I know many, many people who want to go on a Disney vacation, but finances are tight and they just don’t have the cash to book a trip right now. My suggestion? Start saving for a Disney vacation right now. That’s a little vague, I know, so let’s get more specific with a real, solid plan so I can show you how it would be possible.
Let’s take my sister’s family. They told me at Christmas they’d really like to be going on a Disney vacation in December of next year. Their family of four wants to go on a Disney cruise and spend some time at Walt Disney World. A worthy goal! And, as it happens, we have a handy tool to help us with this — the new Disney Vacation Account that debuted three days ago.
The first step is to determine how much needs to be saved for the trip, which you can do at the Account Budget Estimator page: https://disneyvacationaccount.disney.go.com/vacation-budget-estimator. Here you can determine and create a budget for the trip you want to take. I’ve come up with the following general prices:
- 3-night Bahamas cruise on Disney Dream (inside stateroom): $1,892
- 3-night stay with 3-day tickets and the Disney Dining Plan at All-Star Movies: $2409
- Flights for four people from Detroit to Orlando: $600
- Airport Transportation: $100
- Total: $5000
Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? But if you saved just $100 a week starting January 1, you’d have enough by next December! That doesn’t seem quite so bad now, does it?
The Disney Vacation Account lets you set up automatic and recurring contributions to a savings account on the schedule that works best for you (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). You can also add extra money at any time. There are no fees to setup or maintain the account, and you can withdraw your money at any time. You can also get a $20 Disney gift card for every $1000 you spend on Disney vacation purchases with the account, so you can generate a little extra spending money, too.
How does this compare to a more traditional savings account? My credit union gives 0.05% APR for savings, meaning if I contributed $100 a week to that account, my interest income over the course of one year would be a little over $1. Woo. If we look at a higher interest-bearing savings account, like Barclay’s which offers 0.90% APR, I would earn $26.85 over the course of the year. Not much, eh? Whereas the Disney Vacation Account could give you as much as $100 in Disney gift cards for that $5000 savings. Seems like a good deal to me!
So what’s the catch? I read through the User Agreement carefully. Honestly, I couldn’t see any. There are no fines for withdrawing your money or anything like that. Refunds are made to the original payment source in about five days, so if you’re using a credit card, it would go back to that credit card account. The money is held in a non-interest bearing account with JPMorgan Chase Bank (no surprise there, given their partnership with Chase). Should Disney go bankrupt, your money will not be made available to creditors (whew, thank goodness — I was really worried about that one).
[Updated Jan. 2015] The only real issue I could see is that if you use a travel planner (aka travel agent), they can’t use your account to pay for your vacation — but they can still make the reservation for you, and then you need to call the Disney Reservation Center yourself to apply the payment. Travel agents can and will use your Disney Vacation Account funds to pay for your vacation — all they need is your account number, which you can request by phone or e-mail (it’s not listed online for your privacy). You can also use that same account number to pay for things at places like DisneyWorld.com to pay for park tickets.
All funds for your account must come from a debit card, credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express), or a Disney Gift Card — you cannot use cash, Disney Dream Reward Dollars, or a Disney Rewards Redemption Card.
It should also be noted that there are residency and age requirements to open a Disney Vacation Account — you must be a resident of one of the 50 states of the United States, Puerto Rico or Washington, D.C., and at be at least 18 years of age (19 in Alabama and Nebraska, and 21 in Mississippi and Puerto Rico).
I think this is rather awesome, so I signed up for it. It took less than 5 minutes and the process was simple and straightforward. Here’s what my account page looks like as of now:
For now I’m contributing just under $100 a week, which will result in $5000 in one year. Another way I could do this, which would involve more effort on my part (and which could also be fun), would be to use the 52-week money challenge game. Not sure what that is? The idea is you contribute a small, easy amount in the beginning, gradually ramping it up throughout the year as you get into the swing of saving money. The popular way to begin is with $1, like this:
But you could ramp that up by multiplying each dollar by the number of persons in your travel party (and, as it happens, a family of four could save over $5000 in one year). Here’s what that would look like:
I made a fillable PDF worksheet for this 52-week savings plan table that will recalculate based on how much you want to start with and the number of people you want to multiply it by — PassPorter’s Club members can download it free here:
If you wanted to do this sort of variable deposit amount each week with the Disney Vacation Plan, here’s what you do:
- Open an account at https://disneyvacationaccount.disney.go.com and set it for a monthly deposit amount of $10.00 (this is the lowest amount the system allows).
- After 10 weeks, return to your Disney Vacation Account and click Stop Automatic Contributions. You should have $20 in your account by this point. Click the Make a One-Time Contribution and put in $35. You will now have $55, which corresponds to week 10 in the chart.
- Set a weekly timer on your phone or computer to return to your Disney Savings Account each week. Click Make a One-Time Contribution upon each visit, putting in the amount that corresponds to the week in your chart!
I look forward to saving money for my next Disney trip! And I would love to hear if anyone else is trying out the Disney Vacation Account and/or tips for ways to save money! And please share this with all your friends and family who really want to go to Disney but just don’t think they can afford it — this is a fun and easy way to save money!
Other articles on saving money for a Disney vacation: