Last Updated on April 8, 2021 by Heather
We aren’t Scrooge McDuck, but a Disney World Trip is expensive! There’s no getting around that fact. But there are some pretty easy ways that you can do Disney World on the cheap and make your trip (possibly) significantly less expensive overall.
But there are plenty of tips and tricks that we have learned over the years to make your Disney trip much more affordable and thus, that much more enjoyable.
Every time we go to Disney World we find new ways to save a few bucks. Because nobody likes getting to that last day at Disney and not having the money that they want to be able to spend on a souvenir or two.
Everyone wants to know how people can afford Disney vacations all the time. They see friends or family members going once a year or even more often. Well, I’m not going to sit here and tell you to run out and get a credit card. Because the point here is to save you money. Not to have you spend more of it on your Disney World Vacation.
Some of the tips that I’m about to give you aren’t for every family and every situation. But for the most part, they will save you something. After many Disney trips from New England and a lot of trial and error, these are must know savings tips from a family who has made the trip repeatedly.
Think about what time of year you want to go, at which Disney resort you to stay, what tickets to buy and how each of those factors affects the cost.
Walt Disney World’s resorts have seasonal pricing, which varies greatly depending on the time of year you visit.
I’m going to assume that you already know that staying on property is going to save you more money than staying off property. Just from the simple fact that you can take advantage of pricing and discounts that you wouldn’t get staying off property.
Not only that but the general treatment you receive at the resorts on property is by far better than you would ever receive off property. Then there’s the rental car…..the list goes on and on.
Buy A Disney World Annual Pass
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this. Let me preface this entire thing by telling you that the number one thing you can do to save money on a Disney World trip is to BUY AN ANNUAL PASS. Not everyone can afford to do this and if you aren’t going to go 10 days or more in a year it may not make sense.
However, if just one person who has the annual passbooks the trip then all of the discounts apply at restaurants and gift shops for everyone. But there are other things you can do to save money and I’m going to dive into those more in this post.
How To Save On Hotels At Disney World
I always suggest going through Disney World directly and do this yourself. There is absolutely nothing that a Disney travel agent can do for you that you cannot do for yourself!!!
If you have a little bit of flexibility in your schedule, you can book offseason and save hundreds of dollars! Peak offseason is typically considered…
- Mid-November through mid-December (except the week of Thanksgiving)
- The Second week of January through mid-February, The first three weeks of May
- Late August and the entire month of September (even Labor Day weekend).
If you are able to get an annual pass then you can book a Disney moderate resort in the offseason for as low as $99 per night! If you don’t have an annual pass you can still save a lot of money on your stay. We can usually save on average 30-40% on our room when we travel in the offseason. Another bonus of traveling during the off-season is that crowds tend to be less as well. That’s a Win-Win!
Short of joining the Disney Vacation Club, one way that we have found to stay for less is to check in with David’s Vacation Club Rentals. If you want to be able to stay at a deluxe resort but pay moderate prices, then you really need to check them out! We recently did an interview with their Director of Operations, Melissa Mullett, where she answered all of the questions our readers might have about DVC Rentals.
Make sure you check all the discounts. Of course, pass holder discounts are consistently lower than the other discounts. You are always going to be smartest to check the special offers on the Disney World Website, and then you’ll be able to figure out which one will work best for your family.
The Most Inexpensive Ways To Get To Disney World
One of the best ways to save money is by driving to Disney World instead of flying. That is, if you live within driving distance, you’ll almost always save money by driving. It might cost you your sanity though if you have small children.
As I mentioned before, we live in New England. For us at least, the least expensive airfares that we could possibly get to Disney World would be one of two options. For the three of us, it normally costs $1,000 round trip for airfare through Southwest Airlines, which has been our preferred airline right along.
You can also catch an extremely cheap airfare most of the time through spirit airlines. I have heard of people getting roundtrip airfares as low as $100 per person! The only two reasons why we haven’t used them is that you need to pack light due to being charged for bags and they are notoriously late.
If you want to find out about all of the ups and downs of spirit airlines. Then check out this article about how to fly spirit airlines without losing your mind.
I’ve got good news if you did fly though. No rental car needed. If you booked your trip in advance (which you should do if you want to get the best deals) then make sure that if you do fly that you take the Magical Express free shuttle from the airport to the hotel.
How To Save On Disney World Tickets
If you really want to save on Disney World tickets it’s going to depend a lot on how long you are going to be planning days at the park or parks. At the time of writing this, a one-day ticket to Disney’s Magic Kingdom will set you back $109. The thing about Disney World tickets is that they are set up with tiered pricing, so the longer your stay and amount of days at the parks, the less you pay per day.
For example, if you are planning on spending 3 days in the parks you will be spending right around $100 per person per day. If you extend that to a 5-day ticket the price drops down to an average of $75 per person per day if you extend it even further to a 10-day park ticket you are only spending an average of $44 per person per day! We have a local theme park that charges $38 per day to get in and it’s no Disney World! On our first trip with our daughter, we were able to extend our trip by just 1 day and by bumping up to the next tier it didn’t end up costing us anymore for our tickets. Who doesn’t want an extra day at the parks for free?
