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Are you dreaming of a magical vacation? I think we all are this year!! Of course the most magical vacation is heading to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Disney World is magical, but also magically expensive!! Help yourself enjoy your Disney vacation without worrying about the cost. Here are 20 great ways to save at Disney World!
20 Ways To Save at Disney World:
1) Bring your own Snacks and Drinks to the Parks
Not many people know that you can bring a small cooler with snacks, baby food or drinks into any of the Disney parks. Just be sure to go through the “check your bag” line before entering.
2) Stay on Property at a Value Resort
One of the things that most people discover quickly on a Disney vacation is you do not spend much time in your room. With this said, why would you spend top dollar on a resort room? You can usually score a Disney Value Resort room for around $80-$120 per night depending on the time of year. With the Moderate Resorts running around $220 per night and Deluxe Resorts going for up to $700 per night. Save a significant amount by going with a value resort. All Disney resorts offer FREE Disney Transportation to Disney Parks so you aren’t giving up your perks by simply spending less.
Another great tip for saving money on a room is find a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Member that is looking to sell their points. This gets you into one of the nicer Deluxe Resorts like the Boardwalk Resort by spending far less than if you booked the room directly. Just be sure you trust the person you are sending your money to in order to book the room. (DVC rooms do vary slightly from the regular hotel, but the perks are all the same.)
3) Take the FREE Disney Transportation
The Disney Magical Express goes from Orlando Airport to any Disney resort for FREE multiple times per day. This is a great way to get to and from the airport without renting a car or taking a cab and will save you a significant amount of money. But you must be staying on property to get this perk. (Tip: Disney is discontinuing the Magical Express on January 1, 2022, so keep this in mind if you’re planning your trip for next year!)
The Disney Theme Park Transportation is also FREE and runs all day between all the Disney Theme Parks. So leave your car at your resort and ride free. This is a convenient and efficient way to get you and your little ones to the gate and not have to look for a parking spot.
If you do want to drive, parking is normally $25 per day at the Theme Parks, but Disney resort guests park for FREE. Sometimes this is more convenient for families with multiple strollers or just a lot of people.
There are more than just the Disney Buses that take you to and from the Parks. Depending on which resort you have chosen or which park you are going to, you could ride on the famous Monorail or one of the Ferry Boats. These are so much fun for the family and can be just as entertaining as some of the rides and are once again, completely FREE!
4) To Buy a Park Hopper or Not…that is the question
This is an interesting topic. You will hear different people tell you different things about purchasing a Park Hopper. You can save over $100 per ticket by declining the Park Hopper option, but then you are “stuck” at one park per day.
For our family, whether or not we go with the Park Hopper varies from trip to trip, and usually depends on the length of our trips. For example, our family enjoys Animal Kingdom the least out of all the parks. So if we wanted to make it a shorter trip (3 days), we’ll go with the Park Hopper tickets and just do a half day at Animal Kingdom, at the end of a different park day. That way we still get to visit all 4 parks, but we pay for one less day on our tickets, and also one less night at the hotel, which makes splurging on the Park Hopper still come out cheaper in the end!
On the other hand, if you want a more relaxing trip, Park Hopper might not be for you. There is no doubt there is plenty to do at each park all day and you can certainly head back to your Disney Resort for relaxing pool time or a FREE Disney Movie. You may want to choose to spend that extra money on something else on your Disney vacation.
5) Pack a Rain Poncho from the Dollar Store
Rain Ponchos are around $9 at Disney World. When it starts to rain you can find them at most stores at the parks, but so will the other 1,000 people at the parks that day. My suggestion is to go to Dollar Store and pick up ponchos for the entire family prior to leaving on your trip. These easy-to-carry ponchos come in a small pouch and can easily be stored under a stroller, in a bag, or even in your pocket. You’ll be glad you didn’t have to spend the extra money or waste time in gift shop lines.
The wait time for rides usually goes way down while it’s raining, so if you have your ponchos handy and are willing to brave the weather, you can fit a lot more rides in!
6) Bring your own Princess Costume
We gather up all of our Disney dress-up clothes at home and take them with us. That way it’s far less tempting to purchase expensive costumes in the parks! Watch out for great deals throughout the year at ShopDisney, Target, and even secondhand shops like Once Upon a Child.
7) Choose a lower package at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
There are several packages you can choose from at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for your little princess. If your heart is set on doing this, my advice is to choose the lowest package available and save the money. Your kiddos will still get a great, fun experience, even with the smallest package! The Crown package is $74.95 and includes the hair choice, makeup, a princess sash and tote, and fingernail polish. (Note: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is currently closed, so be sure to check and see if it’s available for your trip dates!
8) Bring your own glow sticks
Head to the dollar store and pick up some glow sticks before you go. You can find these sticks year round, and you can usually find them with some sort of Disney Character on them which makes them even more fun. Purchasing glow sticks at the park are very expensive, and your little ones don’t care where they were purchased, as long as they can join in on the fun!
9) Bring your own stroller
Many people rent strollers at Disney World. I get it, it makes sense that you do not want to have to bring your own stroller, but one issue with this is you can’t park hop with strollers. When you pick up your stroller at the park you’ll have to turn it in before you exit. You can grab another one at the next park you go to, but it wastes valuable time. You also have to spend $13-15 per day for a single stroller and $27-31 per day for a double. Most people stay a minimum of 4 days which means you would be spending $52-108 on a stroller you do not get to keep or take back and use at your resort. (Walking back to the room at the end of a long day is the time lots of people most want their strollers, as kiddos are often too tired to want to walk!!)
My suggestion is to pick up an inexpensive umbrella stroller at Walmart for $19.99. This saves you money, gives you a stroller for future trips, and makes life at the parks more convenient. They even have Mickey and Minnie ones to choose from. (Tip: Tie a scarf or a balloon on your stroller each day so when you park it to go on rides you can find it quickly.)
