Any way you slice or dice it, a Walt Disney World vacation is and investment, and one that most families need to budget for to fit into their comfort zone of expenses. There are some ways to save on your vacation package, but once you get to Walt Disney World you might be in for a surprise with some of the pricing on souvenirs and food. Luckily there are some ways to save while you are in Walt Disney World. Here are some tips to save before & after you get to Walt Disney World:
8. The Gift Card Trick
The existence of discounted Gift Cards is well known on the internet, but just in case you’ve missed it . . . Target and Sam’ are my two favorite places to buy the discounted cards. Target offers 5% off if you use your Red Card to purchase Disney Gift Cards. They normally have $25, $50 or $100 denominations. Sam’s Club is my go-to to purchase the cards. The one near me regularly carries the 3 backs of $50 cards and $500 cards—the 3 $50s are slightly higher percent off than the $500. Plus, at Sam’s you can use your rewards credit card to get an additional percentage back. Sometimes you can get 5% back with Discover card during certain times of the year. You can use these gift cards to pay toward your Disney Vacation package, or take them with you to the parks. And you can go to DisneyGiftCard.com to combine the cards into amounts as much as $1000 to make the payments faster & easier on your package. Just remember if you use gift cards toward your package to keep the gift cards—any refunds go back to the original payment source so you’ll need those cards.
7. Bring Souvenirs with You
If you are driving this is super easy, flying make take a little more planning. To combat the “I Want This” everywhere and help bypass the high Disney prices you can bring some souvenirs and Disney Gifts from home. You can find Disney toys and trinkets nearly everywhere so you can stock up leading up to your trip. You can find many creative ways to give them to your children while on vacation. In the past I’ve used the gifts as an incentive (aka bribe) for behaving each day, or as a magical “Tinker Bell” gift at the beginning of each day that was related to the fun we were going to have.
6. Bring Food & Drink with you
Walt Disney World allows you to bring food and drink into the parks (just no alcohol or glass). Take advantage of that by packing snacks and drinks for your family rather than paying Disney’s prices. I think the biggest money saver is bringing bottled water. With Florida weather you need to stay hydrated, so water is a must—and you can buy a whole case at Wal-Mart for the price of one bottle in the parks. If you like you can even bring in a small cooler with a lunch packed for your family, there are plenty of spots to have a picnic. If you are driving you can pack your snacks and drinks, but if you are flying you might consider a delivery service like Garden Grocer or Amazon Prime Now.
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5. Share Meals
While this is NOT an option everywhere and in all situations, you can share meals at some Disney restaurants. I’ve done it at several Table Service (non-buffet) restaurants where I split an entrée with someone in my party so we could also enjoy an appetizer and dessert. At quick service meals it is also easy to share (some are quite large) and that saves room in your budget and your stomach for a fun treat later on in the day. You can always ask a server at a table service/sit-down restaurant if it is okay to share a meal if you feel awkward about doing it.
4. Disney Dining Plan. . . the BIG Question
Disney offers a dining plan option (actually 3 different ones) that you can add to your Magic Your Way Package with a room reservation at one of their resort hotels. Sometimes people want to add it to their package just for the convenience of having everything paid in advance and not worrying about the budget once you are on vacation—and there is something to be said for that. But, can the dining plan save you money? Yes, it can under some circumstances. If you have children in your family and you are planning multiple character meals you can save big on the dining plan since the price of a single night of the child’s dining plan is just about the same as a child’s character meal—then you have a quick service meal and 2 snacks on top of that. However, if you are not planning to do many sit down meals or dining/food isn’t a big part of your vacation then you may be able to save more by paying out of pocket for your meals.
3. The Disney Visa
Disney partners with Chase to offer a Disney branded Visa card. Sometimes (but not often) a discount on packages or rooms will be offered to Disney Visa Cardholders before it is offered to the public, or there will be additional eligible dates for cardholders. Once you arrive at Walt Disney World you can find Disney Visa discounts in several places, so be sure to ask (and have your actual card with you). At many of the larger shops you can save 10% with a minimum spend amount on your Disney Visa. You can also get discounts on tours and some other special event activities as a cardholder.
2. Buy an Annual Pass
I know this sounds counter-intuitive since Annual Passes to Walt Disney World are pretty pricey, but hear me out. You can buy just one Annual Pass for an adult member of your travel party & get some pretty nice perks and discounts. Annual Passholders (APs) qualify for some room discounts that save more than the regular general public discounts. APs save on some meals, 20% on almost all merchandise (without a minimum purchase) at most shops, savings on tours, recreation, parties, and more. Plus Annual Passholders can purchase a Tables in Wonderland card that saves 20% off food & alcohol at table service restaurants.
1. Go at a Slower Time
If you go at a less popular travel time (and those are getting fewer & further between lately), you can save money. These times will see lower rates on hotel rooms, and often better discounts with more availability to fill those empty rooms. Disney’s buffets and character meals also see pricing vary with meals being more expensive during peak travel times than slower times. If you have flexibility in your schedule, working with a Travel Planner who knows Walt Disney World well will help you find one of those times.
What are your favorite tips & tricks for saving money at Walt Disney World?