Planning a trip to Disney World this year? It's going to cost you a pretty penny, but there are some ways you can save.
Read more: Kids and allowance: Should you do it or not?
Disney goes to dynamic pricing
Much like the airlines and a host of other industries, Disney Parks is shifting the price of a day pass based on demand. It's being called "seasonal pricing," and there are three periods: Value, regular and peak.
Value period pricing for the Magic Kingdom will be $105, which is the current price it normally costs at the time of this writing. Regular period pricing in this example will be $110. Peak pricing, meanwhile, will be $124. The other Orlando properties will be $97 (value), $102 (regular) and $114 (peak). Over at Disneyland in California, the tiers are $95 (value), $105 (regular) and $119 (peak).
What's a peak time period? CNN Money reports major holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas all will be treated as peaks.
Some people are saying that this dynamic pricing is a way to sneak a price increase through without actually increasing the price. That seems about right considering the price can only go up, not down, based on demand! So you're not really getting any opportunities for savings there.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to look at others areas for savings...
Figure out the cheapest places to stay
If you want to stay on the property, try renting a timeshare. MouseOwners.com has resources for both owners and potential renters. MouseSavers.com also features a lot of info on how to save on the experience.
If you're going to Disney World, you might consider off-site hotels around Orlando like the Four Season Orlando and Hard Rock Hotel. They're luring more visitors than ever with competitive rates, water parks and complimentary transportation to area theme parks. Off-site may also turn out to be more affordable, especially if the family has a car.
One caveat to staying off-site: You'll only be able to book FastPasses 30 days out from the start of your trip.
Know about the military discounts
If you're military, you have earned the right to save on your Disney trip! ShadesofGreen.org is a special program offered for military personnel and families in partnership with Disney. Discounted lodging generally starts at $95 a night. Other discounts on park admission, dining and transportation are available too.
Use the free FastPass+ option
FastPass+ enables guests to reserve a spot in line at favorite rides prior to their trip. Once guests receive their theme park tickets, they can log into My Disney Experience on the Disney website or app and make an itinerary of preferred rides and attractions. This feature allows families guaranteed access and short wait times to some of the hottest attractions. Visitors who master FastPass+ can minimize the wait times and maximize the time they spend playing in the parks.
If you're staying on a Disney property, you can begin lining up your FastPasses as soon as 60 days out from the start of your trip.
Have the right gear
Take ponchos from the dollar store with you for afternoon and evening thundershowers instead of buying overpriced ones at the park. Sure, they won't have cute characters on them, but they'll help you keep more of those other kinds of "characters" in your wallet!
Have the right reading material
Clark has long recommended that you get The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, not any of the official publications that come from Disney. This manual is updated yearly and tells you all kinds of money and time-saving tips that the parks don't want you to know.
Go when it's quiet
Even though the new dynamic demand pricing initiative won't let you steal a deal, you'll still want to plan your trip during a quieter time of the year if possible. You can get a sense of expected crowd sizes on sites like TouringPlans.com and WDWPrepSchool.com.
In general, fall is one of the best times for Florida vacations each year. Disney World offers discounts to Florida residents that fill the parks with daytrippers at that time of year. That creates some traffic, but not as much as you would have encountered over the summer. The real time to book, though, is during the first two weeks of December. Almost nobody goes on vacation at that time.
Use an app to plan your time in the park
A lot of families planning trips to the House of Mouse find it easy to coordinate all their planning in one app. TouringPlans is one great option, as is Trello. Give them a try!