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Going to a Disney theme park can be SUCH a magical and exciting experience.
However, although it’s one of the most magical places on the planet, it can be outrageously expensive—especially if you bring the kids.
And since it’s Disney, you’ll probably want to take the kids.
Everything from traveling to the park to booking a hotel room to buying the park tickets can cost a pretty penny.
And the prices are only rising every year.
But, there’s some good news: if you do it right, you can have a Disney vacation that won’t kill your budget.
Follow the money-saving tips in this article, and you’ll be able to enjoy everything a Disney park has to offer.
And, you’ll be able to have a super enjoyable vacation without having to toss your carefully cultivated frugal principles out the window!
Read on to find out what these money-saving strategies are, and you might be able to save hundreds of dollars on your vacation to the Magic Kingdom!
- Plan Early
There’s so much that goes into planning your epic Disney vacation.
This includes everything from where to stay to what to eat to what exactly you’re going to do.
To save the most cash on your Disney trip, start your planning early, so you have enough time to explore all your money-saving options.
2. Use a Travel Agent
Travel agents have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves that will save you money.
The best part is most of the time, Disney pays the travel agents—not you.
So not only will using a travel agent make planning easier, it won’t even cost you a dime!
3. Check Out the Message Boards
Fellow travelers and other Disney fanatics have incredible insights on saving cash at Disney theme parks.
Here, you’ll get valuable insights on the best times to go, deals you might not have heard about elsewhere, and tips and tricks about making the best use of your time.
4. Check the Disney Special Offers Page
Disney themselves often offer incredible deals that are offered on their “special offers” section of their website.
When the company has exclusive deals, email subscribers are the first to be alerted.
Keeping your ears and eyes to the ground can help you nab those deals before anyone else has heard of them.
5. Consider Becoming an Annual Passholder
It might seem counterintuitive to become an annual pass holder or DVC member because the upfront costs are enormous.
But if you’re a frequent flyer at Disney theme parks, it could be SO worth it.
That’s because pass holders and DVC members get a dizzying array of discounts on everything from merchandise to dining!
6. Check Out Eligible Discounts
Check on whether you’re eligible for discounted Disney tickets.
They offer amazing discounts for military personnel, AAA and AARP members, and even residents of the great state of Florida.
7. Use Your Target RedCard
If you use your Target RedCard, you automatically save five percent off Disney gift cards.
Use your gift cards for things like souvenirs, meals, and for your park tickets.
8. Save Money by Buying Gift Cards
Budget how much you’ll spend at the park and buy gift cards for this amount at Sam’s Club or Costco.
To save even more, buy your gift cards with a credit card that accrues points.
9. Get a Disney Chase Visa Card
A Disney Visa Card will earn you a plethora of points you can use towards your vacation.
There are so many other incredible benefits to having one of these cards, too!
However, only do this if you can pay off the balance every month.
10. Buy Tickets from Discount Sellers
Park tickets are going to be one of your most significant trip expenses, so shop around for the best deals on them.
This can lead to HUGE savings.
11. Buy Tickets for More Than One or Two Days
Buy multiple-day tickets for Disney theme parks.
If you purchase one- or two-day park tickets, you’re not going to get a discount.
The key is to buy a pass for four or more days.
The more days it’s for, the bigger the discount you’ll get.
This can result in a whole lot more park time for a cheaper per ticket rate.
12. Don’t Get the Park Hopper Option
Disney might try to coax you to splurge for extras like park hopping.
While these frills might sound like a good idea, they can add up.
Park hopper tickets allow you to maximize your Disney time by letting you visit more than one park in a single day.
Don’t purchase a park hopper ticket because even though it will let you go to more than one park a day, you’ll be rushing around too much going from one park to another.
This is no way to experience Disney!
Go to a maximum of one park each day, so you get to really enjoy your experience.
Besides, you’ll probably use up all your FastPasses at the first park, so you’re probably going to have to stand in long lines at the second one.
13. Take Your Own Pictures
The Memory Maker experience gives you access to high-quality photos of you and your family from all over the park.
However, it’s pricey.
To save money, take your own photos or have someone take them for you.
Instead of using Memory Maker, have the official Disney photographers take a pic with your phone.
This way, you won’t have to buy anything while taking advantage of the photographer’s presumed exceptional photographic skills.
14. Plan Out What You Want to Do
There’s a dizzying array of options at every Disney theme park.
That’s why it’s best to come up with a detailed plan of what you want to see.
This way, you make the most of your time.
Good touring plans include prioritizing what you what to do, making the most out of FastPass+, and getting to the park before they drop the rope and let the masses in.
Wasting time at a Disney park is something YOU DON’T WANT TO DO.
