Travel Tips & Resources

How to Use a Discount Travel Site to Receive the Best Disney Deals

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on April 16, 2014

how-to-use-a-discount-travel-site-to-receive-the-best-disney-deals

Summer of 2013, Disneyland Vacation with Grandma and Grandpa

Are you planning a trip to Disney sometime soon?  What about a trip to Southern California? Well, check out our tips and experiences and find a coupon code too for more money off your trip! 

Well, either way, we wanted to share this thrifty tip with you for this specific travel!

We live in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S., so when you are a family and you want a vacation, it often leads to somewhere in Southern California, and often Disney makes it on the list.  Despite Alex’s groaning, the rest of the family likes to go to Disneyland.

In fact, we went in our unthrifty days in 2001.  Shortly after we got married.  It was part of the “Show Me Just How Much Debt We Can Get Into“ stage.  As an “unthrifty” traveller, a trip to So. Cal and Disneyland was not cheap! In fact, during that trip – we will call it what it really was: “Debt-land.”

Well, several years later after we paid off over $100K in debt, we had a goal to take our family to Disneyland as the first vacation after becoming debt-free. Our kids really wanted to go and we really wanted to take them!

You can bet your bottom dollar that we shopped around this time and were determined to get the absolute best deal! This a few years ago.  I spent many hours and much time to get the best prices on everything.

When I put together my “own” package by getting hotel here, tickets there, etc.  I had my total price in hand.  Well, I decided to stack this up against travel agents and companies to see if they could do better.

I contacted several different agencies, but one of them was one that is headquartered in our backyard – Get Away Today.

Well, to make a long researching story short…… we ended up buying our Disneyland package through Get Away Today.

They ended up having the best prices that I could find on my own by piecing together the best of the best on my own.  In fact, going with an all-in-one package with them, vs. piece by piece myself, it was around $11 cheaper!

I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but more than just it being cheaper by $11…. they had free gifts for the kids, all of the reservations done by them in an easy package that required very little work, transportation, transfers, coupons, cancellation refund and even extra Disney perks that only come with booking through a company or Disney directly – but at the lowest price through Get Away Today!

Now, the nice thing about what they do is find the best prices based on what you want and they are personal, friendly, easy to work with and very helpful!  Their website is one of the easiest to use, which is GREAT because I spent lots of time on their site by trying several different options to see what came out on top!

Basically, what we wanted was a “good neighbor” hotel as this was much cheaper than a Disney hotel (but they also have the best prices on those, they are just naturally more!), a hotel within walking distance, as well as shuttle so we had both options. A free breakfast, family perks and swimming. 

We also kept our dates flexible, which is just another step in getting the absolute best price!

In the end, our trip was a HUGE success! It was fun, stress-free, all as planned and we received everything without a hitch.  We had one of the easiest trips in terms of planning and executing because we bought a package, which is always a plus – but even better, it was cheaper!

Get Away Today specializes in Disneyland trips.  They have been around for a while and so they now have many destinations globally and Southern California in general.  We do not know if they are the cheapest and best for the rest of the destinations since we have not traveled to those since knowing about them, but since they have a great reputation for Disneyland and millions of satisfied travelers, it is probably going to be one of the best deals for other trips too! But of course, you can always double check this with simple searches on their site.

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Head to their site HERE to see all of the Destinations and Options

One comment I wanted to make on this topic.  Last year, Grandma and Grandpa took us to Disneyland.  I was in charge of the package since my parents trust and know my deal hunting skills.  Since it had been several years since traveling with Get Away Today, I did the same process of finding the best deals for what our requirements are and then searching many package and individual options on Get Away Today.  

Again, we were actually going to get tickets and more from Get Away Today as it was again cheaper than anything else I could find. But at the last minute, there was only one option that was better.

My parents went back to school when all the kids left the house as adults. Well, my mom had entered an academic competition and the nationals competition was in Anaheim, CA.  Because hundreds of students were coming into Anaheim, CA for this competition, the association putting the competition on received a big discount for theme park tickets by reserving hundreds of them. So we ended up getting our tickets through this association this time, but the only way we could get it was in my mom’s name and she had to show proof that she was one of the contestants in the competition as well as photo i.d.  These tickets were the only tickets that were cheaper than any dozens of other options we found.

