Tips to Save Money on a Walt Disney World Vacation
It’s no secret that a trip to Disney World expensive. Between getting to the Orlando area, park tickets, hotel accommodations, and food – the price of the vacation adds up quickly. And I did not even mention souvenirs! While you can’t necessarily go for free, there are some easy and effective ways to save some money and that can go a long way. Here is my list of ways to save money on a Disney World vacation!
Saving Money on Food
Eating at Disney is expensive! There are many ways to save money on food and you can pick and chose which tips work best for your trip.
Skip buying breakfast
- Breakfast food is often over priced, over sugared, and fairly basic in what you are paying for.
- Eating breakfast in the room also saves time in the parks – those morning hours in the park are valuable ride time due to low crowds and needing to eat will take time away from that.
- Great breakfast ideas include cereal, oatmeal, granola bars, toaster pastries, and bagels.
- We use this tip for every Disney trip!
Bring or purchase groceries
- While non-perishable foods can be packed in your luggage, there are options if you are a light packer with no additional room for food or want to obtain perishables.
- Resorts typically have a small convenience stores that is good for one or two items (such as milk for cereal) but they can be quite pricey.
- There are resort grocery delivery services that you can take advantage of as well (Amazon Prime, Instacart, Garden Grocer, etc).
- We have not done this but we know it is an option people use.
- This is especially useful if you chose to bring or purchase groceries.
- You are permitted to bring food into the theme parks so if you wanted to pack lunch or snacks for the day, you are able to do so.
Eat two big meals a day instead of three
- If the “byo” option is not for you, try eating two big meals a day instead of three.
- We use this tip all the time! We end up eating something small in the room for breakfast then plan two meals for the rest of the day.
- Portion sizes at Disney World are usually very generous anyway so you leave the restaurants extremely full.
- Take advantage of family style of buffet options if you really want to load up!
- Time them so you have one late morning and one early evening.
Bring a refillable water bottle
- The price of a bottle of water at Disney World is currently $3.50 – purchasing water bottles adds up extremely fast, particularly when you are going in the warmer months and doing so much walking.
- If you can avoid sodas as well, they will cost you $4 a pop.
- There are places in the theme parks and resorts to fill up your refillable water bottles with filtered water.
- If you are able, splurge for a refillable water bottle that keeps water nice a cold for those hot days.
Commentary on the meal plan: there is a cult following for the Disney dining plan which is an added daily cost that includes your food for the trip. The concept is that it saves money but I do not think it is really worth it. It is expensive and you have to eat a lot of food to get the valve of that expense. You are also not eligible to eat at every dining establishment and most places are then locked into a prefix menu for the Disney dining plan. While I have not personally done this before, I know some people swear by it so this is just my opinion and observation.
Saving Money on Park Tickets
Purchasing tickets to the theme parks is probably one of the most expensive parts of the trip and the prices of park tickets only continues to rise.
Single park a day versus multiple parks a day
- There are two park ticket options – visiting one park a day or visiting multiple parks a day. park hopping vs one park a day. One park a day option is cheaper than visiting multiple parks a day.
- While the popular money saving tip here is to visit one park a day, I challenge that as sometimes visiting more than one park a day eliminates the need to do a park each day of the trip which saves more money.
- Example: One day at each of the four parks = 4 day single park ticket ($470)
- Example: Two days park hopping between two parks each day = 2 day park hopper ticket ($340)
- What do to with the other two days of the trip? Have park free days!
- This decision will largely depend on how you want to vacation – going to multiple parks a day is a more “intense” day than exploring one park a day so it will be up to you.
- Note that theme parks ticket prices vary throughout the year – more popular times of year mean you will pay more per day than low crowd times of year, or you may pay more to go on a weekend than during the week.
- If you go to Disney frequent, twice a year, or live locally, price out if an Annual Pass makes sense for you. Do not forget that and Annual Pass also gives you additional discounts on select dining and merchandise so that should be included in your calculation!
Optimize park time
- For the days you are visiting the parks, optimize your day by going early in the morning and later in the evening a few hours before park close. Those are the least busy times of the day and you can get most of the attractions done in those two windows.
- Guests staying on property (at a Disney resort) get access to the park 30 min ahead of everyone which is a big deal and some nights, staying at select deluxe resorts means you get to stay in the park after closing an extra two hours!
Do not do a park every day of your trip
- There is so much to do on Disney property besides the theme parks! So much that I have an entire post on how to spend a Park Free Day at Disney World.
