Disney World can be an expensive vacation. I’ve put together some money saving tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past few years:
1. Skip the Disney Dining Plan
While the Disney Dining plan can work well for your family, I argue that if you’re watching your money you should opt out. The dining plan focuses your trip around food, assuming you’ll eat nice steak dinners and consistently want snacks. Honestly, most people can’t eat as much food as is offered on the plan. While you may be a foodie, and will certainly be hungry throughout your trip, there are financially easier ways to eat every 2 hours.
2. Bring your own snacks and lunch.
Food adds up, especially at Disney and especially with a large family. If you’re planning to get the most out of your trip, you will likely spend the majority of your day at the park. Rather than eating at the park for every meal, pack at least 1 of your meals and your snacks and bring them with you. You can bring your own food and drinks, coolers, strollers, etc. into the park. We tend to pack a big lunch box of foods (think sandwiches, yogurts, fruits, nuts, etc.) and snacks and throw it into the bottom of a stroller until we want it.
3. If you like popcorn, buy the refillable popcorn bucket.
The refillable popcorn bucket is about $10. You can take the bucket with you to any park, and refill for like $1.50. There is a generous amount of popcorn- perfect for family sharing. Plus, we’ve been using the same bucket for the last 2 years. This is an easy, cheap snack that won’t break the bank.
3. If you must do a character meal, only do One!
Character meals are lovely, and if you’re with a Disney fanatic child, you will want to plan 1 during your trip. But be forewarned: You will pay. Character meals tend to be at least double the price of a non-character meal and they are not all the same experience. I would consider if your child is young enough to enjoy it (older kids get less out of the experience). Check out Character Meals at Disney.
4. Skip the coke!
Coke prices at Disney World are about $3-$4, depending where you are. Do yourself a favor and drink ice water (free). Disney is SO hot anyway, and you will need to drink plenty of water. By skipping the cokes, you will save yourself quite a bit throughout your vacation. If you’re dying for soda, go to Club Cool in Epcot for unlimited (free) soda samples from around the world!
5. Get a Chase Disney Card and/or Use Disney Gift Cards
Banking at Chase and using the Disney Visa Card or the Disney Visa Debit Card can offer you some pretty cool Disney perks. Not only can you earn Disney reward dollars and cash back, you receive discounts on merchandise and Disney resorts. If you get a Disney Visa card, there are also special character meet and greets at Disney. Read more about the Chase Disney cards.
Also, check out Costco, Krogers, Sams, and other stores for discounts on Disney gift cards. You can find them 10% off if you’re strategically shopping.
6. Downgrade your hotel
As much as it pains my 5-star resort loving heart to say it, don’t go deluxe when selecting your hotel if you’re watching your $. In fact, you may even consider staying off property. There are a ton of hotels in Orlando, most of which are very close to Disney World. You may also consider Disney vacation rentals, or other condo rentals, or even AirBnB. Hey, why not give it a try?
7. Buy an “Autograph book” before you go.
Most kids will want an autograph book to take to their character meet and greets. You can get a blank Disney book for autographs almost anywhere- Target, Walmart, Amazon, and even the dollar store. In Orlando, even Walgreens, CVS, and grocery stores sell them. Save yourself 30 bucks on an autograph book and princess pen and pick one up before you get to the park.
8. Buy “Disney stuff” before you get to the park
If you’re coming in for a family vacation, bring surprise goodies for the kids with you. Anything Disney at Disney World is expensive. Instead of spending an arm and a leg on souvenirs in the park, go buy little Disney surprises for your kids elsewhere (Walmart and Amazon are perfect). You can use these as surprises throughout your vacation and really save yourself some money (they’ll never know!). In addition, many stores sell “Disney snacks”. Go pick some up at Walmart and save yourself some cash- those snacks add up! Some of our favorites our princess gummies, Mickey Mouse fruit cups, and Disney themed crackers.
Pretty straightforward- bring your own stroller, baby food/baby supplies, wheel chair, PONCHOS, umbrellas, etc. Of course Disney World has all of this available if you forget it- but why spend the extra money if you already have it at home?
10. Don’t go to Disney World every day
Although you’re in Orlando for Disney World, it can save you some serious cash to add “free days” into your vacation. Not only will it save you money, if you have kids the “free days” can be a nice reprieve. Enjoy a resort pool or visit other parts of Orlando. We have so many fun activities that are cheaper than a day at Disney ticket!!! (Seaworld, Leu Gardens, Crayola Experience, Wekiva Springs, Legoland, Kennedy Space Center… the BEACH!)…Not to mention all of the outlet shopping. Add a couple non-Disney days into your Disney vacation to save some $$$.