We all know that Disney isn’t cheap. If not planned correctly, a Disney World vacation can easily cost more than a trip abroad. Planned well, and a trip to Disney can fit into almost any budget. All you have to do to save money at Disney World is follow a few simple tips and plan ahead.
Saving money at Disney World is easy for us
As a Florida resident, Disney World is a pretty affordable destination for us. The Florida resident discounts combined with low transportation costs make Disney World a pretty cheap family vacation. But I know not everyone is as lucky as us. Saving money at Disney World has become such a popular topic that entire blogs are dedicated to it!
During our most recent trip to Disney, I was pretty obviously eavesdropping on a family’s conversation in the Star Wars shop in Hollywood Studios. I was walking slowly through the store so I could let Max sleep in the stroller as long as possible when a high schooler asked her dad for a purse. She told him it was only $180. The dad rolled his eyes and made a snarky comment to the mom about how the teen only made $8 an hour working at a movie theater. How could she possibly think $180 for a purse in Disney was a good deal?
The dad saw me paying attention to his conversation and said, “How do people do this? How do they come here and spend so much money?”
Oh, if only he knew that I blog about affordable family travel.
Even though I should have used that moment to give my blog a shameless plug, I just smiled, nodded, and said, “Yes, Disney is pretty expensive.”
But he didn’t stop. He actually continued the conversation and said, “Seriously, it cost me over $650 just to take my family to Disney for the day.”
Six hundred and fifty dollars for one day at Disney is an insane amount of money. If only he knew that there are all sorts of tips and tricks to for saving money at Disney World. I promise you, I wouldn’t take my family to Disney World if we were paying $650 for one day.
Nope. No way. It wouldn’t happen.
Instead, I follow this list of ultimate ways to save money at Disney World.
How to Save Money at Disney World
Save Money On Disney World Tickets
Tickets are easily the most expensive part of the trip if you are able to find an affordable hotel. With tickets starting at nearly $100 at the gate, it’s imperative that you plan ahead and buy before you visit.
1. Buy Discount Disney World Tickets Online
Start off on the official Disney World site to price tickets because they are $20 cheaper online than at the gate if you buy 3 days or more.
Then go to Undercover Tourist to save up to $54 on tickets.
It’s best to compare both sites because sometimes the official Disney World site is actually the cheapest!
2. Visit Disney World during the off season
Tickets are cheaper during certain times of the year. The funny thing is that the park is also less crowded. This is a huge win in my book. Go for less and experience less of a crowd? Yes, please.
The cheapest times to visit Disney include:
- January & February
The most expensive times to visit Disney include:
- Spring break (first week of March to first week of April)
- New Years
- Presidents Day
- Memorial Day weekend until the first week of August
3. Buy Disney World tickets in packages of 3 or more days
A one day ticket starts at $122 during peak season, but a 3 day ticket will cost you $305, saving you $61. Buy 10 days and your tickets are as low as $44.50 a day.
4. Don’t buy the park hopper passes
A park hopper allows you to visit any of the 4 parks in one day as opposed to a base ticket that will only let you visit one park per day. Park hopper tickets are ~$55-60 more.
If you plan to stay for longer than one day, save the money and visit one park per day. Remember, Disney will always be there. You don’t have to “do it all” in one day, on one trip.
5. Take advantage of the Florida resident discount
Move to Florida to take advantage of all Florida resident discounts. Just kidding. Sorta.
Florida residents really do get the best deals. Every so often Disney comes out with Discover Disney passes. In 2018 the 3 day passes were $159 and 4 day passes were $179. Here’s the best part, you could use them any time during a certain period, meaning you can use one ticket one weekend, then visit Disney again 2 months later to use the other tickets.
Florida residents also get great deals on annual passes.
6. Consider buying an annual pass
For a long time I couldn’t understand why anyone would buy an annual pass. Then I read this post from Sand and Snow and my mind was blown. Not only do you save a good amount of money on tickets, you get some pretty great perks such as 20% off dining.
Save Money Getting to Disney
Transportation costs can add up fast. Use these tips to save money on your Disney trip.
7. Fly from an airport that flies directly to Orlando
Orlando is such a big and popular airport that there are some great prices on flights. We actually drive 3 hours from home to fly out of Orlando. No joke.
If you’ve always thought that flying was too expensive, stop what you are doing right now and look at flights into Orlando. Then look at flights into Orlando/ Sanford. Allegiant offers extremely low priced tickets for flights into the Sanford airport. Just remember that you have to pay for carry ons! Even with the airline nickel and diming us, we save good money flying out of Orlando.
8. Disney’s Magical Express
If you are staying on property, Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up from the airport for free. Get all the details here.
