How do you save MONEY on a trip to Disney World?
The only thing that isn’t magical about going to Disney World is how much it costs. Seriously, between lodging and flights and food and souvenirs and tickets, the money just keeps adding up.
Below is a picture of me wearing one of my favorite Disney shirts. I always get a bunch of fist bumps, especially from other dads, whenever I wear it to the parks. 🙂
Today, I will share 38 ways to help you SAVE money on your next Disney World vacation.
As you will see, I’m using the “everything but the kitchen sink” method of saving money. That means I don’t care how much you can save or how weird the idea might seem. If it might be useful, you will find it below!
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Save Money on Lodging (#1 – #8)
Save Money on Tickets (#9 – #19)
Save Money on Food (#20 – #28)
Other Money-Saving Tips (#29+)
38 Money-Saving Tips at Disney World:
Save Money on Lodging:
#1. Stay at an Off-site hotel!
One great way to save money is to look for an inexpensive hotel NOT on Disney World property.
There are some inexpensive hotels that are very close to Disney.
A few of the CHEAPEST hotels near Disney World.
As you’re looking at hotels that are off-site from Disney World, you will want to consider if they provide free transportation to the parks. If not, you should consider this expense when booking your stay.
#2. Stay at a VALUE Disney World resort!
Even though you can save money by staying off-site, our family LOVES the full Disney World experience. For us, that means always staying at one of the Disney World resorts.
For example, when I checked into pricing today, the cost to stay at All-Star Sports during October was $162/night. That’s not much more than some of the less expensive off-site hotels.
October Nightly Rates at the Disney VALUE Resorts
In addition, by staying on Disney World property, you will save in other ways. For example:
- You get FREE parking at the theme parks. This saves you $25/day.
- Disney World resorts offer free transportation to all of the parks, either by bus, boat, monorail, or skyliner.
- Because of the free transportation, you may not need to rent a car.
- You will also be closer to the theme parks than being off-site, so you will save travel time.
#3. Don’t stay on Friday or Saturday night.
On average, it will cost more per night if you stay on Friday or Saturday.
If possible, staying from Sunday to Thursday night will cost the least.
For example, here is the cost per night at a few of the Deluxe resorts if you arrive on Sunday and check out on Friday.
Nightly Rates – Sunday, September 8 to Friday, September 13
And check out the difference if you stay for 7 days, from Saturday to Saturday.
Nightly Rates – Saturday, September 7 to Saturday, September 14
It is a difference of 5% per night!
If you stay fewer than 7 days, avoiding the weekend nights will save you LOTS of money.
#4. Be strategic about WHEN you decide to visit Disney World.
As you can imagine, there are certain times of the year when Disney World is more busy. The times when kids are off school are always the most crowded, such as during the summer, spring break, and winter break.
Naturally, the costs of almost EVERYTHING will increase when there is more demand.
Try to come in January, February, May, August, or September if possible.
These times typically have the lowest crowds of the year, which means the nightly rates of hotels and resorts should be the lowest.
#5. Hire a Disney Vacation Planner!
Going to Disney World can be overwhelming. Many people choose to use a travel agent that specializes in Disney!
You can utilize their knowledge and expertise to find the best deals possible. But the best part is that many planners continue monitoring for discounts even AFTER you book with them.
Not only can they help you save money, but they can help you save TIME. I mean LOTS of time by booking your dining and other experiences. And as you know, time is money. 🙂
Luckily, using a Disney Vacation Planner is FREE.
That’s right, you don’t pay them a single cent. They earn their money from Disney, who pays them a commission directly.
Check out this post for more information: 10 BEST Disney Travel Agents & Planners
#6. Check out the specials on Disney World’s website.
Before you book anything, make sure to review the “Special Offers, Deals & Discounts” page.
The offers change constantly. For example, when writing this post, I found the following offer:
“Last Chance! Book by December 15 to Save Up to 25% on Rooms at Select Disney Resort Hotels in Early 2024.”
There is no guarantee that you will find a deal that fits your travel plans. But if you do, you could end up saving a lot!
I would bookmark this page and set a reminder to check it out every week or two.
#7. Use David’s Vacation Club to save HUGE on DELUXE Disney World resorts!
Everyone wants to stay at the Deluxe Disney World resorts, such as the Polynesian or Animal Kingdom Lodge, until they see the nightly rates. 🙂
If this describes you, then you are going to love this money-saving tip.
