Disney World is the most magical place on earth, and if you’re not careful it can be one of the most expensive places as well. If you’ve looked into a Disney World vacation recently, this probably isn’t news to you. How many times have you planned your dream trip to Disney World, only to cancel because the price is just too high? Sometimes it seems like it may never happen, and you keep putting it off waiting for that winning lottery ticket.
Disney World does not have to be expensive.
Yup, I said it. From booking your trip, to days in the parks, and even saving for your trip – there are plenty of ways to bring your Disney World trip more than just a little bit closer.
- How to Stay at Disney World for Cheap
- How to Save on Tickets to Disney World Parks
- Savings at the Parks
- More Tips to Save
How to Stay at Disney World for Cheap
Disney World gives you tons of great options from luxurious, overpriced, bungalows to just the bare necessities with a touch of Disney décor. But there are better ways to book these options and even completely different options all together!
Value Resorts of Disney World
There are 5 value level resorts at Disney World; Art of Animation, Pop Century, All Star Movies, All Star Music, and All Star Sports. Several of these resorts offer family suites, which are a great deal for a larger family. Prices will vary of course, based on the season and room type, but on average a standard room runs around $150 per night. Art of Animation is a little pricier, because it’s still pretty new.
PROS: Staying on property, access to Disney transportation, access to Dining Plan, fun themeing for young children
CONS: Still fairly expensive, proximity to parks, constant Disney, potentially more impulse spending at Disney
Stay Off Site
Another great option to save on your lodging at a trip to Disney World is to stay off site. There is no shame in the off-site game! Orlando is FULL of hotels and resorts, many are still close to the parks, and some offer shuttle services. One of our favorite “off-site” options is the Swan and Dolphin joint resorts. This property is actually located in Disney World, in one of the most ideal locations in the park, but isn’t run by Disney. The price is a bit higher than that of a value resort, but the quality is closer to a deluxe.
PROS: Lower prices, still close to parks, break from the Disney bubble, more options
CONS: Possible transportation costs, not at Disney
If you are up for staying off property, Aribnb is about the best way you can go. Not only can you find lodging close to Disney for under $100 per night, you can find entire homes – sometimes with 5 or more bedrooms, for under $300 per night!! If you have a large group this is the way to go. Our favorite part about Airbnb is that you can make your trip as luxurious as you’d like. This is a perfect option for a romantic trip to Disney, like a honeymoon or even babymoon. There are even a number of providers on Airbnb who have decorated their properties to Disney themes, they know what we’re here for. J
PROS: Affordability, lots of options, break from Disney OR Disney themed, large homes available, access to kitchen
CONS: Proximity to parks, transportation costs,
Rent DVC Points
We did another detailed post about renting DVC points a while back, which you can check it out HERE. The concept is fairly similar to that of Airbnb, but you are staying on property at a Disney World resort. The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) rooms are in the deluxe category at Disney, but you can save HUGE – sometimes as much as 50%, by booking the room with a DVC rental service. Dave’s DVC Rentals is the service we recommend.
PROS: Staying on property, large discount, free transportation by Disney, proximity to parks, access to dining plan
CONS: Can still be expensive, no break from Disney, potential for more impulse spending
Disney offers a lot for military members and their families. There’s actually a military hotel on property at Disney, called Shades of Green. It’s not as Disney-centric as some of the other on property resorts, but it can be much cheaper. The rates at Shades of Green are based upon the military members rank, so this is a better deal for those in lower ranks. If you’re priced out of Shades of Green or just looking for a bit more magic, Disney also offers room discounts – up to 40%.
PROS: Staying on property, discounted rates, free transportation by Disney, access to Dining plan, proximity to parks
CONS: Shades of Green can be expensive depending on several factors, SoG not Disney themed
How to Save on Tickets to Disney World Parks
Savings on Disney tickets are hard to come by. There are a few discounts, if you’re eligible for them. Luckily there are a few ways to get additional savings. Make sure to read all the way to the end of this post, as there are even more tips that can help you save on tickets in the last section.
Visit During Off-Season
Disney World recently implemented demand based pricing for tickets. Which means the more people want to go, the more expensive it is going to be. An easy way to navigate towards savings is to visit when the crowds are low. This also gives you the distinct advantage of shorter lines. Unfortunately, these periods are usually during the school year. The least expensive times to visit are:
- 2nd week in January through the first week in March
- The first and last week of October
- Selected dates in November
This is just a guideline and note that weekdays will always be less expensive than weekends.
Disney World does offer a few discounts throughout the year, as well as some that are available year round. Military members receive a great day on multi-day tickets, often up to 50% off depending on the number of days. There is also a discount for AAA members, which varies but generally hovers around 5%.
There are also various package discounts offered throughout the year; such as 25% off, free dining, and bounce back offers.
This is our favorite trick to save on Disney tickets, because it gives us an excuse to stay longer. When buying multi-day tickets, the cost per day decreases as the number of days you purchase increases. Now, of course a 7-day trip will be more expensive overall than a 3-day trip. But the cost per day will be greatly reduced
Always, always, always buy your tickets with gift cards. It is so easy to get discounted Disney gift cards, and while the discount may be small it stacks on top of the aforementioned tips. Sign up for a Target RedCard and you save 5% of every purchase, including gift cards. You can also find savings purchasing gift cards at Cost-Co. There are ways to take the savings even further with gift cards, which you can check out (https://www.mousehacking.com/blog/discount-disney-gift-cards-guide). But stick around till the end, because I’m going to tell you how to get gift cards for free.