I took this to be encouraging that although we didn’t use them last year when Grandma and Grandpa took us due to the special circumstances, in the future, this is what we will be doing as the competition discount was once in a lifetime (the association goes to a different location each year – we just lucked out that it was Anaheim and that she was a contestant)!

Get Away Today has lots of different specials and discounts depending on the month! They also have some great ways to reserve prices and pay slowly (lay away plan) and many other ways to get a deal and not break your budget.

get-away-today

See their current specials HERE

Even Better

We contacted Get Away Today to see if they have any extra specials that we can share with you exclusively! Well, they decided to give us a coupon code to save another $10 off your package to So. Cal! That’s great because we didn’t even have that! :)

So head to the Get Away Today site HERE and use coupon code:

ThriftyCouple14

By the way – Get Away Today has a “best price” guarantee – which means that if you find a better price (other than a special circumstance like the one mentioned above), they will not only match it but BEAT IT! YAY!

*As far as we know, this coupon code is good for life as long as you use it! They will honor this code for you no matter when you book!

Be watching as we will be sharing more Disney specific savings tips and tricks in upcoming articles under our travel section of our site.  If you are subscribed to our email newsletter, these articles will arrive directly in your inbox once we post them!

See our Travel Section HERE for more budget travel related articles 

See our Travel Pinterest Board

 

Alex & Cassie
 

25 Ideas to Get Discounts To Amusement and Theme Parks

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on April 14, 2014

25-ideas-to-help-you-save-on-amusement-park-tickets

As we continue to share ways to save on travel and fun while on travel, we wanted to share ways to save on one of our favorite vacation activities – AMUSEMENT PARKS!

We are a roller coastin’, bumper car ridin’, seat droppin’ kind of family! Yes, we do love to visit amusement parks of all kinds, sizes and places.

Yes, we have been Disneyland as a couple in our “unthrifty days” and as a family in our “thrifty days.”   But this post isn’t going to address just Disney, in fact it’s actually not going to address Disney much as this is a totally different ball game!

Along with visit Disney on both sides of our lives (the thrifty vs. unthrifty), we have, do and will continue to visit amusement parks of all kinds! So we have a few different experiences on both sides of the budget spectrum, which means we can offer even more tips for you.

In fact, in our previous “unthrifty days” (read our deep in debt to debt-free story HERE) we would go on a whim, drop a load of money at the gate paying full price and not think twice about the person standing in line next to us on a ride in the park bragging about their discount into the park while rolling our eyes as if we didn’t care. Well, we didn’t care – until one day when we recognized the reality of our debt-load and how stupid it was to not get a discount (not to mention the foolishness of being there when we couldn’t even afford it). We used to think it would be too much work to try and scope out a discount. Arguably, some discounts will be more work than others, but some are hardly any effort and certainly worth seeking out!

So today, as a family of 7, before we head out to the theme parks, we plan, budget and seek out those discounts. Honestly, discounts to any theme park are a dime a dozen. We can pretty much guarantee you a discount to any theme park if you just look in the right places. So we’ve rounded up a list of ways to save money on those tickets so that you have “no excuses” to save a buck before you go!