Try booking a trip with David’s Vacation Club. It’s possible to stay at one of these Deluxe resorts at a much cheaper rate.
David’s Vacation Club connects Disney Vacation Club members who want to sell their points.
In case you don’t know, the Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare. Each year, the members get a certain amount of points they can use to book their vacation.
Some years, the DVC members can’t go on vacation and want to sell their points. That is where David’s Vacation Club comes in. They offer a marketplace where anyone can purchase these points to book their vacation.
It’s a Win-Win. The DVC member gets money for their unused points. And we can book a DELUXE Disney World resort for a cheaper price.
Here is an example of how much money you can save.
First, let’s look at booking on the Disney website. Here is the cost for one week at Animal Kingdom Lodge in a Savanna View studio from October 5 to 12.
As you can see, it is $777 per night for 7 nights, for a total cost of $5,439.
Now let’s look at booking the same thing on David’s Vacation Club.
Here is the cost for one week at Animal Kingdom Lodge in a Savanna View studio on David’s Vacation Club. I used the same dates, from October 5 -12
The total cost is only $3,105, which breaks down to $443/night! Even as I write this, I’m shocked once again by how much you can save using David’s Vacation Club.
The only negative is that inventory is limited. You typically need to book as far in advance as possible to secure a room.
Our family has personally used David’s Vacation Club multiple times. It has allowed us to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Polynesian Resort, and the Beach Club without having to cry when I looked at the final bill. 🙂
#8. Stay in a vacation rental (Airbnb or VRBO).
Many families choose to stay offsite in a house or condo. While the nightly rates of these vacation rentals might be higher, they offer some advantages when it comes to saving money.
First, if you have a large group of people going, you can find a place where you can all stay together. This would allow you to split your lodging costs, driving the amount you pay down.
Second, you have access to a full kitchen. Instead of always dining out, you can cook your own meals! And the freezer gives you the option of buying frozen pizza or other easy foods to warm up.
Lastly, vacation rentals typically have more space than a standard hotel room. This doesn’t directly save any money, but I find it more enjoyable to have a living room with a couch and kitchen than being crammed in the small space of a hotel.
Save Money on Tickets:
#9. Buy tickets from an authorized reseller like Undercover Tourist!
Getting your Disney World tickets directly from their website is not usually the cheapest place.
There are a few companies that are authorized resellers of Disney World tickets. That means they buy tickets directly from Disney World in LARGE quantities, which gives them a discount. From there, the authorized reseller sells them themselves and passes those savings on to us! 🙂
My favorite company to use is called Undercover Tourist.
Below, you will see my comparison of buying tickets to Disney World with Undercover Tourist versus if you got them directly from Disney. I used the following assumptions:
- 7-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper Plus tickets between June 16-23.
- A family of four, including two children between the ages of 3-9.
In case the photo wasn’t clear, the tickets with Undercover Tourist cost $2,921.18, while the tickets on Disney’s website cost #3,069.04. For almost no extra effort, Undercover Tourist saves $148 (about 5%) for these Disney World tickets!
I like the transparency that Undercover Tourist provides by making sure there are no hidden fees or additional taxes. I even made sure to get to the end of the checkout process to make sure the $2,921.18 was EXACTLY what I had to pay (and it was).
And I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry. Disney World tickets purchased with Undercover Tourist have all the same benefits as those bought directly through Disney. Once you buy the tickets, log in to MyDisneyExperience.com and enter the numbers off your tickets to make reservations, etc.
- Shop around for Disney World tickets: 8 Places to Buy DISCOUNT Disney World Tickets
#10. Buy discounted tickets directly from Disney World.
While it’s usually cheaper to buy Disney World tickets elsewhere, sometimes the BEST place to purchase is right on Disney’s website.
Disney has a page titled “Special Offers, Deals, and Discounts.“ There are always a few specials that might fit what you are looking for perfectly! For example, on the particular date of this writing, there were two offers:
- 4-day, 4-park tickets that cost only $99 per day.
- Savings of up to 25% on rooms at certain Disney Resort Hotels.
Below is a screenshot of the specials from Disney’s website
For both of these deals, you had to travel during a specific date range and avoid a few blackout dates. So, this could be a great option as long as you get lucky and the current specials fit exactly what your family needs!
Lastly, if you are only visiting Disney World for one day, you shouldn’t expect much of a discount no matter where you search. So if it makes you more comfortable, you might as well just buy 1-day tickets directly from Disney’s website.
#11. Discounted tickets for members of the military!