9. take advantage of free transportation
Many hotels (on and off property) offer free buses to and from the park each day. Use these to avoid paying $22 a day for parking at Disney World.
10. Minnie vans
Minnie Vans are Disney’s version of Lyft. In fact, Minnie Vans are operated and reserved through the Lyft app. Just open up your Lyft app and schedule a ride to and from anywhere in the park for $25 one way.
Each Minnie Van has 2 carseats and can accommodate 6 guests.
Personally, I like free, but I have to admit that sometimes with tired kids, I’d pay $25 to have a Minnie Van pick me up directly from the front of the park without having to wait in line to get to the free transportation.
Save money on hotel stays on a Disney trip
11. Stay off property
My number one tip for saving money on a Disney trip is to stay off property.
Yes, the Disney World Resort hotels are amazing, but the price tag is insane. We paid to stay on property once and never did it again. Yes, we’ve stayed many more times for free through work related events but never on our own dime after that.
Here’s why: the rooms are super tiny. It’s frustrating to pay a premium for a nice hotel only to be stuffed into a teeny tiny box. If you have a large family, it’s impossible to all be in the room at one time without feeling claustrophobic.
Check out my favorite place to stay near Disney World.
12. Use this Hack to Stay on Property
Even though I don’t love the hotel rooms on property, I do love all of the attention to detail throughout the resorts. Each pool is unique, and every hotel, even the budget ones, are themed in an over the top way.
If you do it right, you can use a hack to stay on property without paying exorbitant prices. The Deal Mommy has all the details here.
13. Try VRBO or AirB&B
Renting a home near Disney is one of the best ways to do it. You get all the comforts of home for about the same prices as a standard hotel room. It really can’t be beat!
14. Buy DVC Points and Stay on Property
The Disney Vacation Club is a time share where owners get to stay in Disney Deluxe Villas not available to the general public. At least they weren’t available until people realized that they could sell their DVC points to regular visitors!
You can buy DVC points and stay in a Disney Deluxe Villa in Walt Disney World Resort Florida, Disneyland Resort California, Aulani Hawaii, South Carolina and the Florida Atlantic coast. It’s pretty easy too, just head to David’s Vacation Club Rentals to buy points now.
15. Use Travel Rewards to Stay in a Disney Partner Hotel
Did you know that you can use travel rewards for Disney hotels? Well, technically these hotels are not owned by Disney, but they are pretty darn close to Disney World!
Use Starwood points at Disney Dolphin & Swan hotels. Both hotels are part of the Marriott Starwood brand of hotels and will take points. This is a great deal because the Disney Dolphin and Swan are on property and you can even walk into Hollywood Studios and Epcot from the hotel!
Use Hilton points at these Disney Springs hotels:
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Disney Springs® Area
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace – Disney Springs® Area
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs® Area
16. Use a Cashback App
If you must book a hotel room, check to see if it is listed on the DOSH app. This app has several great cash back options for travel. Learn more about DOSH here.
17. Bring your own Food into the Park
Did you know that you can bring your own food into Disney World? Yup! This is one of the best ways to save money at Disney. Check out my easy hack to make your own homemade Uncrustables. What an easy snack/ lunch for the park!
18. Get the Disney Dining plan if you are a foodie
Guests staying on Disney property have the option to add a Disney Dining Plan. There are 3 plans to choose from:
- Quick Service Dining Plan– $21.74 a day from kids 3-9 | $52.50 for 10 and up
- Disney Dining Plan– $25.75 a day from kids 3-9 | $75.49 for 10 and up
- Disney Deluxe Dining Plan– $39.99 a day from kids 3-9 | $116.99 for 10 and up
Yes, those prices seem steep, but if you are a foodie who spends a ton of money on Disney food, you can save a lot of money with the plans. For example, with the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan, you can eat at a table service restaurant for all 3 meals AND get an alcoholic drink.
Learn about all the different Disney Dining plans here.
19. Amazon pantry
Did you know that Amazon will deliver to you on vacation? This is a great way to get snacks delivered right to your room!
Just order through Prime Pantry or regular Amazon Prime and give them the address of your hotel. The hotel staff will hold on to it for you and give it to you when you arrive!
Not an Amazon Prime member? Use my link to get a 30 day FREE trial.
Related Post: How to Make the Most of Your Amazon Prime Benefits
20. Eat at sit down restaurants and buy appetizers
As a foodie, I think Disney does food right. I’ve never been disappointed with the sit down restaurants anywhere in Disney World. That’s why I love taking a break from the crowds and enjoying the AC at a proper restaurant in Disney. Most appetizers are big enough for a meal, so consider ordering a few apps for the family at a sit down restaurant instead of buying each person a full meal at a quick service place. You’ll pay about the same, but enjoy it so much more!
