30+ Tips To Create Affordable Disney Cruises For Your Family
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We are heading on another Disney Cruise this summer and I’m super excited! A few readers sent me updates since I originally posted this, so be sure to scroll down for them. Disney now has a free Disney Cruise app that you can put on your phone that counts down the days till your vacation. I LOVE it! And once you get onboard this app will have your Cruise Navigation newsletter on it will all the daily activities, and a map of the ship. No more carrying around the paper. You don’t need to get the ship wi-fi to access it!
If you have any tips, email me and I’ll add them!
Saving money on a Disney Cruise can be done. Keep in mind that this is a vacation and prices include, your room, meals and so much more. It’s not going to be free, but here are 100 Tips To Create Affordable Disney Cruises For Your Family.Register on the Disney Cruise website and get updates on special offers sent directly to your email address.
Head to the Disney Cruise website and check the special offers section, including info on Florida Resident rates and Military discounts.
Book early, the earlier you book your trip, the better deal you will get. You’ll have better choices of cabins and dates that fit your schedule and budget.
Book late – Say what? You just told us to book early. I know, I know! But if you check out the rates, sometimes you can get a deal on a cruise because they have not completely been booked. They lower the price to get last minute cruisers on board! It’s best if you are flexible with dates, rooms and departure ports.
Book with a good travel agency – Disney doesn’t let anyone discount their cruises but they can offer other amenities. Many times the travel agency will have enough experience to find you the best deal for your budget. They sometimes offer a bonus for booking with them, like an on board credit or souvenir gift bags for the family.
Restricted outside stateroom – Ask the booking agent about restricted outside stateroom. This reduced our price because we could not choose our room. Instead, we were guaranteed an outside stateroom with a window, but it could be a restricted view and they would assign it to us based on what rooms were left over. If you decided to look into a restricted reservation here are a few details you’ll need to know. Just be sure to read them all or talk to your travel agent so you aren’t caught off guard:
- Full payment is due at time of booking. Booking holds are not permitted.
- Reservation is non-refundable.
- Reservation and applied payment is non-transferable.
- Full legal names and birth dates for all stateroom occupants are required at time of booking.
- Name changes after the reservation number is confirmed will not be permitted.
- Sail date, stateroom category and cruise itinerary changes are not permitted once a reservation number is confirmed.
(Photo credit: Disney Parks)
Consider an inside cabin. You aren’t really going to be in your room that much anyway! Plus the Disney cruises have an awesome inner cabin magical porthole with a real time view outside the ship. With a bonus treat of character appearances like Aladin on his magic carpet, floating by in the window! These rooms sell out quick, so like the tip above, book early!
Book a Verandah room – This may sound odd, but there are Verandah rooms with slightly obstructed views but the price is lower than a regular verandah room.
Book two rooms ~ This may sound counterintuitive, but if you have a large family, it maybe cheaper to get 2 adjoining rooms instead of a larger suite. This also works well for extended families.
Go on the off season – I’ve priced the same cruise, ship and room for the off season and they are much cheaper. Once school is out, the prices jump up.
Kids Sail free – Sometimes if a cruise is not fully booked, Disney will offer kids sail free after the first 2 paying adults to help fill up the ship before it sails.
Book your next cruise on board – Take advantage of on-board booking promotions and book it while on the ship. Not only will you get a 10% discount off the booking price, your cruise down payment will be less and you’ll receive an on-board ship credit to spend on your next cruise. Keep in mind offers may differ on each cruise. Not sure of your dates? Disney is very flexible with changes. Book any date to lock in these promotions and then change your cruise dates later once you’ve decided the best dates for your family.
Become a Castaway Club Member – Once you cruse with Disney once, you’ll become a Castaway Club Member. There are several levels of Membership depending on how many times you’ve cruised with Disney. From Silver to Gold to Platinum, each one comes with benefits. Benefits include, stateroom gifts upon arrival, early access to excursion bookings, free coloring page downloads for the kids and more.
