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I’ve gotten quite a few emails over the last couple years asking how to vacation at Disney World on a budget. So I asked a friend who loves Disney to give us all his best tips. Look for a series of 12 posts dedicated to nothing but how to Save at Disney!
Vacations are not inherently “cheap.” You can, however, have an enjoyable vacation for a good price. It’s about building value. Finding time to rest and have fun is very important, but so is making your penny stretch. Just like with couponing, planning is very important to the success of your vacation. Make a budget, set aside money each month, and then pursue your vacation idea. Below are some ways to maximize your budget and experience at Disney World!
There is a ton of information about Disney World and lots of decisions to make. All I’d like to do is present a few facts about Disney World and share advice from past experiences. We are going to break this up into a daily series over the next two weeks to try to cover everything!
Basic Planning Guide
What Walt Disney World has to offer:
2 Water Parks
20+ On Site Resorts
Disney World has some great tools that will help you in your decision making process. They offer a free planning DVD with some great tips if you want to check it out. There are lots of great books to read if you’d like to know more about Disney World as well. Birnbaum’s is my favorite, but I’ve heard that The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is helpful too.
Booking Your Vacation
First, you’ll need to decide when to go. Let’s think about all the attributes that affect our decision of WHEN to go:
(1) Price (big one here)
(2) Availability (Yours and the Resorts’)
(3) Crowd Levels
Price being the major attribute we care about, we need to pay attention to the pricing changes at WDW (Walt Disney World). WDW has six pricing seasons. In order from least expensive (and least crowded) to most expensive (and most crowded) are as follows: Value season, Regular season, Summer season, Fall season, Peak season and Holiday season. Here is more specific information on Disney’s rate seasons.
As I mentioned, Value season tends to be the least populated time to go. The only downside is that WDW takes this opportunity to do maintenance on some rides and the park. However, a friend who always goes during value season said he has never had a problem. Early to mid December is an awesome time to go because it is in value season (or a lower price season; their pricing seasons have changed recently), has lower attendance, great weather, and beautiful Christmas decorations. Below is a picture of Hollywood Studios at Christmas.
When you come to a decision on when to go, you can check prices and options online at the WDW website. However, make sure you book over the phone. It may be easier to book online, but they will give you special deals over the phone not mentioned on the website. They will frequently have deals for free or reduced price on the Disney Dining Plan. Often I’ll begin the process online and then call to check for deals. You can continue to call, checking for deals, until you arrive and they will often retroactively apply the deals to your package.
If you are brave and don’t mind missing out on an opportunity to go, you can try to wait until the last minute to book your vacation in order to get deals on lodging. Sometimes Disney will offer around 30% off resort stays if you book a stay that falls within the dates they offer. Recently Disney offered 30% off for stays in mid-January and February, but I got the email at the beginning of January. I do not recommend doing this, but it is an option.
If you have any suggestions or questions feel free to leave a comment below.