As a thank you, Disney World offers tickets at a reduced price to people who served in the United States military.
To see how much you can save, you must head to this page on Disney’s website. As you will see, the Disney Military Salute Ticket offers 4 or 5-day passes, along with different Park Hopper options.
To purchase these tickets, you need to head to your nearest US military sales outlet. I found this PDF on Disney’s site that lists locations by state.
#12. Visit Disney World during THESE months.
Just like lodging, ticket prices vary by start date, depending on the time of the year and how busy the parks are expected to be.
Typically, the least expensive time to buy tickets to Disney World is January, February, May, August, and September.
And with a bit of research, this proves to be true.
At the time of this writing, the average price for a one-day ticket in March (spring break) was $159.
The average price for a one-day ticket in May was $144. And it was only $121 in September!
#13. Buy your tickets as far in advance as possible!
Doing this allows you to lock in the current prices and avoid future increases.
Trust me, Disney World rarely decreases ticket prices, so you shouldn’t wait around hoping for a better deal.
And buying tickets at the gate on the day of your visit will always be the most expensive.
#14. Become an Annual Passholder!
If you plan on visiting Disney World multiple times over the next 365 days, purchasing an Annual Pass may make sense. In exchange for an annual fee, Passholders can visit the parks as often as they want throughout the year!
Without getting into complicated math, an Annual Pass typically pays for itself if you plan on visiting the parks over 15 times in the next 365 days.
Head to this site to learn more and see how much it costs.
In addition to free Disney World tickets, here are a few other benefits of purchasing an Annual Pass:
- FREE parking at any of the theme parks! (Standard parking only)
- Discounts on certain restaurants, activities, spa treatments, and merchandise.
- Special support from Disney to help with reservations, issues, or recommendations.
#15. Visit BEFORE your kids turn 3!
Anyone under the age of 3 is FREE. It’s great to get them to Disney World before their third birthday to take advantage.
Just remember that it’s based on their age WHEN you visit, not when you purchase the ticket.
Also, children between the ages of 3 to 9 qualify for a child ticket, which is slightly cheaper than an adult ticket. Anyone 10 or older requires an adult ticket.
#16. Stay longer for cheaper ticket prices.
Typically, the more days you plan to visit Disney World, the bigger the discounts you can expect. So your average cost per day would go down. But of course, you have to spend more money on additional days.
Here is an example of the prices for one adult ticket:
3-day ticket for one adult:
The total cost was $498.94. This breaks down to $166.31 per day!
7-day ticket for one adult:
The total cost was $775.16. This breaks down to only $110.74 per day!
#17. Don’t purchase Genie+ or Lightning Lanes.
If you are trying to save money on tickets, don’t feel pressured to buy Genie+, which is the option to pay extra to skip lines for rides.
But, on the flip side, our family thinks it’s worth it to buy Genie+. We can ride many more rides by jumping ahead to the front of the lines.
#18. Skip the Park Hopper ticket.
When buying tickets, you have to choose whether you want the Park Hopper option. This allows you to visit multiple parks in a day; hence, you are hopping from park to park.
Without the Park Hopper option, you can only use your ticket to visit one park for that particular day.
While the Park Hopper ticket is fun, it costs more money. Think about whether you really need the ability to visit multiple parks in a day.
For example, if you have young children, my guess is that you won’t be staying out very late. I’m sure going to one park each day will be enough to leave your little one exhausted. 🙂
#19. Buy the Park Hopper option, but skip additional days.
This idea is a great way to save money on Disney World tickets for shorter trips.
Instead of buying 3 or 4-day tickets, buy a 2-day park hopper pass. Especially if you have been to the parks before, you can use the 2-day pass to do all your favorite things.
You could also purchase Genie+ and Lightning Lanes to avoid waiting in as many lines. This way, you can pack in as many things as possible when you go to the park.
Save Money on Dining and Food:
#20. Don’t get the Disney Dining Plan.
I know many people love buying a Dining Plan when they visit Disney World, but I am not one of them.
Overall, I think you pre-pay a lot of money for something you probably won’t take full advantage of. It’s hard to use all the credits exactly. In addition, the dining plan restricts certain items.
I think it’s a much better deal to just pay out of pocket for the dinners you want. This article does a great job of breaking down the Disney Dining plan and whether it is worth the cost.
#21. Don’t go out to eat as much.
Food can become a HUGE expense while visiting Disney World if you are not careful. Going to a new amazing restaurant for every meal sounds great, but the costs can quickly add up.