25 Ways to Find an Amusement Park or Theme Park Discount

  1. Check directly on the theme park’s websites. In this day and age, if a company is offering a discount, it will most likely be found somewhere on their website! This can be quite honestly the easiest way to get a discount and at least save something off the gate entrance price. Rarely do we NOT find a discount on their website.  But even though you may find a discount on the site, you may find bigger discounts else where…. so keep reading!
  2. Quickly find out about discounts by calling the customer service or the management desk. Most representatives will be clueless and confused as to why you are asking if there is a discount somewhere, but simply calling and asking directly may save you time if you get a helpful employee! Ask to talk to a supervisor or manager if the person you are speaking with doesn’t know of any discounts. Always be very thankful and kind – this is the best way to get information from anyone.  They don’t have to tell you, but being nice will almost always guarantee that they will!
  3. Check for discounts for memberships you may have. If you are a part of any of these groups, then check on a AAA, AARP, Sam’s Club or Costco. We have found that you can get a discount to most theme parks through one (or all) of these outlets!
  4. Check with your local banks and credit unions, even if the theme park is not local. What I mean is that we have a lot of credit unions in our area and the area we grew up in. None of them are close to Disneyland, but almost all of them offer discounts and discount packages to Disney and other Theme parks nationwide.
  5. Get a multi-day/multi-attraction discount pass. If you are planning to stay multiple days and hit multiple attractions, then consider a multi-day pass or a multi-attraction pass. Theme parks like Universal Studios or SeaWorld have offered “Buy One day, Get One free.” Disney’s park hopper passes are cheaper per day the more days you purchase. Also, the CityPass is a popular way to go (for visiting multiple attractions) as you save 30% right off the top going through CityPass directly. You can actually get discounts on the CityPass itself through AAA, Costco and more! These multi-day passes can also apply to the smaller and local theme parks too! Even our local metropolis offers a multi-attraction pass that is a superior discount to the local zoos, museums, aquariums and more!
  6. Search online or call hotels local to the theme park and see if they have a package deal. In our area, several of the surrounding hotels offer discount packages with a room to the local Lagoon theme park. They are not widely advertised, but they are common. If you call one of the local hotels and they do not have a discount package deal, ask them if another hotel in the area does – you can usually find one within a phone call or two. We did this a couple of years ago when we visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky. We called a couple of hotels and one gave us a list of hotels that offers discount packages. As it turned out, we were able to stay at a Comfort Inn for $99 a night (for our whole family of 7) and this included the room and 2 adult tickets to the museum. Since the adult tickets were $25 each, we received $50 in tickets and a room for $49. The regular room rate was around $85 and discounted room rate of $70, so we were happy with the savings. We actually stayed two nights and received 4 adult tickets. Although we only needed 2 adult and 3 kids tickets (2 of our 5 kids were free :)) it was still cheaper to use the adult tickets for two of the kids than pay the discounted room rate and buy 2 additional kids tickets. So be creative in the process too! *As a side note, if the Creation Museum is on your list this year, doing a package deal like the one mentioned is even better for 2014 because kids 12 and under get free admission this year!
  7. Have a travel agent work up a deal! Contact your local travel agents and tell them that you are looking for discounts galore and see what they quote you for a price! You never know, but they might actually be able to grab bigger discounts with their insider information than you can find! If not, it gives you the basis to try and beat that price you are quoted! We will be sharing details on this specifically for Disney, which is the only vacation that we have booked through an agent due to the discounts.  Watch for that special article in a couple of days!
  8. Check on the discount prices using your Entertainment Book. This little (BIG) book is not only filled with coupons to your local businesses, but both in the book and then access your online account as there will be many more offers online, including many theme parks!
  9. Check with local (to the theme park) restaurants/businesses, Coke Cans/Convenience Store Cups, etc. We live near Lagoon Amusement Park and many local fast food restaurants, locally distributed soda cans (e.g., the Coke cans distributed in our area) and convenience store cups will have a coupon for a discount into this local park. Even when we were down in CA, we ate at Wendy’s (using our free fries coupons) and noticed that the drink cups down there had an $8 discount to SeaWorld or San Diego Zoo. So you could potentially find these all over the local area of the theme park. 
  10. Check the local physical phone book. Whether you live locally or are staying at one of the local hotels, we always see coupons in the local phone books for some discount off of the attraction tickets!
