I’m going to be straight with you: a Disney World vacation is expensive, but, oh so worth it! I cannot put a price on the memories that my family has created on our Disney vacations over the past 5 years, or the fun that we have as a family planning our next trip.
You can find a million ways to save on your vacation; some are worth the savings, while others might save you money but could cause you stress along the way. Here are some of the ways that I do not recommend saving on your Disney vacation:
- Staying off site. Yes, I guarantee if you look you will be able to find ways to save on your hotel/rental by staying off of Disney property or not at a Disney hotel, but I do not recommend it. When you stay at a Disney resort you are getting Disney the whole time: free transportation to and from the parks and Downtown Disney, Disney customer service (which in our experience has topped anywhere else), possibilities for packages, Extra Magic hours at the parks (only for Disney Resort guests), and so much more.
- Bringing all your own food. Maybe this is just me, but food is a part of my vacation experience. I like to try the food where I go and I enjoy eating as part of vacation (when I don’t have to cook it or clean it up). I highly recommend getting one of the dining plans as part of your package because apples to apples you will save money. Now if you want to make peanut butter and jelly and share meals you will spend less than the dining plan (but that’s why you go when there is free dining, more on that later) but it won’t be as much fun!
- Trying to do Disney in a day. This isn’t possible. My family has went five times and stayed for 3 days on our shortest trip, 6 on our longest, and we are not even close to experiencing all that Disney offers. We could easily stay for two weeks and have things left to do (especially because we like to enjoy our resort along the way). If you try to pack it all in and run from park to park or work your checklist all day, you will not experience the “magic” of Disney (and those who love Disney World know what I am talking about). The people who try to jam it all in are some of the people that you hear who didn’t have a great time and complained about crowds and lines.
Ok, so there are a few things that I recommend not doing to save money at Disney World, but how about ways to save? Well, there are big ways to save and little ways to save. Here are some of the bigger ways to save:
- Choose the right time to go. If you want to go during Spring break, Christmas, Summer, etc. you are going to pay extra. Our first trip was in the middle of November during the “off season”, crowds were low and prices were low. The weather was fantastic every day.
- Find the deals. Disney has a spot on their website where you can see what deals they are currently running. Sometimes it is a discount on your hotel when you get a package and other times it is FREE dining. We always try to go during Free Dining (only one time did we pay for our dining).
- Keep checking and comparing. We try to book our trip a year in advance and then we check the deals and options frequently. As an example my youngest turned 3 last October which means we will now be considered a family of 5 at Disney. This means we are limited to which hotels we can stay in without needing to get a suite, villa, or adjoining rooms. We were planning on making our first attempt at camping (a great way to save on your stay) at Fort Wilderness, but after weighing all of our options we have changed our reservations to Caribbean Beach Resort (one of the two hotels that lets you sleep 5 to a standard room) when FREE Disney Dining became an option. It pays to check back often.
Ok, what are the little ways to save money on your Disney vacation?
- Eat breakfast in your room. We like to try to do one breakfast at a restaurant during our stay, but for the most part we do save money by bringing our own breakfast items. We’ve brought yogurts, pop tarts, bagels, our toaster, etc.
- Bring some snacks. We enjoy our Disney snacks: Mickey pretzels, Mickey ice cream, popcorn, lollipops, doll whips, funnel cakes. There are tons of options (and healthier options) but these are my family’s favorites. You can buy the snacks or the dining plans include a snack each day, but we like to have little things to keep us going throughout the day: trail mix, granola bars, goldfish, bananas, apples, juice boxes, water bottles, and those types of items. Before we leave home I split them up into single size servings. Then when we are leaving the hotel for the parks I can toss a couple single size bags into our diaper bag/backpack and be ready when we start to get a little hungry.
- Bring water bottles. Our second trip to Disney was in August when I was 8 months pregnant. It was hot and we were thirsty. Before we left home I purchased a few water bottles with the sports tops that had filters in them. We were able to bring the bottles into the Disney parks and fill them up for free at the drinking fountains. This kept us hydrated, cooled down, and saved us money.
- Buy some fun things before you leave home. You can find glow sticks and little Disney items at most Dollar stores and lots of times in the $1 Spot at Target. I try to get a few items to surprise the girls with either on our 22 hour drive to Disney or once we are there. This can save a lot of money over purchasing these types of items once you are in Orlando or at Disney. We like to purchase Disney wall decals to decorate the room with (usually as a magical surprise when we stay during birthdays). One year I even bought shirts from the Disney store when they had a great sale and I hid them away until we got to Disney.
- Share snacks or meals. We like to stretch the snack credits that come with our dining plan as far as we can. We usually make sure that everyone does get their favorite item, but lots of times we share. We might get a Mickey pretzel and a drink for 2 credits and the 5 of us will share them. Some of the meals are pretty large so lots of times sharing is an option, especially in the hotter months when you don’t feel as hungry. We have used this option before as a way to have breakfast at our hotel food court. We got two meals and shared it amongst the five of us. Yu can also use two meal credits to get a large pizza and breadsticks at most hotel food courts.
These are just the tip of the iceberg on ways to save money on a Disney vacation. There are plenty of great resources like Chip & Company and Disney’s Passporter to name a few, that give great ideas on ways to save to enjoy a Disney World vacation.
Please use the comment section to share any tips on ways you save money at Disney World or leave any questions you have on planning a Disney vacation.