For example, on our last trip, it was almost $400 for our family of four to eat at Space 220 at Epcot!
When we visit Disney World, we typically only schedule a maximum of two sit-down dinners.
The rest of our calories come from quick-service restaurants, snacks as we walk around the parks, and food from our room.
#22. Bring your own food into the parks.
It always surprises me how many people don’t realize you can bring your own food into the parks!
We ALWAYS pack a lunchbox full of healthy snacks, such as clementines, carrot sticks, and granola bars.
Not only does this save us a lot of money, but it also gives our kids something healthy to eat during the day. Otherwise, we have been guilty of buying multiple $8 Mickey pretzels with cheese to satisfy our hunger as we go around the park. We feel pretty gross after eating them, along with being lighter in our wallets.
I think packing healthy food to the parks helps us enjoy the snacks we purchase. That’s because when we decide to buy something to eat, it’s because we WANT to do it instead of being out of necessity.
#23. Bring a water bottle into the parks.
Buying drinks while at the parks can add up, especially on a HOT Florida day.
You can easily avoid this cost just by bringing a water bottle. There are plenty of water fountains around to refill.
In addition, you are going to feel much better by hydrating with water instead of soda or something else sugary.
Also, all of the Disney resorts have free ice!
#24. Have groceries delivered to your room.
When we go to Disney World, one of the first things we do on arrival is have some groceries delivered using Instacart or another delivery service.
We don’t get a lot, just enough snacks and food so we don’t have to dine out for EVERY meal. Our grocery list usually has fresh fruit, granola bars, bread, peanut butter, jelly, and popcorn, to name a few things.
The main thing we look at is do we have food for snacks while at the parks. And also, we make sure to have breakfast food, which leads to my next money-saving tip.
#25. Eat breakfast in your room!
The breakfast food that most Disney resorts serve isn’t anything special. It’s good, but not great.
That said, we almost always eat breakfast in our room, using the groceries we ordered in the previous tip.
Preparing something in your room is also quicker, which gives you more time to get to the parks early!
#26. Have dinner delivered to your room.
Instead of spending a small fortune on a sit-down dinner, have pizza or other food delivered from a local Orlando restaurant. Just use a food delivery service, such as Ubereats or Grubhub. There are countless options, and they will bring it right to your resort.
Even with the tip and other fees, I guarantee it will still be cheaper than any of the restaurants at Disney World. Being in your room also gives you a chance to rest and unwind from a busy day.
#27. Buy a refillable popcorn bucket.
If your family likes popcorn, this tip should save you a lot of money at the parks.
On your first day, consider buying a refillable popcorn bucket at whatever park you visit. At the time of this writing, they were $13, and they come with a reusable souvenir popcorn bucket.
The best part is that refills are ONLY $2.25 for the length of your stay. Refills are valid no matter which park you are at.
To compare, a regular popcorn that you can’t refill is around $5.75. So, it only takes three buckets of popcorn to break even.
If you eat popcorn like our family, this happens on the first day! 🙂
#28. Order kids meals (even for adults).
You will find that the kids’ meals at Disney World have quite a bit of food. In addition, they almost always include something healthy, along with a treat for dessert.
And the best part is that the kids’ meals cost much less. For the average person, the kids’ meal should satisfy your hunger and save you money.
This tip is great for quick-service restaurants. If I’m eating at a sit-down restaurant, I’m making sure to get something delicious off the grown-up menu. 🙂
Other Ways to Save Money at Disney World:
#29. Use Credit Card Rewards Points to book your flights!
Just a warning: once you start using credit card rewards points to earn free flights, it’s hard to ever pay for a flight again. 🙂
For over a decade, I have been playing the points games with credit card companies.
The easiest way to get a bunch of credit card points quickly is by signing up for new credit cards. Many cards give you a huge bonus after you spend a certain amount with a new card.
For example, one card I saw recently was giving out 100,000 points if you spent $5,000 in the first three months. And if you use those points correctly, it would give you over $1,000 to use for travel expenses, such as flights!
To learn more about this strategy, please review this article.
Also, using credit card points to get free flights only works if you pay your credit card bill ON TIME each month. If you start racking up interest charges, it eats away at the savings you got on your flights.
#30. Don’t rent a car!
We live in Ohio, so we always fly there when we visit Disney World. One big thing we do to save money is NOT rent a car.
First, there are multiple free transportation options to get around Disney World.