  11. Check the hotel displays. This is one of the oldest and most common ways to easily find a discount and we typically find these discounts to be the lowest offered as they are so common, but they are a discount none the less! Those displays house dozens of flyers to attractions in the area and many of them will have an attached discount or coupon. 
  12. Reserve/purchase your tickets in advance online. We saw this recently on LegoLand. They were offering weekday tickets for 40% off when ordered online and in advance for a short time! We don’t see this discount often, but you might be able to find it.  Again, it goes along with checking the companies, website. 
  13. If you are local to the theme park, consider season/annual passes. In our area, we mentioned the Lagoon Theme Park. They sell season passes which make up the cost in just over 2 visits to the park all season! In addition, some season passes are cheaper if you buy in groups, so if you know others looking for season passes, then you can make one big group purchase and split the costs and get your additional discount!
  14. If you are a large family, consider a family season/annual pass, even if it is for a one-time visit! This one may sound quite strange – but we saw this in action when we went to the Creation Museum a couple of years ago. We went with another family that had 8 kids. The Creation Museum offered a family annual pass no matter how many family members there were. They literally saved a bunch of money by purchasing this pass than individual tickets. Even if they hadn’t planned a road trip back there within the year, this one visit made it worth the money! Obviously this only works if they do offer a “family” annual/season pass and your family is large to justify it! 
  15. Consider going with a large group for a group discount. This would even work if you are not local to the park and going on a road trip with a large group too! Many theme parks offer discounts with a group. A group is sometimes considered 8, 10 or 12 or more! Even if you don’t intend to “hang out together at the park” consider teaming up with others for this group discount!
  16. Check with your employer for a discount! One of Alex’s previous employers corporate offices are based out of San Diego. They offered discount tickets to the San Diego attractions, even for their employees in other offices across the country.
  17. Look for the Buy One Get One days. We have seen so many theme parks offer “buy one day get the second day free” deals for certain times or seasons. Consider attending the park during one of these times.
  18. Find out if they offer discounts for students or military. If you are a student somewhere, many theme parks will offer special discounted rates for students when you show your student id. Just like the students, if you are either retired or active duty military, almost all theme parks offer some sort of discount for you and your family when you show your military id.
  19. Check with your insurance. This one may be interesting, but we have noted that many insurance companies offer discounts for their clients just by being a member of a certain insurance group. We would recommend calling your insurance agent to find out if they offer discounts for their members!
  20. Check to see if they offer discounted days with canned food donations. Another popular discount we have seen has been with the donation of food items that they will turn around and donate to a food bank. This is such a great idea and not only do you get your discount, but the community is helped too!
  21. Avoid Peak Season or days. You will find it more difficult to find discount tickets especially during the peak times as they know they can jack up the prices. If you avoid a peak season or day, you will get more for your money as you will be able to do more. :)
  22. Is there a bundle package offered that will include tickets, parking and maybe food? Many theme parks also offer an all-in-one package and they will bundle options that will ultimately give you a discount. We did this at Sea World a couple of years ago.  They had tickets that weren’t a lot more than gate admission that was “all-inclusive” of attractions, foods, parking and refreshments. This was a good deal at the time, but if you will not be using all of those options, this wouldn’t be a way to go. 
  23. Is there a discount option if you enter the park after a certain time of day? Some theme parks will also offer a discount if you enter after 1pm or 4pm, etc. We have seen these tickets discounted as much as 50%. So if that extra 2 or 3 hours in the park is not worth double the expense, then consider this option!
  24. Ask a local or an employee. If you know locals or employees, they will have insider information or even possibly free entrance for friends because they work there – you just never know what you might find out!
  25. Finally, follow the theme or amusement parks on social media! Following their Facebook page and Twitter (and more) can be especially beneficial! Often times, they will share or show a discount for their social followers.  There was a big one recently where a large theme park emailed a good discount code to it’s Facebook followers for a short time window.  This was not advertised on their site and it was a very good discount if you claimed it during the time they ran the promotion on their Facebook page.

