How We Took a Family of 8 on a Disney Vacation for Under $5,000

MEXICO

It’s deemed the happiest place on earth, but an all-out, week-long family trip to Disney can set you back the equivalent amount of a brand new car.  Before my husband and I entered our debt-free journey, we promised our five kids {and one grandchild} a Disney World vacation for a week in 2014.  Obviously, a family of eight was not going to be cheap.  In fact, after doing the math, for all of us to stay on site with a meal plan, it would’ve run anywhere from $12,000-28,000.  {That didn’t even include the traveling expenses!}

Um. No.  

Going into debt for this vacation was not an option.  After three years of planning, researching, and saving, we were able to take our Kansas family of eight to Disney World for five days and the beach for two all for under $5,000 {TOTAL}.

Here’s a breakdown of how we did it:

1.THE DISNEY CREDIT CARD

Yes, I’m a Dave Ramsey fanatic, but unlike him, I do use credit cards for benefits and I’ve never carried a balance on one.  Ever.  Sorry, Dave.

Anyway, back in 2011, I signed up for the Disney Rewards Visa card.  This way I could earn points over the next three years to pay for our tickets.  With this card you receive:

  • 2% back on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations {stores, etc.}, and
  • 1% back on all other purchases.

There are other perks that you can read about here.

You better believe that I used that card for everything.  Everything within our budget, that is–paying it off each month.  In addition to the regular purchases like gas, groceries, and dining out, I used this card to pay our home and car insurance, my daughter’s dance lessons, my son’s baseball fees, our cell phone bills, our internet bills, and our cable. You guys, I even started tithing to our church using the credit card.

After three years, I was able to rack up $1,300.00 to use toward our Disney trip.  Not bad.

I applied those points directly to our ticket cost.  A five-day ticket with a Park Hopper for five adults and two kids {the baby was free} totaled $2,592.88.  After applying my Disney Reward points, I only owed $1,292.88.

  1. THE SOUTHWEST VISA CARD

About six months before our big vacation, I stopped using the Disney Visa and applied for a Southwest Visa card.  When you sign up you automatically earn 25,000 points.  After that you get one (1) point for every dollar you spend.  I stopped using the Disney card and put everything I listed above on this card.  In just six short months I was able to rack up enough points to cover the cost of two round-trips to Florida.  That left me with one round-trip ticket left to buy, which cost $479.81.

  1. DRIVING vs. FLYING

I really wanted for all eight of us to fly together, but that would have cost at least $3,600.00. Plus, one of my adult stepdaughters lives in Nebraska and the other two {+ the baby} are in Colorado, so we had to split up the traveling.  I was able to fly out all three of my stepdaughters {+ the baby} with my Southwest Rapid Rewards points {see above}.

My husband, two little kids, and I bit the bullet and drove the 1,320 miles {one way} ourselves.  The average gas price at the time was $3.51/gallon.  We get about 27 MPG in our minivan.  Add in that we drove about an additional 500 miles to the beach and around town, and our total cost for fuel was $408.20.

  1. STAYING OFF-SITE
Our rental house in Kissimmee.

Our rental house.

Instead of staying at a resort, we rented a huge house in Kissimmee via VRBO.  Check it out. 

This home has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a private pool, wifi, a fully stocked kitchen, and more.  This was much better than the eight of us being crammed into two hotel rooms.  I don’t care if we did have to drive back and forth to the park {which was only four miles away}, the space and privacy was invaluable.  In fact, my kids preferred swimming at the house over anything else we did that week. This place only ran $179.00/night for eight nights.

Since we drove, we also had to stay in a hotel for two nights on the way to Florida from Kansas.  I was able to get some good deals on Priceline for only $48.99/night, so our grand total for housing was $1,529.98.

  1. FOOD

    Dinner at Planet Hollywood

    Dinner at Planet Hollywood

I know you can go to Disney during the “off season” and get free dining, but that was not an option for two teachers; we really didn’t have a choice other than going in the summer.  So, instead of eating at the park or dining out each meal, we went grocery shopping.

  • For breakfast we ate cereal at the house before heading to the park.
  • For lunch we packed sandwiches, fruit, chips, and bottled water and ate at the park each day.
  • Most evenings, we came back to the house and enjoyed a home-cooked dinner.

We did set aside some money to get a few snacks at Disney and dined out three times.

The last night we splurged by going to Planet Hollywood—which, by the way, accepts Disney reward points.  After purchasing our tickets, we still had $35.00 worth of reward money to spend, which we applied to our bill.

We ended up spending $722.00 on all food expenses for the entire eight days we were there.

  1. THE BEACH
Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

Since Kansas is quite possibly the farthest state from the ocean, we weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to go to the beach when it was only 95 miles away.  We did Disney for five days, but also spent two days at Clearwater Beach.  Besides gas {already factored in to #3}, going to the beach was FREE. {Yes, we packed food for this too}.

  1. RENTAL CAR

Our minivan holds seven, but we had eight in our party; therefore, we rented a small car so we could all safely split up during the week if needed and travel to the beach.  I found a deal on Priceline and was able to get a rental for only $14.99/day after taxes.  That totaled $119.98.

  1. PARKING

Parking at Disney will set you back $18.00/day.  The first day, we were good stewards and drove the van and the rental car to the park.  But if we did that all five days, that was going to total $180.00.

That’s just silly.

So we did what any sensible family would do.  We strapped our six-year-old son to the top of the van.

OK, just kidding.  We broke the law in a different way.

{Wink . . . please don’t tell my mom, btw  . . . }. Since Disney was only four miles from our rental house, the eight of us piled into van {meaning someone had to sit on the floor} and we only had to pay parking for one vehicle.  Parking cost us $108.00 over five days.

  1. SOUVENIRS

There are all sorts of souvenir stores in Kissimmee, and you can get gifts for the fraction of the price you’d pay at an actual Disney store.  I bought a few things from the stores outside the Park during our stay and only ended up paying $28.00.

  1. MISCELLANEOUS

I knew we would need pool toys, beach toys, parkas, sunscreen and more.  Before our big trip, I bought most of this stuff at the dollar store, local grocery stores, garage sales, and even borrowed some stuff from friends.  The cost for all the extras was only about $42.00.

  1. DISNEY TRADING PINS

I didn’t even know Disney Trading Pins were even a “thing” until my good friend Kara told me about it two weeks before our trip and insisted we participate.  These pins run anywhere from $8.99-$34.99 each {yikes!}.  Instead I went to eBay and bought a lot of 25 for only $12.99 + FREE SHIPPING.

All 8 of us at the Magic Kingdom

All 8 of us at the Magic Kingdom

The grand total of our vacation:

$4,743.84 {give or take a few bucks}

Not bad for a family of eight. Some parts may not have been ideal, but nothing compares to a debt-free vacation.  We still made many memories and had an awesome time being together.

Watch the video below to see for yourself. 🙂

Do you have some tips for saving money at Disney?  Please share in the comments.

Love,

Screenshot 2015-07-26 at 11.57.14 PM

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3 thoughts on “How We Took a Family of 8 on a Disney Vacation for Under $5,000

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