A Disney Cruise Vacation may seem like a far off goal, but with a little planning, your Disney vacation on the Dream can become a reality. Check out how this long-time reader made her Disney dream vacation become a reality.
We have a saying in our family, and that is, “Disney just knows how to do it right.” When it came time to pick the destination of our family vacation, we knew a Disney Cruise would fit us well. After all, it was the perfect mix of children’s and adult activities all in one. What more could you ask for?
When we began planning for our Disney Dream Cruise vacation for our family of four, the numbers quickly started adding up. Between boarding, airfare, hotel accommodations the night before we embarked, gas, parking, food, and all of the other little fees that add up, we knew we needed to save some serious cash. For us, charging this trip to a credit card was not an option and something we wouldn’t do to ourselves. We decided then and there we would save and thus pay cash for this trip.
Our four-night Disney Dream Bahamas vacation would take place in September, so we began saving, planning, and plotting six months prior. Was it easy? Not always. But we were motivated. Here are some of the methods we used to save and eventually pay off or trip in cash a full month before we even boarded the ship.
Let’s see what we did!
How We Paid Cash for Our Disney Cruise Vacation
1. Travel in the off-season.
This is HUGE. When you travel in the off-season, you easily save 25% or more on your trip. For us, we looked at the early fall months as that is typically back to school time and no longer considered a prime travel time.
For cruises, the fall season is also hurricane season, so you can travel much cheaper than you would any other time of the year. The chances of running into a storm are slim (cruise ships can easily navigate around storms) and travel insurance would ensure that we got our money back should anything not be able to happen as planned. So how much can you save? The difference between a cabin for 4 in September as opposed to June was nearly $2,000.
Not sure what the off-season is for the location you want to travel to? Just Google it!
2. Book early.
This seems obvious, right? Well then do it! Don’t wait. If you know you want to travel to a certain location, book early. The wonderful thing about traveling to Disney destinations is you can put a deposit down to hold your travel plans and the most current price. For our trip, we were able to put just a few hundred dollars down to secure our spots and the price. Out of curiosity I looked at the same travel package we bought just a month before the trip and the price had jumped about $700.
3. Talk to a travel agent.
For some reason, people are still under the impression that a travel agent costs extra. They actually do not. They are paid by the companies they book with, so it does not cost you extra to speak with an agent for extra help and possibly some better deals. Our agent was amazing and was able to book our transfers, answer our questions, and give us helpful literature regarding our trip. This did not cost us a dime and brought us so much peace of mind.
My friends at Get Away Today would love to help you plan your Disney Cruise Line Vacation!
4. Make cash payments.
In a world where everything seems to be handled via a charge card, this may seem strange. But with the agent, we were able to make cash/debit card payments and pay our trip off little by little. We compiled our receipts in a binder so we had solid records of all transactions.
We, of course, chose a trusted agent who had been in the business for over 30 years in our area, so it was something we felt comfortable doing. It was wonderful not having to come up with a huge chunk of cash and pay everything off at once. Find an agent you trust and make cash/debit payments. Don’t even think about getting that credit card out.
You can also use Disney Gift Cards to pay for your Disney Vacations. Use the Target Red Card to get a 5% discount and purchase Disney Gift Cards that way.
5. Take advantage of Swagbucks.
We utilized Expedia to book our flights and hotel room that we needed the night before the cruise began. We found great deals and were able to use the search engine to find a hotel that offered a free shuttle and even a free breakfast.
So where does Swagbucks come in? You can shop at Expedia through Swagbucks, earning points on your purchase. You can then redeem the points for gift cards to Amazon and hundreds of other retailers. These gift cards then came in handy to purchase items we needed for the trip including clothing (affiliate link) and toiletries.
How to Make Extra Cash
Ok, so where did our cash come from?
That is a great question. As I mentioned we paid off this trip little by little, and the money sure did not fall out of the sky. Here is a breakdown of where we came up with some extra cash so we didn’t go into debt.
1. Consign Clothes for Extra Cash
You need to weed out clothing (affiliate link) that the kids don’t fit into anymore, right? Why not get paid for it? The kids helped us weed through clothing (affiliate link) and toys they no longer used. They were motivated too to get this trip paid for so they could meet Mickey! We were able to put several totes of items together and take them to our local consignment shop. We earned several hundreds of dollars this way.
2. Sell What You Don’t Need
We took part in our neighborhood garage sale and listed items on eBay for some extra cash. If there was something we no longer used or needed, it was sold. Gone! It did not matter if it was worth $5 or $50, we sold it and every little bit added up.
Books, movies, collectibles, clothing, it did not matter, it was all sold if there was no longer a use for it. This was another way we earned a minimum of $500 to put towards our vacation. Plus, our house felt less cluttered which was awesome.
3. Take on Freelance Work and Extra Jobs
As a writer, I am always looking for additional freelance jobs. So, I joined various writer’s groups online where bloggers posted their needs. I was able to book quite a few jobs this way. Of course, taking on extra work requires time, so there was a big sacrifice here. I wrote at night when everyone was sleeping and I had some peace and quiet. I spent a few months with bags under my eyes, but if it meant packing bags for our trip without going into debt, it was worth it!