A few extra notes: 

One big thing to consider when seeking out a discount is: “What are the restrictions on your discount tickets?” and consider the “nickel and dime” expenses. Answering this question can save you from regret later as some discount tickets might not be all that they are cracked up to be!

  • Is there certain times only that you can enter (time of day, season, blackout dates, etc.)?
  • How much will parking cost?
  • Are there rides/attractions that are not available with this ticket?
  • Any other restrictions or considerations that you need to weigh?
  • With all of that in mind, we recommend taking a quick look at all 25 ideas above and select your best and biggest discount option from the list!

Are there any discounts that we may have missed? Please leave a comment below for all to take advantage of!

Watch for Disney specific related articles coming up soon!

See our Travel Section HERE for more budget travel related articles 

See our Travel Pinterest Board

Alex & Cassie
 

8 Steps To Get The Best Deal on a Hotel Room

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on April 7, 2014

8-steps-to-get-the-best-deal-on-a-hotel-room

We are heading into the season of travel and so many of us are looking for a great deal on a hotel! It is a challenge to save on a hotel, especially when it is in hotel season.

Even as The Thrifty Couple, we love to travel.  In fact, in our “unthrifty” beginningstravel was where much of our accruing debt went to.  So once we got out of debt, we certainly wanted to find a way to travel in budget and for less.

When we can save big money on a hotel, it means our travel budget is stretched further and we can do more with the money we have.  It often means an extra day of travel or a nicer hotel from the savings!

Before you even begin, you need to have your travel budget in mind and more specifically, your hotel portion of the travel budget.  Once you know what you have to work with, you can then get quite creative with that budget.

Here’s your 8 steps to get the best hotel deal!

  1. First visit sites like Travelocity.com, Priceline.com, hoteldiscount.com, and hotwire.com
    • These are the ones we typically refer to for our “price point,” that is the price we need to beat and to help us determine hotels in the area that are the lowest cost with the amenities that we want.
    • We rarely actually make a reservation through one of these sites for a number of reasons: we can usually beat the price, the cancellation policies typically involve a fee (vs. typical cancellations with the hotel by 6pm the day of for no charge), plus I like being able to investigate and have a little more control over what we are promised in the reservation.
  2. Then we start searching on each individual hotel’s site for deals, email lists for offers and then also act as if you are going to make a reservation through their site directly to see what prices you get.  Compare with the prices from the popular travel sites above.
  3. Check coupon books that you may have (like the Entertainment Book) to compare offers. However, please note one trick that we have found with coupons for hotel rooms…… they base the coupon discounts off of the highest room rates, which in turn isn’t often cheaper than using some of the other tricks to get the best deal! So we rarely use a coupon!
  4. In addition, you should also check Groupon and Living Social discount group buying sites to see offers they may have that you may not be able to beat! Last year, we travelled for the first time from a discount hotel offer to NYC.  It was a GREAT experience, we received the rate promised with no issues and this did end up being the cheapest option for us for where we wanted to stay – Times Square.  However, this trick does not work every time, nor often.  We find this trick to really only be useful for tourist areas and in areas that are highly desired – like Times Square, NYC.  What we mean, we could have gotten a better rate staying in another part of Manhattan using the other tricks we provide here, but we really wanted to stay on Times Square and so this was the best option by far for that highly desired area!
  5. Join the hotel’s rewards club! In order to take advantage of this, you have to stay often at one hotel chain.  I am not sure if we have ever earned a FREE night for that reason – but it certainly doesn’t hurt if you have enough points to use it.  Many times you will receive snail mailed or emailed special offers just for being a rewards member, even if you don’t have enough points for free nights.
  6. Call the hotel directly once you have narrowed down an approximate price point, amenities and location.  CALL DIRECTLY – not the 1-800 number.  You want to call the actual hotel you plan to stay at – you probably have to look this up on dexknows.com as many of the hotel’s websites just have the reservation line listed!
    • When you call, see what the “best they can do for you” is! Most often, we find the price to be cheaper than any online source! This is especially the case for smaller towns and areas, or small resort towns or the hotels in suburbs. Then find out if they take an discounts for travel clubs (AAA is a very popular one), airline miles members (e.g., many hotels have discounts for Delta Skymiles owners – even if you didn’t fly for that particular trip), senior discounts, student discounts and military discounts.   This is a good time to mention that coupon you may have to see what it can do for you in addition to the rates they quote you!
    • When you call, we also have already checked their online prices and have those up on our screen to compare with them on the phone.  In our day and age, many websites will have better prices online, but this allows you to get the best price online or over the phone directly with the hotel.
  7. If you can travel last minute or spontaneously, you may be able to score even greater savings by following the steps above. Many hotels want to be as full as possible and give even deeper discounts last minute to fill empty rooms! We usually plan far ahead, but then check right before we leave to see if something can be adjusted to save more (of course prior to the last date we can cancel for our current reservation) because we can cancel existing reservations usually before 6pm the day of arrival!
  8. Upon arrival – see if they will upgrade you to a better room, a continental breakfast to a hot breakfast (if offered), a better view, etc.!! Don’t count on it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!

