How a family of four does Disney on a budget


Welcome to Money Talks, a collection during which we interview folks about their relationships with cash, their relationships with one another, and the way these relationships inform each other.

Walt Disney World is poised as a once-in-a-lifetime go to for many households, however for others, it’s house base. With new rides opening, seasonal meals abounding, and lodges debuting always, there’s all the time a purpose to return — and if you happen to’re a fan, it may be a slippery slope towards changing into wholly obsessed.

Rocio de la O Peña, her spouse Lenise Kryk, and their twin Three-year-old sons are wholly obsessed. Hooked on the utopian glee of a Disney trip, the couple has spent the previous few years eschewing a single blowout journey in favor of feeling that Happiest Place on Earth glow as typically as potential. They go for the rides, leisure, nighttime exhibits and sights which are typically included with their admission, however there’s loads of merchandise, seasonal meals, and add-ons to splurge for as nicely.

“Going to Disney” isn’t all the time synonymous with the California and Florida theme parks. The firm operates a cruise line, a Hawaiian resort, and even one thing known as the Disney Vacation Club, a time-share program that provides part-ownership in Disney lodges and the chance of visiting worldwide resorts like Disneyland Paris and Tokyo.

Rocio and Lenise do all of this — and extra. Based in Las Vegas, the family of four visited Walt Disney World and Disneyland, took a Disney Cruise, traveled to Disneyland Paris, and even joined Disney Vacation Club previously two years, all with out breaking the financial institution. Rocio, who works part-time for an autism remedy assistant program, and Lenise, the scientific director of an company that gives in-home behavioral providers for autistic kids and youngsters, make it work on a low-six-figure wage by means of setting their very own guidelines, snapping up a deal after they see it, and consuming a lot of cold-cut sandwiches.

With Disney holidays as the last word monetary precedence — and yet one more worldwide theme park, Tokyo Disneyland, on the horizon for 2021 — right here’s how they make it work.

The following dialog has been condensed and edited for readability.


Rocio: Because we had been Florida residents [until recently], we received our Florida Weekday Select annual passes in 2018. We had been in a position to take each 2018 and 2019 Walt Disney World journeys with these annual passes. It price $690 for each of us, and the boys had been free. [Children age 3 and under do not need to pay admission for Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks.]

Lenise: Their birthday is March third, so we went mid-February to have fun their 2nd birthday. The twins had a free flight there; not needing tickets for them has been a saver.

Rocio: The final two years we’ve been to Walt Disney World one time annually. We stayed with the identical associates each occasions, on property as a result of of their Disney Vacation Club, so we didn’t should pay for a lodge.

Lenise: We’ve by no means finished a Disney Dining Plan, [which allows you to pay for your meals in advance.] We eat 80 % of our meals that we deliver with us, and it’s really fairly doable for four of us. When we stayed at Old Key West — it was a large two-bedroom house variety of deal — we went to the grocery retailer on the best way up.

We usually purchase meals for breakfast if we keep someplace on property — yogurt, some waffles for the youngsters — after which we pack sandwiches, fruit, and a lot of snacks. It’s kinda like whenever you go to the film theatre, you simply wish to eat all day. When you stroll by churros, pretzels, and cookies all day lengthy, you gotta have a substitute. We’ve received a cooler that matches very nice with the stroller; we’ve received all of it dialed out. It’s an additional bag and a cooler, that’s actually all it finally ends up being. And then we purchase one meal within the park.


Rocio: On the 2019 Walt Disney World journey, I used to be in a position to e book all four of us for $510 on Frontier Airlines to Orlando International Airport

Lenise: Rocio is superb, I don’t understand how she finds the flight offers she finds. Sometimes we’ll fly into Ft. Lauderdale or Miami after which hire a automotive and make our means up the coast to Orlando.

Rocio: We don’t name them holidays, we name them journeys. Vacation is whenever you loosen up.

Lenise: Traveling with kids is a journey. I work with children with autism — I’m a behavioral interventionist, so coping with behaviors and shaping behaviors is what I do on daily basis. It’s like a way of life; it’s not one of these issues you possibly can simply flip on and switch off. They are, , not angels of course — they’re Three — however I believe we’ve been fairly per guidelines and expectations, so I believe that helps. Souvenirs may be very costly — I’ll get Disneybranded Pez dispensers or random different Disney trinkets we discover [at home] to place within the stroller and randomly give to [the kids] like, “Here’s a Disney treat!” They might care much less if it’s from Disney World or not, and that undoubtedly saves fairly a bit of cash.

Rocio: We don’t have passes to Disneyland or Disney World proper now. We didn’t renew as a result of we had been going to go from two to four passes [because the kids got older]. We knew we needed to do a Disney Cruise and go to Tokyo Disneyland in 2021, so we put that as a precedence. We didn’t wish to cope with the crowds of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening, so we figured it was a good 12 months to take a break.