Ask for an upgrade – All the Disney Cruises we’ve been on have been pretty booked, but when you check in, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The staff is very friendly and may be able to upgrade you if they are not fully booked. You’ll pay a fee, but it’s generally less than if you had originally booked that room.
Bring your own alcohol. Guests over 21 can bring alcohol on board in their carry on bags only. Do not pack them in your checked luggage. There is a size limit to your carry on bag so check those out. Hubby and I usually bring a backpack and they can each fit 2 bottles of wine. We also bring an electric opener, or you can bring items with a screw on cap. Keep in mind that if you bring a bottle to the dining room, you will be charged a $20 corking fee. So have a glass of wine before or after dinner. Alcohol brought on board may not be consumed in any lounge or public area.
Attend a party – Disney Cruise Line‘s captain’s cocktail party, which is open to all passengers on formal night, provides complimentary drinks. Just look for a server with a tray of drinks. Get there early to avoid the crowds.
By a bottle of wine at dinner. If you don’t plan ahead and bring it with you, you can buy the wine at dinner, and buying it by the bottle is cheaper than by the glass. The great part about your servers on a Disney cruise is that if you don’t finish a bottle of wine at dinner, they will cork it and save it for your for the next night.
Enjoy free beverages – Soda, coffee, and tea are included in the price of the cruise. This is an extra cost for most other cruise lines. If you are a coffee addict like me, you’ll love this feature. It’s also nice to ‘treat’ the kids to a soda now and again without breaking the bank. They do have specialty coffee bars but you’ll pay for those drinks, so avoid them and drink the free stuff.
Get a punch card – You know what these are, buy a specific number of drinks, get a free one? Hubby and I discovered the specialty coffee shop in the adult pool area had these punch cards. So even if you decide to pay for latte’s and cappuccinos, ask if they have a loyalty punch card.
Put Gratuities on your Credit card – Gratuities are now automatically being put on your on board credit, aka: the credit card you linked to your cruise account, unless you pay up front. We normally do this anyway, because we did not want to carry around as much cash. We will also get the credit card benefits, such as points or cash back (depending on your card). Then, on the last night of your cruise you can hand your envelopes (provided by guest services) with your tip. If you wish to give less or more, that is at your discretion. We chose to give our assistant server extra. He was super attentive, learned our likes by the 2nd night and did cute tricks and puzzles for the kids. So, he received the recommended amount, via the card/receipt, plus additional cash from us.
Use off-site Parking – Parking at the port can be expensive if you are driving yourself. While it’s very convenient, upwards of $20 a day can add up fast. Look for secure off site parking facilities that can start at only $5 a day. We did this on our 2nd cruise and it was fabulous. We pulled in, they loaded out luggage on a shuttle and drove us to the port. Be sure to budget tipping the drivers. The only stressor in this method was when we got off the ship. We had to wait for our shuttle and when it pulled in, 10 other families rushed to get on board. There was no ‘system’ for first come first serve.
Consider personal transportation from airport – Disney offers transportation from local airports (be sure to verify), but you will pay for transportation per person. Depending on how many are traveling in your party, you might want to consider a town car service as your ground transportation. For what you will end up paying for a ride on the Disney bus, you can get personal transportation for less, or even a Limousine.
Don’t by clothing – The Dining rooms on the ship do have dress codes that you will want to prepare for. If you need clothing to abide by these rules, check with family or friends and see if you can borrow clothing or shoes. Especially if you need a dinner jacket or nice dress. You can also cut costs by shopping for clothing at Thrift stores. On our 7 day cruise I bought my son 2 pairs of dress pants and he alternated these each night with a different shirt. You are really only in the dining room for a couple hours and our kids changed clothing right afterward to go play in. Disney has relaxed their dress code some, so be sure to check before you go, so you aren’t buying unnecessary items. I personally love my family dressing up for portraits and such, so I may not tell them the rules have changed. 😉
Take your own pictures – Just like the Disney Parks, there are cast members everywhere to take your picture. It is FREE to take as many pictures as you want and with kids you just have to keep trying till you get the perfect one. Well sometimes. The part you pay for, is purchasing these pictures if you so desire. Disney doesn’t make you buy any, but sometimes it’s hard to resist. The good news is you can take your own pictures. Bring a tripod and set your camera timer or use a remote to take your own family portraits. Then you can take as many as you want till you get a good one! There are also many opportunities to have your picture taken with characters. While there is a cast member for each character, that takes your portrait professionally, they are very nice about stepping aside for you to take a quick picture with your camera. Some will even take it for you. Keep in mind there are other people waiting so try to be quick. I took the below picture with my flexible tripod. You can set this small tripod up on a table, or wrap it around a railing!
