Taking a trip to Walt Disney World is expensive. Even with all the specials and discounts, you’re looking at three to five thousand dollars even for a basic value week depending on how many in your family. And if you are like me, you rent a car, enjoy nice restaurants and attend special events and back-stage tours, so it really adds up. Think of it like a cruise on land. A great price gets you on board, but you still need to travel there and back, pay for all the extras and gifts, buy new clothes and preparatory items, and take side trips.
Establish a travel savings account: This is the first and most important step. By keeping your travel savings separate from your other accounts, you set the stage for everyone in your family to focus on saving for vacations. As the account grows over time, everyone gets to celebrate the small success and count-down the time before you meet your goals.
Round up checkbook entries. I heard about this recently, and it’s similar to putting change in the jar but the opposite. If you write a check for your phone bill of $62.55, enter it in the checkbook for $63.00 or even $65. At the end of each month or quarter, deposit the extra money from your checking account to your travel savings account. It might only be $5 - $10 a month, but after a year that will easily pay for a couple of souvenirs.
Saving Loose Change: Keep a bowl or jar and put all your loose change in there every night. This sounds obvious, but with a few techniques, it will amaze you how much you save over time. My favorite is to never pay exact change so you have coins to deposit at day’s end. Every few months have a family rolling party and deposit it all to your travel savings account. A year’s worth of change can easily amount to more than $500 and with multiple family members participating, over $1,000. How many Disney tickets will that buy?
Dollar a Day: If you deposit a dollar a day to a piggy bank, that’s $365 a year. We actually have a large Crayola Crayon bank for this. If Mom and Dad do this, you’re at $730 for the year. Maybe grandma or grandpa would contribute on behalf of the kids? Anyway, you see what I mean. And it doesn’t have to a dollar; it can be a quarter or dime. Whatever the amount, you could find yourself paying for a family meal or for several nights lodging after 12 months.
Save and collect deposit bottles. Most people save and return deposit bottles, but interestingly many don’t, especially drinks they take on the road or have at the office. Bottle collection is a great way to get your kids involved in saving for vacation, especially as a way of building their spending money on the trip. In a year’s time this could raise $50 to $100 or more for an average family, which can be the amount of pocket money for a child on your trip.
Planning Notes: What I am encouraging is two things; first to plan your vacations well in advance and second, involve the whole family in putting aside money toward the trip. I know there are people who go on vacation, pay cash and never have to worry about it. I’m not one of those people.
In addition, I’m not about to state that I can save all my trip costs in advance; there is usually a part that I put on the charge card. But I plan for a target amount on the card, normally one-third the projected cost of the trip. That’s why a two-year “big” trip cycle works pretty well. For 12 months you save and then charge one third when you travel. For the next 12 months after the trip you start saving again, and pay off the one-third from the prior trip. The latter is important, so you don’t build debt, just advance yourself some of the funds payable the next year.
Save your raise: This is more difficult when you’re younger, but unfortunately most people don’t put aside money for future needs. The goal here is to put your annual salary increase aside. Maybe not promotion dollars, although a portion of could be put toward your next trip. But I’m talking about that cost-of-living, two or three or four percent you likely get from your job. Put it towards your travel account direct deposit. If you earn $30,000 a year, three percent is $900; for a $60,000 employee, three percent is $1,800. This will likely pay for airline tickets to get you there and back. Maybe you can’t do this every year, but maybe only every other year; or save half of your raise if you need household money. It’s called, pay yourself first.
Sell Stuff – Garage Sale: A common way to sell stuff you no longer need or use is by having a garage sale. It’s another one of those things the entire family can be involved with and raising a few hundred dollars you put into your trip saving account will likely cover all of your gifts or souvenirs (that you can sell at your next garage sale).
Sell Stuff- EBay: An increasingly common way to raise funds from household items is E-Bay. For my last trip, we scoured the attic and basement to find items raising enough for two back-stage tours for me and Mary Ann. Some people have gotten pretty good at this, and their earnings include not only their own items but those they find in other people’s garage sales. Over time, that Pay Pal account of yours might pay for an entire trip.
Couponing: The goal is to not just cut the cost of your grocery bill; but to be more aggressive and put the coupon savings aside. Take the money you save from using coupons at the store, and set it aside with your coins into your buck-a-day fund. Yes it’s a gimmick to save, but isn’t that what this blog series on saving for your trip is all about. Putting coupon savings aside rather than spending on something else can pay for your meal plans without much effort. Pay yourself first!
Save the Unexpected: Well, maybe it’s not always unexpected, but you know that birthday money you get, don’t spend it but put it into your travel fund. Another source is the actual money you win from the lottery, you know the $2 or $5 or even something $20 you win. Put that directly into your travel fund. Someone gives you cash, put it aside. Think of what you can buy when you’re at Walt Disney World with an extra $50 or $100. [Or better yet, when you get the urge to buy a lottery ticket, put that money instead into your buck-a-day Crayola.]
Match your kids: If you give your kids an allowance or pay them for chores, offer to match whatever they put into the travel savings fund. If the amounts are small, maybe double match. But the point is that they should participate in the family goal of saving money for your family vacation. Not only will it provide them with spending money on the trip, but it starts a habit (pay yourself first) that will benefit them their entire lives.
OK, this is Part 1 of how to save money for your vacation (Disney vacation, of course) and save money while on your Disney vacation. I have a lot more ideas to share, some from my experiences and many from yours. We’ll continue this theme of saving for your trip in the next article. And by the way, if you’re not already saving, do it now! You never know when that next Disney vacation bug but will hit. And, pay yourself first.
A World View - Enjoying Walt Disney World
Note: Photos by Express Monorail
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