Let’s face it everyone would like to save money at Disney. Whether you are going deluxe or value every bit you save is another pair of Minnie Ears. At Disney every bit can add up fast. A quick service meal for a family of four can easily total over $100.00. So what can you do to get the cost down a bit? I have a few tips that I have used when traveling with a large family group and young children.
1. Have breakfast in your room
Breakfast costs can add up fast. Not to mention that the whole being at the park at opening plan rarely happens with worn-out toddlers and grouchy teenagers. Save time and money by having some quick grab-and-go breakfast options in your room. Bagels, Poptarts, cottage cheese with fruit, yogurt, cereal, granola bars, etc. are all easy, fast, and inexpensive.
You can have these items delivered to your resort by ordering online through a local delivery service or Amazon but I would recommend packing whatever you can with you to save even more on delivery fees.
Of course, you are at Disney and the meals are part of the experience. Get those Mickey Waffles for breakfast one morning or do that meal in the castle. This is only a guide to help you save where you can. It’s totally up to you to pick and choose what is most important to your family. Remember every little thing helps.
2. Skip Character Meals
If you think you will miss out if you don’t book a character meal you might not know about similar offerings that you can experience for free. Did you know that over at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground you can attend a campfire with Chip and Dale? After hanging out with the nutty duo you can roast smores and watch a movie under the stars. Guests of Disney Resorts are allowed to partake but you will have to take the boat over from Fort Wilderness and then use the internal bus system to get dropped off at that location. This event is free of charge minus the purchase of smores-making materials but you are totally allowed to bring your own too! Oh, and you should know that Chip and Dale LOVE chocolate chip cookies, especially Chip! Don’t let Dale feel left out though. Chip is the one with the black nose ( think of chocolate chips).
3. Take advantage of the many free activities that the parks and resorts offer.
From free resort activities like scavenger hunts ( ask at the front desk) to poolside activities and arts and crafts there are plenty of free extras to keep everyone entertained.
Did you know you can get free tours in Epcot? Many of the countries offer free educational tours of their pavilion. You can take a self-guided Tea Tour in the U.K. Pavilion and they give you a guide brochure to help you along with complimentary tea bags at the end of your tour.
If your child loves horses hop over to Fort Wilderness campground and visit the new Tri-Circle D Ranch and see the beautiful horses used to pull the trolley down Main Street U.S.A or Cinderella’s Carriage!
4. Order kids meals
If you’re feeling more snackish than starving consider just ordering a kids meal. The kids meals at a lot of the quick service locations can be just as filling as some of the larger adult ones. In fact in places like Pecos Bills over in Magic Kingdoms Frontierland, the kid’s meal sides can be substituted for an additional side. You don’t have to have that yogurt and orange and you can ask for a diet soda or water in place of milk. This is a great way to save money and room in your tummy for that Mickey Bar later.
If you can do it, by eating breakfast in your room, only doing lunch and snacks in the park, and doing dinner offsite you can save around $100.00 a day on average with a family of four. There are tons of options for food delivery and if you have access to offsite transportation a trip to the local grocery store can be worth the extra cost of a Uber or Lyft.
Tons of pizza delivery places are happy to deliver to your resort but beware of any flyers advertising any food delivery service slipped under your door as they are often scams and not allowed by Disney.
If you are looking for a good local chain don’t be afraid to ask the cast members working around the resort. As a local to the area I personally avoid the tourist trap restaurants. The smaller local places to be cheaper and better quality. All in all you can spend $50.00 bucks on pizza and feed the family or $50.00 bucks on two quick-service meals and feed two people. This is the best way to save money at Disney overall.
6. Buy your families / kids souvenirs ahead of time
I always gave my kids each a set amount of an allowance because of course you cant avoid wanting to buy things. I mean I cant! I can understand some spending budget is highly in order. I did however find it helpful also to pick up a few things ahead of time to surprise them with. It helps keep the need to overspend down a bit. Disney themed keychains, coloring books, stuffed animals, t-shirts, toys, and anything I could find at a discounted rate I would pick up over the year while we were waiting for our next vacation to arrive.
When they were little Tinkerbelle would arrive at night while they were sleeping and leave a little gift on the bed for them to see when they awoke the next morning. The joy they found in these pixie dusted surprises meant more to them than anything in the shops. It made for some cute memories too.
7. Skip paying for Lightening Lane
Its possible with proper planning to still be able to do your favorite rides and avoid longer lines if you just go at slower time and or get to the parks at open. This extra expense of $15.00 a day per person will cost a family of four $420.00 over a 7 day vacation span. That’s not including the individual lightening lane costs for additional more popular rides. Check out my link below for tips on beating the lines without the added expense.
8. Stay offsite or wait for deals
Your accommodations are going to be a huge part of your Disney World Vacation cost. I have both stayed on site and offsite and they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Its really going to depend on your length of stay, families needs, and preferences. Considering your food budget and accommodations are the two biggest ways you can save money at Disney.
Offsite– You can get a 3 bedroom townhome, home, or condo with a full kitchen, washer dryer, splash pool and resort amenities for the same price as a value room at a Disney Resort. I have personally done this when I stayed for 2 weeks at a time and I was only 5 minutes from Disney Property.
The perks are the space, the kitchen and ability to save money on food, having a washer/dryer, private pool. etc.. You will need transportation so unless you are driving to Disney or renting a car this option may not be as viable . This is also a great option if you deal with food allergies as you can make some of your own meals here.
The downside is you do not qualify for Extra Magic Hours. However, the way Disney does EMH is now quite different so its not as much of a loss as it was. Guests at all Disney resorts can get Early Morning Extra Hours but only by 30 minutes. The evening Extra Magic Hours are now only for guests staying at a deluxe resort or in a DVC Villa. The evening hours are an additional 2 hours after park close.
You also do not have access to free transportation to your room and package delivery to your room. And I must also say Disney service is excellent in the event you need anything and it is to me is something I do place a high value on.
Onsite- You can actually score some great deals by planning your vacation around the slower times of the year. Keep in mind that since the pandemic Disney’s slower times may seem non-existent as many guests are choosing homeschooling or taking those vacations that they had put off during the pandemic. Not to say they are totally non-existent but September 6 years ago was much slower than say September now.
You can also save money at Disney while staying onsite by using Disney’s transportation to and from your resort. Extra Magic Hours are another perk ( early morning only unless you are staying at a Deluxe or Villa now). The theming is for most guests part of the experience and worth the cost. I will admit bigger offsite accommodations are nice but Disney Resorts do have the magic that no other can beat.
If you keep your eyes peeled you will see some great deals come up. By using some the tips listed above it is possible for even a family on a modest budget to afford to vacation at Disney still. Don’t feel like you have to do everything. Your family will not suffer or feel like they missed out if you don’t book Chef Mickey’s or do that Segway Tour. Trust me they will appreciate that pool day more than anything. You can pick one deluxe extra cost experience per trip if you want to do something special and still save money at Disney.
Costs are rising and life has changed so much in the last few years yet park attendance is up. Why is that? I think its because Disney is such a special place for families and now more than ever we need that in our lives. I hope I helped give you some ideas that can work some magic in your budget to return to your happy place.
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