Tips for Doing Disney with a Big Family

by admin
The 6 boys at Disney

The crew at Disneyland summer 2012 – I was holding the camera.

Penniless Parenting had a guest post with some money-saving tips for going to Disney on the cheap.  They were great, but I don’t know if they addressed the larger family very well.  We’ve been to Disneyland twice as a family and Disney World once, and our oldest is 12.  Frankly even writing that makes me feel like I have been either incredibly lucky or we have been incredibly rich… and if you saw my bank account today you wouldn’t conclude that last.  How did we do it?  Well, first, read “Tips for Disney Holidays on a Budget” then come back here.

Keep reading below the video if you want all the gritty details.

  1. Piggyback your trip with something else.  Two of our Disney visits were attached to a major conference we had already planned to go to.  This allowed us to basically negate travel costs as we were going to go anyway.  However, there isn’t always a great excuse to travel to SoCal or Florida (Or Paris, or Tokyo for that matter).  In either case, planning as far in advance can allow you to put things together that mitigate the costs.
  2. Saving at the Gate: Make friends with Disney employees… or friends with friends or relatives of Disney employees.  Our last trip to Disneyland, a good friend of ours knew two people who worked at the park, who were able to procure day passes for us for free.  Each employee gets a generous number of these per year.  Bonus tip: try to at least be subtle about your reason for seeking their friendship… if you never speak to them again after your trip, you may well have your visit to the happiest place on earth contaminated by guilt… which sucks.

    Disney D

    The big D and I don’t mean Dallas.

  3. Food: bring your own is a great one from the other list… but to me, a big part of the experience is dining in the Pirates of the Carribbean, character meals, etc.  Consider the Disney Dining Plans – we found them to be good deals and simplified what could have been quite complicated.
  4. Accommodations: With 6 kids, we are out of luck: Disney hotels hate us.  The only options we can see if we go to Disney World again is getting TWO rooms – they have hard restrictions of 4 people to a room.  Even at value hotels, that’s a lot of money to blow.  We went when we only had 4.  Now with 6 that’s right out.  My recommendation is to consider camping at Disney World. It’s around $40/night for tent camping, or $55 /night for RV hookups.  I just checked the rental cost on CruiseAmerica for a 7 passenger RV (would work for us as the twins only take up one bunk) and you’re looking at $595 for 5 nights.  Add that to the hookup site at Fort Wilderness for the same nights (assuming you can’t find a special on either – I picked a set of days in October) you’re looking at a total accommodation cost of $925 = $181 accommodation cost.  Factor in the fact that you won’t need a car rental while you’re down (saving you $400 at least), and it’s comparing favourably to the 2 bedroom suite option at Saratoga Springs (over $3000!) or $98 per room per night at a value resort (the best price I could get off the vacation site) which would total out at $980.  If you tent it instead of RV it, it gets even cheaper.

    What you came for...

    What you came all this way for…

  5. Getting There: if you’re going to fly, use websites like to get the best possible price – they allow searches on different airlines to mix and match.  Once you have identified the flights you want, buy them on the airline’s homepage.  You will always get the best price possible from the airline itself without a middleman.
  6. HOWEVER, flights are generally unaffordable for large families.  Our twins are 4 now and no airline would allow them to sit on our laps.  8 tickets on the cheapest airlines would still be running us into the thousands of dollars.  My recommendation is, if you live ANYWHERE in North America, to consider planning a road trip.  We live in Alberta, Canada, so we’re looking at a minimum 4 nights there and 4 nights back, but that’s STILL cheaper than flying. (2 nights hotel, 6 nights kamping kabins @KOA = $480; $200/day gas = $800; 1 restaurant meal per day $50 + groceries for breakfast, lunch and snacks $30 = $640; TOTAL for us driving = $1920 getting there and back.  Cheapest flight today is $441 x 8 = $3528!)
  7. BONUS TIP – Go just before your youngest child/children turn 3!  We did this last year, literally going the day before the twins turned 3.  The day they turn 3, Disney charges almost adult price for admission – like over $100 per day.  As long as they are 2, they are free.  Cost of entry is one of the biggest expenses in any Disney vacation, so keep this one top of mind!

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