A Disney World vacation is one that everyone in the family will remember for a lifetime whether they’re 3 or 93. There’s something about the magical world that makes you feel like a kid again. Everyone deserves a trip here at least once in their life, but there’s no doubt about it – it can be expensive!
I’m lucky to have several Disney fanatic family members and friends who helped teach me some tricks before my first time visiting as an adult.
I’d been to Disney World as a child, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re sans parents and have to navigate the place on your own. Where should you eat? What parks should you visit each day? How can you best manage your time?
And the ultimate question: How can you save money, especially when you’re now responsible for making magical memories for your own kids?
As someone who doesn’t like paying full price for anything, my Disney vacations are no exception. I’ve learned a lot over the years from trial-and-error, research, and the help of other Disney fans in my life. Here are 27 hacks to save you money at the most magical place on Earth.
1. Use a Disney-Certified Travel Agent
Authorized Disney travel agents are skilled when it comes to making the most of your vacation, from slashing the price of your airline tickets to getting you the best resort for your budget. Since they get commissions from the partnerships they have with airlines and Disney parks, you can usually get their services for free.
Most will even provide you with a no-obligation quote so that you can get an idea of what your costs will be, what you can potentially cut out to save money, etc.
2. Book the Vacation with a Disney-Friendly Airline
Did you know that some airline companies offer special Disney World vacation packages when you book your trip through them? The good thing about bundling everything together is that it usually makes things cheaper.
Since airline tickets can be one of the biggest expenses of your vacation, it’s a good idea to get them wrapped up in a money-saving package through an airline.
Southwest Airlines offers packages that include your hotel, flight, park activities, and more. American Airlines also has special prices on hotel, car, and flight prices, plus discounts on tickets when you book through the company.
3. Use a Travel Credit Card
There are a lot of credit cards that give you airline miles as rewards or points to use toward future vacations. If your credit is high enough to get one of these cards, do it! Just be sure to pay it off as quickly as possible to avoid interest charges that could negate your savings.
Southwest’s RapidRewards program is one of the best for travelers. You can check in your bags for free, earn travel points for every purchase you make with the card, and you’ll be eligible for lower airline fares. When you sign up, you can get 40,000 points for free after making $1,000 in qualifying purchases.
Use it for your Disney World vacation and you’ll have lots of points saved up for your next trip!
4. Take Advantage of Free Shuttle Service
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, then there’s probably no need to pay for a rental car. Most Disney resorts let you take advantage of at least some of the many modes of transportation the parks have, like the Monorail, shuttle buses, or boat rides.
You can check Disney’s Resort Transportation information to find out what free methods of travel Disney will give you depending on the resort at which you plan to stay.
5. Buy a Cheap Stroller When You Get There
Packing lightly for your vacation is a given. The last thing you want to do is pay extra money to check in five bags, a stroller, a car seat, etc. As much as I would have loved to bring my daughter’s big, comfortable stroller with us when she was little, I opted to buy a tiny, cheap umbrella stroller at a nearby Wal-Mart once I arrived at my hotel.
I have a friend who bought one online before she left and had it delivered straight to her hotel room to be ready for her daughter when her family arrived. Genius!
6. Shop Around
Just like you can save money by shopping around for regular hotels, you can do the same for Disney hotel with websites that offer different deals throughout the year.
Always check with the official Disney World website first because there are usually special offers running there. If it doesn’t have what you want, you can look on hotel booking sites like Expedia or Hotels.com.
If you’ve used one before, you might even score some extra savings. Hotels.com, for example, gives you a free night after you’ve used ten nights, so it pays to keep going back there!
MouseSavers has a whole page of information about when Disney releases new vacation packages and resort pricing. Check it out here.
7. Choose a Value or Moderate Resort
Don’t think that, to get a true Disney experience, you need to stay at a deluxe resort. There are plenty of value and moderate resorts and campgrounds that give guests just as much fun and magic but at a much lower price tag.