15. Don’t Come Hungry
Don’t arrive at the park with a ravenous appetite, because you’ll end up splurging for Disney’s outrageously priced culinary fare.
Instead, have a hearty breakfast.
One way to do this is to whip up a delicious bowl of oatmeal in your hotel room beforehand.
Oatmeal is easy to make, affordable, and very filling.
That way, you won’t be so tempted to waste your money on overpriced food.
16. Set A Strict Food Budget
Set a strict budget for yourself not only for the whole trip but also for each day.
If you want to eat at park restaurants, research the options beforehand and see which ones are the most affordable.
But if you’re able to avoid eating dinner at all costs, because it’s the most expensive of all the dining options.
17. Breakfast Character Experiences are the Cheapest
One of the great joys for younger children is meeting the characters.
However, if you want your kid to enjoy a character experience, take her to a breakfast one.
They’re just as fun as the dinner ones and SO much cheaper!
18. Skip the Meal Plan and Buy Your Own Food
If you want to be exceedingly frugal at a Disney park, skip the meal plan.
The only time you should entertain this idea is if you can free dining as part of a vacation package.
Instead, bring your own food and budget money for snacks in the park.
Having plenty of food on hand will help prevent your tykes from getting cranky from being too hungry.
Then, you won’t have to cave and buy them high-priced junk to keep them happy.
This will ward off temper tantrums that could put a damper on the festivities.
Disney isn’t really known for its world-class cuisine, so you should probably save your money and bring your own food.
So, pack your sandwiches and have a nice picnic in a quiet corner of the park.
The first thing you’ll want to do at the park is to the grocery store, so you’ll be all stocked up.
But even if you don’t have a car on your vacation, you can order groceries through a delivery service.
You’ll pay a small premium for the privilege, but it will be cheaper than having all your meals in restaurants.
But you probably won’t have to buy too much to eat food because you and your family will be freakin’ excited about being in the Magic Kingdom.
And because you’re so excited, you won’t be in the mood for eating a lot.
This means you should probably have your kids eat light, as heavy meals will most likely go to waste.
Just remember you can’t bring glass containers (except for baby food jars) or alcohol.
19. Bring A Cooler Backpack
A great idea is to bring a cooler backpack and fill it up with delicious and nutritious meals and snacks.
Freeze your water bottles before putting them in your backpack.
By the time you’ve purchased your ticket and start walking around, they’ll begin to melt and be nice and cold, ready for you to drink them.
That water will undoubtedly hit the spot on a sweltering Florida day!
20. Bring Refillable Water Bottles
It’s hot as heck at the Disney theme parks, and when you’re walking ten miles or more per day, you’re going to need to stay hydrated.
So, buy a reusable water bottle, so you don’t have to buy their exorbitantly priced beverages.
Disney can charge up to four bucks per water bottle, and in the sweltering Florida heat, the costs can add up fast.
With your own refillable water bottle, you can take advantage of the many water fountains around the park.
And every quick service location at Walt Disney World has cups of ice water available for guests.
If you forgot to bring a reusable bottle and you’re totally parched, head to one of the eateries and ask for free water.
They have to give it to you.
If you want to purchase beverages in the park, a cheaper way to do it is to buy a refillable souvenir drink cup.
It costs $19.99 plus tax, and you can get free refills on soda, tea, or coffee during your entire stay.
21. Bring Your Own Soda
Bring your own soda from home to save on ridiculously high prices at the theme parks.
A little-known fact is you can get complimentary ice at any theme park service counter.
This will render your home-brought beverage immediately frigid.
This is yet another great way to save money at Disney!
22. Get a Refillable Popcorn Bucket
If you’re a colossal popcorn eater like I am, buy a refillable popcorn bucket.
It costs ten bucks for the bucket and only two dollars to refill it.
This way, you can feed your popcorn addiction for an amazingly low price!
23. Eat at Quick Service Restaurants
Eat at quick-service restaurants instead of the fancier options, and you’ll save a whole bunch of money.
These are restaurants like Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café and Sunshine Seasons.
And best of all, these dining establishments have some incredibly healthy choices.
24. Snack Your Way Around the Park
If you don’t want heavy meals that will make you sick on the rides, consider buying some light snacks.
Some of Walt Disney World’s most popular foods, including Mickey pretzels, popcorn, Dole Whip, and Mickey ice bars, are cheap eats options.
You’ll have some tasty food and save a little cash.
25. Get Your Coffee from the Hotel
Get free coffee from your room instead of getting a three buck one from the food court or buying an expensive Starbucks on.
Most Disney resorts have coffee makers and complimentary coffee in their rooms.
26. Split A Meal
Like most restaurants on this planet of ours, Disney theme parks are known for their insanely huge portions.
Even the kids’ meals are insanely huge.
