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Your Guide to Saving Money at Disney World

It’s been called “the happiest place on earth.” It’s often a dream of children. It’s where Super Bowl winners say they’re going next.

Disney World has become a top tourist and visitor attraction that is well-known around the world. With so many parks, attractions, locations, venues and great places to eat, Disney World offers something fun for everyone at every age and every interest.

Located in Orlando, Florida, Disney World can be a great option for a fun, family-friendly vacation destination where everyone can find something they enjoy. But the versatility, excitement and opportunities offered at Disney can come at a cost to your wallet. Whether you choose a membership and annual passes or a one-time purchase, family-friendly fun can become an investment you make.

Fun for the whole family shouldn’t be hindered by a price tag. To help, we share this informative guide to help you save money as you plan and enjoy your trip to Disney World.

Visiting Walt Disney World

As you begin to plan your exciting endeavor to this popular theme park and attraction area, it’s helpful to know a little background on the park and what comprises this one of a kind venue.

Parks

Disney World includes several parks, each with its own unique theme and appeal. The four main parks include Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Depending on who you’re with and what their interests are, you may want to only visit one or two parks during your trip or try all four, including additional waterpark options of Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Each park has something fun for both kids and adults so all in your party can have a great time wherever you go.

Attractions

Ride and attraction options range in intensity for the easy-goer to the thrill-seeker. Each park has unique rides and opportunities to scream and laugh in delight. From water park rides to cool off in the heat to adventurous rides with twists and turns, there are attractions for all. But fun rides are just the start of the fun at Disney. You can also attend shows, eat at great restaurants and enjoy numerous other opportunities for fun and recreation for the whole family.

Eat, Shop and Stay

When you think about a trip to Disney, of course, you think of the parks and rides you can take part in. But that’s just the start. Disney World offers many accommodations options through its hotels and resorts. You can also choose from a variety of restaurant options throughout the greater Disney World area that makes it easy to find something you’ll love for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for you and your family. For the super shoppers, there is also a wide assortment of stores and retail outings you can venture on as you savor your experience at Disney.

Ways You Can Save Money at Disney World

With so much fun to be had at Disney, it can be easy to get carried away with the price tag. The good thing is there are some great ways you can plan your trip wisely to help you save money while on your vacation. Check out these 27 budget-friendly tips to help you stay on track with your finances while celebrating in the fun with your family or friends.

1. Plan Ahead

Whether it’s getting groceries, back-to-school shopping or out to the outlet malls, having a list that you stick to while shopping can help prevent impulse purchases and getting things you don’t need. The same is true when going on a vacation. An important step in getting the savings you want is in planning and doing your research as you book and make reservations on your trip.

Before you set foot on Disney’s campus in Orlando, be sure you do your research. Taking steps such as reading helpful guides like these, doing price comparisons and deciding on what activities, parks and attractions you and your family really want to experience can help you set your plan in place. With a plan, you can be prepared with how much you spend and be confident that you’ve got the best deals.

Start your plan with researching and looking into your options, including following these additional helpful ways to save money at Disney.

2. Go at the Right Time

If you have some flexibility around when you plan your vacation to Disney, choose a non-peak time to get better rates at hotels and airfare. Times such as right after the New Years holidays into February or in the fall are also good times to visit that have better rates to help you save on your passes, hotel rates and flights. Weekdays also tend to be cheaper rates than weekends, as prices can change with the demand. If possible, avoid peak times like the major holidays and spring break, as well as other days schools may have off.

3. Choose Your Accommodations Wisely

Disney offers you the opportunity to stay at numerous hotels and resorts as part of your experience. From their Carribean Beach Resort to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, these high-class resorts certainly have their appeal of an exclusive vacation accommodation. But if you’re not set on staying at the best hotel or resort during your stay, consider staying at a different area hotel that has a lower rate than those offered through Disney. After all, you’ll probably be out and about during most of your stay, anyway. If you still want to stay within the Disney area but not at such pricey resorts, Disney also offers other alternatives that may not have as many amenities but still contribute to the overall Disney experience.

4. Use Disney’s Magical Express

If you choose to stay at a Disney World Resort, you can take a free shuttle bus to and from the Orlando International Airport. If you’re traveling with a large group, this method can often be much easier than trying to rent your own car or use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. While this shuttle bus is only available if you’re staying at the resort, it can help save you money and get you and your family where you want to go.  

