Disney Cruise Vacation Planning on a Budget

It’s happening! My dream vacation is happening this year! We’ve decided to take the leap and go on a Disney cruise with the kids and my mother-in-law in early Fall. It’s going to be a magical vacation and I’m looking forward to getting the ball rolling and making some concrete plans. Anytime we bring up a Disney vacation to friends or family we’re often reminded of how much it can cost. Well, they’re sort-of right. It can be costly BUT I have a few tricks up my sleeve so save hundreds of dollars and I’m excited to share these tips with you. This will be an active series to be sure to subscribe and plan this vacation along with me . After the cruise I will have a comprehensive list on ways to cut down the cost. My goal is to save $1000. Think we can do it? Well, with a little faith, trust and pixie dust, I think we can!!!


Step 1: Pick a date!

We are choosing to cruise in the fall. It’s off peak so it saves us money right off the bat. I’m giving my son’s school advance notice so the absence will be excused. If you have kids in school, you could try to cruise while they’re on fall break or look to get the absence excused. By cruising in the fall you will save up to 50% on your cruise. There are benefits to cruising in the fall when you’re on a Disney Cruise! We’ll be sailing on the Disney Dream for Halloween on the High Seas! The ship transforms into a magically spooky atmosphere!


Credit: Disney Cruise Lines

Step 2: Time to book it!

I was fortunate to post this blog early and was contacted by numerous travel agents letting me know that they can not only meet Disney’s price on the cruise, but also offer extras like on board credits. Our awesome travel agent was able to match Disney’s price of $3918 AND give us an on board credit of $100!  This is a 4 night cruise for 3 adults and 2 children. We chose a room with a verandah as it was a great option to accommodate our larger party.

If you’re looking for a travel agent that is knowledgeable about ALL things Disney, please give Charlie Mathews a shout. You can fill out a short form to get your free quote here.  Any of their agents would be happy to help you, but Charlie has been on top of things and I feel comfortable to personally recommend him. Keep in mind that it does not cost you one dime to book with a travel agent – in fact, it saves you money in most cases.

If you’re traveling with a smaller party you can choose an interior room and save even more money. Disney’s innovative take on an interior room makes it just as magical (if not, more magical) as a larger room with a verandah. Their interior rooms offer a magical port hole where you can see a live feed of what’s going on outside of the ship. Not only that, you get the occasional visit from disney characters in the port hole. How cool is that?!


Family Room With Verandah (Credit DCL)


Interior Stateroom (Credit DCL)

Step 3: Time to pay!

Whether you book through Disney or through a travel agent you can pay for your cruise with Disney gift cards. Better yet, you can open up a Disney Vacation Account. If you decide to do that, you actually earn $20 in gift cards for every $1000 you save! Since we’ll be saving just over $4000 that gives us $80! Read more about the Disney Vacation Account here.

Sam’s Club offers Disney Gift Cards at a discount. For $150 in Disney Gift Cards you pay $142. To pay for our $3918 cruise we will need to purchase 27 gift card bundles. This will cost $3834 for $4050 in Disney Gift cards. This saves us $216!! (The extra amount will be used later on) Simply load your gift cards into your Disney Vacation Account (DVA) and start earning.

But there’s more! If you’re a Sam’s Plus member you get $10 back for every $500 you spend. There’s another $70 in savings!

Let’s keep going! If you shop through Ebates and order online then you’ll earn 1.5% cash back. That’s $57 back in your pocket. If you’re new to Ebates, use this link and get an extra $10.

That’s impressive, right there! But there are even more ways to save. We got an offer from American Express for their Every Day credit card. To sign up we were offered a $200 statement credit for making a $1000 purchase within the first 3 months. We also qualified for 0% financing for 18 months. The AmEx card we chose to go with also offers 1% cash back on qualifying purchases (this would be considered a qualifying purchase). So tack on another $38 to our savings!! Shop around for credit card offers. Disney has a very similar offer for their Visa. Please use credit responsibly and check to see the APR after the special financing is over.

This brings our total savings to $698 so far! We’re already 3/4 of the way to our goal of $1000!

Step 4: Travel Arrangements

We live in Tennessee and have to travel to Orlando, Florida. Flying is an option but it ended up costing a small fortune. We have decided to make the 12ish hour drive. I’m not a fan of putting miles on our car and we want to fit our whole party in one vehicle (3 adults, 2 children + luggage). Renting a van is the way to go for our family.

We have a few options: I went through Ebates’ link to Enterprise. It will cost us $385 to rent a minivan for the week. This saves me wear and tear on my car which will also save money in the long run. Through Ebates I will get 2% cash back. Nothing too big, but I’ll take the $7.

If driving isn’t your thing or isn’t an option for you, there are still ways to save. If you fly into Orlando International and plan on staying at a Disney Resort, one of their nice air conditioned coaches will take you to your resort at no charge. From there, a coach will take you from the resort to port canaveral at $70/per person. If you’re flying in the day of the cruise, a coach will take you directly to Port Canaveral at a charge of $70 per person.