Buy an Annual Pass
An annual pass for Disney World starts out around $850, which is about $300 more than a 7-day park hopper pass. The average single day park-hopper is $150. This may already make sense for you if you are planning a trip of 10+ days or are planning multiple trips within a year. Consider that being an annual passholder can also save you up to 20% on dining and merchandise, entitles you to free parking, and includes all of your photopass photos and it may start to make sense for shorter trips. Even if you have just 1 member of your group purchasing the AP. For a more detailed analysis of when its right for you to purchase an AP, check out (https://thebudgetmouse.com/when-is-it-worth-it-to-buy-a-disney-world-annual-pass/)
Savings at the Parks
It is so easy to go wild at a Disney park and drain your savings account. There is so much delicious food, drinks, and souvenirs you simply can’t live without. And if you have kids you know exactly how many times you’re about to hear, “mommy can I get it?!” And it’s so hard to say no!! Here’s our tips on how to save money while in the Disney World Parks
Buy Gift Cards
Believe it or not gift cards are just as useful inside the parks as they are for booking your vacation. You can purchase these ahead of time for those additional savings, but I like to buy mine in the parks. This is a tip I actually saw on a YouTube video from @TimTracker but I think it’s absolutely genius. Buy a gift card with the amount you’ve budgeted and only use that card in the parks, when it’s gone it’s gone. That way you simply cannot go over your budget.
You can purchase 1 card upfront for all spending on the trip, re-load each day, or purchase 1 for each family member and let them know that is all there is. Purchasing in the parks is a bit of an extra bonus, because then you have a fun and colorful souvenir.
Skip the Dining Plan
You will pay more up front for the dining plan than you would spend purchasing food throughout your visit. The dining plan gives you way more credits than you are going to use, limits where they can be used, and requires you pay for food (that you may not even eat) before you arrive. There are very few circumstances in which the dining plan can save you money, like if you are planning to do a lot of 2-credit meals but otherwise skip it.
I’ve heard many people say they like the dining plan because it works as a budgeting tool; everything is paid for and you can’t spend more than that. If that’s what you are looking for out of the dining plan, please see the tip above. If you’re still on the line use this dining plan calculator to see if it’s right for you (https://www.distripplanner.com/)
Share Meals or Order Kids Meals
The serving sizes at Disney parks are huge. One that sticks out in my mind is the sampler plate at Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom; smoked ribs, chicken, and pulled pork with baked beans and coleslaw. My eyes were much bigger than my stomach. And this is the case with a lot of food servings at Disney World. This also leaves room in your belly for some of those trademark Disney snacks, like Dole Whip!
You can also order from the kids menu, which usually offers the same food in smaller portions.
Bring Your Own Snacks and Food
You can bring your own food into the parks at Disney World, and you really should! We ALWAYS bring in snacks like beef jerky, trail mix, crackers, granola bars, and some candy of course. But you could bring in lunchables if you wanted, or sandwhiches. The sky is the limit really, just remember you’ll be in the Florida sun with no refrigerant.
Bringing your own food isn’t limited to just the parks, you can keep quite a bit in your room as well. And this is where having a kitchen can come in handy because you can prep your own meals. Starting the day with a breakfast, rather than an apple or granola bar, will keep you full till lunch and keep your budget down.
Character dining is one of the best way to get autographs and meet and greets, without standing in line for hours. But they can get expensive! You can actually find HUGE savings by enjoying these character interactions for breakfast – as much as 35%!
More Tips to Save
Grocery Delivery & Amazon Prime
The best way to stock up on anything you need on your vacation is by using a grocery delivery service and/or Amazon Prime. Taking a taxi to a local store can cost you $100 round trip, before you purchase anything you need AT the store! We cannot live without grocery delivery on our trips and it has saved us hundreds, by making our own meals and bringing our own snacks into the parks.
I wouldn’t recommend Amazon Prime for groceries, just because the selection is limited and you have to pay for a special membership. But pretty much anything else you need you should buy through Amazon. This is the best option to stock diapers especially.
Use Reward Points
Nearly every major credit card company offers a rewards program of some type or another. The most beneficial reward programs to your Disney vacation are cash back and airline miles. If you do not have a card with these rewards already, be sure to get one and use it often! AND be sure to pay it off regularly, or you’ll lose all your savings paying interest
Get Free Gift Cards
You stuck around! Or scrolled to the end….cheater. Gift cards are easily one of the most useful tools when it comes to saving on your Disney trip and getting them for free is that much better. Our trick to free gift cards is simple, join a cashback rewards program. Ebates is great, but we love Swagbucks. There are a few ways to earn rewards with Swagbucks and then redeem them for gift cards. It can take some time and some minimal effort, but we’re talking about getting FREE gift cards to GO TO DISNEY WORLD. I think that’s worth a few minutes each day.
- Answer Surveys
- Make Swagbucks your default search engine
- Shop through Swagbucks
- Install the Swagbucks extension
- Watch suggested videos
- Refer more of your friends
Phew!! That was a lot to talk about!! With these tips and tricks you can absolutely find an affordable way to make it to Disney World for the vacation of your dreams!
Let me know what you think!
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