Save Money on Disney Vacation

How to Save Money on a Walt Disney World Vacation

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 at Disney World theme parks.

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure here. 

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. The time of year matters! 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.

Skip the Park Hopper Option

If you’re trying to keep costs down, stick to a single park per day. The Park Hopper ticket option adds a significant amount to your ticket price, and there’s usually more than enough to do in one park each day. If you’re planning to visit the parks for several days, explore the discounts available on multi-day passes. The per-day cost of tickets decreases significantly the more days you add. So of course a one-day ticket will be the most expensive. Occasionally there are even special offers which is the best way to save money on ticket prices.

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.

how to save money at 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.

Target Red Card Save Money on Walt Disney World Vacation

You can also look for Disney Gift Cards at warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club, where they’re often sold at a slight discount. You can use these cards to pay for tickets, hotels, meals, and merchandise within the parks.

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.

By purchasing these items ahead of time, you can enjoy the excitement of having Disney-themed souvenirs without the premium prices found inside the Disney parks.

Walt Disney World savings secrets
how to save money at disney world

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.

Budget-friendly souvenir ideas that you can buy ahead of your trip:

  • Disney Pins: Look for discounted Disney trading pins online. You can start a collection before your trip and even trade them in the parks if you want.
  • Disney T-Shirts: Find Disney-themed t-shirts at local discount stores or online. Wearing them to the parks adds to the fun and saves money on buying shirts at higher prices inside the parks.
  • Autograph Books: Purchase or make your own Disney autograph book for character signatures. This is a must-have for kids and a fraction of the cost when bought outside the parks.
  • Disney-themed Water Bottles: Buy Disney-themed water bottles to use in the parks. Staying hydrated is essential, and having a fun bottle can make it more exciting for kids.
  • Disney Stickers: Stickers are an inexpensive way for kids to remember their trip and can be used to decorate scrapbooks, journals, or water bottles.
  • Character Ears: Mickey or Minnie ears are iconic Disney souvenirs. You can find them at many retail stores or online for less than what you would pay in the parks.
  • Pressed Penny Supplies: If you plan to collect pressed pennies in the parks, you can save by purchasing a penny holder book in advance. Also, bring your own pennies and quarters for the machines.
  • Disney-themed Jewelry: Look for Disney-themed jewelry like bracelets, necklaces, or earrings outside of the parks. These can be special reminders of your trip without the high park prices.
  • Glow Sticks: Nighttime shows and parades at Disney often feature glow-in-the-dark items. Buy glow sticks or other glow items in bulk before your trip for a fun and inexpensive way to participate in the evening festivities.

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 credit cards. 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 Resorts 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 magic hours and Disney dining plan options. 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 but at cheaper prices. These offer the lowest prices 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.

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, take advantage of the free transportation options available, including buses, monorails, and boats. This can save you on rental cars, gas, and parking fees. Cutting out the additional cost may even make up for the higher price of staying at Disney Resort hotels.

Walt Disney World savings secrets

How to Save Money on Food Costs 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. The Disney Dining Plan can be explored as an option depending on your family’s needs. Reach out to a Disney travel agent (their services are FREE) for more information. Learn more about those promotions here.

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.

If you must eat in the park, opt for quick-service restaurants which are much more affordable than character meals. You can even split meals or order kid meals (in lieu of adult meals) to save money. I frequently order a kid’s meal and it fills me just fine!

how to save money at disney world

Bring Your Own Food to Disney World

Another Walt Disney World savings secret is to pack LOTS of your own snacks or bring in your own food and meals to eat on the go. 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’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort with a fridge in the room, plan a trip to the grocery store or schedule an Instacart delivery to save on food costs.

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.

Skip Lightning Lane

Visiting Disney World without purchasing Lightning Lane access can save money and still be an enjoyable and efficient experience with some planning and strategies. Here are some tips to help you navigate the parks and make the most of your day:

Arrive Early: Be at the park gates before opening, often referred to as “rope drop.” This allows you to head straight to the most popular attractions with significantly shorter wait times.

Use Genie+ Service Wisely: While you might not be buying individual Lightning Lane selections, using the free Disney Genie service within the My Disney Experience app can help you plan your day more effectively, offering suggested itineraries and current wait times.

Prioritize Must-Do Attractions: Decide in advance which rides and attractions are must-dos for your group. Head to these first thing in the morning or during parade and show times when queues might be shorter.

Take Advantage of Downtimes: Midday, when the parks are busiest and the heat is at its peak, consider taking a break or enjoying lower-wait-time attractions, shows, or character greetings.

Stay Late: Crowds often thin out in the evening, making it a good time to visit popular attractions. Some parks have extended hours on certain days, known as Extra Magic Hours, available to Disney Resort hotel guests.

Use Single Rider Lines: Some attractions offer Single Rider lines that typically have much shorter wait times than the regular queue. You might not be able to ride with your entire party, but it’s a great option for popular rides.

Plan Meal Times Strategically: Eating at off-peak times can save time. Consider having an early lunch or a late dinner to avoid the rush and minimize time spent waiting in line for food.

Watch Queue Times: Keep an eye on the Disney World app throughout the day for fluctuating wait times. Sometimes, queues for popular attractions decrease during parade times or just before park closing.

Explore Less Crowded Attractions: Don’t overlook the less popular attractions, which can be just as enjoyable and have much shorter wait times. This can include shows, walking trails, and interactive exhibits.

Plan Your Park Days Wisely: Research and choose your park days based on historical crowd levels and any extra events or extended hours. Parks tend to be less crowded during the middle of the week.

By following these tips, you can have a magical Disney World experience without the added cost of Lightning Lane selections, embracing the joys and excitement the parks have to offer with a bit of strategic planning.

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.

Celebrate Birthday at Disney World

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.

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.

Know any more Walt Disney World money-saving tips? Share them in the comments below!

Walt Disney World Savings Secrets

Author

  • Kayla Peloquin

    A blogger, Social Media Specialist and digital influencer, Kayla is the founder and driving force behind MommyofaPrincess.com, a blog designed to provide party planning ideas, family travel tips, and fun DIY projects with her Millennial 'Girl Mom' audience. She has partnered with several brands, a few favorites include Walt Disney World, Google, Coca-Cola, Carters and LEGOLAND Florida. This venture perfectly fits her current lifestyle with two young daughters.

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