50 Tips for Doing Disney On a Budget
This post was originally published on PlanningTheMagic.net by Krystel. All photos courtesy of Planning the Magic.
A trip to Walt Disney World is a dream come true for most people. The challenge is finding tips and tricks that are going to actually save you money and help you go to Disney on a budget. Luckily, there are many ways to cut corners from the moment you leave your home. The perfect Disney vacation is not out of your reach.
We are going to break this down into 4 categories:
Getting There & Getting Around
Tickets & More
Getting There & Getting Around
SkyScanner is one of my favorite flight tools and that’s because you can look at prices for flights across an entire month. I use this option when I am unsure of my vacation dates and you should too! That way you can build your vacation around the cheaper dates.
Driving to Disney World
I am fully aware how long and and tiring a drive to Disney can be. I actually have something similar to a diary entry (hehe) on my most recent drive to Disney. But it can be significantly cheaper for your family depending on the family size, and time of year. Use the AAA Gas Calculator to estimate gas costs.
Disney’s Magical Express
There’s nothing better than to get off the plane, onto this comfortable and magical bus FOR FREE. As long as you are staying at the WDW Resort, I would click here and make sure to use this awesome, free resource. A cab to Disney can run $60 each way while renting a car can cost hundreds.
Take advantage of Disney’s free transportation. Yea you
heard read right. FREE
If you’ve read my story and why PlanningTheMagic exists, you know that JetBlue Getaways saved me. Often, on various sites, you’ll see hotel and flight “packages” that are the same price as getting them individually. JetBlue Getaways is super discounted. Watch the video below and see how it’s done.
Don’t Rent a Car and Use Uber
I have found from all my various trips to Disney that not renting a car is the way to go. When you stay on the Disney property, Disney’s free transportation is your best friend in helping you get around, and did I mention it’s free! And for the moments where you leave the park whether it’s to one of the other local attractions, or grocery shopping -there is always Uber. Uber is a taxi service which is usually less expensive than the other taxi companies. This is a way to save hundreds on your trip. Learn how to use Uber and get a free trip.
Credit Card Points
There might be something better than a free bus ride (Magical Express). A free flight and/or hotel room! If you plan correctly and use PointsToNeverland.com, you will find your way to high valued freebies
Value season, or basically the time when kids are in school, always is the best time to go to Disney. Crowds are smaller, flights are cheaper, and usually Disney has a special/discount going on.
Fee-free Travel Agent
Many don’t know that travel agents are free, and if you get a good one it is so worth it. Travel agents who specialize in Disney will know all of the ins-and-outs. They will know how to get discounts and even adjust your package once it books. Imagine waking up to an email about hundreds of dollars of savings.
Hotel Tonight – Phone App
If you have the flexibility to wait last minute – you can use this cool phone app called Hotel Tonight. You can score last minute, non-Disney hotel rooms for cheap. Included in this are the Disney Springs hotels on Disney property.
Rent DVC Points
If you are considering staying at a Deluxe of Deluxe Villa resort at Disney World, help yourself and save more than 50% by renting DVC points from David’s. Read more here.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Lodge can sleep up to 10 people for $50/night. It is a super good value for bigger families and you get all of the same perks for being at a Disney resort.
Disney Spring’s Resorts Discount
Disney Springs hotels are the perfect compromise to stay on site but not at a Disney hotel. If you decide to go this route make sure to head over to MouseSavers.com and take advantage of their discounted rates.
There’s no doubt an offsite hotel is going to be cheaper. Just not more convenient. Use sites such as Priceline and Orbitz to find a room at the low end of $30/night. Here is a video from my Definitive Guide to Planning a Disney Vacation.
Rent a House
A lot of people don’t ever think of renting a home when going on a Disney vacation but it really can bring you significant savings when traveling with a large group. There are homes that are less than 5 miles from Disney that are less than $100/night and fit 10 individuals. Think of how nice having a private pool would be. For more information, I suggest AllStar Vacation Homes.
Plan Out Your Meals
You really can’t go wrong by doing the research and outlining what your meals at Disney will look like. Not to say that you have to plan every meal out but doing the research will go a long way.
Pack It Up
Bring your own water and snacks to the park to cut out what can become an excessive cost.
Disney’s Famous Free Dining Special
Disney often will have special deals going on but the Free Dining is the most well known. With certain vacation package purchases Disney will throw in free dining of some sort. This special often comes out in April and covers fall dates.
Use this grocery delivery service to get groceries delivered to your hotel for a $14 fee. Use groceries to save on meals all around.
We are huge fans of Amazon. I just recently pre-ordered Harry Potter and The Cursed Child off of Amazon. With Amazon Pantry you can send yourself non-perishable groceries. Your Disney resort will hold your package for you. Shipping is free for Prime Members and also orders over $35.
Grocery Store aka Publix
The most obvious way to get groceries, there is a Publix a few miles from Disney and a mini fridge in every Disney hotel room.
Know your Quick Service Options
Not all food locations at Disney are created equally. Some locations provide better quality or more food than others. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a good example of a great location. Do your research to easily find the right places to eat.
Skip Disney’s Meal Plan
I do a very detailed layout in my eBook about why the dining plan is not for those who are looking to save money or get the most bang for their buck. You want to use groceries for some of your meals, plus discounts for restaurants, etc. The dining plan will take away that flexibility.
Eat Breakfast In Your Room
I do this every trip. It saves me a whole lot of money and a ton of time. I like to get to the parks a few minutes before they officially open, for that reason I’m having breakfast on the go. Granola bars, yogurt, and especially coffee.
