Walt Disney World is a dream vacation for many families whether you have kids or not. I mean, who doesn't want to experience a little magic in their lives? From meeting your favorite characters to being transported to different times and places, there is no other vacation destination like it. However, Disney is also notoriously expensive. At nearly $100 per day just for admission, not to mention accommodations, food, and souvenirs, WDW trips are often simply out of reach for people, especially those with larger families. Just because you are on a budget, though, does not mean you have to miss out on experiencing The Most Magical Place On Earth!
Luckily, there are lots of sneaky ways you can save money on your Disney trip to make it more affordable. Some of these tips can be done before you even leave home. Others involve some careful planning during your visit to Walt Disney World. But all of them are super easy to do and will make your vacation enjoyable, simple, and less financially stressful. Many Disney pros follow these methods every time they go to see Mickey Mouse. Keep reading for 20 tips on saving money the next time you visit WDW!
20 20. Bring Your Own Snacks
A lot of people don't realize this, but bringing your own food into Disney parks is 100 percent allowed. As long as you don't bring knives or glass, you're good to go! That is why you should consider packing snacks or even lunches to save money when you're on a Disney vacation. WDW food is notoriously expensive, with Mickey soft pretzels running $7 and ice cream bars at almost $6. Getting the munchies while in the parks can get expensive fast! Instead, hit up the dollar store for some cheap snacks you can eat in between meals so you don't drain your bank account.
19 19. Sign Up For Disney Emails
Signing up for Disney emails is so important to saving money on your vacation. They want to bring in as many guests as they can, so they often send discounts and deals to their email list. While some of the deals are available to anyone who knows about them, you will also sometimes get a discount just for you! Rather than having to check the website for the latest discounts every day, signing up for the emails list ensures that you know about each one and can book your vacation when something good comes up. You never have to pay full price this way!
18 18. Pack A Poncho
I've said this before and I'll say it again: it rains in Orlando. It rains A LOT. If you are there during hurricane season, expect to be dumped on by torrential downpours approximately once a day. There are plenty of ways to escape the rain at Disney parks (think indoor attractions, restaurants, and shops) but if you do get caught in the storm, you need to be prepared. No one wants to walk around soaked for the rest of the day! WDW does sell ponchos but they are not cheap. To save yourself about $20, grab some cheap plastic ponchos or even garbage bags and pack them for your trip.
17 17. Never Park Hop
The idea of park hopping sounds so fun. This is where you pay a bit extra for your Disney tickets but instead of being confined to one park for the day, you can come and go as you please between all four parks. However, unless you are a Disney veteran who just wants to hit the highlights, this might not be your best bet. Park Hopper tickets cost $55 or more per day, per person, which can really add up. You can easily spend an entire day in each park, so save yourself that money and go with a regular ticket instead.
16 16. Visit During The Off-Seasons
Until 2018, WDW tickets cost the same amount whether you went during a slow time of year or the peak seasons. Now, though, Disney is trying to space out its guests by charging different prices for different days of the year. For instance, you will now pay more during the holidays and summertime and less during the off-season. If you can, take advantage of this change and plan your trip for a less expensive time of year. Not only will this save you a significant amount of money on your tickets, but you'll probably also save on hotels, too. Plus there will be smaller crowds so you can do more on your vacation!
15 15. Stay Off Disney Property
Staying off Disney property is probably the easiest way to save a bunch of money on your WDW vacation. Disney is known for its amazing hospitality and magical accommodations, but all of that comes with a pretty high price tag. Even the so-called Value Resorts cost more than a typical hotel room that is not owned by Disney. There are plenty of top-notch hotels you can stay at instead that are just minutes away from the parks but will cost you a lot less money. Travelers with cars who plan to drive to the parks anyway should especially consider this money-saver.
14 14. Buy Tickets On Discount Sites
Did you know that you don't have to pay full price for Disney tickets? It's true! There are a few legitimate ticket selling sites out there where you can get your park tickets at a pretty significant discount. However, before you buy, make sure that the site is real. Any deal that sounds too good to be true is probably a scam. Check out some Disney forums to find the best sites to use for this. You will get to enjoy all that WDW has to offer but for a fraction of the original price!
13 13. Try Free Dining . . .
Every year, Walt Disney World offers a vacation package deal that includes a free Disney Dining Plan. It is only valid on certain dates but if your travel plans are flexible, consider this tip. You will get your park tickets, a stay at a Disney resort hotel, and a dining plan for everyone in your party for one price. Normally the dining plan costs extra and many people don't think it is worth the price. If you have wanted to try the Disney Dining Plan but thought it was too expensive or you just want the ease of not having to buy food a la carte, try this out!
12 12. Or Skip The Dining Plan Altogether
If you are traveling with picky eaters or those who don't eat a lot, consider nixing the Disney Dining Plan altogether. Even with the Quick Service Plan, each person gets a huge food allotment each day that you prepay for. If you don't end up using all of your food credits or use them for less expensive items, you end up wasting your money. Instead, just buy whatever food you want while you are there. Purchasing fewer snacks and less expensive meals and sharing food with your travel companions will save you a lot more money than the dining plan would!