21. Eat at restaurants that give you a lot of food
Some restaurants give more food than others. Consider sharing a meal at one of the restaurants that serves large portions. WDW Prep School has a great article with all the restaurants that serve portions big enough to share.
22. Buy souvenirs before you enter the park
Target, Walmart and Party City all have great options for Disney souvenirs and costumes. We even buy Mickey ears from Party City instead of buying them in the park.
The Targets and Walmarts in Kissimmee have the best souvenir selections I’ve ever seen. That is by far your best bet. Make sure your spouse is on the same page. Otherwise, you may end up with a giant Mickey…
Pro Tip: Skip the seedy looking souvenir shops in Orlando. They are full of low quality crap that is overpriced.
23. Buy similar items on Amazon
Find something you love at a Disney park? Do a quick Amazon search and see if you can find it cheaper. If you can, order it then so you’ll have your “souvenir” by the time you get home. We’ve done this and we just tell the kids that we bought them the souvenir, but had it shipped home instead.
24. Tell kids to bring money for souvenirs
If your kids really want something, have them pay for it!
Our kids were insistent that we buy them a balloon until they realized that the balloons were $15. Yes, even a 5 year old knows that $15 for a balloon is way too much. When we told him he could buy it himself, he quickly changed his tune.
25. Skip souvenirs all together
News flash: you can visit Disney World without buying anything. Crazy, right?
Seriously though, try it next time and see how it works. You may be surprised to find that if you don’t bring up buying souvenirs, no one in your family will miss them.
26. Buy this stuff at the Dollar Tree
There are some things that you must buy at the Dollar Tree before your visit. Get the list here.
27. Limit your souvenirs
Okay, I know I just said that you don’t need souvenirs, but if that doesn’t work for you, limit each person in your family to one souvenir. Give them a price limit too. It can be fun to search for the perfect souvenir if you know you can only get one special item.
28. Turn your free pins into Christmas ornaments
For years, I would buy ornaments to commemorate vacations. Then one day I realized that I could save a good amount of money if I turned a free memento into an ornament. It’s easy, and way more special!
Add some ribbon to the back of your free pin and voila, you have an ornament! Get all the details here.
29. Get free pictures
You don’t have to buy the Photo Pass to get amazing photography at Disney. Just hand your phone or camera over to the photographers and they will take a picture for you!
Pro Tip: Have a friend with Photo Pass? Ask them to add you to their Disney Experience app and they will have access to your pictures. This is how we cheat the system and get nice photos with Mickey!
30. Don’t overdo it
I have this theory that they people who hate Disney are the ones who try to over do it and “get their money’s worth”. Don’t be that person.
It’s much more enjoyable if you take it slow and enjoy the little things in Disney. This might mean only doing half of what Disney has to offer, but you can always go back! I promise that you’ll make better family memories if you stop and enjoy yourself instead of rushing to do everything.
31. Avoid crowds by going early in the morning and later in the evening
If you really do what to “get your money’s worth”, go to the parks during the least crowded times. It’s worth it to get to the park at rope drop (as the park opens) in order to experience the park virtually empty.
Avoid peak times between 11 and 4.
32. Do free and inexpensive events at Disney hotels
Even if you aren’t staying at a Disney hotel, you can still visit and take part in some of the free and cheap Disney activities. You can even get a FREE 3 hour parking pass at any hotel if you tell the gate attendant that you are touring the property.
Here are a few free things to do at Disney hotels:
- Walk the boardwalk at The Boardwalk
- Campfire singalong and movie at Fort Wilderness is free to all Disney resort guests
- Walk along the beach at The Polynesian and see the Electrical Light Parade and Magic Kingdom fireworks.
- Watch the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Look for hidden Mickey’s at The Grand Floridian
- Visiting during the holidays? Check out the life size gingerbread house at The Grand Floridian
33. Character breakfast parking Swan & Dolphin
Not staying on property? Go to the Swan & Dolphin for a character breakfast, then walk into Epcot. You’ll get free parking for the day!
34. Take a break from the parks and do something else in Orlando
Disney World is fun, but it’s okay to take a break! Check out these other fun things to do in Orlando:
The Crayola Experience in Orlando
Rainy Day Activities in Orlando
4 Activities that aren’t Disney or Universal in Orlando
What Disney Hack am I Missing?
Let me know! I’d love to add to the list. Leave a comment with your favorite Disney Hack to save money at Disney World.
Thanks for these tips! Our 2 most used money saving tips aren’t buy buy a popcorn bucket for $10, refills are $1.75. Take in a water bottle everywhere that serve a fountain drinks will give you free water.
Hannah @ Eat, Drink and Save Money says
Very smart idea about the popcorn! My kids love popcorn!