Yes, there is really a way to do Disney on a budget. Although saving money at Disney World is not easy, with a little advance planning, it is very possible. A Disney savings jar is one idea to help make this trip more of a reality. Now, I don’t literally mean a Disney fund jar; although everyone saves up for travel in their own way. The way to do Disney on a budget is to plan, plan, plan. Here are Disney World money-saving tips by some expert Disney travelers.
Disney on a Budget: How to Save Money Before You Go
There are many ways to save at Disney World; however, one of the major ways to save money is to make sure to plan and set a budget before the trip. A monthly budget template can be downloaded to help you organize what you plan to spend. Whether it means setting aside a Disney savings jar from your paychecks or asking for Disney gift cards as birthday gifts, it is important to have a plan in place.
Many people make Disney their “dream vacation” and splurge on resort stays, character dining, souvenirs, and more. While there is nothing wrong with splurging on vacation, if you’re reading this, you want to do the opposite. If you have never visited Disney before, check out some Disney World tips for first timers and my handy Disney packing list to help you organize what to bring. Here are some ideas on how some Disney experts have budgeted their money and done Disney on a budget.
Travel in the Off Season
I think going to Disney during the off-season is a great way to save some money. Not only would you be avoiding crowds of tourists, but you can also minimize your travel budget by landing hotels and tickets at a cheaper rate. Try to avoid the summer breaks and holiday periods; although August is a cheap time to visit. Arrange a trip on a weekday right after school starts, or when Christmas break ends.
Contributed by: Daisy from Beyond my Border
Buy Items Before Your Trip
After numerous trips to Disney World, we have learned that we can save money by buying certain items before we go. We all know the Florida heat can be strong, yet if you buy a spray fan before you arrive, it’ll save you lots of money compared to buy the Disney Parks version. Other useful items to buy before you visit that are cheaper than buying in the parks are ponchos, autograph books, and character outfits to name a few.
Contributed by: Angela from The Life of Spicers
Buy Gift Cards When You Shop
We’re goofy for gift cards! One easy way to start your Disney savings jar is to fill it with Disney gift cards. After you book your trip, purchase Disney gift cards every few weeks when you are shopping. Giant Eagle, Kroger, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and several other retailers sell them in increments of $25 to $100. I started doing this six months before our trip, adding a $25 or $50 card to my basket every so often. A week before our trip, I counted the cards and had $625! It covered a large chunk of our food and beverage costs and saved us from having a heart attack when we saw our credit card bill. In a way, buying Disney gift cards ahead of time was like a pre-paid Disney savings jar.
Contributed by: Lori from Maps Memories and Motherhood
Buy a Fee Free Visa for International Visitors
As an international guest, it is important to know about each and every fee that traveling outside of your home country will bring. Making purchases at Disney, and even paying for your vacation from the comfort of your home, can occur foreign transaction fees. This is the fee that many credit card companies impose on their clients for the privilege of using their card in a foreign currency (this is not the same thing as a currency exchange rate ). Getting yourself a good travel credit card that has little to zero foreign transaction fees will help keep the costs down. Since this can range from 2.5-5%. Read more about Traveling to Disney World From Canada.
Contributed by: Christine from Mouse Travel Matters
Sign Up for a Credit Card
While signing up for a new credit card may not sound like saving money at Disney World, it can be. If you open up a new credit card and gain the number of points needed for the signup bonus, you could use them to stay at a hotel nearby in Orlando or use them to purchase your flight tickets. There are many smart ways to use your credit card points, but if you are planning a Disney trip in the near future, using them to save money at Disney World may be worth it. Check out my favorite credit card here.
Bring an Insulated Water Bottle
One way to do Disney on a budget is to bring an insulated reusable water bottle. Florida is hot and humid year round so you need to stay well hydrated especially on long Disney days. Buying water bottles during your trip really add up, especially on property when they cost about $3.50 each at carts and quick service locations. Every food location will give you tap water for free, and there are water fountains outside every public restroom. Bonus for bringing your own insulated bottle is that if you add ice in the morning it will stay cold all day long (so refreshing!) and you’re not adding any more plastic waste to our ecosystem! For more tips about Disney, eco-travel, and being green, check out Eco Friendly Mama.