10) If you want the Memory Maker package, buy before you go
You can save $30 before you even go to Disney World with this tip. Have you ever wanted someone to follow you around your vacation and take memorable pictures so you don’t have to? (And this means Mom actually gets a chance to be in the photos too!!) Well, here is your chance. The Disney Memory Maker allows pictures to be taken by professionals throughout the park. Then when you get home you can download all of your pictures, share them with loved ones, or purchase fun keepsakes. If you purchase the Memory Maker before you go you’ll pay $169, instead of $199 at the parks. You get photos with the princesses or characters, in front of the castle, and even the pictures you can’t capture yourself, like on the rides themselves! This is a great way to capture some great memories that last forever.
If this splurge doesn’t sound like one for you, then save the money and don’t purchase it. You can purchase the one-day option for $69, and take as many pictures that day as you can! (I would do this option on my Magic Kingdom Day to get the most character photos.) Or you can always get in line with your own camera or phone and ask the Disney Memory Maker Photographers to take your photo for FREE!
11) Eat Breakfast in your room
This advice will save you BIG! My friend packs groceries for the trip before she goes to Disney. If you are flying make a stop at a local grocery store nearby if you can, or get grocery delivery to your room. Pick up things like snacks for the parks, breakfast items like pop tarts or individual cereals. You can also grab milk and bottled water. With the average breakfast at a Disney World resort being $10-$20 per meal this little tip can save you a lot of money.
12) Ask the front desk for a FREE button or a Mickey balloon
Kids love souvenirs! A good way to get a FREE one is to ask the front desk for an “I Am Celebrating” button or a balloon. Even if you are not at Disney to celebrate something like an anniversary, birthday, or a first-time visit you can get one and they will write something like “I am Celebrating Being a Princess!” What little girl wouldn’t want that!
Cast Members at Disney love a chance to sprinkle some “pixie dust” and make your day a little more magical, so sometimes you can even get some great perks at the parks for FREE when you wear these buttons, including staying on a ride for a second time, choosing a front seat on the roller coaster, and even jumping ahead in line.
13) Apply for a Chase Disney Card and earn rewards and use for discounts at restaurants and shops
The Chase Disney Rewards Card will give you several perks at Disney. You can use it to earn points that you can redeem on a Disney Reward card (which is like a gift card you can use anywhere at Disney, including your hotel bill or park tickets.) The card also gets you into a special Character Meet and Greet at Epcot with Mickey and Friends. This is a great way to see characters with a shorter line. And many of the restaurants and gift shops will give you a discount if you pay with your Disney Rewards Visa.
14) Take advantage of FREE Disney Dining plans
This is another topic that differ for many. If you book a package through Disney Destinations they will sometimes be running a special on the Disney Dining plan where you can get it for FREE. To me this perk being worth it is dependent on the age of your children and how much they eat. It will also depend on if you like to go to nicer restaurants or if you plan to do more quick-service meals.
Eating sit-down meals in the parks is one of my favorite parts of my trips, so I always book during a free dining promo if I can. It’s so nice to order off the menu and not look at the prices at all! If you can book your trip during this time I would go for it. There are several plans to choose from and you may find one that saves you a lot of money. With most of these plans you get at least two free meals and one snack per person per day.
Note: gratuity is not included, so make sure you’re still budgeting for that when planning your trip.
15) Split the kids’ meals – they’re big!
Disney offers a lot of great perks, and even though the food prices are high the food is good and the portions are large. Take advantage of this and buy one kids meal and let 2 children split it. For example, at Pinocchio’s Village Haus in the Magic Kingdom you can order a slice of cheese pizza that is large enough to be cut in half and it comes with Apple Slices and Yogurt. If you bring a side snack as well this should be plenty for 2 or more kids.
Also, order a kids meal for yourself. Again, it is plenty of food and this would save you a lot per meal!!
16) Go before your children turn 3
Children can get into the parks for FREE when you are younger than 3 years old. Even toddlers at this age can enjoy the parks and ride on many of the rides, so don’t pass up a trip with your little ones, especially when you can get them in for FREE.
17) Go to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) instead of a park
One of the coolest places to visit at Disney World is Disney Springs. Although there are no real theme park rides at this park there certainly isn’t a shortage of things to do for Disney fans of all ages. There is no admission into Disney Springs so this is a great way to do something fun and Disney-related absolutely FREE, especially if you have an arrival day or a rest day where you won’t be in a park but you still want an activity to do.
18) Pack all your first aid and sunscreen
Picking up last-minute items on trips is usually where vacationers spend a great deal of money. You can save big by planning ahead for emergencies and extra sun. There is very little shade at Disney so be sure everyone has the proper attire and sunscreen on. I also find it helpful with little ones to pack a small first aid kit.
19) Ask for Disney Gift Cards for birthdays or holidays
I think this is one of the best tips for those planning on visiting Walt Disney World and trying to stay on a budget. Usually you know when your Disney trip is going to occur well in advance, so start planning your money-saving strategy early. One way to do this is to ask for Disney Gift Cards for holidays and birthdays. Disney gift cards can be used for meals, hotels, park tickets, souvenirs…pretty much anything you can think of!
They are also easy to obtain at Walmart, Target, drug stores, and more. Some stores like Sam’s Club or Costco offers discounts on Walt Disney World gift cards. Don’t forget your 5% RedCard savings at Target!
20) Use your Marriott Points at the Swan or Dolphin Hotel
If you are a Marriott Rewards member, The Swan and Dolphin hotels are the only two on property hotels run by a different company! You’ll get most of the Disney perks, free transportation and more. Paying with points (starting at 50,000 points a night) you could end up staying completely FREE!