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Walt Disney World is one of the greatest places in the world for a family vacation. The whole place is designed for families to have fun and spend time together. The problem is that it is expensive! But, it doesn’t have to break the bank. There are actually a lot of simple ways to make your trip to Disney World more affordable. Here are my best tips for going to Disney World on a dime.
Tip #1: Shorten the length of your trip.
One of the easiest ways to save hundreds or thousands of dollars on your trip to Walt Disney World is to shorten the length of your trip. Instead of going for a whole week, consider going for five days. Cutting two days off of your trip will not only mean two less nights of hotel, but also two less days of meals and park tickets. And you can still have an amazing time with your family, even though your trip is shorter.
Example: A 5-day trip to Disney World for my family of three in June 2020 is $1122 cheaper than a 7-day trip for the same time with the same components!
Tip #2: Spend one or more days outside the parks.
Another way to make your Disney trip cheaper is to not go to the parks everyday of your trip. If you spend one or more days outside the parks, you can save some money without sacrificing your fun. There are tons of things to do outside the parks at Disney World, and many of them are free. So, you can still have a great trip while spending some time exploring the other parts of Disney World.
Example: I can save $385 for my family to have 5 day park tickets instead of 7 day tickets, even if we stay for a full week.
Tip #3: Don’t get the park hopper.
With a base ticket for Disney World, you are allowed to go to one park per day. However, with the park hopper, you can get into up to four parks in one day. I love the convenience the park hopper gives me. It allows my family to go to one park in the morning and another one in the evening. But, if you are looking to go to Disney World on a dime, you should skip the park hopper. It adds $85.20 per adult ticket to your price tag. So, you are not giving up a lot by not getting it, but you can save a few hundred dollars. And honestly, for first timers, you can easily spend an entire day in each park and not run out of things to do.
Example: Skipping the park hopper can lower my vacation costs by $255!
Tip #4: Don’t get the dining plan.
The dining plan is another aspect of a Disney World trip that I love. Eating is a big part of the experience for us, and the dining plan makes it easy to prepay for food. But, it is pricey. So, if your budget is tight, this is a great place to trim some fat. The quick service plan is $52.49 per night for adults and $23.98 per night for kids ages 3-9. The mid-level plan will cost you $75.48 per night for adults and $27.98 per night for kids. The deluxe dining plan carries the hefty price tag of $116.24 per night for adults and $43.49 per night for kids. With these prices, you can easily pay out of pocket for meals and save money.
Example: A seven day trip without the dining plan for my family is $944 cheaper than the same week-long trip with the quick service plan.
Tip #5: Don’t get the Memory Maker.
Another tip for going to Disney World on a dime is to cut out the Memory Maker. This is Disney’s photography package. While it is great for capturing all of those precious moments, it is not absolutely necessary for you to have a memorable trip.
Example: Eliminating the Memory Maker will save my family $169 on our trip.
Tip #6: Don’t go to the water parks.
In addition to the four theme parks at Disney World, there are also two water parks. The water parks are not included in your basic park tickets, though. If you want to visit them, you will need to spend extra money. However, if you are trying to keep costs down, this is one expense that can be easily eliminated. A one day water park ticket is $69. Adding the park hopper plus option to your theme park tickets (which will give you admission to the water parks plus the park hopper) is $106.50 per person.
Example: My family would save $207 by skipping the one day water park admissions or $319 by not getting the park hopper plus option.
Tip #7: Stay in a value resort or offsite.
I highly recommend staying on property if you can afford it. But this doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank by staying in a deluxe resort. You can lower the price tag by staying in a value resort. The difference in price between a value and deluxe resort is approximately $160 versus $400-690 per night! You get the same perks of staying on property at the value resorts that you do at the deluxe ones. Staying offsite can save you even more.
Tip: Staying at a value resort can save you $1680 or more than staying in a deluxe resort during a week-long trip.
Tip #8: Consider camping.
If you want to lower your vacation costs even further, consider camping during your trip to Disney World. Believe it or not, you can camp at Disney’s Fort Wilderness for as low as $60 per night, depending on the season. This is as cheap if not cheaper than many offsite hotels. And, because you are on property, you will get the same benefits of staying at a Disney resort but for a much lower price!
Tip: Camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness for a week can cost less than one night in a deluxe resort.
Tip #9: Eat breakfast at the hotel.
Food is another area of a Disney World trip that can add up fast if you aren’t careful. To stay on a tight budget, buy some groceries for your hotel room and eat breakfast in the room. This is much more affordable because it is one less meal per day that you are eating in a restaurant. You can also eat lunch in your room too. You can stop on your way to Disney World and pick up some bagels or other simple food or order groceries online and have them delivered to your resort.
Example: Eating breakfast in our room would save my family approximately $150 over the course of a week at Disney World compared to eating in the food court of the resort.
Tip #10: Bring your lunch.
