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How to save money on a Disney vacation

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Affordable Disney vacations

To a kid, a trip to Disney to play with Mickey Mouse and dine with Cinderella is the ultimate. It can, however, put a major dent in the family budget. How do you save money on your Disney vacation? These tips will help you travel happy for a fabulous trip.

Disney World Vacation

Do you have the mouse on the brain? When you have kids, there is something so magical and endearing about taking them on a trip that they will adore. Disney offers the chance for them to interact with all of their favorite characters as well as have some amazing fun at the massive theme park.

With spring break fast approaching, it's time to hammer down those last minute vacation details. Trip taking can be pricey, but it's so good for the kids. If your spring break adventure (or any other trip adventure) includes Disney, then you should know that there are lots of ways that you can cut costs. Here are some ideas to help.

When to travel

The cost of traveling to Disney varies based on when you go, so it's key to travel at smart times when the rates are lowest.

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"Traveling during off-peak seasons will also save you money. Some less expensive months to travel are January, early-February, September-mid-November and the week after Thanksgiving through Christmas week. Remember that if kids are out of school, Disney will be more crowded and more expensive," says Lea Robinson, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner with Magical Mousecapades.

Getting there

With gas prices high and soaring plane ticket costs, it's a toss up which will be the less expensive option. However, the more people you travel with, the more likely you are to save by driving (in one vehicle, of course).

>> The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Travel writer Annemarie Dooling says that visitors should know that unless they are staying onsite, daily parking can cost roughly $12 per day, adding a bulky cost to your stay. The good news? If you do stay onsite, parking is free throughout Disney.

If you choose to fly, there is a free shuttle from the airport to the Disney property. "Unless you have a lot of young kids that are really impatient, I would not rent the car. You get a free shuttle to the airport and the free shuttle between the parks," says Dooling, who blogs about travel at Frill Seeker Diary.

Where to stay

Finding deals off site at Disney can be tempting, however with the added costs of staying offsite and the inexpensive Value options onsite, it can actually be more money-smart to stay onsite. Dooling says that between free shuttles and free onsite entertainment, staying onsite can really make the experience. "It's definitely better to stay onsite because of all the freebies that you get," says Dooling. "You just get so much more for the money."

If you have a big family, though, a vacation rental could be a better option. "Consider renting a vacation home in the area if you have a larger family and you plan to spend time at the home, which would allow you to prepare some meals there," says Leigh Caldwell of ThemeParkMom.com.

Tickets

The tickets to the park are one of the most expensive elements of the trip, but there are a few tricks to saving money. Dooling suggests getting a package from Disney. "If you book a Magic Your Way package... you definitely save a lot," she said. Also, she says that the more days for which you book tickets, the more you save overall.

Next page: Saving money on meals at Disney

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