Disney World on a Budget

My family loves going to Walt Disney World for vacation. It isn’t the cheapest vacation spot, but there are ways to save on a Disney vacation and still have an awesome experience.

Ideas for planning a trip to disney on a budget. From park tickets to saving in the parks you can have a great Disney vacation without breaking the bank.

Growing up in Orlando, I feel like Walt Disney World has grown up with me and my family has made many awesome memories there over the years.

Over the years we’ve done of variety of different things to save and some have been awesome and some have been total flops! I wanted to share with you some of my favorite ways to save on a Disney family vacation.

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Visit Disney during the off season.

This is the best and easiest way to save on a trip to Disney. Spring Break, the summer months, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all busy times at the parks. Not only will the waits be longer on the rides, the hotel, food, and airfare prices go up significantly during the peak seasons.

If you can manage to visit Disney during the slower months you will find great savings on a hotel (in all of Orlando).

You will also get more done at the parks since they won’t be as crowded.

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Stay at a Disney resort.

The absolute best place to stay at Disney is Cinderella’s Castle, but since that isn’t something you can book the next best place is a Disney resort. 🙂

It took me a while to believe that staying at a Disney resort was more economical than staying off property, but unless you have family in the area with an extra bedroom, I highly recommend staying at a Disney resort.

Disney has several value resorts (Art of Animation, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies, and Pop Century) which are comparable to other Disney area hotels. These hotels are equipped with mini fridges which which makes eating some meals in your room convenient and less expensive.

There are no microwaves in the room, but there is a microwave you can use at the cafeteria at the value resorts.

So, why pay more to stay on Disney property?

1. Extra Magic Hours:

The Disney parks are open earlier and later on select days for Disney resort guests. This is a great time to ride some of your favorite rides without waiting in long lines.

2. Transportation:

If you are flying into Orlando, you can book a ride on the Magical Express from the Orlando Airport to your resort. This is a free service that drops you right at your resort.

When you are a guest at a Disney resort you also have free transportation via bus, boat, or monorail to the Disney parks. You can also park at the parks for free which is a savings of $17 a day!

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3. Fast Passes:

Fast passes are available to all Disney ticket holders, however if you have your tickets purchased and your Disney resort room booked you can enjoy first access to reserve a selection of Disney FastPass+ attractions, shows and more up to 60 days before you arrive!

4. Fun resort activities:

All of the Disney resorts offer fun activities like free movies, activities, and games depending on the resort. If you are staying on Disney property, it is easy to bring a child back to the room for a nap or a swim and then go back to the park in the evening when it is cooler.

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Skip the Park Hopper Pass.

When you are buying your Disney tickets, consider buying a ticket that does not include the option to switch parks throughout the day. While I think there are many benefits to jumping parks, it is not economical and there is plenty to do at each park for an entire day.

For a 4-day ticket, adding the park hopper option increases the ticket price by $64. For a family of four that is over a $200 increase just to switch parks throughout the day.

Camp at Disney.

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Did you know you can camp at Disney and save a ton? Fort Wilderness offers campsites for RV’s and tent campers for significantly less than a Disney resort.

Fort Wilderness offers four types of campsites to accommodate everything from tents to 45-foot and longer RVs, with a maximum of 10 Guests per site. Each campsite is equipped with privacy-enhancing landscaping, water, cable television and electrical hook-ups, a picnic table and a charcoal grill. Most campsites also include a sewer hook-up, and some even permit pets.

Fort Wilderness also has a great pool with a water slide, complimentary transportation to the parks, high speed internet,    and even airport transportation! Campsites start at $69 a night.

Bring your own food.

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Like any theme park, the food at Disney can be pricey. We usually eat at least one meal in our hotel room and also bring snacks with us into the park.

No hard sided coolers are allowed in the parks, but we’ve never had problem bringing water bottles or snacks in a backpack. Most Disney hotels have a small store that sell milk and other cold products, so even if you are flying you can pack a suitcase full of snacks and buy a few refrigerated staples once you arrive.

