Everyone should be able to afford a trip to Disney. While there are multiple ways to splurge on a Disney vacation, there are also tons of ways to save. Here are a few of my Walt Disney World Savings Secrets for how to save money on your next vacation.
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Avoid Peak Season
Disney tickets and hotels fluctuate with peak seasons. If you plan a trip during summer months, spring break or winter vacation, be prepared to pay top dollar. An easy way to save money on a Walt Disney World vacation is to book during the off season. General rule of thumb is to book when school is in session. My favorite time to go is January and February. The crowds are low, the weather is cool and there’s hardly a chance of rain. One of the best Walt Disney World savings secrets is to check Disney crowd charts for specific time frames that are best for planning your vacation.
Purchase an Annual Pass
For Florida residents, I recommend buying the Weekday Select pass, if you’re on a budget. Many Florida residents don’t consider this Walt Disney World savings secret because they think Annual Passes are really expensive. In fact, this pass is close in price to a 4 day pass but includes all the perks of being an Annual Passholder and the opportunity to park hop. Passholders receive 10% off merchandise and discounts on select dining options, in addition to free parking and other perks throughout the year. This pass works on weekdays only and has several blockout dates including summer, spring break and the weeks before Christmas and New Years. However, those are the busiest times to visit Walt Disney World.
Buy Disney Gift Cards
If you have a Target Red Card, you can purchase Disney Gift Cards with 5% off. Buying cards in increments helps you budget for your vacation. The cards can then be used to purchase tickets or food while in the parks. Around Black Friday, Target usually offers 10% off their own gift cards which provides even more savings. There is some controversy over whether Target allows you to buy a gift card with a gift card, but I’ve personally had it work in the past. Just be sure to check with your local Target beforehand.
Shop for Souvenirs Before You Go
An easy way to save money is to skip the souvenirs in the parks and buy cheaper alternatives to bring with you. This is one of the best kept Walt Disney World savings secrets. There is a Disney Character Warehouse store at the Simon Orlando Premium Outlet Mall that sells clearance merchandise from the parks. While the outlet items vary each visit, I have found deeply discounted Princess Dresses for my girls, adorable fashion items for myself, Mickey Ears, mugs, magnets, Magic Bands, and more. Everything is authentic Disney merchandise for usually 30-50% off park prices. I have even found things on sale at the outlet that are currently being sold in the parks.
Local Wal-Marts and Targets in Orlando also have plenty of affordable Disney souvenirs. You can buy autograph books ahead of time or check out these alternatives. Purchase glow sticks from your local Dollar Tree or order them online. You can even order Disney pins online to pin trade while at the parks. These are all great Walt Disney World savings secrets to help you spend less on your vacation.
Apply for Disney Chase Visa Card
If you’re looking for Walt Disney World savings secrets, be sure to check into the Disney Chase Visa card. Chase often runs promotions when you sign up. You can earn a $200 statement credit when you spend a certain amount in the first 3 months. Not only do these funds help pay for a Disney vacation, but you can also earn and redeem reward points for more Disney gift cards. In addition, there are exclusive character meet and greets for Disney Chase Visa cardmembers in Epcot (Mickey & Friends) and Hollywood Studios (Star Wars Launch Bay) as well. See the other reasons why you should become a card member.
Save on Your Stay
Disney’s Value Resort Hotels are themed and fun for kids at a great price. We love Art of Animation. Pop Century and Allstar Movies are also pretty neat. Disney Resorts are a great option if you want to take advantage of extra park hours and dining plans. If you’re looking for a more ‘adult’ friendly hotel, check out the list of Good Neighbor Hotels which are all centrally located to Walt Disney World and are Disney approved. These are the cheapest option but won’t include transportation to the parks (some do) and Magic Hours. If you’re traveling with a large party, check into house rentals in the Orlando area. They’re often a better bang for your buck and there are plenty of options that are close to Disney property.
How to Save Money on Food at Disney World
The easiest way to save money on food at Disney World is to book during a free dining promotion, usually available for vacations scheduled during the fall months. Learn more about those promotions here. Another Walt Disney World savings secret is to pack LOTS of snacks. Disney allows food and beverages to be brought into the park. However alcohol and glass of any kind are prohibited. I recommend bringing pretzels, fruit, peanut butter crackers, cookies, etc. This saves money on snacking in between meals.
You can also bring in a small soft cooler to save money on food at Disney World and pack lunches before hand. My kids love Uncrustables. For most of our trips, I pack two sandwiches for my kids with a fruit and a chocolate milk or juice box. I love this diaper bag from Petunia Pickle Bottom which has a small cooler section in the bottom.
If you want to splurge, purchase a souvenir popcorn bucket. They are cheap to refill and are valid at all four parks for the full duration of your visit.
Stay Hydrated: Where to get Free Water at Disney World
One of the more often mentioned Walt Disney World savings secrets is to ask for free water at Disney restaurants. It’s true, you can ask for free ice water from any restaurant that has fountain beverages. You can also mobile order ice waters at quick service dining restaurants.
I personally like to stop by the restaurants that have self service fountain drink stations to save time. Otherwise, you can wait in a pretty long line just for water. The following restaurants have self service drink stations: Sunshine Seasons and Electric Umbrella at Epcot, Tortuga Tavern and Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Restaurantosaurus & Satu’li Canteen in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Be sure to always ask for a couple of ice waters when ordering meals at other restaurants.
I always bring a refillable insulated cup and fill it up throughout the day to always have on hand. You can also freeze and bring in your own water bottles. If you have a baby, be sure to check out the Baby Care Centers at each park too. They have a water filter station for baby bottles but it works great for refilling toddler cups or mom’s cup too.
Free Souvenirs at Disney World
If you don’t want to purchase a lot, there are plenty of free souvenirs at Disney World too. If you’re celebrating a Birthday (see all the free ways to celebrate here), an anniversary, wedding or engagement or your first visit, be sure to grab a Celebration Button from any gift shop or guest services location. The buttons are completely free and usually a Cast Member will personalize them for you.
Pin Trading is free to participate in at Disney World. Most Cast Members have lanyards with pins and will trade with any guests who ask. I love the starter kits on Amazon which give you lots of pins for a cheap price to start your trading journey.
There are free souvenirs at Disney World at each individual park as well. Be sure to grab a park map as a fun souvenir to take home. Transportation Cards are also free and fun to collect. You can ask anyone in transportation (monorail, boats, buses, etc) for cards. They’ll usually give you a few if they have some. Magic Kingdom has a pirate treasure scavenger hunt (with a cool map to keep) in Adventure Land and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game with keepsake trading cards at the front of Main Street to the left when you first walk in. You can also get free pixie dust from the Bibbiddi Bobbidi Boutique inside Cinderella’s castle. Epcot has KidCot stations with crafts. You can also have your name or a special message written in a different language in each country. You can ask for Star Wars cards in the character line queues at Star Wars Launch Bay in Hollywood Studios. Animal Kingdom sometimes has conservation cards to collect.