Disney World ticket options can be complicated because you can add options like park hopper passes or water park fun. This Ticket Calculator is a sure-fire way to help you decide which tickets are going to be best for you and your family’s trip.
If your children are under 3 years old, then you are in luck! Disney does not charge for children under 3 years of age to get into the parks. Although I’m not a huge proponent of taking your kids to Disney world before they are at least 4. But that all depends on the child and the family.
Another way to save money is by using corporate perks. If you are lucky enough to work for one of the large corporations that give access to Disney discounts, then you might be able to get discounts on resorts and possibly Disney World tickets.
If you are planning a trip to Disney World for 7 days, then we recommend taking a day off in the middle to justs chill at the hotel or check out Disney Springs, which doesn’t cost you an admission fee. Then you just saved yourself a theme park ticket for your entire family, the money you save will afford you that last night at the resort!
How To Save Money On Food At Disney World
If you are reading this, then most likely you are like us and are asking yourself how much money you should budget for food on your Disney World Trip. If that’s the case, then this section if for you. Buying groceries at the local Publix will save you a few bucks from eating in the parks. You can easily grab an Uber and make a run to the local grocery store to pick up some essentials for as many meals as you care to prepare in your room.
You could also use a grocery delivery service at Disney World, there are so many different options for you to choose from!
Another way you can save money is by bringing your own food into the parks. Didn’t realize you could do that did you? You can pack a quick lunch, sandwiches, pickle, chips, and a soda into a soft cooler for everyone to enjoy. Then after lunch, you just fold up the cooler and stow it inside a backpack or shoulder bag for the rest of the day.
On a side note, if you are traveling to the park and forgot to grab a soda or two, you can swing into the bus stop area before heading into the park. They usually have a soda machine where you can pick up a quick fizzy drink and pay significantly less than in the park.
If you are really penny-pinching you can share your meals with other family members. The portions for most meals are absolutely massive at Disney World. If you are a couple, then you can split your appetizer, entree, and dessert at the table service restaurants. Also depending on how big your appetite is, you can order yourself a kids meal at any quick service location.
Table service restaurants are typically much cheaper for lunch. So if you don’t mind eating your big meal at lunch then you could potentially save a few bucks there.
By starting out your day at a character breakfast, not only will you make the kids happy by hanging out with some cool Disney characters, but you’ll save money! The character breakfasts are almost half the price you would pay for a character dinner. That’s a significant savings if you ask me.
Another great tip for saving a few bucks is to bring your own drinks and snacks into the park. If you bring in a few snacks for everyone over the course of a day at the park that will save you significantly from paying park prices for their snacks.
Free dining is really where it’s at though. If you go in the fall, Disney offers a free dining plan promotion. You can save a significant amount of money by doing this…..and hey, it’s free food! That’s something you don’t see every day!
Also, if you are a season pass holder then you can save up to 20% on all your table service meals! If you buy snacks or water in the gift shop the discount is applicable there as well. If you are a season pass holder and you want to know if there is a discount available, then don’t ever be afraid to ask at any shop or restaurant.
One of the hottest tips I can give you to keep you cool is that WATER IN DISNEY WORLD IS FREE! Yes, I said FREE, all you need to do is go up to any quick service counter and ask! So you can stop dropping $4 for a bottle of water. In the Florida heat that can add up pretty quick!
How To Save Money On Disney Souvenirs
The flat-out best way to save money at Disney World is to not buy souvenirs. We literally have spent thousands of dollars over the years at Disney World on souvenirs. Let’s face it, the mouse likes your money and they make it very easy and efficient for you to spend it with gift shops at every turn.
We are adopting a new mantra the last few years though, “We are making memories, not spending money”. I know, I know! That’s easier said than done, but by having family discussions about what you are willing to spend ahead of time on souvenirs, then you will save yourself A LOT of hassle and arguments in the park.
One of the little tips I can give you about photo souvenirs that most people don’t know is that many park photographers will take pictures of you with your phone if you take a second to ask them. So yes, you can avoid buying a photo pass if you can’t afford one (although it is definitely worth the money in my opinion). Also, note that pass holders get free photo pass as well! Just another great reason to consider getting a season pass.
Now, one of the best-kept secrets I have heard about through some of the youtube channels that I frequent is Character Warehouse! Quite frequently I will see videos posted by our friends Paging Mr. Morrow when they make their trips to character warehouse.
Basically, it’s the Disney clearance rack! Disney gift shops in the park do not have clearance areas. Instead, they send the merchandise to their two Orlando Outlets called the Disney Character Warehouse. The deals are insane! Just check out this video below to see examples!
At the end of the day if you have packed proper essentials you are going to save yourself a ton! Make sure you pack essentials like pain reliever, sunscreen, etc. It’s the little things you don’t think about while you are packing that are going to save you money.
Just make sure that you leave room for fun in your plan. Don’t be overly obsessed with planning and saving. But with a little tweaking, I think we’ve shown some interesting ways that you can save yourself a buck while you at the happiest place on earth.