Thursday, March 10, 2016

DIY Disney World Projects & Money Saving Tips


Our family recently came back from our first family vacation to Disney World. The two kiddos outside my stomach had a blast, and the one in my stomach was kind enough to give me a break for the week. That's right. Our family is about to expand by one more. Which means I have a ton of home improvements to finish in 5 months and no energy to get anything done.

When we decided to go to Disney, we wanted to have fun but not break the bank. Disney can be expensive (duh). So, I decided to DIY some different projects to save money. I also have some other money saving tips I have included below. These projects would be fun outside of Disney as well. I'm thinking birthday parties, other types of vacations etc.

1. Disney Themed Shirts

I bought a package of fabric paint markers. Using these markers, I was able to make four different shirts. Plain color shirts are only $3.00 or so for children, so making our own shirts saved some money and was a fun treat for the kids.

I made three of the shirts using a method I found online. I found a pattern I liked and cut it out on contact paper I had horded.....I mean saved. Mickey ears are rather easy to cut out. I also used my Silhouette cutting machine to cut out letters to make a shirt for myself. Rapunzel thought it was pretty cool.



My shirt says "Best Day Ever"

The final method I used was making a Mickey applique. Using a sturdy fusible interfacing, I just had to cut out the design and hand stitch it on to the shirt.

2. Drawstring Backpacks

Neither one of our children are seasoned flyers, so we wanted to make sure they had plenty to keep them occupied on the plane. The trip itself was a surprise and so were all the extra toys. I decided to make each of our children a drawstring bag as carry on for the flight. I filled each bag with treats and new small toys to keep them occupied. It's actually rather easy to make these types of bags. You basically just need to sew a sack and fold over the top for the ribbon to slip through. I would recommend using lighter weight fabric so the bag closes easily.

3. Stroller Identification

One thing about Disney is there are a ton of strollers. Each stroller parking area is a sea of black, and it can be hard to remember where you put your stroller. Often cast members are rearranging the strollers so they don't block walkways, which means your stroller can be moved to a completely different location. One easy personalization I did was adding yarn around the handles, attached with hot glue. It made it very easy to find our stroller when we were done with our ride. It's also easy to remove after the trip if I would like.

4. Lanyards

We decided to take a stab at pin trading. If you're not familiar, cast members wear lanyards with pins and if you have Disney pins, you can swap pins with them. It was a bust for us (more to come on a different post about that) but the kids still loved wearing them. Since the lanyards are nothing more than ribbon, I grabbed some Disney ribbon and made our own for a fraction of the cost.

Money Saving Tips

I spent quite a bit of time online reading all sorts of articles before our trip. I've been to Disney twice, when I was in 6th and 11th grade. Going as a parent is a completely different ball game. There's tons of websites out there with hundreds of ideas. Some worked for us, and some didn't.

1. Order Groceries Online

We ordered food via Garden Grocer about 20 days before our trip. We weighed the pros and cons of the Disney Dining Plan before we went, and decided with two picky little eaters, it didn't make sense to have all that food included. I ordered enough food online to cover breakfasts (milk and cereal in the room before we left) and lunches while in the park (wraps, salads and sandwiches). This service really is awesome. We ordered fresh produce so the kids could eat apples instead of junk food all day. I'm still queasy from my pregnancy, so being able to have fresh food made me feel better all day long.

The logistics are very easy too. You order online. They deliver on the day and time frame you request. Luggage services keeps the food in the fridge so it says fresh. You pick up and bring up to your room. The prices were more than fair and the delivery charge was also fair. I believe we spent $60.00 dollars on this food and it covered most lunches and breakfasts. Plus we had snacks and food when we got back to the room later in the evening. Our room had a fridge.

Disney does allow you to bring soft sided coolers in. I packed a medium sized cooler and lots of freezer bags in our checked luggage. We would just double bag ice from the hotel machine and that kept our food cool all day. Since we had a stroller, we just had to hook the cooler there. (I've also heard of people renting a locker for the day and keeping their lunch in that so they didn't have to carry it around) Keep in mind you can pick up jelly and mustard from all the quick service/hotel dining areas, so you don't need to worry about ordering those items.

Eating a sack lunch usually worked out perfect because we would find a quiet place to enjoy our lunch and relax. Our son would usually fall asleep and take a nap during this time.

2. Buy a Brita Water Filter Water Bottle

Everyone warned that the water on site is pretty awful tasting. They weren't joking. Since I am pregnant, I knew I needed to drink a ton of water, and I didn't want to haul that around in the park. With the water filter bottle, I could easily go to any water fountain and have great tasting water. It was completely worth the cost.

3. Bring Glow Sticks

When it starts to get dark, all the parks start selling glow in the dark thing-a-mijigs. I didn't want to buy a $14.00 glow in the dark sword every single night. So we packed glow sticks in our checked luggage. The kids got the whole cool light up factor, and I saved myself a ton of money. They are available at the $1.00 store.

4. Bring {Some} Souvenirs

We did allow the kids to each pick out one item they wanted at the parks. We also had Mickey hats made for me and all three kids. (I have hats from my last two trips, so I thought it was fun to get one as a mom). But to avoid buying hundreds of dollars of items they can get for a 1/4 of the price back home, we brought some with. I packed them discretely in the checked bag and left them out in the morning. When the kids woke up, they thought a special friend had brought them. My daughter was extra excited by her Elsa dress.

5.  Stay on Property

I know this is a choice that doesn't make sense for everyone, but as a family flying in, there really is no other way. There's free transportation from the airport to the hotel. The Magic Express really has it down to a science on how to get everyone from the airport to their hotel efficiently. When you book early enough, you put special tags on your bag and Disney gets them from baggage claim to your hotel room without you doing a thing. The trip back is just as easy too. You can check your baggage right at the hotel so they take care of getting it to the airport and to the airline. You get your boarding passes at the same time so you're ready to go right into security when you get to the airport. As a resort guest, you get free transportation to all the parks. There's also special magic hours that allow guests to get into the parks early or stay late. Finally, as a resort guest, you get a magic band which is pretty magical. It's your room key, park ticket, photopass, magic express ticket and if you wish, you can use it to pay for items in the park and hotel. We did that option and it was really great to avoid digging in my bag for my wallet.

6. Use a Disney Travel Agent

If you use a authorized Disney travel agent, you don't pay for their assistance. They get paid directly from Disney. But they have the expertise to get all your reservations set up when it comes flights, hotel, and dining. This helped maximize all the time we spent planning for the vacation and the time we were at Disney.

My next post will explore what I didn't like about our vacation. Including one HUGE mistake on Disney's behalf.


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