5. Consider a Travel Agent

While paying for a travel agency service may seem counterintuitive to saving money, using such expertise can actually help you save a lot of money in the long run. These services are specially designed to help you plan and organize your travels and itinerary to mee you and your family’s needs. Especially if planning vacations like these bring on some stress for you, involving a travel agent can help you rest easy in the fun vacation and adventures that await you.

6. Pay Attention to Special Offers

Occasionally, Disney may promote special offers, deals and other discount opportunities you can take advantage of if you’re eligible. Be sure to take a peek at their various deals and specials for maximum opportunities to save.

7. Get Promotional Emails from Disney

To help you keep track of these special offers and to never miss an opportunity to save, you can sign up for Disney’s promotional emails that will share discounts and deals that are currently available. Signing up for emails is free, and you’ll never have to worry about missing out on a new way to save you and your family money.

8. Use Points To Book Your Hotel

If you’re a frequent traveler who has acquired frequent points at hotel chains, use them to your advantage during your fun vacation time. Find a nearby hotel that you have rewards with and utilize your hard-earned rewards as you treat yourself to a fun vacation experience.

9. Limit the Souvenirs

While it’s fun to get a souvenir to remember your trip by, don’t go overboard in spending money on those mementos. For many families, a vacation to a park like Disney is about the experiences had together, rather than accumulating new stuffed animals, t-shirts, books, water bottles and other items that you and your family will cherish for a time, and then fade with time. Focus your planning and trip around spending time together with the ones you love, rather than buying more stuff that you probably don’t really need to begin with.  

10. Get Souvenirs Elsewhere

When you do get those special momentos to remember your trip by, find the merchandise somewhere else besides the actual park. There are a lot of places around Orlando that sells the same or similar Disney souvenirs and collectibles but often at a lower price. Just be sure you stick to your shopping budget wherever you pick up those quick keepsakes.

11. Remember your Day with a Free Button

Families and friends head to Disney World for many reasons. Whether for a birthday, anniversary, graduation or even a wedding, Disney can be a great place to celebrate those special occasions. To commemorate your celebration, you can get celebration buttons for a variety of occasions. Kids can get stickers from their favorite cast members to also remember the experience by.

12. Discover Gift Card Deals

Like many other retailers, Disney offers gift cards that you can use on your various purchases during your Disney vacation. Even better, you can often find these gift cards at a discounted rate. Whether you follow a special gift card promotion opportunity or find them online at gift card exchange sites like Cardpool or Giftcards.com, you can find ways to save with all your payment methods.

13. Use Your Credit Cards to Work For You

You know that with credit cards, you can earn rewards like cash back and miles on your travels. Use those rewards you rack up to your advantage as you plan your Disney trip. Whether you choose a travel-specific card that helps you accumulate miles to get down to Florida or a Disney-specific card that adds rewards right to your travel accounts. When you practice responsible credit card habits like paying your balance on time and not accumulating debt and interest, you can use these cards to earn rewards as you spend.

14. Skip the Professional Photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and with your own camera, it can be a free cost to you. Rather than purchasing photos from a professional photographer on-site at Disney who follows characters around, get your family’s photo taken with your favorite characters for free with just your smartphone or own digital camera. Often, the photos will turn out just as good and save you a lot of money in the long-run.

15. Be an Undercover Tourist

The helpful Undercover Tourist website provides you key resources and savings opportunities. From park tickets to hotels to car rentals to so much more, it pays to be undercover. The tickets purchased through Undercover Tourist also are enabled with FastPass+ which means you can get to all the exciting rides that you want. This resource also provides park guides and calendars so you can pick the best days to go.

16. Start Your Park Days Early

Get to the park gates early to be toward the front of those long lines for rides and attractions. Beginning toward the front of lines helps you to get the most out of the first few hours of your day as lines can be shorter right when the park opens and only get longer as the day goes on.

17. Know Your Dining Plan

As an attempt to provide you an all-inclusive vacation opportunity, Disney offers a Disney Dining Plan that allows you to get the meals you want, when you want them, without having to navigate payment methods and other inconveniences. Most often, these dining plans include various options for both kids and adults. While you’ll get to choose your plan based on what kind of dining experience you want, paying for the plan each day can add up quickly and cut into your vacation budget. Unless you’re convinced you’ll get your money’s worth in cuisine and desire to splurge, you may want to try out other dining alternatives like eating out at various other area restaurants or even cooking for yourself with groceries you purchase.