4. Clip Those Coupons
If we wanted to take this trip, there would be no more expensive grocery store runs. I made sure to step up our couponing game and save as much as I could each week at the checkout. This is such an easy way to shave 20% or more off your grocery bill and all you need to do is print your coupons off online and go. The money I saved by couponing went into our vacation savings fund.
5. Cut Out Unnecessary Spending
This was the hardest part. But we just kept reminding ourselves that each time we bought something we didn’t need, we were getting further away from our goal.
Instead, we controlled our spending and learned to say no to many of the extras we enjoyed. I kept the binder with all of our trip info out on a counter where I could always see it and be reminded of what our reward would be. If we did need to buy something, we tried not to purchase it without a coupon, a coupon code, or at least before we had the chance to do some price comparing.
6. Bring Everyone On Board With Your Goals
We made it clear to our children, to family, and to friends that we were saving for this trip. Why is this important? Because it is easier to do when everyone is on board.
The kids were great about not asking for things when we went to the store. Friends knew that if they were going out to dinner or to enjoy a pricey activity that we would probably pass this time around. When people know your goals, they can help you achieve them through their encouragement.
We have great friends and family, and they were wonderful cheerleaders as we saved each dime.
More Ways to Save For Your Disney Cruise Vacation
There are tons of ways to save money here and there when traveling. You just have to know where to find the deals. Here are a few of the odds and ends we did in order to stretch our travel buck even further on our Disney Cruise Vacation.
1. Buy Trip Essentials Online
Motion sickness bracelets can cost as much as $7 each at the drugstore, but we found packs of two on Amazon for as low as $5 each. We were able to use Amazon gift cards we had earned to get these bracelets even cheaper. Toiletries, swimsuits, travel bags, and all of your travel necessities can be found online for less, so browse there before hitting your brick and mortar stores.
The kids really wanted princess costumes to wear to dinner on the trip since many of the other children do this. The Disney Store had princess costumes for $50.00 each, but I was able to find comparable ones on eBay for just $19.99 each. Plus, I earned eBay bucks back on each purchase and even scored free shipping. Also, not needing to leave my house also meant not having to spend money on gas!
2. Pack Your Own Snacks
Don’t pay $5 for an airport bag of chips. Pack your own instead. This goes for road trips, airplane trips, train excursions, whatever! Pack your own snacks, gum, and candy and you can save tons. Take drink packets to mix with inexpensive bottled water. Pack granola bars, peanuts, and other high protein snacks that will keep you full and energized. We easily saved a ton of cash by having our own snacks on hand during our travels.
3. Take Advantage of Free Hotel Perks
Hotels offer perks you can take advantage of for free. Free shuttles, snacks, coffee, breakfast, and more can be found when you travel. The thing is, you sometimes need to ask about them. By doing this we were able to keep our expenses low. We only needed to spend one night at the hotel, but we made sure to make it count and not bust our budget.
4. All-inclusive for The Win!
The nice thing about the Disney Cruise line is everything was included in our fare. If you are traveling with kids, this may be the perfect option for you. This way, you are not pulling out your wallet constantly. You can eat, drink, and entertain yourself as much as you want for one price and not worry about running out of cash.
5. Keep Clothing and Packing Simple
We kept reminding ourselves to keep things simple. Traveling light and taking only the clothing we already owned was more simple than I thought. While I was tempted to buy new clothes, our goal to pay off the cruise before we set sail was the goal. After all, you never know if you are going to lose luggage on the way! It was also nice not having to pay for extra baggage as we were able to carry everything on in carry-on bags for free. This easily saved us $100 in baggage fees.
Our Trip Was Magical
When we arrived at the terminal on cruise day, we were overjoyed. Our six months of hard work and sacrifice was now about to pay off. We were able to unwind, relax, and enjoy our time as a family together and not worry about money. We knew that we were about to have the time of our lives and would not be returning home with a credit card bill waiting for us. It was truly a carefree time for us and we soaked in every minute of it!
On the Disney Dream, we enjoyed gourmet food, top-notch entertainment, personal service, and of course lots of Disney magic. When we were enjoying prime rib and crème brulee at dinner and coming back to towel animals in our cabin each night, we knew we earned it and those long nights writing and bag loads of items we sold were all a distant memory.
We are really an ordinary family, we just decided we wanted to take an unordinary Disney Cruise Line vacation and not do it while throwing ourselves into debt. I would say that thanks to these tips and strategies we used, we succeeded!
Monday 13th of December 2021
Hi I loved your post, we are currently doing the same as you did and paying monthly payments for our cruise next year 2022. I do have one question though did you save extra money to purchase more items while on board and did you use a debit card for the ship as a place holder if you guys wanted anything while on board?
Wednesday 23rd of February 2022
This was a guest post but we are supposed to go at the end of this year unless something changes. I'm planning on using a Disney Gift Card to help us stay within our budget! I hope that helps. If for some reason that isn't allowed, I'll use our Disney Visa so we get Disney Dollars for future use.