Let’s get real for a second. We all want to travel, but inflation is making it harder. Disney prices have skyrocketed in the last two years. It quite possibly is one of the most expensive places to vacation in America. Don’t fret, though! I’m here to help you save money at Disney so you don’t break the bank on your next visit.
I am by no means a Disney expert. I’m just a regular mom who likes to travel with her kids as much as possible. There are people out there who are very serious about their Disney plans and could help you pinch the heck out of your pennies. I’m not that girl.
What am I then? I’m a mom who’s been to Disney World six times this year (hello, it’s only May!) and has learned a thing or two about saving money. I want to save money up front so I don’t have to spend my day running around trying to find cheap stuff that fits in my budget. If you can relate to that, then these tips for saving money at Disney are for you.
Related Post: TOP 6 THINGS WE LOVE ABOUT DISNEY WORLD
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may make commission off of purchases made through the links in this post.
How To Save Money At Disney
1. Stay at a Disney Value or Value Plus Resort
There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to places to stay at Disney World. You can stay off-property at one of the Disney Good Neighbor Hotels and still enjoy the perks of staying on property, like shuttle services and extra magic hours. However, I prefer to stay on property. Everything on property has that Disney magic.
One of the easiest ways to save money at Disney is to stay at a Disney Value or Value Plus Resort. Value Resorts include: All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The Value Plus Resorts are Pop Century and Art of Animation.
These are cheaper, “less fancy”, resorts on property. They still offer the Disney experience, with amenities, activities, and resort-specific food and merchandise. But, there’s a trade-off. These resorts are usually overcrowded and more chaotic. If you can handle a lot of people, potentially student-athletes or kids on school trips, you won’t have a problem staying here.
If you have never stayed on Disney property before, Polka Dots & Pixie Dust has a great post that goes into detail about the resort levels and what you can expect.
2. Rent Disney Vacation Club Points for Deluxe Resorts
What if you want luxury on a budget? Glad you asked! You can rent Disney Vacation Club points from a points owner.
Disney Vacation Club is a Disney timeshare, where owners buy points for DVC hotels. It’s a use them or lose them situation, so owners are motivated to rent their points if they aren’t able to use them in the calendar year.
Personally, I’ve never done this before. But, I know many people who have. Traveling Mom has a blog post with tips for how to do this.
3. Use Credit Card Points
If you’re not making your credit cards work for you, you’re not using them correctly. I know that people have different feelings around credit cards, and rightfully so. They can be dangerous if you’re not educated on how to use them properly for lack self control with your spending.
BUT, if you use them correctly, you can make them work to your advantage. Like pay for your Disney hotel, airfare, or fun money! I have a blog post all about credit cards that are great for travel.
Personally, for our Disney trips, we use our Disney Credit Card. The card itself has a lot of perks we use to save money during your trip. We also use our card for our everyday purchases and then redeem our rewards points to pay for our hotel, food, merch, etc. You get 3% back when you book your stay on your card!
4. Buy Disney Gift Cards
You can buy discounted Disney gift cards throughout the year at stores you already shop it. DisneyTouristBlog gives all the tips on how to do it. This takes a lot of intentionality and planning. It’s not a quick or easy way to save in my opinion. But for you planners out there, this would definitely save you a few bucks.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll settle for the elusion of saving money. I buy Disney gift cards when I’m out and about. It feels like less is coming out of my pocket all at once.
5. Take Advantage of Discounts
Disney is always offering some kind of discount on select hotels and events. Be flexible and take advantage of these if you can! Florida residents, annual passholders, AAA members, Disney Visa cardholders, and military members get the best discounts. They’ve even started offering Disney+ subscribers discounts on hotels.
The key to taking advantage of these discounts is to be flexible with your dates and the resort. I’ve also found that if you’re booking for the next season, there are more discounts. For example, right now (May 4th) I can get 25% off select hotels if I book for June-September (summer season). But I lose that discount when I look for hotels in October. Flexibility is key!
A perk of being an annual passholder or Visa cardholder is that you get discounts on food and merchandise inside the park. This is one of the ways that spending a little extra for the annual pass can save you money in the long run.
6. Price Out All Ticket Options
This one is really for Florida residents, but could be useful for out-of-staters. If you’re planning to come for multiple days in a row or even two+ visits in a fiscal year, I highly recommend you do a cost break down of day passes vs. annual passes.
One day passes are $109/day. Florida residents save money when you purchase 3/4 day passes. But if you’re going more than 4 days or making two trips, I would look into annual passes. Disney offers many different options for annual passes and monthly payment options.
