These are all great tips but i think that (with WDW trips at least) I would rather scrimp and save at home so that i can splurge when at the parks.
I want the expensive snacks, the stupid t-shirt, the snowglobe, some Christmas tree ornaments, another Mickey watch, pins pins and more pins...
afterall, I don't get to go very often so when i am there, i want to whoop it up and i consider excessive shopping to be an integral part of the experience..
I am leaving on Saturday for my first trip to Orlando in 3 years and i can tell you, i am going to break the bank!
Only you can decide what that is, for you, so you've got to think about it.
So, score one for bargain hunters who visit Holiday World!
Another thing about a restaurant focused resort like WDW, it is okay to book reservations at a sit down restaurant and just get appetizers or dessert. For example, maybe you just want to try the Cheddar Cheese soup at Le Cellier...well, by all means get a reservation and do just that. Order the soup, pay your bill, then head out and get a less expensive dinner elsewhere. Same thing with desserts. A perfect example is the Sci Fi Dine In Theater restaurant: that place has the worst food in WDW at tremendously high prices, but the atmosphere is outstanding. So, make reservations for dessert but eat your meal somewhere else.
Robert, the one point you made that cannot be stressed enough: share meals! When my family of five stayed at the Royal Pacific Resort at USF, we split dinners at every Citywalk restaurant we attended. For example, NBA City has huge portions, enough to feed 7-foot tall NBA centers. So, we ordered an appetizer, a dinner salad, an entree, and a dessert. It cost about $50 with tax and tip, but was more than enough food for the whole family! If we would have ordered separately the bill would have been over $100 and there would have been a ton of food left on the table. So, share meals! Then when you hit the unique dining experiences, like Mythos or Raglan Road, you have the extra cash to let everyone just go hog wild! (Pun intended).
One side note: I went to Holiday World last year, and in addition to the free soda and free sunscreen, you get free parking! Not to mention you get to ride The Voyage which is quite possibly the best wooden roller coaster in the world!! Kudos to the small parks and their family-oriented ways!!!
I definitely agree to eat lighter overall. When you are on vacation your body is thrown in turmoil because you are out of a normal routine. If you eat heavy, rich meals three times a day you are most likely not going to feel well. THAT would hamper your vacation plans!
Review the park you are going to and make meal plans ahead of time. Make reservations whenever possible. That also saves time and while on vacation time is money! There's nothing worse than bouncing around every country in Epcot looking for a place to eat at lunch and getting turned away several times before finding an opening.
While I agree that you should try to make smart, calculated purchases on things, skimping could end up making for a bad trip and that could be a bigger waste of $ than spending more than you planned for.
For example, much of the "Disney" souvenirs you can purchase outside of the parks in Fl on I-Drive or 192 are knock off junk. Poor quality and in the end probably more of an expense than getting a shirt in the parks.
The one big idea that I embrace here is making sure you are well prepared when you get to the parks. Bring pain relievers, sunscreen,ziplock bags, etc. Go to a local store and buy rain ponchos. They are only a $1 outside the park. I can live with a clear one that doesn't have a Mickey on it! Also, when riding water rides it is a good idea to bring another set of clothes with you. Fast dry shorts are a great thing on a Florida vacation!