I’ve stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation most recently and it was one of my favorites even though it’s considered a value resort. My resort choice alone saved me about $1600 over one of the deluxe resorts like the Polynesian.
8. Stay Off Disney Property
You can always choose to stay off Disney’s property – I’ve done that too, and it was definitely my cheapest vacation. Although it does take longer to get it and out of the parks every day, sometimes the savings are just worth it, especially if you’re making a trip there a couple of times a year.
The benefit of off-property stays is that it’s easy to find other things around the area to do, get inexpensive meals, and it’s a lot less crowded.
I chose to stay in a hotel that was right on the main strip with plenty of things within walking distance, so I didn’t need to pay for a car rental. Some hotels have shuttle buses that will take you to Disney parks for free.
9. Find Deals for Large Groups
If you’re going to need to book more than one room for a large family or group, you might want to reconsider a hotel stay. In some cases, villas might be the least expensive option for your large group, or you can even sleep up to 10 people at a Fort Wilderness campsite for $55 a night.
Villas can get expensive but can sleep up to 8 people, so splitting the difference between everyone in your party might be a little cheaper than getting several hotel rooms that will separate everyone.
10. Check Your Reservation Occasionally
Whether you booked your stay through Disney’s website or another hotel site, you’ll want to keep checking back on your reservation. Most places – Disney included – will let you snag a better rate if you find one after you’ve already booked. I check every few weeks just to make sure I’m getting the best deal.
11. Plan Your Vacation During Off-Season
Going to Disney World in the summer is convenient because the kids are out of school and the weather is gorgeous. Most other families feel the same way, hence the crowds and higher prices.
Consider going during the non-busiest months of the year, which are usually January, September, and October in Disney World. Bonus: The weather is much cooler too!
12. Become a DVC Member
The Disney Vacation Club is an excellent way to save money on your Disney World stays. With the program, you purchase points that you can redeem for stays at DVC resorts. It’s like a financing program that helps keep costs down so that you’re not paying a huge chunk of cash at once for your vacation.
DVC members also get tons of benefits, like VIP tours, special discounts, and members-only events. You can learn more about the program here.
13. Avoid Going to Parks Every Day
Remember that there’s plenty to do near and in Disney World without paying for park tickets every day of your vacation. Many newbie Disney travelers have no idea that they can visit places on Disney’s property for free!
Disney’s Boardwalk is such a gorgeous and fun place and there’s no cost to visit. You can also check out Disney’s Wilderness Preserve for a day of hiking or head to Disney Springs for window shopping, eating, or even taking in some free live music events.
Or, spend the day swimming at your resort’s pool, checking out other themed areas of the resort, or stop at one of the many locations on-property to take in the fireworks at night.
14. Check Disney World’s Website for Deals
Sometimes the official Disney World website is the best place you can go for deals on park tickets. Head right to the tickets section of the site to see if any new deals are available. You can almost always save money by ordering your park tickets online and the more days you buy at a time, the less expensive it’ll be.
15. Buy Tickets Early
Try to get tickets as early in the new season as possible each year when prices are at their lowest. The closer you move toward peak summer season, the more you’ll pay.
Tickets, unfortunately, have an expiration date, but if you plan to go more than once before the date is up, it’ll be worth your while to get all your tickets at the same time since the price goes way down on Disney’s website when you buy in bulk.
16. Use Undercover Tourist to Get Discounted Tickets
Most fanatics will tell you to check Undercover Tourist, a legitimate ticket broker, for discounted Disney World tickets – and they’re right. This place can save you a lot of money, especially if you didn’t buy your tickets early on.
The site also has discounted tickets on several other famous Orlando attractions, perfect for if you’re planning a non-park day.
17. Ask for Free Pictures
You’ll need to pay for any printed pictures Disney World photographers snap of you and your family and place on your picture card, but some Cast Members will be happy to take a picture for free if you hand over your smartphone for them to take it with.
18. Avoid Extras
There are a lot of extra things you can buy to make your park experience even more awesome, but things like Park Hopper and FastPass+ may just be more money than you need to spend.
