted to go to.] That $3,000 made me sooo bummed but ultimately we pulled the trigger and we LOVED everything about cabin 12000. [Check out our pictorial review.]
The next item of business for us was securing a cabana at Castaway Cay. We positioned ourselves to not be pushy but to be the first in the concierge area to get aboard the ship once it was time. Once on board we went straight to the lounge (we didn’t stop for pictures or to look around). Our strategy paid off as we were first to talk to a concierge host. We explained that we just upgraded and were wondering if there were any cabanas available and if not we’d like to be wait listed. We were first on the wait list and Tuesday morning we were told that they were able to secure us a cabana on the family beach. (Apparently the wait list was pages and pages long.) Sadly this cabana never made it into fruition as our ship wasn’t able to stop at Castaway Cay because there was some engine trouble during our cruise…
That is how you upgrade at the port to a concierge cabin. We did learn that ultimately, at least for now while we spend a lot of time in the room, we will just book into this category from the start.
Have you upgraded at the pier? What was your experience?
The how to’s of moving your dining time on Disney Cruise Line. I also discuss your options if your move is delayed until after the cruise starts, or if it never occurs. This article specifically deals with going from late seating to first seating (main) but it could be used in reverse if there was ever a need.
I’ve been scheduled for late dining but needed early for 4 Disney Cruises within the past 2 and a half years. In all 4 cases I’ve eventually been successful in my request to move to early dining. For the first 2 cruises I booked REALLY last minute- the week before for one trip, and 3 or 4 weeks before for the other trip. I put my request in my reservation both times to be placed on the wait list. Both cruises were 7 nights on the Fantasy. For the second cruise, which was this past summer, we were moved before we set sail! I was actually able to log into my account and see that I was moved several days before we cruised. What a nice feeling!
On the first cruise, we weren’t moved to early dining before setting sail. I had booked this cruise one week before we sailed and I put a request in (wait list) for early seating, which was not granted. Upon boarding the ship I had to go to the designated area to request a seating change, in this case it was the Royal Court dining room just off the entrance. I was like 15th on the list as we didn’t board until around 2:45 pm. I was told I would be notified that night about getting moved – they really didn’t notify us. Since we weren’t notified, or moved, we just ordered room service and ate in the room. The whole thing was disappointing.
In the future if we aren’t moved before the cruise starts, we will just eat quick service outside on the pool deck. Disney offers sandwiches, pizza, salads, etc. They even have high chairs in the seating area outside the quick service stands for my little guy. That would have worked out much better, which is why I am no longer concerned if my dining time doesn’t get moved right away, or ever. On the cruise mentioned above, we were ultimately moved to first seating by the morning of the second day. They notified us around 10 am. The plan for the future if we aren’t moved is to eat at Cabanas (the buffet which turns into a table service restaurant at night) for the nights they are open. Cabanas isn’t available the first or last night of the cruise. On those nights, we would just eat quick service.
Our third Disney cruise was booked 4 weeks before departure and as a result we were once again forced into second seating for dinner which just wouldn’t work with my toddler. [Dinner would have started a half hour after his bedtime.] We were placed on a wait list and I am very happy to report that our request was approved and we were moved into main/early dining before the start of the cruise. [I was able to confirm this by logging into my account and reviewing the cruise details. Under the cruise details it indicated we were in main dining.] I received this information about 3 days before the cruise. This took so much stress away for that first day. Had I not secured main dining before the cruise we would have had to go to the designated area the first day of the cruise to make the request one more time. My kiddo is sleeping before the second service begins, so that seating is just not an option right now for my family. But like I said, with the other options. I am just not worried at all anymore about being moved.
Finally, for our fourth Disney cruise, which was during a busy winter week, we were once again forced into late dining. We booked that particular cruise about 6 months before the cruise. Luckily for us, we were moved into early seating before we were even able to do on board check-in. Once again I noticed this by logging into the system and seeing we were in main dining. Disney does not send any notification if you are moved before the start of the cruise.
Those were our experiences. If you have any questions about how this works, feel free to ask me in the comments.