Many people don’t realize that Disney will allow you to bring your own food into the parks. As long as your cooler is not huge and you don’t use loose ice, you can bring it in. Rent a locker and put your lunch in there until you are ready to eat. Like the above tip, this will save you a couple hundreds of dollars during a week-long trip over eating at restaurants. When you order your groceries, order some sandwich or other lunch food to take with you each day. You can get cups of ice at any quick service restaurant when it’s time to eat.
Tip: Save $175 or more on food by packing a lunch every day to take to the parks with you instead of eating in a restaurant.
Tip #11: Eat quick service meals or snacks.
If you don’t want to hassle with getting groceries or taking food into the parks, you can still save some money on food by making some wise choices on what to eat. Instead of doing table service meals, stick to quick service restaurants or snacks. Quick service meals are much cheaper than table service options. Snacks are even cheaper. Eating several snacks throughout the day instead of actual meals can save you money.
Tip: You can save money on your food at Disney World by eating at quick service restaurants or snacks instead of table service meals.
Tip #12: Eat dinner outside the parks.
Another way to save money on your Disney World food bill is to eat dinner outside the parks. Restaurants off property are cheaper than those on property. So, even if it is for just one or two meals during your week, eating at non-Disney restaurants will save you some money. This can be enough to make your trip fit your budget.
Tip: Eating some meals off property will make your trip to Disney World more affordable.
Tip #13: Drive instead of fly.
If you live anywhere in the United States, you have the option of driving instead of flying to Disney World. This can, and usually will, be less expensive for your family. You will need to calculate how much gas it will take and whether you will need to spend the night in a hotel along the way and then compare that to the price of airline tickets for everyone in your family to know for sure. For us, it is almost always more cost-effective to drive from Texas than to fly.
Tip: Driving will almost always be more budget-friendly than flying.
Tip #14: Plan your trip a year or more in advance.
Set on taking your family to Disney World, but don’t have a lot of extra funds? Planning your trip a year or more in advance won’t make it less expensive, but it will allow you to save specifically for it. And if you book your trip directly through Disney, you can book it with a $200 deposit and then make payments on it up until 45 days prior to check in. For many families, this makes the trip more manageable instead of paying for the whole thing at once.
Tip: Book your trip early and make payments on it until it is paid off.
Tip #15: Get discounted tickets.
Disney World tickets are rarely discounted, and when they are, it is usually only by a small amount. If you see tickets for half off, beware! They are probably not real. But, you can find authentic discounted tickets if you go through an authorized ticket broker like Undercover Tourist. I have used them before with no problems.
Tip: Buying theme park tickets through Undercover Tourist can save you up to $82 per ticket.
Tip #16: Go during slower times.
Disney World recently changed the pricing of their theme park tickets. Now, the price varies depending on when you go. During busier times, the tickets are more expensive. During slower times, the same ticket cost less. So, if you are looking to go to Disney World on a dime, choose to go during a slower time of year. This will give you cheaper tickets and fewer crowds.
Example: Going in February 2020 instead of December 2019 can save you up to $30 per ticket per day.
Tip #17: Go when your children are younger.
At Disney World, children under the age of three are free. Kids between the ages of 3 and 9 pay child’s prices. Anyone age 10 and older pay adult prices. Not only are the park tickets less expensive for those under 10, but the dining plans are too. This means that you can save a lot of money by going when your kids are under 10. If you can, go when one or more kids are less than three to save even more.
Example: I can save $305 simply by going before my son’s tenth birthday instead of after!
Tip #18: Watch for special offers.
Disney will periodically release special offers that can reduce the price of your trip. If you have already booked your trip through Disney when an offer is released, you can call them and they will apply the discount to your trip. Additionally, be on the lookout for special offers through AAA, Costco, or other third party agents that can save you money.
Tip: Look for special offers that can save you money.
Tip #19: Use discounted gift cards.
You can use Disney gift cards to pay for your trip, meals, experiences, or souvenirs at Disney World. This is important because you can get discounted gift cards, which stretches your vacation dollars even further. Many times, Costco and Sam’s Club will have discounted gift cards. And you can sometimes use your Target Red card to get a 5% discount on gift cards. While it’s not a lot, saving a few dollars here and there can really add up.
Tip: Get discounted Disney gift cards through Costco, Sam’s Club, or Target to use towards your trip.
Tip #20: Save up for the trip.
My last tip for going to Disney World on a dime is pretty simple and straightforward: save up for the trip. If your vacation funds are tight this year, make a commitment to make this trip happen and start saving. Cut back on some luxuries, like your daily Starbucks or eating out every week. Put your extra change into a jar to save for the trip. It won’t take long to save up for the trip if you make it a priority.
Tip: Make the trip a priority and save up for it.
Taking a trip to Disney World is a right of passage for many families. However, it is expensive. These 20 tips will help you reduce that price tag if you are looking to go to Disney World on a dime. Good luck! Happy travels!