If you are driving to Orlando, bring a cooler or stop at the grocery store on your way into town and pick up some meals and snacks for the trip.

You can also use a service called the Garden Grocer which will deliver groceries to your hotel. The prices are higher than a typical grocery store, but less expensive than eating all your meals out.

Character Dine for breakfast.

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There’s no way around it, character dining is expensive! But if you have your heart set on dining with the characters consider making breakfast reservations to save money. Breakfast is the cheapest option for character dining and you can make reservations for breakfast as late as 10am so it can almost be a brunch for your family for additional savings.

Bring your own water bottle, poncho, stroller, etc.

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Disney World is located in Central Florida, which means it will probably rain at some point during your vacation. Florida is known for its afternoon Thunderstorms, especially in the summer.

The good news is that these storms cool the air and usually clear out the parks. Disney sells ponchos at almost every gift shop, but you will save big if you bring your own from home.

Disney also rents single and double strollers for $15 and $31 a day. You can save a little by renting them for multiple days (the price goes down to $13 and $27 per day) but you will save the most by bringing your own stroller to the parks.

There are several local companies in Orlando that rent strollers. They drop them off and pick up at your hotel, for a little less than what Disney charges (especially if you are renting for several days). Google “stroller rental Orlando” to find the companies and compare prices.

Another way to save is to bring your own reusable water bottles with you. Florida is hot and humid and it is easy to get dehydrated! You don’t want to spend your vacation in the ER, so bring your own water bottle and fill it up at the numerous water fountains at the parks and hotels.

Also, a cup of ice water is free at Disney restaurants with your meal, so stay hydrated and save money when you dine.

Buy souvenirs before your trip.

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The toys, clothes, and trinkets at stores inside the parks and resorts are expensive. You can find similar items at Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s in your local town. Buy items before you go and give them to the kids while you are visiting the parks.

The kids can still have fun Disney themed merchandise but you will be paying about half the price.

Plan Ahead

While you won’t find tons of discounts on Disney parks and hotels, they are available. If you are a Florida resident or a member of the Armed Forces there are discounts offered throughout the year of up to 40%. Combining off season rates, with a resident discount can add up to big savings.

Just recently Disney ran a dining special, so if you are planning ahead you can take advantage of these deals.

If you are a mega fan consider getting a Disney Visa card.

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A few years ago when we were planning a Disney vacation we stumbled across the Disney Visa from Chase. Now I’m not a big fan of credit cards and have only had one credit card for years. However the Disney card has some cool benefits for Disney fans.

  • Character Meet ‘N’ Greet at our private Cardmember location*
  • 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations at Walt Disney World® Resort, the Disneyland® Resort, Disney’s Beach Resort Destinations and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaiʻi*
  • 10% off select dining locations at Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort.
  • 15% off the non-discounted price of select guided tours and recreation experiences at Walt Disney World® Resort and select guided tours at the Disneyland® Resort*
  • Cardmembers save 10% on select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at Disney Store and DisneyStore.com*
  • Earn 1% in reward dollars on card purchases*
  • Earn an additional 1% in reward dollars on card purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations for a total of 2% in these categories*
  • There’s no limit to the number of reward dollars you can earn

During our recent trip to Disney we saved at almost every place we shopped using our Disney Visa. There are two Disney Visa’s one has no annual fee and the premiere card charges a $49 fee. You’ll need to thoroughly compare the two cards to find what is best for your family.

Explore Central Florida while you are here.

If you have time to get away for a week or more, consider spending three or four days at Disney and then exploring other parts of Central Florida.

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The beach is less than an hour away, there are numerous springs, lakes and rivers to explore, we have a fun downtown area, Legoland, Universal Studios, Sea World, Gatorland, the Space Center, professional sports teams, and tons of free or very cheap activities on the weekend throughout the area.

