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Cheap Disney Vacation

A ‘Cheap’ Disney World Vacation Is Possible. Here’s How to Pull It Off

It’s been a while, and you just haven’t had the chance to get back to taking a Walt Disney World vacation lately. Perhaps money is the main obstacle, as you’ve come to learn that going to Disney World is no cheap endeavor.

What if I were to tell you that through careful planning and consideration, there is a way to take that long-awaited vacation while staying within a reasonable budget? It may sound too good to be true, but there are ways to enjoy a “cheap” vacation at Walt Disney World Resort. Want to know how? Keep reading to find out.

Related: Oh, The Places You Could Go for The Cost of a Disney World Vacation

Your Personal Meaning of Affordability

First, it’s important to take into account that the definition of what is cheap and affordable in regard to a Disney vacation really does vary from party to party. For most folks, sticking to an overall budget of just $3,000 (airfare included) or less is more than ideal. But there are some frugal travelers that can even manage to get the pricing down to just below the $2,000 marker.

Still, some have managed the seemingly impossible feat of staying within just the $1,000 price range, although it’s worth mentioning that in most of these cases, you’re looking at folks who are within decent driving range to Disney Parks. That means airfare and vehicle rental costs do not figure in (although gas and possibly Resort accommodations still do).

All the same, with no set price range in mind for this how-to analysis of going on a cheap vacation to Walt Disney World Resort, these are helpful tips to keep in mind as you plan accordingly based on your own ballpark budget.

Disney Budget Worksheet

Credit: The Affordable Mouse

Related: 6 Totally Affordable Disney World Weekend Getaway Ideas

Go During the Off Season

When you plan to take your vacation to Walt Disney World Resort during one of the less popular regarded times of the year, you may find that everything across the board is much cheaper. As most travel planning sources dictate, January is one of the most affordable months to visit, especially in comparison to the summer months.

It’s just something else to keep in mind as you go about planning an upcoming trip. And let’s face it, most folks would love an escape from the mid-winter blues anyway.

Isolated Main Street Magic Kingdom Park in January

Credit: Disney

Related: January is Our Favorite Time to Visit Disney World: Here’s Why

Check on Any Disney Promotions

Something we frugal Disney vacationers have learned about over the years during contemplative travel planning phases is that Disney has continuous, ongoing promotions and special offers constantly popping up throughout the year. So, be on the lookout for such offers. In many cases, if you have already booked your trip and such offers spring up after the fact (but still before your intended vacation dates), you may still call up the Walt Disney Company and take advantage of said promos.

You may also learn more about Disney promotions by asking a Disney travel agent, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, or even through a third-party source, like a promo related to your place of employment agent (if one applies), or looking on the website for more information.

In addition to Disney-specific promos, you may also want to see if you qualify for any extra money-saving deals, like those through AAA, a credit card company, etc. You may want to check to see whether or not you have frequent flyer miles via an airline, as well. In many cases, people are eligible for saving far more often than they even initially realize.

Collage of Disney Promos

Credit: Laura Hermoza/Disney Fanatic

Related: 5 Special Money-Saving Offers Walt Disney World Runs Throughout the Year

Consider Your Party Size

While making plans and budgeting those plans accordingly, it’s imperative to consider the size of the party to which you will be traveling. Is it going to be just the two of you for a couple’s getaway? Or are you bringing kids along? And if so, how many? What are their ages?

All of this factors into how much money you will be initially spending as well as what extras you may be inclined to splurge on as a result. For instance, younger children may initially cost less in some regards, but sometimes having kids along obligates you to spend more on “extras” like Memory Maker via PhotoPass, Fireworks Dessert Parties, character meals, etc. So, in that regard, younger doesn’t always mean cheaper.

Disney Family

Credit: Disney

Related: How to Travel to Walt Disney World with a Large Group

Stay at a Value Resort

You can still stay on Disney property, even if you’re looking to keep things cheap and low-key. In fact, staying onsite eliminates the need to utilize (and pay for) outside transportation to and from the Parks. And if you’re looking for affordable accommodation that doesn’t sacrifice impeccable quality and standards, then you really can’t go wrong with a Value Resort when considering Disney Resort accommodations.

