I wish I could sit here and tell you that planning a Disney World vacation is cheap and can be afforded without saving, but unless you have an enviable bank account, I simply can’t. Most of my trips were funded by putting extra cash aside for a couple months. For our group size of 3, it typically costs us between $2,000-3,000. This includes our park tickets, our stay on Disney property, a Memory Maker photo package, a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservation and the Disney Dining Plan.
What I can do is tell you how to save money on your Disney World vacation so the cost doesn’t completely wipe out your budget! A WDW trip doesn’t have to cost thousands upon thousands of dollars (pending group size).
So let’s get started!
- Acquire a travel agent – Planning a Disney World vacation is time-consuming and often frustrating. Booking a vacation with a travel agent relieves you of that pain! Not only do they take care of all the tedious planning, but they are on top of all the discounts available as soon as they are released. You don’t have to make that 6am call to make sure your reservation now has free dining. Your travel agent does that for you!.
My recommendations? Shana Reed’s Magic Wishes Travel is my person travel agent that I’ve used for years! Walt Express Travel by Grace Williams is another fantastic travel agent! Both are incredibly kind and helpful!
- Choose value over deluxe – If you’re wanting to stay on Disney property, but are being mindful of a tight budget, then choosing one of the value resorts over the moderate resorts or deluxe resorts might be your best option. Keep in mind, however, that some discounts may not be applicable for certain resorts.Can’t swing a stay on Disney property? No problem! There are plenty of resorts and hotels in Orlando that are just as nice, if not nicer, for a fraction of the cost of even one of the value resorts. When we’re not staying on Disney property, you can find us at Mystic Dunes. Keep in mind that staying at one of Disney’s 34 hotels and resorts has it’s perks – such as free parking, extra magic hours and choosing your Fast Pass reservations sooner.
My recommendations? Art of Animation is my all-time favorite value resort on Disney property. It has different themes that totally immerse you back into your childhood, such as The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Cars!
- Select a Disney Dining Plan – Food at Disney World is the best. Hands down. There’s so many delectable table service and quick restaurants to choose from, and it’s insanely difficult to not purchase a Premium Mickey Bar at a food cart or to not dine at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot!
While making your own meals at your resort/hotel or dining out at off-property restaurants will save you even more money, the Disney Dining Plan is another way to embrace the magic of Disney while sticking to a budget. You might get lucky and have the free dining plan discount land on the days of your trip. If you’re dates are flexible, you can always move them around to get that free dining plan!
- Utilize Garden Grocer – If you’re wanting to save money even further by not selecting a Disney Dining Plan in lieu of eating in your room, regardless of whether you’re staying on Disney property or off, then purchasing groceries from Garden Grocer is a must! Not everyone wants to eat Disney food or can afford to (most table service restaurants cost $100 for a family of 3, not including tips). You can purchase all kinds of goodies through Garden Grocer, like cereal, bread, meat, snacks, drinks and even alcoholic beverages.
Yes, you can bring your own snacks and non-alcoholic drinks inside of Disney World!
- Visit the outlets – I know it’s easy to get suckered into buying souvenirs at Disney World. Ask me how I know! I’m guilty of spending hundreds on items I considered ‘must-have’ at the time. To keep less money from leaving your wallet, visit the outlets to purchase your souvenirs instead!
I once purchased a $20 Minnie Mouse baseball cap for my daughter at Magic Kingdom, and she lost it that same day! We ventured over to Old Town, and I saw the SAME cap for less than half the price! That store had so much authentic Disney Parks merchandise for less!
- Purchase Disney gift cards and pay with them – This is one money-saving trick that a lot of folks aren’t privy to! You can save 4-5%, depending on the store you purchase them from, of your total cost by buying Disney gift cards and paying off your trip with them.
- Bring your own water bottle – Make sure to tote along a water bottle or two inside of a backpack or purse. There are plenty of water fountains in all of the Disney Parks to refill them. You could even bring along drink mixes to enhance the flavor!
Have you visited the Happiest Place on Earth? What are some of the ways that your family saves money? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!