Park Hopper gets you into more than one park on the same day, which sounds like a great idea in theory, but young kiddos won’t be able to handle that much jumping around. FastPass+ does get you on rides faster, but it can also be stressful aligning your times correctly.
If you don’t absolutely need it, skip it and watch your vacation expenses go way down.
19. Don’t Get Tempted by Souvenirs
Souvenirs are great to have but they’re a good way to rack up unnecessary expenses very quickly. A lot of those in-the-moment purchases will barely get used once you get back home.
Consider waiting until your last day or two after you’ve had a chance to visit several gift shops and make a mental list of what you loved. Have everyone in the family pick out one small, special souvenir to remember their trip with.
20. Purchase Discounted Disney Gift Cards and Use Them Up
There are a lot of ways you can get Disney Gift Cards for less than their value – and you can use them to pay for most of your trip, giving you some instant savings.
21. If You Bought FastPass+, Make it Worth Your While
If you do decide FastPass+ is worth the cost, be sure to max it to its fullest potential to get your money’s worth. You’ll need to strategize ahead of your vacation for it to work its best.
Use Disney’s website about 30 days before your trip to pick out the rides to add to your FastPass+ and pick times closest to 12 PM when parks are at their most crowded.
22. Remember that your Two-Year-Old is Free!
One of the best ways to save on park tickets is by taking advantage of your kids being young. Kids under three are completely free to enter the parks, plus they may even eat for free at many locations and ride with you on your FastPass+ attractions without a FastPass+ for themselves.
23. Get Groceries Delivered
The Disney Dining Plans are convenient and let you try some of the most famous restaurants in the parks, but they’re expensive any way you slice it. Instead, get groceries delivered to your hotel room!
You can use Amazon’s PrimePantry if you’re a Prime member to get them shipped to your door for low prices, or you can choose from several delivery services that come to Disney resorts. Garden Grocer is a popular one, but there’s also InstaCart, WeGoShop, and more.
24. Skip the Combos
If you do find yourself eating some meals in the parks when you’re there all day, you might want to opt for ordering food without the combo that includes a side and drink. Most restaurant signs show combo prices and you can easily chop a few dollars off by just ordering a burger or sandwich without the fries and soda.
25. Ask for Free Water
Most restaurants and quick-serve kiosks within the park will gladly give you and your family free cups of water if you ask, so there’s no need to spend cash on bottled water. If your little ones aren’t fans of plain water, bring some bagged lemon slices or sugar-free flavoring packets to spruce it up.
26. Pack Lunches
Something I didn’t know when I first started going to Disney World was that the parks will let you bring packed lunches with a few restrictions, like no glass bottles.
Pack some sandwiches in the morning and you’ll have an inexpensive lunch waiting for you when you’re ready. Just let a Cast Member know that you have your own food with you when they’re checking your bags upon entrance!
You can check out the full rules for what’s allowed here.
27. Grab Lunch Instead of Dinner at Your Favorite Disney Dining Spots
There’s no need to completely skip out on your favorite dining spots to save money, but you can be smart about your visits. Instead of eating dinner at a popular restaurant, go there for lunch. In most cases, the menu will be the same or very similar, but the prices will be cheaper at lunchtime!
28. Split Meals
If you’ve never been to Disney World, you probably don’t know how big some of the meal portions can be. I’ve gotten into the habit of ordering less and splitting meals with others in my group because I can rarely finish a full meal.
Have two kids pick out a meal to share or share some of yours with the little ones. Instant savings!
Disney World is full of fun, adventure, and magic, but your wallet will thank you for trying to save money wherever you can. It’s just a matter of having a few tricks up your sleeve that can keep the magic alive without burning a huge hole in your pocket.
From hotel savings to paying less money in the parks, you now have some new ways to help you make the most of your vacation without spending more than necessary.
What other ways have you saved money on your Disney World vacations? We’d love to hear about it – drop a comment below!