Contributed by: Hilary from Eco Friendly Mama
Add Flavor Packets to Save on Juice Cost
Instead of buying bottled water at Disney take your own refillable water bottle. Water fountains are located throughout the park where you can fill up. Bottled water at Disney World costs $3.50 for a family of 4 that is a saving of at least $28 per day. If you don’t enjoy the flavor of tap water take along water flavor drops or sachets to quench your thirst with a refreshing fruit flavor. Quick snack stands also provide small complimentary small cups of tap water if you don’t want to carry a bottle. For other ideas, check out: Florida Itinerary Including Disney.
Contributed by: Kaylie from Happiness Travels Here
Use a Disney Vacation Planner
Booking your Disney Vacation through a Disney Vacation Planner can save you time, and most likely save you money. As an authorized Disney and Universal Vacation planner, we will sort through all the options, help you plan a trip that suits your needs and budget. We can explain the ins and outs of Disney, and stay updated on all of the changes that take place. We help you plan your time in the parks – from something like choosing Lightning Lanes selection with Genie+ to helping with dining reservations and which attractions to hit first. And the best part, a word you don’t often hear often at Disney – our services are completely FREE to our clients! Fill out this form to get started.
Buy Gifts Ahead of Time “From Mickey”
A fun way we saved a ton of money at Disney was to skip the expensive in-park souvenirs. We decided to purchase some Disney memorabilia before we even stepped foot onto a Disney Property. We gathered Disney goodies from places like Target, the Disney Store Outlet, and Walmart. Each night of the trip we brought out a few small gifts and told the kids they were delivered from Mickey Mouse himself. The first night we brought out Mickey and Minnie water bottles along with some Disney inspired containers for snacks. We used these inside the park the entire trip and still use them at home today. Some other ideas of gifts you could buy ahead of time to do Disney on a budget are beach towels, figurines, t-shirts, character outfits, signature books or even some Disney inspired snacks.
Contributed by: Tavia from Big Brave Nomad
Sign up for a Disney Credit Card
Create a Disney savings jar by signing up for a Disney credit card and using the sign-up bonus for extra rewards and cash back. Check out the exclusive Disney benefits that are offered to Disney credit cardholders. There are 2 types of cards, Disney Premier Visa Card with an annual fee of $49 and the Disney Visa Card that has no annual fee. Our favorite benefit of the cards is being able to earn points for a free or drastically reduced Disney Vacation. Here is how, new Disney Premier Cardholders can earn $250 statement credit after $500 spent in the first 3 months, that is a 50% savings for you. New Disney Visa Cardholders can get a $100 statement credit after first purchase. Other benefits include, Premier Disney cards can earn 2% on card purchases, Disney Visa earns 1% on card purchases, savings on Disney vacation packages for theme parks and cruises, 10% savings on shopping and dining, and cardholder exclusive photo opportunities. The savings can really add up by using new cards to book your magical trip and on everyday purchases before you even arrive. Looking for more money saving ideas? Check out the Mommy And Me Travels family vacation planning area. Sign up here.
Contributed by: Tiffany from Mommy and Me Travels
Buy Discounted Gift Cards
Discounted gift cards are an awesome way to do Disney on a budget! Some stores, including Costco, Sam’s Club, and Target sell Disney Gift Cards and it’s possible to purchase the gift cards with a 5% discount. At Costco and Sam’s Club, members are able to purchase discounted gift cards. At Target, customers who use their Target Red Card save 5% on purchases including gift cards. In the past, Target has offered 10% discounts on gift cards so it’s possible to make further savings. Remember to purchase Disney Gift Cards rather than Store Gift Cards, as the latter can only be used at Disney Stores.
Contributed by: Elaine and David from Show Them the Globe
Choose 1 Park Per Day Tickets Instead of a Park Hopper
If you are going to stay at Disney for multiple days, consider getting 1 park per day passes. For example, at current pricing, a 4 day 1 park per day pass will save you $55 per adult compared to the park hopper passes. Several parks will take a full day to enjoy and on days you go to parks that do not, like Epcot, you can have a more relaxed day or you can fill the rest of your day with activities like character meals.
