Whether you go to the land or world of Disney, it’s destined to be an epic vacation that you’ll never forget. However, you’ll go from the happiest to the saddest place on earth if you come home to a drained savings account. Walt Disney himself said, “People spend money when and where they feel good.” Yeah, Walt, you’ve really capitalized on that “feel good,” and now we’re all poor.
Did researching the cost of a trip to Disney quickly make you change your destination to somewhere cheaper? We get it. Just five minutes browsing hotel, ticket, and parking prices are enough to keep any hard-working, middle-class parent awake at night.
Every kid deserves to experience Disney at least once in their quickly fleeting childhood. So, we’re here to help! If you follow the 20 tips we’ve compiled, you could easily save upwards of $15,000. Yep, it sure adds up fast.
#1 – Book a Vacation Package
You can book a completely customizable Disney vacation package by only paying a deposit. And, you can even make changes or cancelations penalty free. A family of four could spend six nights at a Disney hotel, visit all four parks, and use the Quick Service Dining Plan for about $134 per person a day.
#2 – Find Cheaper Rooms and Resorts
Staying off property will save you big bucks, and most of the surrounding hotels and resorts offer free shuttles to and from the parks. Also, Airbnb has many nearby places for rent that are much cheaper, and they offer bigger rooms, full kitchens, and pools. But, if your heart’s set on staying at Disney, the Value Resorts usually have affordable rooms, and the Campgrounds are fun and will save you a lot of money, too.
#3 – Avoid Holiday Weekends
This might be hard to do because of work and school schedules, but typical school breaks and holiday weekends will always be busier and more expensive at Disney and all the other surrounding tourist hot spots. Check out this site with every day of 2019 rated for how busy it will be, and review their suggestion for the five best weeks to visit Disney World.
#4 – Buy Disney Giftcards
Wholesale stores like BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club sometimes sell discounted Disney gift cards in bulk—usually you can get $500 gift cards for $470. Gift yourself some of those cards and use them to pay for tickets, meals, etc. Those small amounts of savings add up.
#5 – Skip the Park Hopper Passes
This is a tempting add-on, but one park a day is probably plenty. Trying to see and do all you want to in one day at one park is exhausting enough. You’ll save a lot of money – it’s about $350 more for six days for four people – by sticking to the regular tickets.
#6 – Open a Disney Credit Card
The Disney Premier Visa will get you two percent back in Disney dollars and ten percent off at Disney stores and most Disney dining locations. Plus, you get a $200 statement credit after $500 in purchases on the card in the first three months.
#7 – Add Club Level to your Stay
Now this is going to cost you more upfront (usually at least $150 more per night), but if you take advantage of the included food and drinks, extra fastpasses you can buy, shuttles, and later checkout, this add-on could save you money in the end.
#8 – Watch for Disney Deals
On the official sites, Disney World and Disneyland, there are special offers and discounts sections that you should check out before buying your tickets or booking your room. And, some websites even have discount codes and offers historically mapped out so you can anticipate when they’ll be released.
#9 – Invest in Annual Passes
This will save you money if you’re visiting Disney more than once a year or if your stay will be longer than ten days. In addition to the ticket savings, there are perks you get with annual passes that save money including: free on-site parking ($25/day), free photo-pass downloads (about $200/trip), resort discounts (30%), dining discounts (20%), and merchandise discounts (10%). Plus, you only need one annual pass holder in your group for you all to take advantage.
#10 – Ask for a Free Upgrade or Discount
One of the simplest ways to save money might be to just ask for it. You’re going to be shelling out a lot of money on this vacation, so it’s worth a shot. You could ask for a later checkout, room discount, better view, free upgrade, or whatever it is your heart’s set on. It worked for this family.
#11 – Rent Disney Vacation Club Points
Some people don’t even know about this option, but you can rent Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points and save big bucks on a resort room. Renting a DVC owner’s unused points could save you 56 percent off of a room.
