How To Save $40 A Day (Or More) at Disney

Find out how to save money at Disney by planning ahead and packing snacks. 8 Tips to Maximize your savings.

When I was a freshman in high school my parents announced suddenly that we were going to Disney. My dad had gotten a bonus at work and boom we were headed off to Florida for vacation in 2 weeks. Now my mother is one of those planning people, there is a list and a system and a plan, so to say that a two week turn around rocked her world a little bit. She bought one of those Unofficial Guide to Disney books (yes, I am that old- travel web sites were not utilized) and started the listmaking process in fast forward. One of the other things that she did was a big shopping trip where she stocked up on oatmeal packets, snack foods, and juice boxes. She packed all of this into our checked luggage and anytime one of us talked about being hungry that trip she magically pulled a snack out of her fanny pack (yup, fanny pack- as a teenager I was of course properly mortified). Our money on that trip went to nice dinners.

Years later, I have my own family and like me they are grazers. We love snacking in our family so when we were headed off to Disney World for the TravelingMom retreat I immediately began planning my snack strategy. With my gluten free requirements and my parents coming along as well I planned to pack a box of snacks to check as one of our free pieces of luggage on Southwest. Using coupons and shopping sales I was able to buy enough breakfast and snack foods for our trip for roughly $30. 

Next up I laid everything out on the counter and took it out of the boxes. Packing items in their original boxes takes up too much space but you don't want items to get squished- this is where plastic cereal containers come into play. They fit a ton of items and protect them from baggage handlers intent on squishing all of your Nutri Grain bars. 

I did several like this - one with all gluten free items for myself, one with breakfast foods, and one with snacks. The great thing about these containers is once you've eaten all the food on your trip you can pack them full of dirty clothes and put them in your suitcases on the way back. The main goal with snack packing is to have to check a box on the way there and not have to check one on the way back.

Top 8 Things to Remember When Packing Snacks

1- Pick things your kids will actually eat. Now is not the time to convince them they like tiny boxes of raisins. You won't save any money if your kids won't eat what you brought. Our kids love fruit snacks and Go Go Squeez's so we made sure we had plenty of those.

2- Attend to those with allergies. Allergy friendly dining at Disney is fantastic. They specifically shine at table service locations but for quick snacks planning ahead is your best bet unless you want days of fast food. I packed enough gluten free snacks to cover my time at Disney and also to substitute in for a meal if I couldn't find something.

Gluten free goodies for me (and tea for my parent's nightly cup of tea). 

3- Don't forget about drinks. It's brilliant planning to bring reusable water bottles (and you should) but your kids are going to see other folks with a variety of drinks and they will probably get tired of water. We packed a box of Capri Suns and also powdered Propel and Gatorade. With all the walking that we did we were still easily able to keep the kids interested in drinking fluids and were constantly replenishing their electrolytes. 

4- Breakfast items will give you the most bang for your buck. If you can eliminate an entire meal from your daily budget then you get a savings gold star! For us oatmeal packets are always a popular choice and the hotel room coffee maker provided hot water. I packed 2 plastic bowls and spoons. For myself I packed a roll of rice cakes and some peanut butter. 

5- Bring a couple fun snacks that you normally don't have in the house. Part of my strategy to keep the kids away from snacks at Disney was to offer a few items that I don't normally buy. Fun size packs of cereals and Pop Tarts provided a distraction from the ice cream and cotton candy swirling around us. 

6- Start a bin ahead of time. I set up a laundry basket roughly the size of the box I wanted to use and started buying items on sale and with coupons to toss in it. I also "shopped" our own pantry for items that fit the bill of small, portable and non-sticky. 

The laundry basket of snacks at it's fruition. I might have needed a bigger basket.

7- Buy larger and bring Ziploc baggies. Cost- wise the tiny packs of Goldfish didn't make sense for us so I bought in larger quantities and packed them in the large bag to save space (and to decrease the likelihood of them turning into Goldfish crumbs). I also packed small snack size Ziploc baggies (a Sam's Club super sale coupon find from last year I have enough of these to last till the girls go to college!). Once in the hotel room I was able to divvy them up. 

8- Once at the hotel set up a Snack Command Central. To the sound of my husband's teasing I packed my Ikea fabric drawer organizers. They unzip to lay flat and made the perfect snack holders. I designated a snack drawer and a breakfast drawer and put my gluten free snacks in a separate holder. 

Organized snacking in our Coronado Springs hotel room. 

We found that planning our snacking ahead for Disney allowed us to save at least $40 a day in snacks (those $4 waters/drinks add up). I put our savings towards the purchase of Memory Maker which pleased the grandparents in a big way! What are your kids favorite snacks? Did I miss any major points? 

Disclosure: My family and I were hosted on our trip to Disney as part of our TravelingMom retreat. My parents paid for their own accommodations. I would have packed snacks either way :) . 

Parenting? There's An App for That

Working from home I dread the "Wahhh" coming from the upstairs playroom when I'm in the middle of a report or article. Because.... sisters. Quiet hours long tea parties and the building of a town out of Legos can dissolve into an instant into an interrogation scenario. While I'd love to think that when I run from my office to see what happened I'll be told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth it usually ends up being the individual child's creative interpretation of "their truth".

The system we have. Description & image from

Enter the Panasonic Home Monitoring System. The starter kit had 2 outdoor cameras and a monitoring hub. From the moment it arrived at the house my husband and I were in a debate about where exactly to put it. We already had an alarm system but no cameras with it. Until my father in law, the voice of reason, chimed in "Why don't you use it to watch the girls in the playroom?". Genius! With a micro SD that could record video and direct viewing on the Panasonic Home Network app it was the perfect solution. After a quick setup that didn't involve massive amounts of Googling or scratching our heads we were ready for a test run. (Fellow TravelingMom Karyn Locke gives a really in depth setup review HERE.)

The True Test

"Now we just have to wait for them to argue," I told my husband. Of course everyone knows that kids have their own timeline so we waited for a long 15 minutes (does that count as a date?). And then the shrieking kicked in. "Stop," we yelled thru the monitor. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that you can talk THROUGH THE MONITOR? Epic. The girls froze. 

We went upstairs. Normally asking what happened results in a song and dance where we try to interpret the embellishments out and understand the younger one (who is speech challenged). This time the talking monitor had them at full attention and we got a quick answer. It was such a momentous occasion that I even documented it on Facebook. 

Video confirms this story. 
We've also gotten some fun random captures from the camera. Did you know that stuffed animals dress up when you aren't looking?

Monster is really rocking that cowboy hat. 

The Verdict

This product is a strongly recommends. It has solved several mysteries for us (Yes, the dog does stand behind me when I'm not looking on purpose). We have another camera aimed at our stoop for security purposes. I receive a lot of packages for work and if anything ever goes missing I will have footage of it. We are looking at purchasing additional cameras. This system is a much more realistic system for families. With the smart phone app integration it is extremely easy to check in on your house or family from wherever you are. 

Now I'm not advocating parenting through smartphone or consistently reviewing the tape to see who is in the clear but the ability to speak to the kids through the monitor and do quick safety glances while still being productive in my office has been fantastic. (And is the reason I was able to even type out this review!)

Disclosure: I received the  Home Monitoring System to use and review as a member of the TravelingMom Network.