If you’ve known us or followed us for any length of time, you know that we love Disney. We have a little history with Disney, though. Duane and I met working at The Disney Store back in 1996 and we were married just two short years later in Disneyland. We have raised our kids in a “Disney home,” following many of Walt’s own traditions. And we visit the Happiest Place on Earth whenever we can get away for a few short days. Many people wonder how we can afford it, but we’ve visited so often that we know how to spend and save money. Also, working for Disney allows us several benefits that not all guests can afford. And even though Disneyland will always be our go-to vacation, we also love going on other adventures outside of Disneyland. So, how does one go on adventures on a budget? I’m going to share with you my top 5 money-saving adventures. And yes, Disneyland is one of them.
- DAY DRIVES. I think one of our favorite things to do as a family is to find a place just a couple hours away and take a day drive. It’s always fun exploring new things. Last week’s blog was about how to make memories anywhere and this is one of the easiest, and cheapest ways to do it. Usually all it takes is a full tank of gas and some research. Pack a lunch, grab your smart phone for directions, and you’re off! Here in the Seattle area some of our favorites are Leavenworth, Mt. Rainier, any place a ferry can go, or even the city itself. You just need to get creative.
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SEASONS. Every town, city, state offers seasonal adventures. In the fall, visit your local pumpkin patch. Summer time is great for fruit or veggie picking. Regardless of the season, find something new and fun and go for it. Again, with just a little research, you can find adventure just about anywhere and at any time.
- VENTURE OUT TO A NEARBY BIG CITY. One of our favorite getaways as a family is Portland, OR. If we have a couple of days off in a row, we try to head out of town. Portland offers great shopping and dining. And it doesn’t matter how often we go, the kids love staying in hotels. It’s a different experience for them. And who doesn’t love going for a swim or soak in the hot tub after a long hard day of eating and playing?
- GO FIND YOUR PARK! Did you know that you can purchase an annual park pass for the entire family for just $80? And it pays for itself in 2 park visits. Every state offers several national parks, historic sites, or historic reserves. Again, just pack a lunch, several snacks, water bottles, jackets and/or hats, and fill up the car. The National Park Service also offers a Junior Ranger program with fun activities and adventures for your kids and an opportunity for them to earn a Jr. Ranger badge. All of my kids, including my 17-year old, love earning their Jr. Ranger badges! Just visit The National Park Service to find out more information and programs near you!
- DISNEYLAND! OK, you knew I had to! Like I said, we visit Disneyland as frequently as we can. Each visit is different and depending on the kids, they all experience something new. So, how can we afford it? Before I was worked for Disney, we had annual passes. If you visit the park more than 5 days, you will have paid for your annual pass. Plus the annual pass gets you discounts on food and store purchases. There are several hotel offerings around Disneyland Resort, so just choose the one that best suits your family’s budget and needs. For our family, I’m all about saving as much money as we can. I bring a backpack with me filled with snacks and waters to save on food purchases. Our kids have learned to split meals so we only end up purchasing 3 meals at a time instead of one for each of us. If they’re still hungry, they can have a snack, but most times, they’re just fine. And I’m not big on souvenirs, but we give each of our kids a $25 gift card to spend on souvenirs, dole whip, churros, etc. And the biggest money saver for us is transportation. We load up all 4 kids in the minivan for a 18-hour-straight-thru drive. We have done this so often that we know where to find the cheapest gas, cheapest food, and best times to travel to save time. I guess you could say we’re experts on Disneyland on budget!
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to find adventure! Just a little imagination and research. Now go find adventure! It’s out there just waiting for you!