You, like most people going to Disney World, are probably looking for the best deal when it comes to your vacation. Because lets admit it, Disney World is pretty dang expensive.
But it doesn’t have to be out of reach. With some simple planning, some good hacks and a few secrets, you can be on the way to the trip of a lifetime. Because it’s hard to go to Disney World when you can’t afford to go to Disney World!
Sure, you can get a package deal because your ‘on vacation’ and don’t want to worry about money at a time like this.
But instead, I’ll encourage you to vacation to your budget, NOT the one that Disney wants you to spend! Disney is a business after all, and they are happy to take your money.
Let’s strike a balanced budget full of fun and some smart financial options for an absolutely magical, and totally unforgettable Disney World Vacation!
Ready to save money? Here’s our top 20 Budget Hacks for that Magical Vacation you are dreaming of !
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Tips, hacks and secrets to get you saving the most money at Disney World
Bring it in
The food that it- I don’t care what anyone says. When my kids are screaming I end up spending 40 dollars on ice cream and 50 dollars on bottle water.
For real friends. For real.
But if you pack a few snacks, you’ll be amazed at what you can save! These saving can be added into the souvenir budget, or just simply saved for another vacation. (and no, i don’t recommend the Disney Dining plan for 95% of people, unless you’re an anal type A who can maximize the plan)
We use this collapsible cooler for snacks, since we eat them all in a few hours and can just fold it up for under the stroller or put it in a locker! This is a really great option to bring if you do a day at the water parks!
If you aren’t a bring it in type person then you should…
Plan your meals for ultimate money saving goodness!
Let me let you in on a secret, many of the table service restaurants serve the same food, the same portions (they are pretty large!) and the same atmosphere at lunch AND at dinner. But dinner time they charge a lot more.
So if you go during lunch, not only will you get the ambience of Disney and a great afternoon break, but you’ll be spending less on the same type of food!
Quick serve is a great option for dinner so you don’t miss any of the shows or magical windows where you ride times decrease.
Ideally, to save the most on food, you would:
✨Eat Breakfast in your hotel room (or do character breakfasts as they are the most budget friendly out of the three time slots!)
✨Do a sit down table service for lunch (great break and cheaper food)
✨Do quick service for dinner (and if you’re at the resort, it’s even more food for less than if you do it in the parks!)
✨Bring in your own snacks! (the picture below? My bag is FULL OF SNACKS!)
But seriously, h20
No matter, you pack a lunch or do ALL your meals in the parks, please please please bring a water bottle!
It is SO much cheaper to bring in your own bottled water or bring in a water bottle to refill. AND disney has some super nifty water refill stations!
let me say it again for the people in the back.
SO. MUCH. CHEAPER
I highly recommend this water bottle as my go-to for theme parks, but really any plastic or stainless steal water bottle will do!
PRO TIP: you cannot bring in glass bottles. Bummer I know! But this stainless steel one does the trick for us!
Get the cheapest souvenirs you can find at Disney World
There’s not many things you can get for less than a dollar in the US- and certainly not at a theme park.
But there ARE a few things left
Pressed pennies anyone? Yep, these little guys are a great way to have fun AND stay on a budget.
Pressed Pennies now take cards- so no more jingling for coins. And if you get something like this super cool penny wristlet, it doubles as a souvenir you can use outside the parks!
You can even get a picture frame to store all your pressed pennies (and a snazzy shot to remind you of your budget Disney World Trip! )
Go the best time of the year for budget friendliness
Which, in case your wondering when the best times to go to Disney World are, the months of January and September tend to be the ‘cheapest’ and the most expensive is November and December.
If you can’t help but go during the busy times of spring break and christmas, you’ll need to budget accordingly.
It’s raining… it’s pouring
Please- if there’s one thing you do, plan for the weather.
You don’t want to buy a 25 dollar umbrella, 50 dollar rain coat or a 15 dollar umbrella.
Personally, I grab a these lifesaver pack of ponchos to bring with me, because I’m not about that 15 dollar poncho life.
Plan to relax
Relax? On vacation? HA.
Well- you can relax at Disney World and it’s recommended. Take a day off from the parks and enjoy many of the cheap and free things at the parks. This will save you from paying for a park ticket and give your feet a break! (after all, you’ll walk like 13 miles)
And a little TMI- this could save you on your visit if you’ve got the thunder thighs like I do. The solution to chub rub and hating your thighs- I always bring this with me when I go to Disney World.
Spend time in the parks on the right days
Disney changes their pricing daily- it’s fascinating from a marketing standpoint but not so great if your watching your budget.
There’s a reason they don’t have the prices online or on the app for their restaurants.
The days that err on the less expensive side are the weekdays, with the weekends being more expensive.
Get your groceries Delivered (or pick them up!)
At least snacks- especially if you have kids. The amount of sugar filled expensive options at Disney World is insane (in both the good and bad way) so stock up with the less expensive options.
The options are endless! Amazon delivers packages and same day delivery, Instacart and Door Dash and UberEats… they all go to the Disney Resorts and surrounding hotels!