There are currently five Value Resorts to choose from—Disney’s All-Star Music, Disney’s All-Star Movies, Disney-s All-Star Sports, Disney’s Pop Century, and Disney’s Art of animation. All are all right on par with Disney’s stellar, world-renowned attributes and are certainly elevated by traditional standards for what we typically think of as being “cheap” resorts. And for bold adventurers not afraid to rough it out with camping, there’s also Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds to consider. When you evaluate any of these possibilities, it can mean a world of difference in money saving.

Art of Animation exterior

Credit: Disney

Related: A Detailed Overview of Disney World’s Value Resorts

What Duration Are You Looking to Stay?

This can be a little trickier to configure, as both longer and shorter trip durations may actually result in saving money. Sure, a weekend getaway for two adults is likely to be cheaper than a seven-day, six-night stay for a family of four. But what’s most interesting is the fact that planning a longer Disney trip may actually be cheaper all around. That’s right, the longer you plan, the more of a deal you get. While this is true, it still doesn’t fit in with the idea of a set budget plan that keeps things under the $3,000 range. These are just considerations to keep in mind, all the same.

Cinderella at Castle

Credit: Disney

Don’t Invest ALL Your Time in Park Pursuits

If you really want to take things easy and within a manageable budget, you may want to reconsider how you’ve been doing the Parks. I make this recommendation primarily to folks who have been there and done that at pretty much all Disney theme park locations. This does not necessarily apply to first-timers who would understandably want to get the most out of every Disney Park, from Magic Kingdom Park to EPCOT, Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom Park.

Perhaps you should forego Park Hopper. This isn’t something I encourage lightly, but let’s just say you’ve been to Disney before, and you’re looking at perhaps a five-day trip. You really are in a position to devote one day to each Park and opt for standard tickets in such instances. Then you still have an extra day leftover for Resort fun and recreation or even a day at Disney Springs.

And since you’ve already done the rides you like time and again, there really is no reason to concern yourself with Lightning Lane selections via Disney Genie services and paying extra. Just go with the flow. If you get to ride the rides, great. But do not spend more than you need to secure high-demand selections.

Disney 50th Anniversary

Credit: Disney

Keep Dining Low-Key

Yes, I know. Dining within the realm of Walt Disney World is truly the stuff of dreams. And I’m not saying you should completely forego splurging on at least one magical meal endeavor. Just configure your working budget a bit to decide wisely on what you can and cannot do within your reasonable price range. Here are some helpful money-saving meal planning tips for you to enjoy at least one major mealtime endeavor without overspending.

Keep the majority of your meals low-key. Commit to eating a big breakfast at your Resort’s food court early on in the day. This will keep you full for hours (you may not even need lunch). Also, be sure to bring some convenient to-go options and snacks to hold you over, just in case. You may end up opting for some quick-service vittles while out and about in the Parks, but try to be practical in your spending.

Would you rather have a generously proportioned sandwich platter with plentiful sides at a surprisingly low price from Columbia Harbour House or an overpriced character cupcake from some kiosk? Play your cards right, and you will not be throwing away money on the wrong kinds of food. But do at least budget for some of those extra special treats to enjoy as well.

Chef Mickey's

Credit: Disney

Related: We Just LOVE These Quick Service Restaurants at Disney World Resorts

When budgeting for a “cheap” trip to Walt Disney World, you must personally evaluate what works best for you, your traveling party, and your overall situation. Initially, you are your best judge of character in executing the plan at hand. And everyone is different, with different ideas of what is absolutely necessary and what may be omitted.

Whatever extras you opt for or not, Disney World remains a most magical experience, regardless of how much time you initially end up spending here and what makes the final cut on your itinerary. If you’re lucky enough to go to Disney, that’s the best gift of all. Every Disney experience has the potential to be a trip of a lifetime.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.