Personally, we have Pixie Dust Annual Passes. These are weekday passes, meaning we can’t go on the weekends. Our out-of-state family came to visit and wanted to spend the week (M-F) at Disney. As Florida residents, it was cheaper for our family to buy the Pixie Dust passes, rather than by 5 days worth of tickets.
As an added bonus, we’ve been able to visit often AND get discounts! Even though we didn’t intend to buy annual passes, it made more financial sense to do so and we are still reaping the benefits.
7. Consider Disney Dining Plans
Disney offers dining plan options that can potentially help you save some money on food. It’s basically a way to prepay for your food, drinks, and snacks. If you have a big family or are traveling with a larger party, I recommend checking this out. Consider the dining options and how you plan to spend your days before purchasing!
It’s also great for families with older kids! If your kids are old enough to walk around the parks on their own and tend to do so, the dining plan is a great way to control food spending.
Personally, this isn’t a great option for us. Our little kids don’t eat enough to make it worth it and we prefer many small bites rather than full meals. I would much rather walk around the world and try the festival specials than stick to the dining options. This is my personal preference of course.
8. Pack Your Own Snacks & Drinks
One of the easiest ways to save money at Disney is to bring your own snacks and drinks. The food prices are outrages at Disney and they add up quickly. Especially if you are doing multiple days and are spending your whole day in the park!
I definitely recommend bringing your own food in for littles. It’s especially annoying if you have little kids who take three bites out of their $15 kids meal. I like to pack granola bars, trail mix, fresh fruit, uncrustables, basically anything that will keep them full the longest.
If you’re not into bringing your own food, you should at least bring a reusable water bottle. You can get free cups of ice water and constantly fill up your own bottle. Avoid those overpriced Dasani waters!
9. Eat Outside of the Park
Although it’s not convenient, if you’re really trying to save money at Disney, you should eat outside of the park. Food prices are insane inside the park and really anywhere on property. It’s cheaper to go off property. Especially if you have a large family or want a really nice dinner at a reasonable price.
If you want a Disney experience but at a lower cost, head over to Disney Springs. You can find a variety of restaurants at different price levels. It’s the perfect spot for the Disney magic without going into the parks.
10. Buy Disney Merchandise off Property
Let’s face it, you can’t visit Disney without getting some souvenirs. But, like everything else, merchandise on property is insanely overpriced. Save your money and skip the shops in the parks. Head over to International Drive and you’ll find hundreds of souvenir shops that have the same stuff at a cheaper price.
If you’re looking for Disney apparel, I recommend skipping the Disney gear at the parks and resorts as well. Start your trip with a drive down I-Drive and you can find all the Disney clothes you could possibly imagine. Even the Targets and Walmarts in Orlando carry an abundance of Disney gear.
11. Have Your Groceries Delivered
Eating every snack and meal on property is neither financially feasible or healthy. So, get groceries delivered right to your hotel room. It’s 2022! By now, there are many grocery delivery options you can choose from. Pick your favorite, order your favorite snacks, drinks, and microwavable meals, and get them delivered.
Just be mindful of the space you have. Standard rooms have a small refrigerator and some rooms even have microwaves. If you’re room doesn’t have a microwave, the food court does. If you’re staying for a longer period of time, it may be worth your money to get a suite. Family suites offer a kitchenette where you could cook smaller meals for your family.
I recommend contacting the resort and finding out the specifics of your room before ordering. You will want to know what your working with to get the most out of your grocery order.
12. Don’t Link Your Credit Card to Your Magic Band
Man, that magic band can be dangerous! It is so convenient to have your credit card linked right to it. You can pay for everything with a tap of your wrist. But it’s easy to lose track of your spending this way. Especially if your card is linked to multiple bands or you have older kids who go off on their own.
If you have a tight budget, skip out on linking your card. Go the old fashioned way and pay with cash or your card.
BONUS TIP: Hire a Disney Travel Agent
If you really want to get the most bang for your buck, hire a Disney travel agent. There are so many reputable companies out there that specialize in Disney. They can help you get the best deals and stretch your budget to the max. And it’s at no additional cost to you!
A Disney travel agent can help you with your resort reservation, park tickets and reservations, restaurant reservations and more. They take the stress out of planning process. Especially if you’ve never been to Disney or haven’t been in a long time. If you want someone to come along side of you and give you the best Disney tips and help you plan the best trip, check out Smart Moms Plan Disney.
Disney can be the most magical place without breaking the bank. Use these tips to help you save money at make the most out of your next Disney trip! For more Disney tips, tricks, and adventures, follow us on Instagram.