Planning a Disney trip is stressful enough, but here are a few ways to cut back on your budget to make it a little less stressful. Remember, every trip is special and you don’t have to do it all.
Traveling to Orlando
1. Driving is usually the cheapest way to get to Disney if you have two or more people going. This also means you will already have a car when you get to Orlando, allowing you to stay off property.
2. Disney’s Magic Express – For those of you who fly to Orlando and choose to stay on Disney property, you can utilize a special shuttle from the airport to your Disney Resort hotel. It’s called Disney Magic Express. Once in the terminal at MCO Orlando airport, you’ll see signs showing you where you can meet this free shuttle service.
3. The most cost effective accommodations in Orlando for a Disney trip are off Disney property. Disney’s value resorts are usually $70+ a night, after discounts. At that price point, you can get a nicer hotel off property, but you’ll be giving up some added benefits that come with staying in a Disney Resort property. This may require you to have a rental car to get around unless your off-property hotel provides shuttle service.
4. Staying at a Disney Resort OR a Disney Partner Hotel will get you free transportation from your hotel to the parks. Check the shuttle schedule before you book your hotel, some partner hotels only offer a few shuttles a day.
5. Taking a shuttle means you don’t have to pay for parking at Disney parks. Although, each parking pass is good for the whole day, so if you leave or go to multiple parks, you only pay once a day.
6. Hotel pools are free and a great way to spend some down-time instead of heading to the water parks. This will save you the extra money purchasing tickets.
7. Do not wait to buy tickets at the gate. For the best deal, buy them in advance. Check around, you can buy tickets at a discounted price from AUTHORIZED ticket resellers, such as Underground Tourist. NEVER EVER buy tickets from Craigslist, eBay, etc. Disney scans your fingerprints when you use a ticket, so no one can use the “leftover” days on the ticket that they are trying to sell.
Dining (The easiest place to cut money)
8. If you have decided to stay off property and you have a rental car, go to the grocery store. It’s much cheaper than purchasing food at Disney or the shopping center across from Downtown Disney.
9. You cannot bring a large cooler in to the park, but you can bring a backpack with snacks and drinks. Remember, you cannot bring alcohol in.
10. Eat off property. Orlando has tons of restaurants at every price point. If you have a car, make use of it. Head off out of the tourist areas and find where the locals eat. Ask at your hotel for recommendations.
11. Eat one big meal a day, and snack the rest of the day. The all you can eat buffets are a good value for those with large appetites. Many places have lunch pricing in effect until 4 p.m.
12. Many Disney restaurants do not charge extra for sharing a meal and their portions tend to be on the larger side, so if a few of your guest have smaller appetites this is a good way to go.
13. Eat kid’s meals. Some restaurants have kid’s meals that are just smaller versions of adult meals, and often they come with a drink and a dessert.
14. Eat several appetizers as a meal from the different snack stands located throughout the park. This is a great way to sample a variety of what Disney has to offer without breaking the bank.
15. You can save money by ordering wisely and splitting meals in the parks as well. Remember, you cannot take the leftovers home in a doggie bag here. If you are not certain you’ll finish it, don’t order it. Stick with free cups of ice water to drink and lay off the sugary drinks. It will just burn off quickly and leave you hungry again.
16. Disney Dining Plan – Whether or not the dining plan is right for your family depends on how much you are going to eat and which restaurants you will be visiting. Look at menus online and compare the cost of what you would be spending out of pocket to what the dining plan costs, to determine which is a better value is for you.
17. “Magic Your Way” Vacation Package – This is marketed as a great money saving deal. It is a bundle of hotel, tickets and the dining plan. Many times, this is not the most affordable way to go, even though you do receive certain extras for booking the package, often these are extras that you do not use.
18. Photo Pass Photographers – Ask them and they will be happy to take you pictures for you, with your own camera instead of paying to print out the one’s they take with their camera.
19. Set a budget for children – if you can, give older children a budget for the length of the vacation. Not only does it stop them from asking you, but also it teaches them to think responsibly about their purchases.
20. Set shopping days for souvenirs, that way you do not have to hear about it every day. Also, check the local stores that are off property for some great Disney merchandise at a much lower price tag.
21. Pack appropriately – Check the weather and pack for it. This includes ponchos, flip-flops, sweatshirts, towels and blankets.
22. Bring your own autograph book and pen. It is cheaper than the ones you’ll find at Disney.
23. Bring everything you need from home for your vacation: toiletries, sunscreen, plastic bandages (for blisters and such), snacks for the road, refillable water bottles, etc. If you are driving, even better, there is room for your stuff in back and no TSA “security theater” rules to follow. Never buy anything in a theme park that you can buy outside the park and bring with you.
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best price for your vacation, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!
I am a lifelong Disney fanatic and mother of a future Disney fan. I've run several of the RunDisney events, including hte Disney Princess Half Marathon and Walt Disney World Half Marathon. When I'm not planning my next vacation to WDW, I can be found online at http://www.amothersdesign.com