Who Doesn’t LOVE Pizza
I look forward to Flippers when I head to Disney. You can feed a family of 4 quite cheaply. Please try the breadsticks!
We talked about Quick Service locations not being created equally. Many Disney meals come with sides and extras that make them very shareable. I rarely can finish an entire meal on my own.
Earl of Sandwich
Earl of Sandwich is great! Even people who don’t like sandwiches love this place. Sign up for their newsletter for coupons to use at their Disney Springs location!
A La Carte
Disney meals come with a few sides you might not like so it’s important that you are aware of the ability to order an entree “a la carte” to avoid wasting money.
Saving on Theme Park Tickets, Free Things to do, and More!
This is so important that I have an entire post written up on it. Souvenirs can really burn a hole in your pocket while you are at Disney World. If you pre-buy and surprise your kids with a few a day, you will save a ton of money!
This site allows you to purchase discounted gift cards from multiple retailers. I’ve used them myself without issue. There are gift cards offered for gas, restaurants, Disney, etc. You can get gift cards for 5-12% off here.
Free Disney Gift Cards
Asking for Disney gift cards on Holidays like Christmas or on your birthday is a great way to save money! The gift cards can be used for just about anything, whether it’s for paying off your Disney package, park tickets, meals, or buying fun souvenirs at the park! The possibilities are endless with Disney gift cards.
WDW ticket discounts are so hard to come by but Undercover Tourist is an authorized dealer that will save you the most money possible. Expect to save as much as $40/ticket.
AAA members get discounts on Disney hotels and tickets. With the basic membership being anywhere between $53-$65 it can definitely be worth it.
One of my favorite things to do on a day where I am not visiting any parks, or have some down time is to visit the Disney Boardwalk located at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas. There’s so much to do here from the different restaurants, ice cream parlors, arcades, and of course fun magic tricks! It’s a great place to take the kids for free or for a nice walk down the boardwalk and watching the amazing shows, and not to forget the delicious funnel cake!
Free Picture Memories
Believe it or not, any Disney photographer will take your photo for free with your own camera.
Disney Vacation Savings Account
There’s nothing more rewarding than to see your savings add up. Set aside an account for your Disney vacation to motivate yourself and keep on track. I use an online savings account called Ally Bank. Watch the video to see more information and how to set it up.
Loose Change Jar
I remember back in 2009ish, I had a 1991 Acura Legend that needed some type of repair. I took my change jar and got $90 out of it! I was a happy teenager! Do the same thing for your Disney vacation and see how fast your change adds up.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Ponchos are sold at stores like Walmart, Target, and Amazon for about $1.50/each. At Disney they’re about $10/each.
I actually just got started with Swagbucks. Basically this site allows you to take surveys, watch videos and more to earn Swagbucks that you can convert to giftcards. I read an article on a woman who paid for 95% of her $3500 Disney vacation with Swagbuck’s gift cards. I’d love to just pay for Christmas gifts with this.
Chip And Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long
Join Chip and Dale for a nighttime celebration around the fire. Roast s’mores with your own supplies which will make this activity free!
Know Your Ticket Options
The worse thing you can do is over-buy park days or add on options you don’t need. Do research, go to Chapter 3 of my planning guide for all of the information you need.
One Park a Day Keeps the Debt Away
If you’ve never been to Disney World before then it can get a little bit overwhelming to plan your agenda for your trip. I think a good place to start, that’s going to save you a ton of time and money, is to commit to one park a day. Here’s a chart I created that’s part of my guide to planning a Disney vacation. As you can see you can easily dedicate a full day or more to any given theme park.
Buy Disney Apparel Elsewhere
You’ll see most of the people at Disney with the cutest shirts. Disney shirts. Bring yours with you to avoid the high costs at the park. Buy these at Walmart or Target.
Disney Visa Credit Card by Chase
With Disney’s reward dollars and 0% promotional APR for 6 months on certain vacation purchases, this might be the right route for you.
Resort hopping is so much fun and FREE. This never gets old for me. Head to the Polynesian for dinner or Port Orleans Riverside for some beignets.
Pin trading is an awesome Disney tradition. I mostly collect my pins. There are really nice pins you can get under $10.
Pin’s off Amazon
We talked about pin trading and how some are collectible but some are great for trading! Amazon and eBay allow you to buy them in bulk for cheap! Perfect way to start your collection and get your kids going.
“One of my favorite souvenirs to collect is the pressed pennies! They have them located everywhere throughout Disney along with the penny collector book with slots to save all your pressed pennies. What better way to remember all my favorite parks, and favorite rides, not to mention such an awesome collection starter!” -Lisa
I can completely understand how strollers can be a nuisance at Disney. Especially since you have to close them on all Disney transportation (except the monorail), but bringing your own stroller is free. Renting a stroller costs $15/day at Disney. That’s over $100 for 7 days.
Plan Plan Plan
Plan your days at Disney as much as possible to make sure you are self-providing as much as you can (vs buying). This will also give you the ability to find ways to cut your costs.
Birnbaum’s Disney Guide Book
You can usually get the official Disney World guide for $15. The savings/budget part comes in with coupons that are in the back of the book.
Make sure to share this if you think anyone you know would benefit from these tips.
My name is Krystel, and I am here to share the joy Disney gives me. If you want to learn more about planning the perfect Walt Disney World Vacation visit Planning The Magic. I’ve spent a lot of time creating the perfect Disney On A Budget eBook because I really want everyone to have a magical vacation within reach.