Disney vacations can be expensive, especially for families. Between airfare, park tickets, dining, accommodations, souvenirs, and everything else, your trip to the happiest place on earth can turn into a hole in your wallet. You don’t have to completely wreck your family’s budget just because you want to take your kids to meet Mickey and Minnie. In fact over the past three years, I have been on a Disney Vacation twice! With a little research and some careful planning, you can save money on everything from your airline tickets to your park passes. We have had our share of money-wasting mistakes, and frugal successes on these trips which is why I’m sharing with you my best tips for how you can save thousands on your Walt Disney World vacation!
How to Save Thousands on your Walt Disney World Vacation
Buy Discounted Park Tickets
You should never pay full price for your Disney tickets! There are several authorized resellers that sell those same Disney park tickets at steep discounts. You can even get all of the same perks you would have if you purchased them directly from Disney. Here is a list of some of the authorized Disney ticket resellers:
You should never buy tickets on eBay or Craigslist. Disney tickers are non-transferable. Once your ticket has been partially used, they are tied to your unique fingerprint. If you end up buying a ticket that was partially-used or counterfeit, Disney won’t be able to help you. Plus, you’ll have to pay for full price tickets at the gate. When comparing prices, remember that Disney doesn’t include the Florida sales tax in their listed prices, whereas some of these sellers do.
Stay at an Off-Site Hotel
While Disney hotels have immersive themes and some cool perks, they are usually WAY more expensive than any of the non-Disney owned properties. If you are pinching pennies, one of the best ways to cut back is by staying at an off-site hotel. Many of the off-site hotels are within walking distance from the parks, and most of them offer shuttle services and some even offer character breakfasts. During both of our trips, we have stayed at off-site hotels and had a great time. You will be spending most of your time in the park anyway, so the room you stay in won’t make a big difference.
Stay on Site if the Perks are Worth It
I know this might sound contradictory, since I literally just told you to stay off-site. However, sometimes it is actually cheaper to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort instead of an off-site hotel. Disney World resort guests get a lot of freebies such as free parking, free Magical Express airport transfers, free transportation from the resort to the parks, after magic hours, and more. Every so often, Disney has great sales on their lodging, so be sure to look for these deals before resorting to an off-site hotel.
Use Disney’s FREE Travel Agents
Did you know that Disney has paid travel agents on site for your to use? That’s right! At no cost to you, you can get help planning your Disney vacation through one of Disney’s onsite travel agents. They usually have access and knowledge of the best deals out there, and they can save you time and money!
Sign up for Disney Emails
Disney has a number of sales throughout the year that range from free dining plans to hotel discounts. Be sure to sign up for emails to make sure you don’t miss any great deals and to help you plan your trip!
Let Disney know if You’re Celebrating!
If you are celebrating a special occasion, be sure to let Disney know! You will receive a complimentary button reflecting your celebration from either Guest Services or your resort hotel. When I went to Disney for my birthday, we got free drinks!
If your Hotel doesn’t offer a Free Shuttle, Use Uber or Lyft
Using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft will save you tons of money on transportation to and from the Disney parks. It’s significantly cheaper than a taxi and you’ll only need to wait a few minutes. We did this on one of our trips, it was easy and inexpensive.
Buy These Items Ahead of Time
One of the things that makes Disney so expensive is the hefty price tags on their souvenirs and other items throughout the park. Here are things you can buy cheaper outside the park, and you’ll be glad you did later:
- Rain Ponchos: You can pick these up on Amazon or your local dollar store for significantly less than in the park.
- Autograph Book: Buying them in the park could put you out $20 or more! Buy them ahead of time here or make your own.
- Character Outfits: If you wait to buy character outfits in the park, you could be out $50-$100 per outfit. Buy them from Halloween stores or from Amazon before going on your Disney vacation.
- Disney Pins: Disney pins make a great souvenir, however buying them in the park could put you out $8-$10 per pin. They can be found on Amazon for far less!
- Souvenirs: While buying something in the park can be a magical experience, everything in the park is usually marked up. You can find the same mugs, stuffed animals, and other fun souvenirs online or at Disney stores for significantly less.
BYOF: Bring your Own Food
Did you know that Disney parks allow you to bring food inside the park? This means you can pack full lunches for the day, or even just a few snacks to save some money! Food inside the park is extremely expensive and this one small move can save you big time. Be sure to also pack a reusable water bottle to fill up throughout the day.
You don’t need a lot of money to be able to enjoy a Disney vacation on a budget. If you are planning a Disney vacation for your family this year, be sure to keep this post handy to reference later!