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If you aren’t planning an Orlando vacation this year, there’s still additional ways to save in your local area!

Check out all the staycation ideas for the cities below.

A – D

Phoenix, Arizona — Saving For Someday
Fresno, California — Living A Frugal Life
Orange County, California — More With Less Today
San Diego, California — Southern Cali Saver
Denver, Colorado — Bargain Blessings
Washington, District of Columbia — Kidventurous

F – I

Disney World, Florida — The Happy Housewife
Jacksonville, Florida — Saving The Family Money
Orlando, Florida — Coupon Mamacita
St Augustine, Florida — Simply St. Augustine
Tallahasse, Florida — SwagGrabber
Tampa Bay, Florida — LaToyaEdwards.net
Atlanta, Georgia — Pretty Frugal Diva
Dahlonega, Georgia — Kathys Cluttered Mind
Savannah, Georgia — This Mommy Saves Money
Aurora/Chicago, Illinois — A Savings WOW!
Chicago, Illinois — Entertaining Chicago
Indianapolis, Indiana — Chaos Is Bliss

K – P

Lexington, Kentucky — Homeschool Village
Louisville, Kentucky — The Kennedy Adventures
Northern Kentucky, Kentucky — Simply Sherryl
Carroll County, Maryland — Looking at life CreativLEI
Boston, Massachusetts — Maven of Savin
Battle Creek, Michigan — Pichea Place
Grand Rapids, Michigan — Give Me Neither
Metro Detroit, Michigan — Saving Dollars and Sense
Kansas City Area, Missouri/Kansas — Redefined Mom
Omaha, Nebraska — Family Fun in Omaha
Central, New Jersey — Our Good Life
Cincinnati, Ohio — Adventure Mom
Cleveland, Ohio — Kosher on a Budget
Columbus, Ohio — Cleverly Simple
Dayton, Ohio — Savings Lifestyle
Mansfield & Richland County, Ohio — The Traveling Praters
Miami County, Ohio — Something 2 Offer
Northeast, Ohio — Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring
Portland, Oregon — Frugal Living NW
Harrisburg/Central, PA — Family Balance Sheet
Erie, Pennsylvania — Growing Kids Ministry
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Moms Need To Know
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — The Coupon High

R – W

Arlington, Texas — Grocery Shop For FREE
Fort Worth, Texas — Coupons and Freebies Mom
Houston, Texas — Melissa’s Bargains
Katy, Texas — Moms Confession
San Antonio, Texas — How to Homeschool My Child
Tyler, Texas — iLoveMy5Kids
Charlottesville, Virgina — How to Have it All
Norfolk, Virgina — The Talking Suitcase
Richmond, Virgina — Vacation Maybe
Seattle, Washington — Thrifty NW Mom
Tacoma/South Puget Sound, Washington — Queen Bee Coupons
Oshkosh, Wisconsin — A Little Bit of This and That

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Comments

  1. We live in Florida and go to Disney regularly but I learned several new tips from this post! Thanks for taking the time to share… I’m looking forward to our next Disney trip now!

  2. I agree with all buy one – I would never stay at the Disney Value Hotels again! My sister brought her two grandkids and booked there. I spent the day at the park and that evening with her and the kids……after a long day and being very tired, even the kids didn’t want to walk the distance to where they were staying – “The Little Mermaid” wing. Kids were screaming and running wild all over the place. Not a parent in site most of the time! I’ve stayed at the Moderate Lodging many times, the French Quarter being our favorite, and they were most pleasant – and after a long day at the parks, it was not that far to walk to your room. For just a few dollars more – make it pleasant – the park can be exhausting.

    Another thing, you may want to warn those with small children and infants – the park is not a pleasant adventure for them or the parents……I would have never taken my children or grandkids there until they reached the age they could enjoy the adventure and if they happened to get lost, they would know what to do!

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