Lenise: If anybody will get us a reward, it’s Disney reward playing cards. We save the Christmas ones and use these for the deal with or toy [the kids] select that day. And Starbucks reward playing cards — I do know it appears actually foolish, however once we’re driving to Disneyland and even at Walt Disney World, we save these to have our breakfast there.

If folks provide you with money, you’re going to spend it on stuff. If they provide you Disney reward playing cards, there’s no possibility however to spend it at Disney. Target has Disney reward playing cards, and in case you have a Target card or RedCard, you get 5 % off. A pal has a RedCard, and when we’ve a greater journey, [they’ll lend it to us to] purchase Disney reward playing cards. It retains us inside our budget if I understand how a lot is on that reward card. If I simply use a bank card, I’ll neglect how a lot I’m spending.

Rocio: We actually take into consideration issues a lot.

Lenise: This is the one means that we will really do it. I believe our associates both assume we’re similar to multi-millionaires as a result of we go to Disney a lot, however the ones who include us find yourself going, “Okay, I get it.” We know what we wish and we’re prepared to sacrifice sure issues.

Rocio: We are very fortunate to have associates which are prepared to [let us visit with their points]. We purchased our California Disneyland annual passes the primary 12 months after which my spouse’s superior boss gave us annual passes the following 12 months. So, we’re simply very, very fortunate, too. The two occasions we had our annual passes from 2017 to 2019, we went to Disneyland 50 occasions.

Lenise: We went Disneyland 10 occasions in 2019; over 20 days complete.

Rocio: The rule for Disneyland is [to stay in] strolling distance from the park and get free parking. That’s my precedence once I’m taking a look at lodges. Usually I do HotelTonight or Hotels.com as a result of they’ve the most effective offers. I by no means e book upfront; I all the time e book two nights earlier than or the day of, as a result of most of the time we’ve stayed strolling distance to Disneyland for lower than $100. If we will squeeze free breakfast, that’s superb, but when not, we deliver it.

Lenise: We max out our time in Disneyland for positive; we begin early and we keep late. There’s a CVS proper by there too, so it’s nonetheless cheaper to go get lunch meat and bread and stuff, however a lot of occasions, since we’re driving in, we simply deliver all the pieces we want and ensure the place has a fridge. I’d slightly go 30 occasions within the 12 months and lower your expenses with sandwiches than simply go one time.

Rocio: In Disneyland, I’ve to go to Ghiradelli as soon as a journey to get the Nob Hob Chill shake with a shot of espresso ($10). Ghirardelli does not take Disney reward playing cards, so this deal with all the time comes out of our spending cash.

Lenise: The Disneyland corn canine are undoubtedly a splurge for me. I all the time just like the apple pie caramel apple ($11.99). I can’t make these and carrying that might be a nightmare.


Rocio: We did the seven-night Very Merry Christmas Cruise in November 2019 on the Disney Fantasy. We booked it by way of Costco as a result of whenever you e book from them, you get 5 % again if you happen to use the Costco bank card and $250 Costco money, in order that undoubtedly brings the price down.

Lenise: The journey, earlier than these rebates, was $5,200. I knew I needed to do a Disney cruise for my 40th birthday, that was no query … however we did it in November as a result of we received three further days and Christmas theming for nearly the identical worth it will have price us in April. We received our Santa photos there, we received our family Christmas card photos there, so all-in, not too dangerous.

Rocio: We had a aim for final 12 months for our financial savings, and we knew that we had been going to spend this cash subsequent 12 months anyway, so we compromised and stated okay, we’re going to take that from our financial savings now, however subsequent 12 months, we’ve to fulfill our aim.

Lenise: We joined Disney Vacation Club this previous November whereas we had been on a Disney cruise. We’ve gone and finished the spiel most likely 3 times; we all know the advantages and we kick ourselves within the butt for not getting it earlier. Whenever we appeared it up earlier than, we had been taking a look at a $500-a-month cost and I used to be like, “I can’t, that’s just too much, I’m gonna have a hard time sleeping at night for the next 10 years.” So, [for a smaller funding with fewer “points” that can be utilized to e book rooms] we pay $250 a month and the down cost was $four,300.

Rocio: We do should pay property taxes annually, however the price was waived as a result of Disney’s Riviera Resort, the property we purchased into, wasn’t but open on the time.

Rocio: We even introduced our popcorn bucket [on the cruise] so we might get $1 popcorn refills. We tried to save lots of.

Lenise: We really borrowed it from our associates in Florida, took it there and gave it again to them.

Rocio: It’s the little issues.

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