A Budget-Friendly Walt Disney World Vacation – How To Make It Happen

Credit: Disney

Depending on who you talk to, Walt Disney World vacations are either ridiculously expensive, or the cheapest vacation you can possibly book for your family.  So, which is the truth??  Well, they both are.  The cost of a WDW trip varies widely, and luckily, there are many factors that are completely in your control – if you know where to look and take the time to do a bit of research!  Here are some of our favorite ways to create a budget-friendly Walt Disney World vacation.


1. The Dish on Dining

Unless someone in your party really wants to get up close and personal with a favorite Disney character over dinner, avoid buffets.  They’re expensive, and just about the worst meal value for your money in WDW.  When choosing your dining reservations, remember that dinner will be more expensive than other meals, so if there are some pricier restaurants you want to try, aim for breakfast or lunch instead.  You’ll still be able to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy great eats – and then maybe stop by a quick service location for some less expensive food for dinner!

2. Water Win

Bottled water: it’s not cheap, especially in WDW, and it’s not great for the environment.  But on a hot day in Orlando, you’re bound to need tons of water to keep you hydrated.  So what to do?  You can bring your own water bottle and refill it at the many fountains on property, of course.  But when you just have to have some chilled water, head to any quick service restaurant in Walt Disney World and ask for a cup of ice water – completely free.

3. Deals and Discounts

Timing really is everything!  If you are flexible with your travel dates, and can plan far enough in advance, you can land some pretty sweet deals on a WDW vacation.  Walt Disney World offers numerous deals (you can check them out online anytime) throughout the year, including discounted room rates and free dining plans.  These deals can really impact what you spend on your vacation – room discounts can be as high as 30% off!  It’s definitely worth doing some homework to save money.

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4. Plan a Resort Day

Think about planning a resort day during your trip, where you’ll enjoy the amenities of your own resort, as well as explore other Disney resorts.  The benefits of a resort day are many – you’ll save on park tickets (just make sure you don’t make dining reservations inside a park for this day), you’ll enjoy using the pool and other features of your resort, and you’ll see other fabulous resorts you may not have had time to visit otherwise.  You may even get some ideas about where you want to stay on your next Disney vacation!

5. Ticket Tips

Disney advertises its park tickets with the motto “the more you play, the less you pay per day”, and this is something to keep in mind.  The more days you plan to spend in the parks, the less you’ll pay per day.  One thing we love about Disney’s Multi-Day Tickets is that they don’t have to be used on consecutive days.  This means that even if you take a day in the middle of your vacation to go somewhere off-property, you’ll still be able to use your Multi-Day Ticket the following day, assuming you’re still within your allocated time period to use the tickets.

6. Perfect Photos

We discovered this tip recently, and plan to use it during our next WDW vacation!  Don’t hesitate to ask Disney’s PhotoPass photographers to take a photo using your own camera.  It’s completely free, and they don’t mind!  You can still pose for a professional shot if you want, but even that isn’t necessary.  You’ll save a ton of money by not buying Memory Maker, and you’ll still have all the best views and angles of the parks, taken by a pro!

7. Souvenir Spree

It’s easy to spend money in Walt Disney World – too easy.  So set a spending limit for souvenirs, and try to avoid novelty items that are cute but will probably only be used once (huge character souvenir cups, light-up toys, large character hat you’ll only wear in the parks).  If you have kids, think about purchasing cheaper Disney items back home (inexpensive online Mickey Ears, glowsticks for evening shows, glitter) to surprise them with.  You’ll save money and still put a smile on everyone’s face!

8. Resort Smarts

If you’re only using your resort as a place to crash after a full day in the parks, go for the value resorts, or opt for camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.  There’s no point in paying for amenities and fancy upgrades at higher-end resorts that you won’t even have time to appreciate!  If value resorts won’t cut it, think about renting Disney Vacation Club points.  Usually, you can snag a stay in a deluxe resort with rented renting DVC points at about the same price as booking a moderate resort without points.

9. Smart Snacking

Food can be expensive at Walt Disney World!  While there are times you’ll want to splurge on a special dining experience, you can supplement these meals with cheaper grab-and-go items (that are often also healthy).  Check out the grab ‘n go section of your resort’s food court, as well as the snack section of the resort’s gift shop, for items like cereal, milk, fruit, and treats like chips and cookies.  Disney resort rooms all have mini-fridges, plus you can use the resort microwave, so feel free to stock up!  You can even bring your own food – we tend to bring our own cereal so we an eat a quick breakfast in our room each morning.

10. Special Celebrations

There are myriad special event packages that you can purchase from Disney, including in-room celebrations, floral arrangements, princess packages and even venue rentals on property.  But if you’re looking to celebrate a special event without breaking the bank, skip these expensive add-ons and bring your own decorations and gifts to create a unique celebration.  Hang up a birthday sign or seasonal decorations in your resort room, or maybe plan a scavenger hunt with Disney-themed clues.  And don’t forget to tell cast member about your special event so you can reap the benefits of a celebration button during your stay!

About Stacy Milford

Stacy has lived in 4 countries on 3 continents, and travels whenever humanly possible. Passionate about music theatre, dessert, and adventure in the great wide somewhere, she visits Walt Disney World every year, usually during Halloween! Stacy currently divides her time between writing and teaching English as a second language to children in China, and is pretty sure growing up is over-rated.