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After I mentioned to a friend last week that I’ve been to Walt Disney World eleven times in the past five years, he responded without hesitation, “I’ll never go there because I can’t afford it.” Many people who have never been to either Disneyland or Walt Disney World imagine overpriced food, price gouging on tickets, and hotels way out of their family’s budget.  But, you can make a vacation to the happiest and most magical places on Earth feasible and fun without taking a hammer to your piggy bank.

One of the best ways to save money on a vacation to a Disney park is to grab one of many available discounts on hotel rooms and packages. With the recent downturn in the economy, Disney frequently offers discounts up to 30% off on-site hotels during most of the year, excluding Christmas.  During the fall, Disney will frequently offer a free dining plan to guests who purchase a Magic Your Way vacation package that includes your hotel room and theme park tickets to Disney World. If you don’t have the time to track the latest deal, travel agents like Small World Vacations and Dreams Unlimited specialize in Disney vacations and will apply any applicable discount to your reservation for you.

Another way to save money on a major part of your vacation budget is to buy theme park tickets online from a discounter. I have used Undercover Tourist to buy tickets for not only Walt Disney World but also Universal Studios at a significant savings. If you are staying off of Disney property, at a different hotel or a timeshare, you can save even more money through a company that purchases tickets in bulk and then sells them at a lower price to the public. Make sure that the discounter you select is authorized by Disney Parks to resell new and genuine tickets.

Chase and Disney recently announced the new Disney debit card. If you have a checking account with Chase and opt for the new debit card, you can get great benefits like 10% off at select dining locations, guided tours, and merchandise in the parks as well as 10% off at I’m excited about the Disney debit card because I’m always looking for a way to get perks without getting another credit card. With this new card, you can meet and greet Disney characters in a private cardmembers location without adding more debt to your life.

Some moms save money on their Disney vacations by creating their own autograph books for characters, tie-dyeing psychedelic Mickey Mouse shirts, and packing lunches to take into the parks. I’m always on the lookout for more ways to save.

Do you have any tips on how to make a Disney vacation more affordable?