11 11. Don't Buy Souvenirs At The Parks
This tip might be difficult, especially if you have kids, but it can save you a small fortune. Walt Disney World is full of shops selling toys, clothing, ear hats, and household items with your favorite Disney characters on them. But they don't come cheap. Unless you see something you absolutely can't live without, try to avoid buying souvenirs in the parks. Practically every store in the Orlando area sells Disney stuff and there are official Disney warehouse shops off-property, too. They are less expensive but will still evoke memories of your vacation. You can also set a small souvenir budget and stick to it.
10 10. Order Just The Entree At Quick Service Restaurants
One Disney hack that many people don't realize is that you can order just the entrees at Quick Service restaurants. These fast food locations show sandwiches and other mains with side dishes on the menu, but you can order your meal without the extras. This will save you a few bucks and more than a few calories. You will probably just end up throwing half of your fries out anyway, so why pay for them? Those who don't eat a lot can really benefit from this money-saving tip because you can save money and not feel overstuffed.
9 9. Hack Disney Gift Cards
Using Disney gift cards to make purchases during your WDW vacation is a great way to stick to your spending budget. But did you know you can hack them to save yourself some money? One way is to use a grocery store loyalty card to purchase the gift cards using points. You basically get them for free this way! You can also buy Disney gift cards at a discount by purchasing them at warehouse stores. Even if you only get a five percent discount, that is still $5 for every $100 and every dollar counts at Walt Disney World!
8 8. Book A Vacation Package
If staying at a hotel off Disney property just isn't your thing, at least consider booking a vacation package with them. There are often deals throughout the year when you bundle your park tickets and hotel stay. Different discounts pop up to encourage guests to visit at off times, so the packages are usually super affordable then! When you stay at a Disney hotel, you do get a lot of free perks that make it worth the money, especially if you booked a discounted package. A resort bus system, transportation to and from the airport, luggage handling, and souvenir parcel delivery from the parks are just some of them!
7 7. Take Advantage Of PhotoPass Photographers
Walt Disney World knows how important vacation photos are. That's why they started the PhotoPass program, where professional photographers are set up in hot photo spots in the park to take your picture. You can then purchase the photos you like best or buy a package and get all of your pictures for one flat rate. However, did you know you can also get these photographers to take a photo on your own camera? They will happily do it for free! You will get vacation memories from a professional photographer for zero money. Plus there are no copyright problems with printing when the pictures are on your camera or phone.
6 6. Plan A Non-Park Day
Disney has so much to offer in addition to the parks that people don't take enough advantage of. You can easily spend an entire WDW vacation without ever setting foot in a park! If you want to experience Disney magic but save a bit of money, plan a non-park day in your itinerary. You can swim in your hotel pool, window shop at Disney Springs, explore the resorts, and enjoy outdoor movies at night. You can even watch the fireworks from certain hotels! It's a great way to relax and recharge after days of running around riding every ride.
5 5. Find The Freebies
Believe it or not, there are a few things you can get at Disney for free. These little trinkets can act as awesome souvenirs and help you make memories without breaking the bank! For example, you can ask cast members for a celebration button. They have ones for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and much more. Many cast members will also give out stickers to kids (and polite grown-ups). Don't forget the free activities you can do in the parks like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and Agent P's World Showcase Adventure at Epcot. These are extra attractions that keep bored kids busy while waiting in line.
4 4. Pack A Water Bottle
Bottled water is crazy expensive at Walt Disney World. But in the Florida heat, you need to stay hydrated! That is why packing a refillable water bottle is essential. There are plenty of fountains around the parks where you can fill your bottle for free. Having your own bottle also means not being tempted by expensive snacks every time you need to buy a drink. If you don't want to lug a bottle to the parks for every member of your family, Disney also offers free cups of ice water at all of their Quick Service restaurants locations. All you have to do is ask!
3 3. Use A Travel Agent
Using a travel agent might seem like old news in the age of the internet, but it can save you tons of money on your Disney vacation. Disney travel agents know all the deals and discounts there are, even some that aren't known to the public. That means they will get you the absolute best price on your trip! They can also take away all the stress of planning out your air travel, FastPass, and dining reservations. Many travel agents also throw in a few special surprises for you like ear hats in your hotel room when you arrive, making your vacation magical from the start.
2 2. Buy Disney Gear From Small Shops
Sure, you can buy your Disney ears, shirts, and bags while you are at the parks. But that will cost you a ton of money, not to mention that everyone else at Disney will be wearing the same stuff as you. Instead, consider purchasing some WDW gear from small shops. Scroll through Etsy and Instagram and you will find tons of artisans who sell their own creative versions of Disney shirts, ears, pins, and even shoes. You will look super unique in the parks, support entrepreneurs, and save yourself some cash. I guarantee you will get compliments on your gear, too!
1 1. Go On A Grocery Run
Staying in a hotel room with a kitchen? If you never considered this option, it can save your family tons of money on your Disney trip. The room might cost a bit more but it means you can cook your own meals and snacks rather than eating the overpriced Disney food all day every day. Even if you just use it to make breakfast, it's worth it. You can even grab groceries if you're staying in a regular hotel room. Buy quick breakfast items like cereal and milk or fruit and snacks you can take into the park instead of paying $6 for an ice cream cone.