Tips to consider when staying at a hotel, motel or resort:

  • Find a room with a fridge and microwave – this can contribute to many savings for breakfast, snacks and possible lunch like items!
  • Find a hotel with a good cancellation policy – like being able to cancel up to 6 pm the day of checkout with no fees to do so – you never know what is going to happen and this could get you if you have to cancel a trip due to sickness, etc!
  • Find a hotel with a FREE breakfast - again, this will contribute to a huge amount of savings!!
  • Find a hotel where kids eat FREE if you are traveling with your family.  This greatly helps to ease the food budget!
  • Find a hotel with FREE parking – most are this way, but you will want to double check as that extra $5 -$10 a night needs to be taken into consideration!
  • Find a hotel that will give you a FREE rollaway or FREE crib (or factor the price into your total price) if you need this extra bed.
  • Always find out the hotel room capacity as you can be fined for exceeding this capacity! Don’t get caught – the state of CA is the most particular about this! (This is where condo and timeshares will come in for a large family.
  • Find a hotel that offers amenities that you want to enjoy during your stay and possibly contribute to some savings – like a swimming pool as this becomes a FREE activity.
  • Always consider safety and security – this is #1 for us and is a much bigger factor than “just the cheapest hotel you can find”! This was very much the motivation for us wanting to stay on Times Square for our first trip to NYC, the safety factor.
  • Factor tipping for your maid service into your budget. They will make your stay much more pleasant! PLUS it is a very nice gesture.
  • Consider buying a discounted gift card to the hotel chain you are staying at to pay for your trip.  After you make a reservation, you can go to a site like Cardpool HERE and search for the chain you are staying at and order a gift card and then pay for part of it with this gift card that you got for a 4-10% discount! It’s one final way to save more!

Alex & Cassie
 

Free New 2014 Disney Vacation Planning DVD and Lots More Disney Travel Tips

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on January 2, 2014


Grab a New Disney Vacation Planning DVD that covers all types of Disney Vacation and Destinations for 2014! We request one each year, although we’ve only been to Disneyland before.

Our kids like getting a new one each year too as it helps with any potential planning, but our kids are very entertained by the free DVD and kit too :)

In addition, there are some great tips – we do and have gone to Disneyland before and have a great many “thrifty” tips to share (some of links are below!).

So, whether you are planning a Disney trip or want a video with some free entertainment for the kiddos, then here’s your chance!

To Get Your FREE DVD and Vacation Kit: Just click on the picture above and you will be taken right to it! 

Anyway, not only is it enjoyable to watch, but they come with information and special offers.

Check it out and then head over to our Travel series for some ideas on how to get great hotel deals or how to get great condo deals to be able to really maximize your savings.

Finally, here’s tips from our last trip to Disneyland a couple of years ago:

To catch up on more of our vacation savings:

Alex & Cassie
 

Free Disney Vacation Planning DVD (Also Great Just For Kids’ Entertainment) and Lots More Disney Travel Tips

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on June 6, 2013



Hey Guess What?? There’s a free way to get a bit of fun family entertainment… Yes, it is by requesting a free Disney Parks Planning DVD!

I have to be honest and say, whether you are planning to go or not, this DVD has given our kids some entertainment for a few months now! Just that is worth it alone! We are pretty picky about what our kids watch, so this is pretty safe :)

In addition, there are some great tips – we do and have gone to Disneyland before and have a great many “thrifty” tips to share (some of links are below!).

So, whether you are planning a Disney trip or want a video with some free entertainment for the kiddos, then here’s your chance!

Just click on the picture above to get your free Disney Parks DVD! It is a lot of fun!

Anyway, not only is it enjoyable to watch, but they come with information and special offers.

Check it out and then head over to our Travel series for some ideas on how to get great hotel deals or how to get great condo deals to be able to really maximize your savings.

Finally, here’s tips from our last trip to Disneyland a couple of years ago:

To catch up on more of our vacation savings:

Alex & Cassie