How to save money with gift cards, more
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Amy Maiocco has been saving up for more than two years to take her family on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Walt Disney World.
“It’s definitely been a labor of love,” she said.
The total price tag, including cross-country flights for her family of six, is expected to be more than $10,000. Week by week, Maiocco has squirreled away thousands of those dollars using tactics like buying discounted gift cards and earning credit card rewards.
“This would have been the only way we would have been able to afford to go,” she said.
Here’s how Maiocco and other Disney fans make expensive vacations a little more affordable:
Do Disney gift cards save money?
Disney gift cards can be used to pay for Disney resort hotel stays, park tickets, dining, merchandise and other Disney-centric purchases.
You can save 5% on the face value of those cards by purchasing them at Target using a Target RedCard. Wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Clubs also sell Disney gift cards at a slight discount, which can sometimes tick higher around the holidays.
“I literally only was able to do this by adding $25 to my grocery bill every single week,” Maiocco said.
Sometimes she would buy a $50 gift card, which would cost her $47.50. She may skip other weeks if her family needed the money for something else. She kept up that practice until she had more than $2,400 in gift cards, which she pooled online and set aside for food and souvenirs before pivoting to saving cash so she didn’t end up with money left on gift cards after their trip.
“Now it just kind of feels like we don’t have to hold anything back if we wanted to,” she said. “Go ahead and get that extra churro or that specialty item that I maybe would have not wanted to spend the money on.”
Can you rent a timeshare at Disney?
Maiocco could have paid for her hotel stay with Disney gift cards if she had booked directly through Disney or a Disney vacation planner, but the mom of four chose to rent a two-bedroom villa at a Disney Vacation Club property through a third-party service like Dave’s Vacation Club Rentals and DVC Rental Store. Renting a DVC property can cost significantly less than booking through Disney, but it’s still not cheap.
She paid for her stay and park tickets using a Disney Visa card from Chase, which earns reward dollars that can be used in the parks and offers discounts on Disney experiences ranging from dining to guided tours. So far, Maiocco has earned about $400 in reward dollars, which will cover more meals for her family.
What is the cheapest trip to Disney?How to save without sacrificing the magic
What Landry’s restaurants are at Disney?
One of the first meals on their trip will be at T-REX, a Landry’s restaurant in Disney Springs.
“My youngest loves dinosaurs, like obsessed,” Maiocco said.
She expects the bill for her family of six to easily top $200, which she’s well on her way to covering with Fetch, a rewards app that allows users to earn gift cards by scanning receipts.
“My husband says I’m like the cheapest person on the planet, but if I see a receipt on the ground, I’m grabbing it and I’m scanning it,” Maiocco laughed. “I’ve been doing that only about a year, but I have already gotten $150 in gift cards.”
Landry’s gift cards can also be used at Yak & Yeti in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Rainforest Cafe at both Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs.
Is it worth getting a travel agent for Disney?
Maiocco booked everything herself, but many guests can stretch their dollars by working with a Disney vacation planner, like Nina Byrd, owner of SmartVaycay Travel Group.
“Us travel agents, we get on there and we will check prices of different times of the year and different days of the week and things like that,” she said. “If I have a family that can only do a three-day trip, my first question is ‘Can you do Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday instead of Friday, Saturday, Sunday?’ Because you’re going to save money by going during the week.”
Travel agents who specialize in Disney can also suggest different places to stay to make the most of your money and time.
“Yeah, maybe we could put you in a deluxe resort, but you could stay two or three more days and have two or three more park days if you want to do a value resort,” Byrd suggested.
Even after booking, Disney vacation planners can help you find deals.
“When you lock in your price … your price will never go up,” Byrd said. “But as the time gets closer to your trip, Disney is always putting out some kind of promotions and things like that. And if your dates fall under any kind of special promotion in the future, we can absolutely apply that and save even more money.”
Some travel agents do charge clients for time and services, but many, like Byrd, do not because Disney pays them in commission.
What can I get for free at Disney World?10 freebies for your next trip
How soon do you have to pay off Disney vacations?
A $200 deposit is required to book Disney vacation packages through Disney or a Disney vacation planner. That includes park tickets and stays on Disney property. Final payment is due 30 days before arrival.
Byrd estimates about 75% of her clients pay in installments.
“Your travel agent can make your payments on whatever schedule you like,” she said. “I have some people that call me every two weeks, when they get paid, with a new gift card number, and we update.”
She too recommends stocking up on discounted Disney gift cards through reputable retailers like Target. “When you’re spending thousands of dollars, every dollar helps,” she said.
Maiocco agrees. Even though it took a lot of time and planning, she said: “I would do it over again. If you’re ever going to go, it was the best piece of advice that somebody gave me.”
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