Saving Money on your Walt Disney World Vacation
Yes, you can plan a vacation to Walt Disney World without breaking the bank! Many people think a Walt Disney World vacation is out of their reach, however, there are plenty of ways to cut down on your trip expenses!
Take a look at a few of my tips for saving on the major expenses of any Disney trip: travel, accommodations, theme park tickets, food, souvenirs, and more!
How to Save on Walt Disney World Travel
*Consider taking a road trip as opposed to flying. You may want to consider renting a hybrid to save on gas costs. Either way, driving is going to be much less expensive, even more so if you are traveling with a large group and splitting the costs. Another benefit is being able to take as much luggage as you want without any extra airline baggage fees.
*If flying, book several weeks in advance to ensure the cheapest flights. Also, consider flight+hotel vacation packages on sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, or individual airline sites.
*Check airline sites often. Airlines such as Southwest and Allegiant frequently offer special sales to cities like Orlando.
*Book hotels or vacation rentals with a free or cheap shuttle to the parks! By booking a hotel with a free shuttle you can avoid the costs and hassles associated with renting a car. Disney resort properties include complimentary transportation to the parks, although hotel rates can be pricey during the prime season.
*Book a hotel with an airport shuttle. Hotels with free or cheap airport shuttles will be convenient, while also saving you from the outrageous fees of a taxi.
How to Save on Walt Disney World Accommodations
*Stay at a vacation condo rather than a hotel. Our first time visiting Disney, we stayed at Windsor Resorts Condos. This easily saved us hundreds of dollars. We enjoyed a fully equipped kitchen and 3 bedrooms. We would have needed to book at least 2 hotel rooms for our party had we stayed in a hotel. Also, the food savings were enormous – we ate breakfast at the condo each morning before heading to the parks. Cutting back on dining out really saves big bucks! It was also nice to be able to prepare snacks when we got home.
*Use Groupon to search for any hotel deals in the Orlando/Kissimmee area. These deals can be discounted anywhere from 50-90% off the original price!
*Check the Walt Disney World resort website for special package deals. Disney often offers their own great deals. In addition, some hotels offer extra amenities like free fast passes and free shuttles to the park.
How to Save on Walt Disney World Theme Park Tickets
*Purchase tickets online from the Walt Disney World site in advance. Also be aware that the more days/more people, the cheaper your per day cost will be!
*Skip the park hopper pass which allows you to visit multiple parks in the same day. There is so much to do at each park and long lines! It would be very hard to visit more than one park in a single day. This is a big money waster (and time waster), in my opinion. I am glad that we did not purchase the park hopper option.
*If you are planning 2 trips to Walt Disney World in the same year, then you may be better off purchasing an annual pass. Compute the costs and consider whether purchasing an annual is better than paying for individual tickets on both trips.
*Visit Undercover Tourist for reduced price tickets.
*If someone in you party drops out, sell your tickets on eBay. We had to do this when a family member was unable to go on the trip. The tickets sold very quickly and we didn’t lose any money!
How to Save on Walt Disney World Food and Drinks
*Free ice water is available all day at the Disney parks. All you have to do is ask at any snack counter. You could also bring a refillable water bottle or a hydration backpack. Water bottles in the park can cost $3+ per bottle. A hydration backpack can easily save your family in the double digits.
*Visit restaurants for a late lunch instead of dinner. Prices will be much cheaper! Another good idea is to stop for an early lunch buffet before heading to the parks. Jason’s Deli is by far one of the best values for a buffet – plenty of healthy salads, soups, and carbs to fill you up for the day.
*Fill up a backpack with healthy snacks for the day. Meals are very expensive inside the park. We brought with snacks, ate a cheap lunch at the park, and waited to eat a late dinner outside of the park. Take advantage of being able to bring food into the parks – many theme parks do not allow outside food and drink!
How to Save on Walt Disney World Souvenirs
*Buy your souvenirs outside of the park for the best prices. There are random shops all over the place!
*Limit souvenirs to just a few. We bought a nice picture frame and water-globe that we display all year. Think about what you will actually use/display instead of buying useless garbage!
How to Save by Enjoying Free Activities at Walt Disney World
*Stroll around Disney Springs after the parks close. There is plenty of free entertainment, as well as places for photo opportunities. Check out my full guide of Disney Springs attractions.
*Enjoy the fabulous fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. The nightly fireworks show is absolutely stunning. A lot of effort and money is obviously put into the show, so make sure to hang around long enough to see it!
*Watch the Main Street Electrical Parade. This fun nightly parade features illuminated floats with Disney characters and music. Definitely a must do during your time at Disney!
*Enjoy the free entertainment at each of the parks. Main Street USA is a fun place to walk around and enjoy the performers and entertainment. I like the old time village atmosphere. In addition, there are plenty of other fun musical shows throughout the day at all the parks.
*Use the amenities at your condo rental or hotel! Our Windsor Hills condo had a pool, hot tub, movie theater, beach volleyball, and more! You are paying to rent the place out so you might as well use everything! Plus, swimming is an awesome break after a hot day out at the parks, and the hot tub comes in handy to soothe sore muscles and joints after all that time spent walking on your feet!
*The monorail and boat rides that go over to the park are both fun and do not cost you anything additional. Great views of the castle and surrounding landscapes. We took a lot of great pictures during the boat ride.
*Spend the day at a beach! Rent a car and drive over to the nearest beach. Cocoa Beach is about an hour’s drive. A day at the beach is cheaper than a day at the parks, and also a great break after 2 consecutive days at the park, which can get very tiresome! If you have more time, the beaches in Tampa Bay are quite incredible. In all honesty, Tampa is a great city with many fabulous attractions. Check out my top free things to do in Tampa post.
Additional Tips for Saving Money at Walt Disney World
*Put money aside during the year in a separate savings account for your trip. You can set up a separate deposit into a savings account, designating a certain portion of your check each month. Or you can have a special savings bank in which everyone throws their loose change into – this can really add up over the course of a year!
*Book your vacation during the off season. January and February, right after the Christmas holidays, is one of the slower times of the year. The summer months are more expensive with more crowds, really hot weather, and long lines for each of the rides. Taking a vacation during the slow season also means less wait time for the rides which equals more bang for your buck!
*Pick up free brochures/coupon books in the hotel lobby or at the newsstands. You can save money on local restaurants and attractions. I always pick up these vacation discount booklets whenever I travel. Not only do I find coupons, but they are also useful for finding additional activities in the area.
*Plan out ahead of time how many days you want to spend at each park. I thought that Animal Kingdom had the least interesting activities out of any of the parks…maybe I have been to too many zoos in my lifetime. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are the best in my opinion and definitely worth 2 days each. Epcot is good for one whole day, but not more than that in my opinion.
*Use the park maps. This makes it easy to map out your must do attractions in each area, so you do not miss out on any of your favorites. You can always go back to rides later if you have additional time. My Disney Experience app also is quite useful as all ride wait times are listed. This way you can save yourself some unnecessary time!
*Get to the park early so you have a chance to get on a ride or 2 without any crowds. Believe me the crowds pick up extremely fast! Get your money’s worth by getting to the parks well before opening time.
*Cut out extras like movies, concerts, dining out at expensive restaurants, major shopping trips, etc. about 6 months before your trip. All these extras really add up! Limit your entertainment budget before your trip and stick to the budget! Use the money on your trip instead!
*Plan a day or 2 away from the theme parks. Take a break from all the craziness, give your feet a break, and save some money in the process! Almost anything you do in Orlando will be cheaper than a whole day at the Disney theme parks. Here’s my guide to the best freebies in Orlando!