UPDATE: Readers say they have changed the way they do Princess meet and greets. I’m told you must get a ticket at guest services to reserve your spot with them. Go as soon as you get onboard!
Avoid the gift shops – While this may seem obvious, it’s hard to do sometimes. Before you even get on the ship, locate the gift shops, usually all together, and avoid the stairs and elevators near them! If the kids don’t see them, you can avoid the begging and whining and stay away from impulse items.
Prepare yourself for impulse purchases – There will be times, when you’re sitting at dinner and Cast Members will come around and try to sell you fun light up cups and things like that. Or on Pirate night, you’ll find the light up toy carts all over for you to purchase. These can’t really be avoided, so you may want to set expectations with the family before you arrive. Let them know they can spend their own money if they wish but you will not be buying these items. You can also bring your own light up or glow in the dark necklaces from home, to save money. Then your kids won’t feel left out!
Reader Souvenir tip – “Buy pillow cases/fabric markers before the trip and have them personalized for free! Just drop them off in a ziploc bag at the guest services desk upon arrival and they will deliver them to your state room with either Princess or Mickey and friends signatures on the last night of your cruise! My kids’ turned out really cute!” ~ Thanks Sheila
UPDATE: If you have kids that get the activity wrist bands, make sure you RETURN them on time, or you’ll get charged a $12 fee for each one. We never had a problem with this but I’m told these are now nicer bands and some people keep for a souvenir. Just be aware that it’s a $12 souvenir.
Plan your own port excursions – These are typically all inclusive port experiences. If you have never been to the island before, and don’t know your way around, it might be a good idea to look into these. They usually include transportation, sometimes a drink/lunch, and the event. These can range anywhere from $20 to $180 per person, and add up quickly. But if you only plan on shopping, you might be able to walk off the ship and do that on your own. Or if you’ve been to the island before, you may already know the top spots to go to and can do them on your own. Sometimes paying for an excursion is worth it though. For transportation, and guide and peace of mind knowing Disney has done the research for you.
Shopping in ports – If you are a shopper, you can get Alcohol and other items in ports for possibly cheaper than in the US. Check pricing before you go so you know what is a deal. I purchased my favorite perfume for 50% off what I would normally pay here in the States.
On board movies – Disney ships have movie theaters on board and it’s a great time to view family movies together. While some would argue these are included in the price of your trip, I loved that we were able to see a movie that was currently playing in theaters and we didn’t have to pay for it on the ship. So take advantage of the movie schedule. Besides, seeing some of these movies again or for the first time on the BIG screen is fun!
Bring supplies with you – Don’t forget your sunscreen, goggles, and things like that for the trip. They’ll be much more expensive on the ship if you have to purchase them.
Pirate Night Costumes – If your cruise has a Pirate night, you’re in luck! This a really fun night including costumes, Pirate party and fireworks! Disney room stewards leave Pirate bandanas and eye patches in your stateroom for the entire family. But if you want to really dress up you can, and that includes wearing your Pirate gear to dinner. Purchase these costumes or make your own before you leave and pack them in your suitcases. It’s quite fun!
Stay off line – Come on, you’re on vacation, there’s really no need to get on the internet. Disney ships do have wi-fi in some cafe’s and areas of the ship, but you’ll pay for it. So instead if you MUST get online to check in at home or work, try to find free wifi on the islands. I enjoyed a cheap coffee and checked in with family at one of the ports using the coffee shops free wifi.
Be sure to check out my post on How to make a Disney Cruise Fish Extender.