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Image: Disney

We’re in a season where a lot of families have had to delay or cancel trips to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Times are weird, and for regular visitors it can be a particularly frustrating time to not be able to enjoy some Disney magic.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to magically turn a delayed trip into an even better one in the future? Actually there is... to the point a delayed trip doesn't have to be completely bad news after all.

We often think of money being a primary factor in getting the best Disney vacation possible—how we spend it, what deals we catch, what amenities we add on… However, delays offer an unexpected second currency that can prove invaluable if you’re hoping to upgrade a trip.

Time.

Time can seem like a commodity in short supply for many families when planning a Disney trip. When the itch for a vacation comes, we want to get there as fast as possible. Kids might struggle with long waits for a big trip, and when a good deal pops up, there’s a pressing urgency to take advantage, which can limit how much time you have to save and prepare. In the current season, many of us don’t know when our next Disney vacation will be, but we are certain we intend to go back in the future.

If that’s your situation, it’s time to make some lemonade and turn the disadvantage of a delayed trip into an advantage. If you want to turn extra time before your next vacation into an upgrade, here are five things you’re going to want to do starting now…

1. Improve your trip budgeting skills

Spaceship Earth with new glass pylons

Unless you’re the Alexander Hamilton sort who delights in solving complex financial riddles, budgeting may not sound like a particularly fun subject when discussing a Disney vacation. Isn’t taking a vacation about getting away from spreadsheets and calculators?

In truth, a well-made vacation budget has the opposite effect. A good budget sets reasonable goals that free up your mind so you aren’t worried about money during your trip. You know what you can and can’t spend, and you can just enjoy your Disney days knowing that it’s already been figured out.

If you’re a Walt Disney World or Disneyland regular, there might be a specific trip budget you’re used to operating on. Whether you prefer to save a long time for deluxe amenities or prefer to pinch a penny until it screams for mercy, there are probably some things you’ve wanted to try at Disney parks but have never had the means to be able to do.

This is where a delay can prove a real advantage. Instead of just budgeting for the same old Disney vacation you planned on before, take some time to think about where you would upgrade your trip if you could. What would your dream vacation look like? You may not be able to stay in the Cinderella Castle suite and take VIP tours every day, but with a little extra time to save, you might be able to upgrade from a moderate to deluxe resort or add on some meals you’ve never tried.

Take some time to create a gold, silver, and bronze version of your vacation budget—use whatever budgeting method you’re comfortable with (I usually stick to Microsoft Excel since it does the math for me). What are the resorts you’ve wanted to stay in but haven’t been able to? Bronze might be an upgrade from All Star Sports to the Caribbean Beach Resort. Silver might be an upgrade to the Yacht Club, and gold might be that Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah View room you’ve longed to try. Where have you wanted to eat but haven’t yet? Would you increase your shopping budget, try a behind the scenes tour, go to the spa? The sky is the limit.

Your gold, silver, and bronze budgets will become your new savings goals for the fund you’ll build while you wait for that future trip. Now, how to get there…

2. Get creative about saving

Dad and kids playing Star Wars Datapad in Galaxy's Edge
Image: Disney

Once you have a budget, you’ll have new savings goals. Thanks to your delay, you actually have some time to reach them! The question is where does this magical money come from when bills still need to be paid?

There is so much good information online about creative ways to save—a brief Google search will give you a mountain of options. To simplify things, start with what you already have. Is there a certain amount you can spare from each paycheck to go towards your vacation fund? Set up an automatic transfer to set that amount aside each time or use a savings app like Peak Money (iOS only) or Digit to help coach you along. The goal is to start setting aside whatever you can, even if the amount is small. It will build over time.

Most of us can free up a surprising amount of money by cutting some fat from our regular expenses. See if you can get discounts on any of your regular bills or utilities—many cable companies, for example, are willing to give customers something close to a new customer discount if you catch the right salesperson (being nice might go a long way). While you can make those calls yourself, you can also utilize an app like Trim to do those negotiations for you (you pay a percentage of the savings if their negotiators succeed). Another place to look for spare cash is subscription services. What are you paying for every month that you don’t use anymore? Streaming services are the most obvious, but you can also free up money by cancelling unused memberships and add-ons to other bills.  

Oh, and above all, do everything you can to get out of debt. The money you are putting towards interest can become a future vacation fund, and a debt-free vacation is a much more relaxed one.

What about making money you don’t have yet? If you have the time, you might be able to start a side hustle. There are a lot of creative ways to make extra money in our gig-heavy economy, and you may have skills you don’t even realize can make you cash on the side. Are you particularly good at crafts? See if you can sell some of your creations on Etsy. Gig-based jobs like driving for Uber or Lift or delivering meals for Doordash and Grubhub are other options. If you’re comfortable with stocks and investments, that’s another avenue for making some extra money if you have the discipline and market sense.

Finally, there’s the old fashioned method: take all that change you’ve been saving in a jar to get counted in a coin machine at the bank or grocery store. Also, let your inner Marie Kondo shine and declutter your house—if you have items in good condition, put on a yard sale, sell some items on eBay, or take old clothes to a consignment store. The point is really stop to think about what you have and if anything can become a resource to build that vacation fund.

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