Contributed by: Dan from Honeymoon Always
Disney on a Budget: How to Save on Hotels
Rent DVC Points
When we visit Disney World, we feel it is imperative to stay on Disney property. However this can be very expensive, but luckily we have found a way to make it more affordable. We book our hotel room through David’s Disney Vacation Rentals. Basically, you are buying other people’s unwanted Disney Vacation Club points (at a great discount) and using them to stay at a DVC property. The process is mapped out on their website and is really easy to follow. We have always had great luck getting our requested hotels, and the money saved can go towards more fun in the parks! We have stayed at deluxe hotels for as little as $230 a night (compared to $500+). They are very quick to respond and the costs are laid out clearly. Check out how to rent DVC points to see if it is for you.
Contributed by: Amanda from Patsey Family Travels
Stay at a Disney Value Hotel
Staying on property at a Disney Value hotel can be a great way to do Disney on a budget. Many hotel rooms can be found for under $100 a night; however, be warned that the rooms are small and the hotels can get crowded. If you are looking for simple accommodations and would also like the perks of staying on-site like free transportation, Disney theming, and some nice pools, then a Disney Value Resort could be for you. Sometimes, you can even snag a nice deal for the Disney Moderate Resorts too. Staying on property offers guests more options in terms of things to do in Disney World besides the parks.
Rent an Airbnb
Renting an Airbnb near Lake Buena Vista or Universal Orlando could be the way to go for some families. If you have a large party and would all like to stay together, then renting an Airbnb makes a lot of sense. A house would provide more space, a kitchen, and maybe even a private pool.
I would recommend that you find a house or apartment no more than 10 minutes away and search for someone who is a Superhost and read all of the comments from past guests so that you know what to expect. We have used Airbnb various times in cities around the U.S. and have had very positive experiences. If you are a first time user, you could really do Disney on a budget because new users can save $$$ by creating an account with my link.
Stay at an Off-Site Hotel
Many families feel that staying at an off-site hotel is the way to go when doing Disney on a budget. While the room cost will likely be lower and the room size may be bigger, you have to take into account transportation costs to the parks, time, and less time to book your Fastpasses. I understand that staying inside Disney is not for everyone. If you are more inclined to stay off site, then check out some of the best family resorts in Orlando.
Make sure it includes a free breakfast
If you’re heading to Disney World in Orlando, Florida and trying to save some money, we recommend booking a hotel that has breakfast included in the price. You’ll save money on that one meal at least, and then only have to eat out for the other 2. Some hotels offer fruit and packaged items that you can take with you as a snack as well. We like to eat a large breakfast at the hotel, take some fruit to go, and have an earlier dinner, so we’re only paying for one meal out!
Contributed by: Sara from Our Kind of Crazy
Find a hotel with free shuttles
Our family of five saved a fortune by staying in an off-park hotel but to minimize our spending further, we looked for a hotel that offered free shuttles to Disney. Then we narrowed down our list further to find a shuttle bus timetable that we thought best fitted our needs. We used the shuttle buses daily and saved on car hire as well as expensive Disney parking fees. Furthermore, our hotel included a cooked breakfast, an evening happy hour and each room came with a small kitchenette for self-catering. It was the perfect budget option for us!
Contributed by: Sinead from Map Made Memories
Disney on a Budget: Saving Money During Your Stay
Saving money at Disney World can also be done once you are there. In order to do Disney on a budget, you have to be conscious of your spending. For example, on one of the non-park days, our family always visits Disney Springs. There are plenty of free activities to do and nice photo opportunities at Disney Springs for kids. Here are some other tips on ways to save at Disney World during your stay.
Disney Grocery Delivery
If you’re looking to do Disney on a budget, try a Disney grocery delivery. Food is expensive at Disney, so having groceries delivered to your resort is an easy way to save money at Disney! Garden Grocer, Instacart, and Safeway all deliver groceries to Disney resorts. Order breakfast items for an easy morning before you start your day. Save money on snacks and drinks by bringing your own into the parks. If you are staying in one of the DVC Villas or cabins, you can cook dinner a few nights to save even more money! You can even have wine and beer delivered for a nice way to end the day. Disney grocery delivery is the way to go if you want to do Disney on a budget.