#12 – Take a Timeshare Class
Like Disney, Hilton and Marriott also use point packages for people to invest in their new form of timeshare ownership. If you are interested (or pretend to be) there’s often a free class you can take where they tell you about how the ownership works. Usually they will try to hook you by giving major room and ticket discounts.
#13 – Buy Tickets Early
As with the cost of most things, the price will increase with time. Click here to see a chart of all the historical Disney ticket price increases. Another advantage of buying early, is that you can keep an eye out for better discounts or price drops. Some tickets come with a 365-day return policy, and most places will let you apply an additional discount to your existing booking.
#14 – Look into Multi-Day Tickets
A two-day ticket is going to be cheaper than two one-day tickets. And multiple-day passes don’t need to be used on consecutive days, just within a 14-day period. So, plan out your trip ahead of time and get multi-day tickets for the parks you plan to visit more than once.
#15 – Bring Your Own Food
This isn’t going to be the easiest option, especially if you flew in for this vacation, but it will save you a lot of money. The food and drinks at the Disney parks are far from cheap, so go grocery shopping (or get groceries delivered) before your first park day, and pack lots of snacks and full meals to save even more. Don’t forget to pack water—you’ll get thirsty!
#16 – Ignore Park Souvenirs
They are super-tempting, especially for the kids, but you will quickly spend a lot of money on stuff that is WAY overpriced. The best way to avoid getting caught in this money trap is to buy Disney stuff ahead of time. Get tee shirts, glow sticks, bubble wands, light-up necklaces, stuffed animals, etc. that your kids can earn for good behavior at the parks. There’s also cheaper stores you can buy stuff right outside of the parks.
#17 – Build in a Park Free Day (or two)
When you’re planning out your Disney trip weeks – even months – in advance, this might not dawn on you, but it will save you a lot of money and you’ll be so glad you did. Having park-free days during your vacation will give you some much-needed downtime to put your feet up, lounge by the pool, check out a museum, do some shopping at the outlets, etc., and you’ll save a lot of money on park tickets.
#18 – Master the FastPasses
Being a pro at FastPasses will save you money because you won’t have to revisit a park due to missing a much-anticipated ride. FastPasses book up fast, and there are so many rides at each park, you’re going to want to fit in. We suggest you read a couple how-to articles and maybe watch a video with FastPass tips.
#19 – Skip the Dining Plan
There’s a few reasons why food and drinks have come up a lot in this money-saving-tips article: 1–food and drinks at Disney are expensive. 2–if you’re smart about where/how you eat, you can save a lot of money, and 3–you’re going to work up a serious appetite walking through these parks (especially if it’s hot out). The dining plan has its benefits, but it’s costly. If you want to save money, definitely skip it, and look out for some free alternatives.
#20 – Get a Refillable Mug
While there aren’t refillable mugs at the theme parks (yet), the Disney resorts do have refillable, collectible mugs you can purchase for $18.99 and refill with soda, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate during your entire resort stay. With each soda costing upwards of $3.50, you’ll save money if you remember to bring these mugs around with you for meals, snacks, and hanging around the resort. Even bigger savings will come if families just get one or two of these 14oz mugs and share.
You Can Afford a Trip to Disney
This article is dedicated to the sweet kids who work hard all school year to make good grades and those who find joy in making their parents and teachers smile. It’s in honor of all those who befriend the bookworm, share their lunch, invite the shy kid over to play, and help with the trash and dishes. You know who you are. The above money-saving tips will help your parents realize they can afford a Disney trip, maybe even over your next school break. You’re welcome.
Sara Routhier is a Research Specialist and Staff Writer for AutoInsurance.org. In addition to a degree in Elementary Education and experience as a public school teacher, family nanny, and tutor, she has a passion for writing and content marketing. As a Tampa resident with two boys under three, she has lots of tips up her sleeve to help families have fun and save money while visiting the Disney parks and resorts.