Two kids can easily share one meal and feel full!
If you’re an adult, split a meal with a fellow traveler.
If you’ve never done this before, you’d be surprised how much food one meal can provide.
Who really wants a full stomach at the Magic Kingdom anyway?
27. Don’t Forget to Pack the Ponchos
Buy cheap dollar store ponchos if you’re going to a Florida park because it rains a lot there.
If you wait until you’re inside the park to buy ponchos, you’ll pay a lot more.
28. Get Off-Site Accommodations
Another excellent way to save bucketloads of cash is to secure off-site accommodations.
There are so many luxurious Disney resorts, but the fact that they’re luxurious means they’re not exactly budget-friendly.
That means if you want your Disney experience to be as frugal as possible, find accommodations elsewhere.
There are plenty of amazingly cheap options within five miles of every Disney park
Often, you’ll get many of the same perks you’d get at a super fancy Disney resort.
If you book a stay at a hotel that has a beautiful pool and water slides, you can keep your tykes entertained for no additional expense.
Plus, you’ll most likely get free shuttle rides into the park from your hotel.
If free shuttle rides are one of your perks, you’ll save tons of moolah on parking.
And, if you fly to Orlando, you won’t even have to shell out money for a car!
29. Visit During the Off-Season
Visit during the offseason, and you’ll be able to see and do more because the crowds won’t be huge.
This will make your vacation more cost-effective.
Hey—even if you’re doing it frugally, you’re still paying a lot for the privilege of being at Disney, so you want to make every penny count!
If you want to score the most significant discounts, plan a trip between September and May.
And if you want to score the biggest savings, January to March is the best time.
30. Use David’s Vacation Rentals
Believe it or not, if you use a site called David’s Vacation Rentals, there are times when staying on-site can be an affordable option.
Here, you can rent other people’s timeshares for bargain-basement prices.
What’s more, you don’t even have to be a Disney Vacation Club member!
In fact, there’s no membership requirement whatsoever.
All you have to do is mosey on over to the site.
There, you can see which Disney accommodations are available for the dates of your vacation.
By booking your vacation this way, you might even save hundreds of dollars on your Disney vacation.
31. Scooters and Strollers
You do have the option of renting strollers at Disney World.
But like everything else Disney, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for this privilege.
So, to save money, bring your own.
The same goes for scooters.
If you have mobility issues and need a scooter, bring your own, because renting one from Disney is outrageous.
32. Use the Magical Express
Instead of renting a car, use the free shuttle service between all the Disney parks, Disney Springs, and the Disney resorts.
This is called the Magical Express.
Shuttles come every 20 minutes, so you never have to wait long.
If you’re staying on-site, the Magical Express will pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel.
This saves you on taxi/Uber fees.
So, remember to use this if you’re lucky enough to score on-site accommodations.
33. Take Advantage of Free Stuff
There are some free things you can take advantage of at the theme parks.
For example, in the Magic Kingdom, you can get Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards from Main St. USA, celebration pins all throughout the parks, and stickers from cast members.
34. Buy Your Souvenirs Before You Get There
Avoid buying any merchandise at Disney if you want to save the most money.
Buy your Disney souvenirs at a local department store, and you’ll pay SO much less.
They’ll have much of the same merchandise at lower prices.
You can also buy your souvenirs even before you get there on Amazon for huge savings.
It’s cheaper than buying them in the parks.
This even includes Disney ears, which I hear are all the rage now.
Your kids don’t have to know you bought them before you even got there.
Surprise them when you’re on vacation, and they’ll be none the wiser.
35. Bring Your Autograph Book from Home
Instead of spending fifteen bucks in the park for an autograph book, make your own before you go.
It will cost you a fraction of the price, and your kiddies can get the autographs of all their favorite characters.
The Disney theme parks are places where kids of all ages experience boundless joy.
However, just because they’re among the happiest places on the planet doesn’t mean you have to throw all financial caution to the wind.
Because despite what others might tell you, it’s well within the realm of possibility to have a fantastic time without having to go into debt.
Remember to bring as much from home with you as you’ll need because anything you have to buy on-site will be wickedly overpriced.
Keep in mind that the parks employ sophisticated psychological tricks to separate you from your hard-earned money.
That’s why if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself whipping out your wallet like a madman.
Then, you’ll plunk your dollar bills down for that expensive trinket you can buy for a few bucks on Amazon.
If your kids start to beg you for souvenirs, take a minute to remind everyone they’re there to have fun.
Tell them in a diplomatic way it’s not a contest to see how much they can spend!
If you can get everyone to adopt a frugal vacation mindset, you’ll maximize your enjoyment by minimizing your spending.
And in the end, isn’t that what the frugal journey is all about?