There’s no way around it – a trip to Walt Disney World is expensive. But there are many ways to reduce the up-front costs ahead of time, as well as strategies to stay within your budget while exploring the parks. So without further ado, let’s dive into my tips on how to save money at Disney World.
How to Save Money at Disney World
Here is tip number one, which revolves around finding Disney World ticket discounts.
1) Purchase Tickets from an Authorized Discount Retailer
I have personally used Undercover Tourist for my Walt Disney World and Disneyland tickets. Another reputable vendor is Get Away Today. One-day tickets from either vendor are the same price as you would pay Disney directly. Still, you can save a considerable amount if you are buying multi-day passes, especially for various people in your group.
Spend time on each website to find the best deal. I recommend browsing on a desktop or laptop computer as opposed to a mobile device to ensure you are seeing all of your options. Also, check that you are comparing prices with all taxes included–each site shows taxes in a different location.
I want to emphasize that legitimate discount vendors will NOT offer a huge savings on park tickets. Similar to the price of Apple devices, Disney has an ironclad lock on how much their park passes can be discounted. If it seems too good to be true, it most definitely is!
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2) Leverage Shopper Loyalty Discounts
Another way to reduce the cost of a Disney vacation is to use shopper loyalty discounts to directly reduce the cost of Disney Gift Cards. Check the details of your particular store before starting.
As of this writing, you can buy Disney Gift Cards from Target for 5% off when using your Target Red Card (I suggest buying the physical gift cards, especially for your first attempt). Then, use the gift cards to pay for Disney purchases. These are legit Disney Gift Cards, so they work for park tickets (purchased directly from Disney), hotel stays, merchandise, and dining expenses!
3) Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
Many credit cards give incentives for using their cards in the form of points, rebates, or cash back. Use these cards to pay for your trip, then apply the rewards back to your balance! This method is more complex than simply purchasing discount tickets from a reseller. But if you are responsible with your credit use and diligent about keeping track of points and rebates, this can lead to significant savings on your Walt Disney World vacation.
Another idea, along the same vein, is if you have a credit card that earns you frequent flyer miles for every dollar you spend. If you fall into that category, then strongly consider redeeming some of those miles to pay for your flight to Orlando (or back from Orlando).
4) Rent Disney Vacation Club Points
If you plan to stay at a Moderate or Deluxe resort, it might be worth renting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points rather than pay for the same room directly through Disney. Companies like David’s Vacation Club and DVC Rental Store work with Disney Vacation Club owners to sell unused points. This will most definitely save you money if you plan to stay at a Deluxe resort.
If your budget has you at a Moderate resort, it is worth comparing the costs – you may be able to stay at a Deluxe resort using points for the same amount you’d pay in cash for a Moderate!
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5) Use DVC Points Chart for Suggested Travel Dates
The traditional advice for cheaper travel is to tell guests to go to Disney World “in the off season.” With the possible exception of the month of September, however, Walt Disney World no longer has a predictable off season. And as they extend the dates of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and host youth sporting events, even that month is showing increased attendance. If you’d like to look behind the scenes and see where Disney identifies its slower seasons, check out the Disney Vacation Club points charts.
As referenced above, DVC owners have a set number of points to use each year. Disney divides the year into different seasons based on their projected occupancy (each “season” contains weeks from different times of the year). To encourage DVC owners to use their points during slower seasons, the per-night and per-week point cost is lower. The more popular seasons require more points. This shifts DVC owners to the weeks with a lower projected occupancy. This will likely be reflected in the hotel booking side by lower per-night costs!
Take some time to cross-reference the booking options through Disney with the DVC points charts. There are definitely some exceptions (Marathon Weekend in January is generally a low DVC point cost, but higher hotel cost) but you are likely to find some good prospective weeks if you take a peek behind the curtain!
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6) Grocery Delivery to Disney Vacation Club Villas
An additional way to save money at Walt Disney World is to prepare meals in your room. DVC Deluxe Studios have a small kitchenette, and the Deluxe Villas have a full kitchen. It is considerably cheaper to have a quick breakfast in your room compared to the parks! And if your kids are like mine, there’s a good chance they won’t like the kid’s meal option at the restaurant I’ve chosen…time to bring out their sack lunch!
There are many different options for grocery delivery, so do your research ahead of time. Also check with your resort regarding any fees to accept deliveries.
