10 Walt Disney World Budget Travel Tips Everyone Needs To Know

Credit: DisneyDining

A Walt Disney World vacation is expensive, but that does not keep thousands of people from visiting every day of the year. Most of these people are not rich, they’re hard working and know the value of a dollar. They also want to save money on that trip wherever possible. Here are ten tips to save money on your next Walt Disney World vacation. It will still be expensive, but any savings is welcome.

10) Use the Right Credit Card

This tip starts long before you pass through the turnstiles. Using the right credit card ahead of time can make a huge difference when it comes to a Walt Disney World vacation. If you’re flying, apply for your favorite airline’s credit card and use it to pay for everything that you buy. Pay the balance in full each month, then start again. Most airlines have programs where you can earn free flights, if you can get enough points that will pay for a huge part of your vacation. You also might want to consider a Disney Rewards Card. There are a couple of cards available, and there are perks such as discounts in the parks.

9) Use Disney Gift Cards

Disney Gift Cards can be used to pay off your Disney Resort, to buy your theme park tickets, and more. You can purchase them in bundles at some stores, so you’ll pay below face value. If you have a Target Red Card you can use that in many Target stores to buy the gift cards, and then you’ll get 5% back. The savings add up. Once you’re in Florida you can still use Disney Gift Cards to keep your costs down. Give one a day to each child for souvenirs so that they will not overspend. Use the gift cards to buy your meals. If you have purchased Disney Gift Cards before you leave home, you won’t have to worry about your credit card bill after your vacation. They can help to keep your spending under control.

8) Bring Your Own Extras

A Walt Disney World vacation is supposed to be magical, but sometimes there is an extra price tag on that magic. If you have princess obsessed children, buy dresses at home and bring them with you. They’ll cost much less than buying them in the parks. Bring glitter hair gel and apply it yourself before you leave for a park. Fill a bag with glow toys and stuffed animals that your children haven’t played with before, and don’t let the little ones know about them ahead of time. Before you leave home, head down the toy aisle in your local dollar store. You’ll find plenty of items that are Disney related and that will make your kids feel magical in the parks, but you won’t pay a premium for them.

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7) Book a Character Buffet for the End of Breakfast

Character meals are a must do for many families, but they are also pricey. If you are not on the Disney Dining Plan, book a character buffet towards the end of breakfast. That is usually the cheapest meal of the day, and if you’re still there when they roll out the lunch buffet you can partake of that for no extra cost. Fill up while at the buffet, and then you might not have to buy food again for hours. Just don’t hit Expedition Everest right after you eat.

6) Skip Park Hopper

Park Hopper is a wonderful addition to a Magic Your Way Ticket. With it, you can go back and forth between parks as much as you want each day of your ticket. Without Park Hopper, you can only go to one park each day. As nice as it is to have Park Hopper, it will add a lot to the cost of your tickets. If you’re trying to budget, leave Park Hopper off. You can always add it while at Walt Disney World if you decide that you want it.

5) Bring in Snacks

Food can take a huge bite out of your vacation budget, pun intended. If you want to cut down on that expense, bring in your own snacks. If you have a car, head to a nearby store once you arrive and stock up on a few things that your family will like. If you don’t have a car, use a ride sharing service. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can have food delivered to your hotel. There are also a few local companies that will provide the same service. Eat breakfast in your room, then bring peanut butter sandwiches, bagels, chips, granola bars, fruit, and other such items. If you bring in snacks, you might be able to get away with buying one meal a day in the parks. Just remember to pick snacks that are going to hold up well in the Florida heat. Chocolate bars may not be the best choice. You can also bring in drinks, just no glass bottles or alcohol. You can also ask for free cups of ice water at most counter service locations.

4) On or Off Property?

This is a tricky one that has no right or wrong answer. If you are going to have a car and want to use the hotel only to sleep, you can save money by staying off property. If you stay off property and are looking to save, do not use a service such as Hotwire to book your room. There are some shady hotels that aren’t too far away from Walt Disney World, and with a service like Hotwire you will not know what the hotel is before you pay. There are plenty of discount hotels in the area that are perfectly safe, they’re just a bit rundown. Many include free breakfast. If you’re flying and don’t need a car, it might be more cost effective to stay on property and use the free Disney Magical Express to get to your hotel. Another thing that you might want to consider is renting Disney Vacation Club points. There are plenty of benefits to staying on property, including Extra Magic Hours and the ability to make FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance. Of course you don’t have to fly to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you just need to want to be surrounded by the magic at all times. Whatever you decide, do your research before you book.

3) Travel During the Value Season

There are some times of year when tourists flock to Walt Disney World. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if schools are in not session, the parks will be packed. When schools are in session Disney still wants the parks to be packed, so they offer discounts. You’ll find deals on hotels (on and off property), on flights, on car rentals, and more. You’ll also enjoy slightly shorter lines, and in some cases better weather. If you have kids you’ll have to decide whether or not to take them out of school for a few days, but for many parents that is not a difficult decision to make.

2) Buy One Annual Pass

An Annual Pass to Walt Disney World is not cheap, but it comes with all kinds of benefits. Sometimes buying an AP for one member of your party will save you money. Included with the benefits are free theme park parking (parking is free if you’re staying on property, but adds up if you’re not), PhotoPass downloads, Park Hopper, merchandise discounts, some dining discounts, and much more. Sit down and add up how much your tickets and the extras will cost, then see if you will save if you have one Annual Pass in your party. The answer might surprise you.

1) Be Careful of Scams

Everyone wants to pay as little as possible to visit Walt Disney World, and there are crooks out there who want to take advantage of that. Only buy tickets from a place that is authorized to sell them. Tickets found on sites such as eBay could very well be counterfeit or used. Cheap deals on area hotels and packages might actually be an attempt to get your credit card information. Contests on social media from companies that have vague information may be scams. Remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, there is probably something wrong. Be careful. It’s better to spend a little more on your vacation than to lose money or have your personal information compromised.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.