Step 5: Where to Stay / Parking

This goes hand-in-hand with parking. Since we will be enjoying one day at Disney’s parks, we decided to stay at a Disney Resort. There are a few perks that go along with staying at a Disney Resort (even the budget resorts!). Extended hours at the parks, complementary fast passes, and FREE PARKING! Do you know how much parking is at Disney? Twenty Dollas a day! Since we’d be staying two nights it just makes more sense for us to stay at a budget hotel and save $40 on parking.


Credit: Walt Disney World

We’ll be staying at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort. For our two night stay this comes out to $275. Lucky for us, you can pay for your hotel stay with (drum roll….) DISNEY GIFT CARDS! So let’s take another trip to Sam’s Club and buy a few more cards. Taking what was left over from our cruise ($134) plus another $150 gift card (that only costs us $142), that saves us $8 and gives us a couple bucks on our gift card.

Hotel Cost $275 – Left Over Balance on Gift card $134 = $141 Balance

$150 Gift Card – $141 Balance = $9 left on our gift card

*Gift Card only cost $142 so I’m claiming an $8 savings!

We’d also earn 1% cash back on our credit card as well as a bit more cash back from Sam’s with our Plus Membership.

Additional Savings:

Disney offers two Visa credit cards. One will earn you a $200 statement credit but comes with a $50 annual fee. I try to avoid annual fees whenever possible, but if you think the perks are worth it, then go for it. The other option is what we’ll be pursuing. We will use the Disney Rewards Visa card and get a $50 statement credit. Since you earn reward dollars, you can use it for things you’d normally buy and just PAY YOUR BALANCE every month! Your reward dollars can be used on your cruise and at Disney World. Keep in mind that if you begin to accrue finance charges it is no longer a money saving tool. So pay it off every month.

In addition to this $50 savings, you will also qualify for special perks on your Disney Cruise including:

10% off Disney photo packages

10% off merchandise purchase of $50 or more

10% off Castaway Cay getaway package *ages 5 and up*

20% off massages or facial treatments on board.

As the cruise gets closer and there is more to plan, I’ll be sure to update this series. Currently we’ve saved almost $800 and I believe with a bit more pixie dust we’ll hit our $1000 savings!

If you want to look at ways to save up for your cruise, check out this post:

Top 10 Ways to Save Money WITHOUT Clipping Coupons!


Edit: I’m so fortunate to have this platform to share my ideas and experiences. Within minutes of posting this blog I was told that I CAN use a travel agent, pay the exact same as the price listed on Disney Cruise Line’s website and still pay in gift cards. I’ve edited my post accordingly and will be including our additional savings in the form of on board credit on an upcoming post. Thank you so much to the travel agents and veteran travelers out there who were kind enough to share their insight with me!

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8 thoughts on “Disney Cruise Vacation Planning on a Budget

  1. Transfer your cruise to a travel agent to get an onboard credit. It will help pay the gratuities onboard and you don’t pay Disney Travel agents a penny!


      • It doesn’t work like that. Disney only lets you transfer within 30 days of it being booked. It won’t matter what agency who travel it to, its Disney decision.


  2. I love this blog! I did some similar things to save money on our last cruise. This only thing I disagree with is that you said using a travel agent would not save you money. The price the agent gives you should be the exact price as if you booked it directly online with Disney. If it was higher, then it may have been a similar room category but in a different location on the ship. Most (but not all) travel agents do not charge a fee as they get paid commissions from Disney and many provide on board credit based on the amount of your cruise fare. You mentioned transferring to a travel agent but you can only do that within 30 days of booking and you must not be paid in full. Also, travel agents have the ability to process all of the same forms of payment that you would be able to use with Disney, including Disney gift cards. I am a travel agent and process Disney gift cards all the time for clients. I’d be happy to help you out if you would like. The on board credit would help you get closer to that $1000 you are hoping to save 🙂


    • Thank you so much!! I’ve been contacted be so many people already about my oversight. I’m so grateful! Lol it seems as though I was given wrong info. Y several people and I’m so glad they were wrong! I will be using s TA (I’ve already been in contact with one) but I will be editing this post to correct my mistake and I’d be happy to include your info to my followers.


  3. I’m an Earmarked Disney Travel Agent. You’ve got some great savings tips here. But you’re missing one. 🙂 If you open a Disney Vacation Savings Account 120 days prior to paying off your cruise you can save earn an additional $20/$1000 that you apply there. You can open it with as little as $10 and then add your gift cards as you purchase them. Then you can use the vacation account to pay off your cruise. I also load any $ for excursions or onboard expenses and call to have that amount applied to my onboard account prior to sailing. Hope you have a wonderful cruise. Disney cruising is our favorite way to *do* Disney.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Top 10 Ways to Save Money WITHOUT Clipping Coupons! | MommyLaughs

  5. Pingback: Why You Need to “Do Disney” In The Fall | MommyLaughs

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