When we started planning our Disney Cruise, the number 1 comment I heard from friends and family was “I wish we could afford to do that. It is SO expensive!” The follow up question is “How can I save money on a Disney Cruise?”
I am not going to lie. Disney cruises are not cheap. Especially when you look at other, less magical, lines. Which is why it’s always best to have someone else pay for it.
KIDDING (sort of!)
While it would be nice to have a wealthy family member, friend, benefactor or fairy godmother, that’s just not the case for most of us.
A Disney Cruise is not something our family could do every year, or even every other year. But, it was something we really wanted to do with our family, and so we found ways to make it work and it was worth every penny!
Since so many of my friend have asked how we saved for our trip, I thought I’d write a post sharing what we’ve learned. In the planning stages, we heard so much great advice from experienced cruisers that really helped us.
Here are our Top 10 Ways to Save Money on a Disney Cruise
#1 Book Early (Or Late)
If you know you want to book a cruise, it’s best to book as early as possible. As soon as the dates are released. A year (or more) out. Prices go up and up and up as the months go by and the ship fills up, so for your best rate, book as soon as you can. There are times when it may pay to wait, however. SOMETIMES Disney Cruise Line will release special discounts closer to the time of sailing. Also, you can often find last minute deals on Guaranteed category rooms (These rates guarantee you a stateroom in a certain category–Inside, Outside, Verandah– but you cannot select your room or specific category.
#2 Use a Travel Agent
A travel agent save you time, stress, and MONEY. (Some even offer on-board credits!) Even though we are Disney pros, we use a TA because of the convenience, and the fact that our agent is always on the lookout for the best rates, and knows what to do to ensure we get every deal or discount we’re entitled to! A good agent will also help with all your planning needs and questions.
#3 Buy Gift Cards at Target
Since you’re already at Target 6 days a week, this should be easy. Oh. Just me? Well. It’s worth stopping in! Did you know that you save 5% on Gift Card purchases when you use your RedCard? It’s true. So basically you’re getting free money. 5% may not seem like much, but every little bit helps! If you buy $1000 in Disney gift cards, you’re only paying $950. The “downside” is that Target typically only carries the $25 or $50 cards, so for a cruise, you’d need to buy a LOT (And Target often limits the number you can purchase in one transaction. This is due to fraud, and will vary from store to store) and then you have a whole bunch of cards when you pay (online, by phone, or on the ship) So what I do, is enter the cards on the Disney Gift Cards site. There you can manage and transfer balances, adding all your $25 cards onto one (up to $1,000) So you don’t have a massive stack of cards. (Sam’s Club and BJ’s also offer gift cards at a similar discount)
#4 Use the Disney Visa
The Disney Visa is great because not only do you earn Reward Dollars on eligible purchases, but you also get a promotional APR of 0% for 6 months on select Disney vacation packages and Disney cruises!! This gives you a little extra time, if needed, to pay off your trip without accruing dreaded interest!! There are also some great Disney Cruise Line perks that you can enjoy when you use your Disney Visa onboard. You can find more info on that HERE
#5 Cruise in the Off Season
I know this can be difficult when you have children in school, but if you can make it work, you’ll often find much cheaper rates during the off-peak times, like Fall.
#6 Go Inside
Inside staterooms are the lowest priced staterooms. So, if you’re ok to book one, you can save a good bit of money. I know many people don’t like the idea of an inside cabin, do to the fact that it,s well…inside. But, Disney has made inside cabins a bit more desirable on their Disney Dream and Fantasy ships by featuring a virtual porthole! The porthole is basically a TV screen, but it has a real-time view of the outside, making it feel like you have a real porthole. And you can see some of your favorite Disney Characters as they make fun appearances on the screen!
#7 BYOBeer or Wine
Alcohol is not included in your cruise package, so if you plan to have a drink or two, or more it may be a good idea to bring your own! Disney Cruise Line policy states: Guests 21 years and older may bring two bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750ml) or six beers (no larger than 12oz) on-board in carry-on luggage at the beginning of the voyage and at each port-of-call. Please note, there is a $25 corkage fee for guests who bring their own wine to dinner in the restaurants. All liquors and spirits (including powdered alcohol) are prohibited and will be stored until the completion of the cruise.
#8 Book Two Rooms
If you are a family of 5 or more, it may be cheaper to book two adjoining rooms than to book a larger stateroom or suite. Definitely take the time to price it out, to see what your savings might be.
#9 Book Excursions on Your Own
Shore excursions can be pricey when booked through the cruise line. With a little research, you can often find the same excursions on your own, for much less. You can also find different excursions that may suit your family’s need better (For example, in Grand Cayman, our family wanted to visit Stingray City. The Disney excursion required children to be at least 5 years of age. Avery is 4, so we looked on our own. We found GREAT reviews for one company, and their price was half what the Disney excursion cost.) I was a bit hesitant about this at first, and we did book two of our three planned excursions directly through Disney (it was our first big family cruise, and I liked the convenience of having someone else handle the details, especially since we were going to countries we’d never visited before) The benefit of booking through Disney is that they have already done the work of vetting the tour operators, and should any issues arise, Disney is there to step in and resolve it. But, if it is cost prohibitive to book through DCL, then definitely check to see what other options are available for your family!
#10 Open a Disney Vacation Account
The Disney Vacation Account is a great way to budget and save for your trip! You decide how much you want to put aside, and when. Maybe it’s $25 a week, or $200 a month, it’s all at your own pace, and you can set up the account up to 5 years in advance of your trip! Contributions are automatically deducted from your debit or credit card, and you can book your trip directly through Disney with the funds in your account! Another benefit of the Disney Vacation Account is that for every $1000 you spend on qualified vacation purchases, you’re eligible for a $20 Disney Gift Card! You can learn more HERE
Bonus Tip! Book Your Next Cruise While On-board!! If you LOVE your Disney cruise, ad know that you’ll ant to cruise with DCL again, you can book your next trip while on-board! You will save money (Typically a discount of 10% off), receive and on-board credit ($200 for sailings of 7 or more nights. $100 for sailings less than 7 nights) a discounted deposit (10% as opposed to the standard 20%) And, if you want to use a travel agent, you can still rebook on-board and then transfer the booking to the agent (they can help you with that!)
A Disney Cruise IS expensive, but with a bit of planning, and by following these money saving tips, you can bring your family on this most magical adventure!!
Have you been on a Disney Cruise? Please share you best money saving tips in the comments!