7) Save On Hotels by Using Blind Booking Sites
If you’re set on visiting Walt Disney World and have a very tight budget, and are not super picky about where you stay, it might be worth checking out deals on blind booking sites like Hotwire or Priceline. These sites offer significant discounts on unsold hotel rooms by not showing you what specific hotel you are booking until after you have purchased. There are some tricks to help you narrow down your options, but this method does carry risks. Definitely do your research!
8) Utilize Program Affiliations
Disney+, Disney Visa, Annual Passholders, and Disney Vacation Club members receive special offerings on hotel stays throughout the year (although not on park tickets). Make sure your My Disney Experience account recognizes those memberships to ensure that you get the deals.
In addition to the official Disney programs, you may also find that your employer offers park tickets as an incentive within their benefits package. For example, my brother worked for a major cable company and was able to use points he earned from sales bonuses to purchase park tickets. The actual “cost” of the tickets was not discounted, but he did not have to pay with actual money!
9) Visit the Disney Character Warehouse for Souvenirs
Seasonal and retired parks merchandise is sent to the two Disney Character Warehouse locations in Orlando. These surplus items were originally for sale within the parks or on the Disney Cruise Line. They are NOT the generic “outlet” merchandise that you will find at your standard retailers. I routinely find items in the Character Warehouse for 80% off what I had seen them in the parks during a trip three months prior.
This is especially accurate for seasonal merchandise. Really want Halloween merch but don’t want to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? Head to the Character Warehouse in December or January and you’ll probably find something!
This is a great stop before you hit the parks. Visit the Character Warehouse on your arrival day and let your kids pick out their toys, shirts, and Mickey Ears at a fraction of the price before they fall in love with something in the parks!
While the Character Warehouse is not publicized, it is well known among collectors, personal shoppers, die-hard fans, as well as eBay pirates. I say this because Disney has started limiting the number of items that can be purchased in one trip. While you may not intend to resell that Dooney & Bourke purse for a 300% markup, you won’t be able to buy more than one or two of the same item.
10) Split Meals at Animal Kingdom’s Flame Tree BBQ
Not only are the menu items delicious, they are also generous! If you have a group of 4 adults, you can easily get away with only two or three entrees at Flame Tree BBQ. Just ask for an extra plate and you’ll be set! You may also find this to work at other counter-service restaurants. Check out the plates of others as they walk by – you might find a new dish in the process!
11) Look For Price Fixed Meals (with a Caveat)
Disney is increasing its offerings of “prix fixe” (fixed price) meals throughout the park, especially at specialty restaurants. These menus usually include an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. This is not a money-saving option at first glance.
If you tend to enjoy pricier menu items (like steak), then you could pay less when going the prix fixe route compared to ordering off the main menu. However, if you normally wouldn’t order all three courses, or you prefer vegetable-based dishes, then this would not benefit you. (A note: these offerings are often not on the restaurant’s online menu, so ask your server.)
12) Save Money on Water
Ok, this one isn’t as drastic as some of the ideas above. But the water in central Florida is, well, unpleasant. And, of course, Disney is happy to provide cold bottled water for $3.50+ throughout the parks.
Instead, get a few extra dollars out of your hotel stay by adding ice from the (filtered) ice machine into a cup, and then filling that cup with tap water (this works best with an insulated water bottle). The cold water plus the filtered ice provides a much more palatable beverage than just drinking from the tepid water fountains.
NOTE: If you are in a DVC Deluxe Villa room, check to see if your refrigerator has an ice maker. In my experience, the ice made from these still retains the sulfur-like taste of the water. If you’re doing a grocery delivery anyway, I recommend adding a bag of ice for the freezer.
But what do you do when your ice water concoction has dried up? It is a little-known fact that you can get free ice water from most of the quick-service restaurants! Once your tasty morning water bottle is empty, grab a few cups of ice water from the nearest quick service restaurant and refill!
Another option is to perhaps bring your own bottled water to the parks in a small bag. You could buy a large 24 or 32 pack of your favorite bottled water, and either throw a couple of them in your bag, or pour the bottled water into a small thermos.
Hopefully these tips on how to save money at Disney World have given you a head start on planning a fantastic trip for your family. Despite the high price tag, it is possible to do Disney without breaking the bank. Do your research, make careful decisions, and use the ideas above to make it memorable without costing millions!
This article was written by Shelley and edited by Michael.
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