If you get a chance to visit the Walmart by Disney World, you’ll quickly see why it is the most visited walmart in THE ENTIRE USA. Yes, it is the BUSIEST store ever!
But i’d personally recommend target pickup! Just buy your stuff on the app, and grab a spot in the parking lot. Game changer!
Purchase souvenirs for the kids ahead of time
Which is easy enough, or swing by the character warehouse while your in town. Both of those options could save you 50-75% on souvenirs.
We are big fans of shopping online at Target and storing up some smaller and bigger Disney Items. Everything from pajamas, to light up toys, are so much cheaper at the official Disney Target shop versus buying them in the parks!
People swear by staying on property because it ‘saves money’ but I’ve done the math a 100 times and I’ve never seen it if your resort has transportation to the parks and can offer things like free breakfast.
Especially somewhere like the swan and dolphin where you can use points to pay for your stay.
Or you could stay at Universal Studios in the new Dockside Inn, and have two bedrooms for around 100-150 dollars a night! Then just uber into the parks (20 minutes) because it’s the same as what you’d pay to park at Disney World.
Avoid deals that are too good to be true
30 dollar tickets? nah bro, you’re getting scammed. If it’s too good to be true, it really is.
Don’t buy your tickets on Ebay EVER! Please don’t use these “ticket centers” that are all over orlando! From random shopping mall kiosks to stand alone building… do. not. recommend.
If you need reputable budget saving options on a package deal, consider a quote from a Travel Agent, and be honest about your budget. Let them know what kind of vacation you are looking for, and see if a Travel Expert could actually help you stay in budget and have a magical vacation (because they can, about 90% of the time!)
Make it a double adventure!
This may sound counterintuitive, but getting an annual pass can provide more savings if you plan to come more than once.
Annual passholders get discounts on food, merchandise and hotel stays, and it really makes a difference if this isn’t a once in a lifetime trip. Plus there’s so many cheap and fun things to do around the parks!
Or consider a special event pass
Disney has lots of ‘extra’ options that can be a big bonus to your budget.
For example, you can skip a regular park ticket and instead get a special events ticket like for Mickey’s Not so scary halloween party.
So sleep in that day, then go to the party that night. This way you save the cost of a ticket you’ll only use for half the day.
Make use of all the free and cheap things you can do at Disney World
SO MANY FREE AND CHEAP THINGS I CAN’T LIST THEM ALL
Let’s do my top 5 favorite
Free- go to the fort wilderness campground singalong and hang out with some hilarious folks and chip and dale
Free- chill out at the pool all day and put your feet up
Free- walk around Disney Springs and check out the World’s largest Disney Store
Cheap- go putt putt golfing! You normally get a coupon if you preorder your magic bands and stay on property.
Cheap- dining outside the parks at the character meals on property (like Cape May Cafe- pictured below!)
Skip the Park Hopper Pass
This is an extra expense that hardly ever is a make or break for your vacation. PLUS if you decide you want it after your there, you can always add it on (but you can’t take it off).
For example, you’re there for 6 days. Do the first few days totally at the same park, and if your bored, add on the park hopper for the last few days! This saves your sanity, and your budget!
Save your cash for the parks
CASH-people. NOT card. I get in SO much trouble when I have a card (or magic band) because you don’t realize how much you’ve spent.
Put it on a gift card, or take actual cash so you don’t overspend.
Also, Disney has a new credit card policy that puts a lot of unnecessary holds on your account- so it’s even more important to have cash. I’ve talked to too many people who were stranded because of excess charges on their account and having to wait on hold with Disney to resolve it.
You can easily save 5% if your purchase your Disney gift cards at this popular grocery store!
Bring enough Footwear
Because Disney KNOWS that you will need new shoes. They have them in every single store and they are 60 dollars for a pair of Mickey Crocs you’ll never wear again.
Or maybe you will wear them again and they become your new favorite shoe?!
Either way, plan to bring at least two pairs of shoes. Typically a sandal option and a closed toed option. Disney DOES sell socks, moleskin and bandaids in the shop (and underwear, you know… just in case!)
The photopass can be great… but it can also suck. If you have an annual pass, it’s included in most tickets. You can also get a steep discount if you are in the military and purchase it on base.
Here’s what people might not know… DON’T buy it but do USE it. What wait?
*scan your card, get them loaded to the online portal, then pick out the 2-4 that you like and order them as individual prints or as photoproducts right through Disney.*
This could cost around 30-60 dollars for pictures you actually enjoy, without spending 200 dollars. BUT if all the pictures suck (because sometimes they do) don’t order anything and then you aren’t out any coin.
Basically… It’s NOT HARD TO SAVE money if you know what you’re doing.
Because if you don’t pay attention, you could easily spend thousands of extra dollars on a week vacation.
More Budget Hack Ideas you should consider (depending on your circumstances!)
Learn more about what items you can (and should) grab at the Dollar Store before your Disney Vacation. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll find there!)
Consider doing an Universal Studios trip instead (or in partnership with!) Here’s a Bucket List of things you should do at UOR!
Want to look extra spiffy on vacation? Then you’ve got to check out these crazy cool DIY disney world tshirts!