A trip to Walt Disney World in Florida can be the vacation of a lifetime! It can also be expensive, particularly for those families on a budget. I have good news for you! There are many ways to save money while planning your trip and while you’re there, without affecting the overall enjoyment of your vacation. Here are 15 tips for getting the most Disney “bang for your buck”.
1) Develop a payment plan – Book your trip as far in advance as possible. If you stay with Disney, you can book your trip a year or more in advance. At the time of booking, all that is required is a $200 deposit on a package (room, tickets, dining plan) or one night’s stay on a room-only reservation. Then, you can make weekly or monthly payments on your reservation until it’s paid off. *Be aware, Disney vacation packages require full payment 45 days before your vacation.
2) Use a travel agent – It can be difficult to keep up with all of comings and goings at Disney. Let a professional Disney expert like Mickey Travels help you. They are the first to know about any potential discounts or savings. Plus, there is no cost to you!
3) Travel in the “off season” – While Disney World can be crowded much of the year, there are slower times. The rule of thumb is, when school is in, Disney is less crowded. Consequently, hotel prices are lower. Also, during the slower times, Disney will offer discounts and incentives. For the last several years, Disney has offered free dining during the late summer and early fall. Free is good!
4) Stay during the week – Rather than starting your vacation on a Friday after school or work, begin you vacation on a Sunday. Hotel rates are typically higher on weekends.
5) Rent DVC points – DVC stands for Disney Vacation Club, a timeshare option for frequent guests. Occasionally, DVC owners have points (toward hotel stays) they can’t use for whatever reason. Anyone can “rent” these points from them to use for your stay at one of the Disney vacation villas. The savings can be 40-50%! You can rent directly from owners or through a third-party broker, depending on your comfort level.
6) More “bang for your buck” – By scheduling your vacation around one of Disney’s annual events or festivals, you can get more “bang for your buck”. Many of Disney’s annual events are included in the price of admission. Examples are: Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios in June, Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival in the fall and the Halloween and Christmas seasons around the entire resort.
7) Magical Express – If you fly to Orlando, you will have to consider how to get from the airport to your Disney hotel. Taking a shuttle service, hiring a town car or using a taxi can be expensive, about $75 each way. Instead, use Disney’s Magical Express. This is a free bus service for any guests who have booked a Disney hotel. Plus, Disney will handle your luggage for you and will deliver it directly to your room.
8) Disney tickets – The Disney World ticket system is called “Magic Your Way”. Before you leave home, decide what you want to do on your vacation. How many days do you want to visit the theme parks? How about the water parks? Disney Quest indoor video theme park? Golf anyone? Be careful not to pay for something you don’t want or don’t have time for. A great way to save about $50 per person is to forego the “park-hopper” option. A base ticket will allow you to come and go as you like, for one park per day.
9) Stay longer – Did you know a one-day base ticket to a Disney theme park is about $100 per person! After you’ve recovered from sticker-shock, here’s the good news. The longer you stay, the less you pay per day. A six or seven day base ticket reduces your per day cost to about $40 per person.
10) Supplies/groceries – A trip to Disney can be taxing, to say the least! Consider the things you might need to remain at your best while on vacation. Things like sunscreen, water, snacks and breakfast items. Yes, you can purchase these things at your hotel, but you will pay a premium. Instead, bring these items with you from home. Or, consider using a grocery delivery service in the Orlando area. Bonus tip: You can bring your own food into the theme parks (no glass bottles).
11) Food/dining – Disney World has dozens of fun, well-themed restaurants, both counter-service and sit-down. Save money by ordering water at your meals instead of soda or tea. At counter-service restaurants, order the entrée only, leaving off the sides that come with it. At sit-down restaurants, share meals. Especially during the summer, the heat and humidity do not mix well with a full stomach!
12) Character meals – Character meals are a great way to do two things at once. Not only will you enjoy a great meal in a well-themed Disney restaurant, but the characters will come to you! No standing in line! However, character meals can be expensive. To save money, book your character meals for breakfast or lunch. The cost savings can be substantial, especially for a family.
13) Souvenirs – There’s an old saying : “At Disney, everything begins with a line and ends with a gift shop!” Consider buying your young children some Disney souvenirs back home and then give them out during your trip. Purchase some authentic Disney pins from EBay, etc., and let your child trade pins with Disney cast members. Another fun souvenir is pressed pennies. Each one costs 51 cents! Make up your own autograph book at home for your child to get character autographs.
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14) Time is money! – Although Disney has upgraded many of their attraction queues to be interactive, standing in line is not something you want to do all day. There are ways to beat the crowds and enjoy more time on the rides and enjoying the shows, parades and fireworks. Arrive early, before the parks open to get ahead of the crowds. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. Every day, one of the parks is open an hour early or two hours late for Disney hotel guests only. Also, make your Fastpass+ ride reservations on the My Disney Experience app or website to save time at the most popular attractions.
15) Water fun – The Disney waterparks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, are spectacular! However, you can save money by foregoing the waterparks and enjoying your Disney hotel pools. Most hotels have more than one pool and the main pool at your resort will be well-themed and fun. Many have separate play areas for children, plus water slides and more.