18. Make Your Own Meals

When you opt out of expensive dining plans, you have more freedom to make the meals that you know you and your family will want to eat. Visit a local grocery store and get easy snack options like granola bars, fruit and sandwiches ingredients. You can also bring food into the park itself, which means you can pack your lunch and eat it while you’re at the park so you won’t have to worry about finding a quick but potentially pricey place to eat. While treating yourself is great once in a while, saving money on your food purchases frees up your travel budget for more exciting endeavors.

19. Get Your Groceries Delivered

If you’ve opted out of a rental car or just don’t feel like going out to get groceries for yourself, you can also get groceries delivered right to you. This is a great option to help you save time in doing your own shopping and not require transportation to and from a grocery store. With many hotel rooms both at Disney and elsewhere having refrigerators and other kitchen-prep areas, you can store your groceries easily for the whole week.

20. Pack Water

Central Florida can get quite hot, regardless of the time of year. As you and your family are walking around the park and enjoying all the attractions, be sure you pack your own water bottles to help you stay hydrated with all the activity. Staying hydrated will also help you feel more energized in the heat and help you enjoy your park day to its fullest. Bringing your own water saves you a lot of money in not having to purchase expensive water bottles in the park. There are also water fountains around the parks where you can refill your bottles, all for free.

21. Annual Pass For Frequent Visits

If you plan on making your way to Disney often, you may want to consider getting an annual pass. With different tiers, you can choose which options fit you and your family best. An annual pass allows you entry into parks with no block out dates, as well as extra savings and discounts at Disney stores and restaurants. Compare your ticket prices based on the number of times you plan on visiting with the cost of an annual pass to see if it’s the right choice for you and your family.

22. Watch for Scams Online

While getting discounted tickets on resale websites like eBay or Craigslist may seem like a great option initially, there’s also the potential to get ripped off in the deal. With these other ways to save, you don’t have to resort to second-hand tickets. Be confident in your purchases and be on the lookout for potential scams and rip-off when it comes to buying Disney tickets.

23. Stay Longer, Less Frequent

If you get to choose between one long vacation to Disney every few years or taking a few quick trips throughout the year, it’s often more economical to choose the longer stay. With the option to get multi-day admission tickets and other special hotel and car rental deals, it may help you save money. Get the most out of your planned vacation by allowing it to be the best it can be, rather than missing out with shorter, quicker trips.

24. Skip the Hopping

The Park Hopper feature of admission tickets to Disney allows you to visit multiple parks within the same day. Unless you and your crew are ready to stay from opening till closing with a lot of activity, this may not be a needed feature. It adds an extra $60-80 to your ticket price. If you’ve got enough vacation time to spare, stick to just one park per day and fully experience each park you visit.

25. Get a Multi-Day Ticket

If you plan on having a longer stay with multiple days to each park and waterpark, consider getting a multi-day ticket option rather than just a one-day ticket. Typically, the more days you stay, the lower the cost is per day. While these prices may fluctuate based on demand, a multi-day ticket allows you the opportunity to get admission into the parks you want to visit during your entire stay. If you’re interested, you can also add features like park hopping and water park admission for maximum customization.

26. Use a Rideshare Service

Getting a rental car during your vacation can be an appealing way to get where you want to go, right when you want. But, with so many ridesharing opportunities like Uber and Lyft, getting a rental car may not even be necessary. If you don’t plan on driving around Orlando much, see if you can just opt for getting a ride when you need it with on-demand transportation services like Uber and Lyft. You might just end up saving money on gas and not have a rental car just sitting there unused during your vacation duration.

27. Take a Break from the Parks

If you’re planning on an extended vacation in beautiful Orlando, consider including a park-free day in which you don’t pay to go into a park or other attraction but rather explore the wonderful area of Orlando and surrounding Disney area. Go shopping at Disney Springs or check out a nearby park to get your nature fix. You’ll probably spend less than you would in going to a Disney park and you get to explore a fund, new area as well.

Start Planning a Dream Vacation

Enjoying an amazing vacation with those you love doesn’t have to break the bank. Savor the time with your family or friends without worrying about overspending on your vacation budget. With these helpful tips and tricks, you can be on your way to saving money on a dream vacation. A major key to getting the best deals and savings opportunities is planning. Do your research, work through your options and begin working toward a vacation you’re sure to never forget.