- Do not forget to take advantage of the resort you are staying at. You are paying money to stay at these lovely resorts, make sure to allocate time to enjoy them. For more on which resort to stay at, check out this post on where to stay.
Check for discounts
- On occasion you can find Disney tickets discounted – check places such as AAA or employer discounts to see if the tickets you are looking to purchase qualify.
Commentary on Genie +, Lightning Lane, Individual Lightning Lane: If you are willing to do the parks when they open and later towards closing, I do not think you need to purchase either Genie + or Individual Lightning Lanes to ride attractions on your Disney trip. If you are able to be flexible, you do not need to buy your way through Disney. Wait times were generally more elevated than they actually were – speculation is this is being done on purpose by Disney to drive people to purchasing Genie +, Lightning Lane, Individual Lightning Lane. I have an entire blog post outlining using Genie, Genie Plus, Lightening Lane and Individual Lightening Lane.
Saving Money on Accommodations
Unfortunately, there is no Disney magic here to save money on Disney resorts – you need somewhere to sleep! Occasionally Disney runs discounts on hotel rooms during the off peak times of year so keep a look out for those.
Consider staying off property
- The rental market is booming in Orlando – there are plenty of hotel options and Airbnbs in the area that are significantly cheaper.
- Know there are some draw backs to staying off Disney property:
- Do not get access to the park early or later outside of park hours
- Do not get access to book Genie, Genie Plus, Lightening Lane and Individual Lightening Lane at the same of as resort guests.
- Will need to account for transportation – this may negate the cost savings of the resort. Renting a car, parking fees at the theme parks, or doing a ride share will certainly add up so make sure to do your homework to make sure you are actually saving money. The lowest cost to park at a Disney park is currently $25 per day.
Get the Free DESKRIB Guide “How to Find the Perfect Airbnb” – sign up here!
Enjoy a park free day at the resort
- Do not forget to take advantage of the resort you are staying at. You are paying money to stay at these lovely resorts, make sure to allocate time to enjoy them. This also saves money on park tickets by allocating a park free day.
- Pools at some of the resorts are quite unique with character voices being heard underwater, sand bottoms, or fun water slides. There are typically many activities offered at the resorts such as movies at night with smores. Some resorts feature larger than life decor, water activities such as boat rentals or fishing, and surrey bike rentals. Fireworks can even be enjoyed from certain resorts as well. There is even Disney vacations that focus on resort only stays and do not even go into the theme parks!
For more on which resort to stay at, check out this post on where to stay.
Saving Money on Transportation
This section is probably where you can make the biggest impact on saving money or avoiding unnecessary costs.
Getting to and around Disney World
- If you are flying, you can get great deals on flights since Orlando is a big destination with many airlines that fly here. Shop around, use google flights to track deals
Get the Free DESKRIB Guide to learn how to use Google Flights to find the best flight deals – sign up here!
- If you are driving or renting a car, make sure you understand the price of parking at Disney:
- Daily parking cost at the theme parks (starts at $25 per day)
- Overnight parking cost at the Disney resorts ($15 – $25 a night depending on where you are staying)
- Here is Disney’s official page since these prices are subject to change
- Disney transportation is free! While it may take time to get from one destination to another, it is still a free service that we take advantage of 100%.
- Transportation from the airport to resort has gotten less fun since Disney took away the free transportation option (Magical Express) so for now you need to find another way. At the time of this post, I honestly would recommend just getting a ride share. The Magical Express alternatives that many companies pounced on are overpriced and will take longer for you to get to the magic.
Saving Money on Souvenirs
While we have a knack on keeping souvenir spending low – the benefit of packing light and the smallest bag possible – there are some ways to regular spending other than packing in backpack.
- Gift cards are a great way to budget exactly what you are willing to spend on souvenirs.
- There’s even a fun hack with Target REDcard holders – when purchasing Disney gift cards you get 5% back! You can also use this for food, park tickets, hotel, anywhere you can use a Disney gift card. Five precent adds up when you are spending a significant amount of money.
- There are merchandize discounts offered for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Members, Annual Pass holders, and Disney Visa Card Holders
Get Disney merch elsewhere
- Stores like Target, the GAP, H&M and Kohl’s occasionally stock Disney clothing.
- There is such a market for fan inspired merchandise so make sure to check places like instagram or Etsy for not only more affordable merchandise but also unique.