Looking at your budget and wondering how in the world you’re going to afford your upcoming trip to the most magical place on earth? We totally understand. Disney World is far from cheap, and for most people, this kind of trip takes months or even years of saving. That said, there are a few ways to save some money in Disney World. While none of these will make your vacation a wholly inexpensive one, they can help take off the edge.
1. Go with a Value Resort (or Camp!)
Technically, the cheapest way to go is to stay offsite. That said, there is something magical about staying on Disney property. Therefore, we recommend staying in a Disney resort but keeping costs relatively low by staying in a Value Resort or at the Fort Wilderness Campground. Why is this our recommendation? Well, you probably won’t be spending a lot of time in the hotel anyway. Disney’s Value Resorts offer all of the most important Disney amenities—such as transportation to the parks and the airport, along with themed pools—without unnecessary extras, meaning the price point remains relatively affordable.
2. Skip the Rental Car
If you’ll be flying into Orlando, there is absolutely no reason to pay extra for a rental car. Instead, take Disney’s Magical Express to your Disney Resort and use other Disney-provided transportation to get from point A to point B during your stay. You’ll save a big chunk of change, and you won’t have the stress of driving. Best of all, you won’t have to pay to park on Disney property—a surprisingly big expense, especially when you’re staying for several days.
3. Buy Souvenirs Ahead of Time
Nobody is going to get out of a Disney World trip with the kids without at least a couple of character-adorned souvenirs. That said, you really don’t need to spend Walt Disney World prices to get those adorable mugs, backpacks, and t-shirts. Instead of letting the countless Disney World gift shops lure you into purchasing their overpriced items, do a bit of shopping beforehand. Head to your local Walmart or Disney Store Outlet and stock up on cute Disney goodies. Then, each morning, surprise your kids with an awesome surprise before you hit the parks.
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4. Stock Up on Snacks
Did you know you can take your own food and drinks into the Disney Parks? Many people aren’t aware of this and end up spending a small fortune on in-park meals and snacks. By stocking up on filling snacks of your own and carrying them into the park, you’ll save some money and time that would’ve been spent waiting in line for munchies. Flying in? If so, packing a bunch of snacks isn’t very practical. In this case, we recommend ordering groceries from Garden Grocers. This local store will deliver to your Disney Resort, making things super easy for you.
5. Say No to the Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan may look like an awesome deal on the surface, but in reality, it is financially advantageous to only a select few. You see, the plan actually includes much more food than any of us could ever eat, and in order to get enough out of the plan to get your money’s worth, you would need to be ordering the most expensive things possible the majority of the time. Therefore, if you 1) plan to take in your own snacks, 2) tend to avoid eating huge meals and/or drinking soda, and 3) rarely order steak and lobster, we recommend paying out of pocket for your food. The one exception to this rule is during a free dining promotion. If you happen to book during a free dining promotion, go ahead and do the math. If you feel the free Dining Plan is a better deal for your family than whatever room discount you might otherwise get, then go for it!
6. Drink Free Water
Many people make the mistake of paying for overpriced bottles of water during their time in the Disney parks. This is unfortunate because these people could be staying hydrated for free. Simply walk up to the nearest counter-service eatery and ask for a cup of water. The Cast Member will be happy to provide a refreshing cup of ice water at no charge, so you can save your drink money for a yummy snack later.
7. Grab Discounted Gift Cards
Grabbing discounted gift cards can be a decent money saver. Sam’s Club occasionally offers packs of Disney gift cards at a slight discount, and Disney gift cards can also be bought from Target using a Redcard to receive 5% cash back. These can then be used to pay for tickets, hotel rooms, or food. Another option is to look for discounted Starbucks or Landry’s gift cards. Starbucks cards can often be found at a discount on Groupon, and Landry’s often offers cards on websites such as Swagbucks, which require you to take surveys and do other small tasks in order to earn points to purchase rewards. Starbucks cards can be used at the four Starbucks locations in the parks, and Landry’s gift cards can be used at Rainforest Cafe, Yak and Yeti, and T-Rex Cafe.
8. Consider an Annual Pass
Finally, we should mention that purchasing an Annual Pass can actually be a money saver in some cases. If you will be in the parks for more than ten days in a 12-month period, an Annual Pass is definitely the way to go. Additionally, some families do the math and find that purchasing an Annual Pass for just one person in their group is beneficial thanks to the free parking and other discounts offered to Passholders. The idea of purchasing an Annual Pass makes even more sense if you’re a Florida resident, since residents of the state receive decent discounts on passes.