As a parent of two toddlers that are avid Disney fans and Orlando area locals, we have learned how to do Disney World on a budget and do so regularly. While in the parks I often pause to smile at the families that have planned for a year or more and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars for their one time trip. Watching them makes my heart happy and keeps this local passholder humble about my ability to enjoy Disney World anytime I want. I have wanted to pause a few times to share some budget-friendly tips with families I see grabbing things they might not “have to”, but that would be a bit too aggressive. Here are a few of my go-to tips on how to do Disney World on a budget.
Look for Hotel Deals often and Consider Adjusting your Travel Dates
We’ve stayed at many Disney World resorts and have snagged some fantastic deals! Last summer we grabbed a value resort room for $80 on a Saturday night! You might have to be a bit more flexible with the date range you prefer when going to Disney World and be willing to try a hotel that might not have been on the top of your list.
I check the hotel rates often and adjust dates to see what special discounts are available. Disney passholders and Florida residents are able to take advantage of special rates, but there are also special deals during specific times of the year for everyone to partake in. Considering a last-minute summer trip or planning a trip in February when crowds are often at their lowest are great options.
Avoid Special Events
When Disney announced that their 50th anniversary celebration will begin on October 1, 2021. Tickets to Magic Kingdom on that day are $140 per person, excluding tax. From October through the end of the year, ticket prices remain pretty consistent and cost between $133-$159 a person.
When planning Disney on a budget, one of the most important things to do is avoid any special events or times of year at the parks when large amounts of people will be in attendance as the price of tickets and resort stays increase. While it might only be an increase of around $30 per ticket, it can add up quickly when you factor in multiple people in your party and tax (on top of eating and drinking and other expenditures). So, if you’re anxious to visit during the later part of September or second week in October, be aware that special events will increase the price of tickets you’re looking to purchase during that time frame.
Go Value Hotel
Disney Value Resort have a lot of great benefits and are still a quality choice. If your wondering which one to choose read our article The Best Disney Value Resorts Ranked.
If you are insisting you stay on Disney property then you will want to ensure you are traveling during a less popular time of year so you can get a discounted room rate.
If you’re going to Disney on a budget, it would stand to reason that staying off property will get you more bang for your buck. But that’s not always true. While, yes, an off-property motel or hotel will be a lot cheaper than a five night stay at the Grand Floridian, you’re actually saving money if you opt for one of Disney’s value resorts.
Here’s a list of the different value resorts on Disney property:
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Read more: The Best Disney Value Resorts Ranked
Stay Off Property
It is significantly cheaper to rent a vacation home or stay at an offsite hotel. If you don’t want to stray too far from Disney stay at one of the hotels on Hotel Boulevard. They are within walking distance from Disney Springs! With the Disney Springs construction, there is even a NEW walking bridge to avoid traffic.
If you need a bigger space because you have a larger family or you just want to stay at one of the DVC resorts we recommend looking to renting Disney Vacation Club points. You can do this by borrowing from a friend who isn’t going to use all their point or through a reseller. We love using David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
Book Through a Travel Agent
During our last stay, I used a travel agent and she tracked the deals for me! I was in the middle of planning a wedding and totally overwhelmed with everything else. My travel agent notice a price drop and then rebooked our vacation. It saved us more than a hundred dollars!
Drive Instead of Fly
Depending on how large your family is and how far away from Disney World you are it is often cheaper to drive. Plus, you won’t have to worry about transportation once you are there. It gives you the flexibility to stop at the grocery store or check out other local attractions in the Orlando area.
Taxis are VERY expensive, avoid them at all costs. We recommend instead using Uber or a Lyft.
Use Flight Comparison Tools
If you do decide that flying is the best option for your family be sure to use a price comparison tool so you don’t overpay for your flight.
Eat Breakfast In Your Room
A cup of coffee and a pastry can cost around $20 for a family of four. But, let’s face it — that’s probably not what you or your kids want for breakfast. My husband and I have spent about $35 for breakfast while staying at a value resort, including our cups of coffee. For a family of four, you’re probably well into $100 territory before you even set foot outside your resort.
One way to combat this is by packing and bringing your own breakfast that won’t expire during your trip. This includes packs of oatmeal or cereal and buying a small bottle of milk to split between your party. Most family suites at value resorts come equipped with microwaves and refrigerators, but you can also utilize the microwaves in the food courts at all the All-Star resorts (for example, if you’re staying there).
By eating at your resort in the morning, you could easily be saving a few hundred dollars during your stay. It also helps you fight the temptation of stopping in at Starbucks as soon as you enter the parks.
Pack Food and Drinks
This applies to hotel stays and on the days you are spending inside the Disney World parks. We grab groceries to stock in our hotel room when staying on property and always pack lunches when going into the theme parks. I always bring in multiple water bottles, sandwiches, snacks, fruit chilled in a lunch box, and favorite sweet treats. Disney World snacks are fantastic, but limiting the budget to just buying one and packing snacks is the smarter financial option. You can fill up water bottles throughout the parks too!
Ask for a Cup of Water Instead of Bottled
Like we mentioned earlier, a bottle of water at the parks will cost you around $3.50. When you’re ordering lunch, ask for a cup of water instead. It’ll be much smaller, but it’s free. You can also bring in your own water bottle (as long as it’s not glass) and fill up your bottle at the various water fountains around the parks.
Garden Grocer allows you to order your groceries online and have them delivered to your resort. These guys are great and really know their stuff, they have been in business for over 10 years now! Check out more over on their website.