Contributed by: Lauren from Where the Wild Kids Wander
Bring Your Own Food – Buy Groceries
Another way to save money at Disney is to bring your own food and buy groceries when you arrive. Disney parks allow visitors to bring their own food and drinks as long as the food does not need heating. Bringing a late breakfast, or lunch into the park is a perfect way to get the most out of your time by avoiding long queues and having food ready to avoid meltdowns. Be sure to pack lunches in non-glass containers as those are not allowed. Bringing a refillable water bottle to use at the park all day is one of the best ways to stay hydrated while walking around the park. Water fountains can be found scattered throughout the park and next to most restroom facilities.
Contributed by: Diana from The Elusive Family
Eat at Starbucks for Rewards
Our little gem is heading to Starbucks in the park and using the Starbucks app to get extra perks! For those that don’t know, the Starbucks app is accepted payment at Starbucks locations in Walt Disney World! Though you can’t redeem reward stars for food/drink purchases or capitalize on promotional offers in the park, you CAN use the app to pay and GET STARS for what you would purchase in real life anyways! Those rules don’t apply to Disney Springs though; treat it like a regular Starbucks and enjoy those perks! And for those that are spending savvy (like me), use Raise to purchase discounted Starbucks gift cards so you’re saving while purchasing! We grab and go, while delighting in our treats and making everyone else gawk at our coffee goodness.
Contributed by: Pri – Follow her on Instagram @_adventuresomewhere
Go to an Off-Site Hotel with a Character Breakfast
Our favorite way to save money at Disney is by doing a character breakfast at a Disney affiliated hotel outside of the Parks. There are few options available in Disney Springs, and we chose the Hilton Buena Vista Palace’s Sunday character breakfast on our recent trip to Disney with a toddler. You get to meet Minnie, Goofy and Pluto, and both a buffet and ala carte menu are available. If you’re just there for breakfast, you can also ask for a manager to validate your parking for free. Not only is this option cost-effective, but they don’t accept reservations, so it’s a great option if you have a last minute trip and can’t book months in advance.
Contributed by: Amanda from Toddling Traveler
Visit Tri Circle D Ranch and Explore Disney’s Fort Wilderness Lodge and Campgrounds
Have you ever spent time visiting the horses at one of Disney’s best kept secrets, Tri Circle D Ranch? Horses are a huge part of the ambiance at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, but did you know that guests are able to visit and see Cinderella’s ponies and the majestic horses that pull the trollies along Main Street U.S.A? During our visit, my two youngest took part in pony rides which is a great option for children too young for the trail rides. Riders must be at least 9 years old and 48 inches tall to take part in the guided trail rides. Pony rides (riders must be age 2 or older and less than 80 pounds) are available daily from 10 AM to 4:30 PM and cost $5 – 8 + tax (cash only). A parent or guardian must lead the pony throughout the entire ride. Wagon rides are also available nightly from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the Fort Wilderness Campground and resort. the rides are 45 – minutes long and depart from in front of Pioneer Hall. Cost: 8.00 per person age 8 + and $5.00 per child (ages 3 – 9). I highly recommend this activity in conjunction with the Campfire Sing-Along with Chip n Dale and Free Outdoor Movie. End your night with a boat ride to Fort Wilderness Lodge to check out the resort and do pin trading.
Contributed by: Ruth – Follow her on Instagram @havekiddoswilltravel
Use the Salad Bar
Another way to save money on food at Disney World is to take advantage of the salad bar for later use. Want to save money at Disney while exploring an expensive but awesome theme park? Here is one of the best tips to take away with you to keep some extra travel funds in your pocket. When you’re visiting the restaurants on the theme parks, they usually offer free buffet salad bars. I like to make salad sandwiches from their free salad bar to take around the theme parks. This is an epic way of saving money. Meals can be very expensive and this travel method just keeps that cost down.
Contributed by: Louis from The Northern Boy
Disney on a Budget: Disney Cruise?
Although a Disney cruise is by no means a budget vacation. There are many ways to budget your money once you have booked your trip. By using some of these tips regarding what to bring and what to pack for Disney, you can save some money. Since sodas are free on a Disney cruise, that is one way my kids get a little perk without the extra spending. For adults, Disney Cruise Line allows you to bring one bottle of wine or six pack of beer per person 21+. By bringing our own drinks on board, we saved from having to purchase them on board. For more about why I think a Disney cruise is worth the money, check out: How Much Does a Disney Cruise Cost?
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