Can you visit Disney on a budget? Surprisingly, yes! We break down some of the methods many mouse-hugging, Space Mountain-riding aficionados use to save money at Disney World.
How to Do Disney on a Budget
Let’s first discuss the importance of seeking out any special offer you can find!
Look at the Special Offers Page
When planning your next vacation, look at the bottom of the Walt Disney World website for a link to special offers. These offers can vary between room-only or room-and-ticket packages, where your price bundles a certain number of nights. Recently, Disney has offered higher rewards to those staying at Deluxe resorts. But, you can still have a little discount, sometimes upwards of 15% off your stay, at a Value resort like Pop Century.
These offers change seasonally and appear on the website every three to six months. Even if you have already booked your trip, keep an eye on this page for any specials that may apply to your vacation. Guests can add the discount through the Walt Disney World website or by calling the resort.
Join a Restaurant Rewards Program
Did you know that not all restaurants are owned by Disney at Walt Disney World? It’s true! Some third-party companies run some of the most popular restaurants at the resort. Better yet, some of them offer rewards programs.
One such company is Landry’s, which owns spots like Yak & Yeti Restaurant, T-Rex, and Rainforest Cafe. By signing up for their rewards, you earn points for every $1 spent. There are also specials and benefits beyond reward points, which can vary.
Bottleneck Restaurant Group also has a rewards program with a $10 voucher for signing up. You can use this at City Works, a sports bar located at Disney Springs.
Sign Up for a Disney Visa Credit Card
It sounds crazy, but sometimes signing up for a credit card has benefits, especially if it is a Disney Visa card. If using your card at Disney World, you have access to rewards like 10% off merchandise along with 10 – 20% off select dining, tours, recreation, and coffee.
There are additional perks to being a Disney Visa cardholder. You can access exclusive meet-and-greets with some of your favorite characters. They are often in secluded, private areas throughout the parks.
Eat at Disney Springs During Happy Hours
You can save cash while eating appetizers and drinking fantastic cocktails at Disney Springs. During the week, select restaurants have happy hours and weekly specials. If you have a day outside the parks, you’ll want to stop by this shopping and dining center.
Early in the week, visit Frontera Cocina for Margarita Mondays and Tequila Tuesdays. You can enjoy $5 classic margaritas and $5 Gracias a Dios Espadin Mezcal shots there. Stop by Jaleo by Jose Andres for Vino Wednesdays, where you can order half-off bottles of wine.
Below is a list of a few of our favorite happy hours (as of 2022):
- House of Blues (Monday – Thursday, open until 5 p.m.)
- $2 off bottles & cans of beer
- $5 house wine & well liquor
- $6 margaritas & long island iced teas
- Jaleo by Jose Andres (Daily, 4 – 6 p.m.)
- Select tapas and drinks (subject to change)
- Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar (Monday – Friday, noon to 3 p.m.)
- $6 – 7 well drinks & draft beers
- $8 and under appetizers
- Paradiso 37 (All day, outside bar only)
- $5 house margaritas, Coors Lite, and Tecate
- Raglan Road (Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Outside bar)
- $5 domestic draught beer & well liquors
- STK Orlando (Daily, 3 – 6 p.m.)
- Half-off specialty cocktails
- $10 Justin Cabernet and VieVite Rose
- $8 Food specials
- Terralina Crafted Italian (Daily, 4 – 6 p.m., Outside bar)
- $5 Select beers
- Half-off wine glasses
Also, consider walking around Disney Springs first before committing to a spot. Many restaurants and shops have signs posted outside of their location with specials. You might find a seasonal discount or a one-day event!
Buy Multi-Day Tickets
Sometimes it pays to stay longer. No doubt about it, the cost of visiting a single park at Disney World is expensive. Disney provides a small discount for guests who buy theme park tickets in bulk. However, that also means you must stay longer at the resort, so it is debatable if you save money. But, if it works within your budget, this tactic adds to the savings.
Avoid Park Hopping
When buying tickets, you can add on Park Hopper, which lets you visit multiple parks in one day. This add-on is beneficial if you have a shorter vacation where you need to double up on park visits.
Many people also need to consider the time it takes to park hop. Coming from someone who has visited all four parks in a single day, it can be challenging trying to get from one to the other. If you are to park hop, consider jumping from Magic Kingdom and taking the monorail to EPCOT. Or hop on the Skyliner or walk from EPCOT to Hollywood Studios. At Animal Kingdom, start the day early and take the bus to any of the parks.
If you have a more extended vacation, it is not worth adding the extra cost to your ticket. Instead, visit one park at a time and enjoy more time there.
Stay at a Disney Hotel
Beyond the convenience of staying at a Disney World resort, you can also save some money! Before your trip, you can expect a small booklet of coupons, including experiences like free mini golf of 10% off select dining experiences. We have used these many times, and we use them primarily on our arrival and departure days when there is not enough time to visit a park.
Not only can you save with the booklet, but you can save money by using the convenient transportation options available at the resorts. Hop on the bus, a boat, a monorail, or the Skyliner and avoid paying nightly parking and rental car fees.
Consider Renting DVC Points
Disney Vacation Club is the timeshare available at resorts, including Disney World. Participants can sell their allocation of points to companies who can resell them. Sometimes the discounts are significantly cheaper than booking through Disney World.
Renting DVC points is suitable for large families and groups, as many rooms can sleep more than the standard group of four people. Plus, you get all of the DVC benefits without having to invest!
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Save on Genie+
With Genie+, you can experience a tool in the My Disney Experience app that helps you plan your day. In addition, you can pay to access Lightning Lane, which gets you ahead of the line for some of the park’s most popular attractions.
But this convenience comes at a price. Genie+ prices change daily based on the time of year, and you need to pay for each person. This option can add up to $40 to $100 daily (or more, depending on your group’s size).
However, some guests would argue that saving time means saving money. If riding attractions is your priority, then Genie+ can be a solid investment. But, if you are with a group where rides are unnecessary, it might not be worth the cost.
Consider thinking about what days you want Genie+ instead of buying it for every day of your trip. Will you use it at EPCOT? Maybe not. Magic Kingdom? Most likely. Evaluating your group’s needs can save you some money.
Use Your Credit Card & Pay With Points
This method is not without risk and is recommended for fiscally-responsible individuals. If you have a credit card, consider paying for the entire trip and using the acquired points to pay for a portion of your balance. You will still need to pay the leftover statement, which can help your bottom line.
We have done this on several trips, and it does help to see that extra $100 – $300 (or more) get taken off the balance. Plus, you can add the credit card to your Magic Band or the My Disney Experience app and pay without breaking out the wallet. Not only that, but it is safer to pay with a credit card while traveling, and many places do not accept cash.
Now Start Saving!
This is a partial list of visiting Disney on a budget, but they are some of our favorite ways to save cash during your next trip. Your wallet will breathe a sigh of relief the next time you open it. Consider renting DVC points or opening a Disney Visa credit card. Or, avoid park-hopping and Genie+ and spend long days in the parks. Sign up for rewards programs and visit happy hours at Disney Springs. And don’t forget to look at the Special Offers page on the Disney World website!
This article was written by Angela and edited by Michael.
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