Walt Disney World has a reputation for being an expensive place to vacation. And yet, most people dream of taking their families to the most magical place on earth. How can we rationalize our desire to experience the parks with our need to set a realistic spending budget? Believe it or not, there are ways to save money at Walt Disney World, and a vacation there does not have to break the bank! Here are ten ways to help you make the most of a small budget.
10. No Park Hopper: Park hoppers are an optional add-on to your regular base ticket. You need a park hopper to access two or more parks in a single day. But, you do not need to have one to enter one park in a day. Forgoing a park hopper is an easy way to save money without sacrificing time from your vacation.
9. Value Resort: If you’re sticking to a small budget, but want to stay on property, then the Value resort are for you. Guests staying at the Value resorts get tons of amazing perks, like free parking at the parks, Extra Magic Hours, and Disney’s Magical Express. Bonus points for you if you travel during the off season when hotels offer better deals!
8. Off Property: Even the Value resorts can be out of the budget. Search for hotels a few miles off property and you could save a bundle. Just don’t forget to factor the cost of parking into your hotel budget.
7. Drive: Plane tickets can get crazy expensive. If you have a large family, multiplying the price for one ticket by four or five (or gawrsh, more!) will add up fast! Driving is a much more economical choice. But, consider also the price for gas and possibly a hotel stay en route into your budget.
6. Bring in Your Own Food: Did you know you can bring your own food into the parks? You don’t even need to sneak it past security! Bringing your own lunch and snacks is a huge money saver! Plus, it saves you time from not needing to wait in a long line at meal times. Note: Hard coolers are no longer allowed in Walt Disney World parks except for medical reasons. Instead, use an insulated bag.
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5. Don’t Use Memory Maker: We all want the whole family in our vacation pictures. But when you’ve got a tight budget, there’s not always room to add the Memory Maker package. Instead, just ask the Photopass photographers to take your picture with your camera. They’ve all been trained to use any camera or phone, and usually happily take your picture using it. Find them in front of all the major icons, like Cinderella Castle, and Spaceship Earth. Note: Cast Members do not have to take a picture with your camera. They can refuse. But more often then not, they are willing.
4. Limit the Souvenirs: Even the most well-planned budget can be blown by over spending on souvenirs. Look for inexpensive ones, like pressed pennies. You can find machines with cool designs all over the parks. Or, consider giving everyone in your family a gift card for spending money, that way you can only spend what’s on the card.
3. Do Your Research: You can’t make the most of a tight budget if you don’t fully understand what your budget needs to cover. Don’t forget to include things like road tolls, parking, tips etc. Your budget needs to be more than just park tickets and lodging! The more you know, the better you can accommodate your budget.
2. Order Water: Water is free, and it’s better for you than alcohol or soda. Order water at table or counter service restaurants, or when you need to cool off mid-afternoon.
1. Dining Plan: The Disney Dining Plan is very contentious among Disney insiders. Guests staying in one of the Walt Disney World hotels can add the Dining Plan to their vacation package. Essentially, guests who chose to use the plan pre-pay for their meals, and then use credits to pay for meals on vacation. The Dining Plan comes in different tiers, one of which includes two counter service credits, and one snack credit per day, plus the refillable mug. Keep in mind, for some, the plan comes with way too much food, more than you would buy a la carte. Additionally, some research is needed to decide what meals and restaurants are the best value for the plan. Pre-paying your meals does mean that you don’t have to worry about food costs while you’re on vacation.
Have you ever used any of these tips to save money at the parks? What saves you the most money? And did I miss your favorite way to save?