This one is my favorite, we use it all the time just for our regular household supply stock up. This also works great for trips too, though. Simply go to the Amazon, pick out your groceries, and have it shipped to the hotel. If you spend $50 you can get free shipping, otherwise, it’s a $5.99 shipping fee.
Food prices at Disney are pretty steep. We bring our own water bottles in to save us some big cash. Especially in the summer where we can easily go through 3 drinks in a day (this is outside of our meals!).
These guys sell tickets cheaper than you can purchase them from Disney directly! They are an authorized Disney ticket reseller and are trustworthy and reliable which cannot be said for all the other resellers out there. Right now they have a special running for our readers – Save $48 on a Disney World 4-Day Park Hopper & get 3 extra days! Hop through all 4 parks.
Skip Parkhopper Tickets
While we love park hopping, it does add a significant cost to your trip. To break out the expense for you a one day ticket costs $37.28 with tax. For two or three day ticket, the cost is $52.19. With a four to ten day ticket, the cost is a flat $63.90 per ticket for both kids and adults with tax. On a six-day ticket, the cost for the upgrade comes out to $10.65 per day. As you can see once you factor in the size of your family this added price builds up quickly.
BYOS (Bring Your Own Stroller)
Renting a stroller through Disney can be super convenient but it also is very expensive. Try picking a cheap one up off of Amazon and have it delivered to your resort. See more about mailing things to your hotel here! Or bring your own stroller from home. Keep in mind that Disney is equal to a lot of miles and will significantly wear out your expensive stroller.
Shop for Souvenirs before your Trip
Inevitably, your kids or maybe even you will want to buy some souvenirs during your Disney vacation. The souvenirs you find in the parks can get pricey so, we recommend picking up a few surprises for your kids ahead of your trip.
Take your Kids when they are Under 3
Did you know Disney Park tickets are FREE to children under the age of 3? It’s a great time for parents to enjoy Disney without having to worry about the added expense of bringing their children.
There is no ticket required and no parking fee to enjoy all of the offerings at Disney Springs. There are shops, restaurants, movie theater, bowling, and live music at the Springs. My boys love making a visit there to play in the Lego store, which is absolutely free! During the summer months, I encourage families to take advantage of the splash pads as well.
Resort Hop and Monorail Rides
Visiting the Disney World resorts are free and a must. There are times that the resorts don’t allow parking due to capacity and at that point, I would recommend riding a Disney bus or the monorail to explore the resorts. The monorail will take you from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary Resort, The Polynesian Resort, and The Grand Floridian. There is also an option to catch a boat ride from The Contemporary Resort to The Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. You can easily spend hours exploring resorts via boat, monorail, or bus system. To view most of the moderate and value resorts you will have to take the bus or your car. I will add the bus system will be one of the slowest options, so plan accordingly.
Enjoy Festivals with a Group of People
The only way I’ve been able to partake in the Food & Wine Festival options (and there are SO many) is by attending in groups and prepping what we wanted to try that day. Epcot offers different festivals throughout the year and the Food & Wine tends to bring the largest of crowds. Sampling all the food and drink options can break the bank. When you plan to go in a group you can split the pairings and rotate out spending.
During one of my last visits at the Food & Wine Festival, I bought 2 food options and 1 drink BUT enjoyed 5 food options and 3 drink options by splitting and cost sharing with a group of friends. Yes, some of the food and drink options are on the smaller side which can be challenging when it comes to sharing, but if you want to partake in a heavy amount of taste testing throughout the festival this is the budget-friendly way to do so. Surprisingly I leave full each time I do this!
Enjoy the Disney World Freebies
You can learn more about free things available at Disney World here. Be sure to grab your free button regardless of what you’re celebrating, park maps, and Birthday treats during your visit. Another thing to keep in mind is that every Disney PhotoPass cast member will use your camera and/or phone to take photos, this is a good option if you don’t have the memory maker option.
Disney Gift Cards
Did you know you can find Disney gift cards at a discount? There are a few ways to save money on Disney gift cards. First is going to Target and shopping with your Target Redcard. This will save you 5% off your purchase, gift cards are included! Second, if you have a membership card to a big box store you can find them at a discount there as well. We have found BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club all sell Disney Gift Cards at a discount.
For more: Discount Disney Gift Cards
Bring Your Own Travel Necessities
If you plan ahead there are loads of things you can bring along that will save you money. We recommend bringing things like ponchos, portable batteries and so much more! We even took the time to create 20 Items to Buy Online Before Your Next Disney Trip and it’s saved our readers big time!
Take a Break from the Parks
On your travel days if you forgo the expense of a Disney park ticket you will save your family hundreds. This gives you an opportunity to experience the free things Disney has to offer! We were able to find 20 things at Disney World you could do without a ticket and put it all in an article for you.
There are so many ways to plan a very budget friendly Disney trip from an overnight stay to a day at Disney Springs with no park fees involved at all. When planning how to do Disney World on a budget consider what you want to spend a majority of your budget on and fill the rest in with what you already have access to. Some times we want to experience a resort and opt for no theme park and purchase groceries and other times we want a dining experience and then opt for that experience to be outside of the parks to limit park fees. Enjoy Disney World on a budget while creating magical memories.
You can find me pushing a double stroller through the magic most days.
I’m a toddler boy mom that has a passion for Florida living and all things Disney! As a Florida native and self proclaimed Disney staycation pro, I look forward to guiding you through the magic.
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