There are buses, boats, monorails, and the Disney Skyliner, which are all FREE to use. Once you are at your resort, it’s much easier to take one of these options instead of driving yourself and dealing with the traffic.
Second, there are LOTS of rideshare drivers (Uber and Lyft) cruising around Disney World that can take you anywhere you need to go.
We have used Uber to get to many places around Orlando, including restaurants, parks, grocery stores, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios.
The first thing you need to figure out is how to get from the airport to your resort without a car. And don’t worry, it is easy. I have even created a guide that details all of the options. 🙂
#31. Get FREE Parking.
In the previous tip, I advised against renting a car. But if you want to drive yourself to the parks anyway, you should know that it costs a minimum of $25 per day! Obviously, multiple days of parking can really add up.
But, as long as you stay at a Disney World Resort, the parking at any of the theme parks is FREE! Unfortunately, many guests don’t realize (or forget) this fact.
Free parking might be the reason you need to justify staying at a Value resort at Disney, such as All-Star Sports, instead of staying off-property. Even if the off-site hotel is cheaper per night, FREE Parking might make the difference. 🙂
#32. Put a BUDGET on souvenirs.
Disney World has souvenirs for sale EVERYWHERE. The temptation for your kids is overwhelming.
And in true Disney fashion, the prices of the souvenirs are incredibly high.
To help save money, you need to have a plan for souvenirs before getting to Disney World. The strategy that works best for us is to give our kids a budget for souvenirs. We make sure to discuss it with them before we arrive.
The trick is sticking to the budget no matter what. If your son spends his entire souvenir budget on a Star Wars Lego at Disney Springs the first day you are there, that is it for souvenirs (speaking from experience).
#33. Buy souvenirs BEFORE your trip to Disney World.
As you can imagine, you can buy Disney toys, stuffed animals, and other souvenirs much cheaper online.
I know many parents pre-buy the souvenirs for their kids and then bring them along on the trip.
Then, they give them the souvenir at the end of the day. Or I’ve heard of parents putting them out while their kids sleep so they have a surprise when they wake up.
You can get creative with HOW you give them the souvenir. 🙂
#34. Shop for the best deals on rentals (strollers, scooters, etc).
When we go to Disney World, we always have to rent a large stroller for the week. The cost doesn’t break the bank, but it’s a hidden expense people don’t typically consider.
There are a few different companies that rent strollers in the Orlando area. My recommendation is to shop around and find the best deal.
Make sure to pay attention to how they manage the pickup and dropoff of the stroller.
And this tip isn’t for just strollers. It applies to wheelchairs, scooters, and other baby gear (high chairs, cribs) you need to rent.
#35. Bring THESE items from home.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.”
This quote rings true when it comes to the following items, to name a few:
If you forget ANY of these items, you can find them readily available for sale at any Disney resort or the parks.
But it will be WAY more expensive than buying them anywhere else. I’m talking about a 50% upcharge, maybe more.
My advice is to download a Disney World packing checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything you might need.
#36. Use the PhotoPass photographers for FREE!
Scattered across the parks, you will find the Disney PhotoPass photographers. They stand ready to take professional pictures of you at iconic locations around Disney World. For $199, you can get access to every picture they take or pay a high fee to get access to individual photos.
But I’m going to let you in on a money-saving secret:
You can ask the photographer to take the picture using YOUR phone.
Isn’t that awesome? You can save money and still get incredible pictures at the best locations.
Just so you know, the Disney photographer will still take your picture with their camera. You can see the images in the Disney World app, but you don’t have to buy them.
Below is a photo we had the PhotoPass photographer take for us on a recent trip:
#37. Hack Disney gift cards to save money.
Do you have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco?
If so, they offer Disney gift cards at a reduced rate.
For example, at Sam’s Club, you can purchase a $500 Disney gift card for $484.98. That’s a savings of 3% with almost no work.
If you don’t have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco, look at Raise.com for discounted gift cards.
You can also check out a site like CardCash.com. They buy unused gift cards from people and then resell them at a discounted rate.
On the day I wrote this, there were lots of Disney gift cards available on CardCash, up to 5% off!
Lastly, you can try looking on eBay. You can find people trying to sell Disney gift cards they have and can’t use.
#38. Explore the FREE kids’ activities that Disney offers.
Yes, I know it’s weird to say “Disney” and “Free” in the same sentence. But it’s true.
Many families decide to have days where they don’t go to the parks. They take a break from the craziness to relax by the pool, check out other resorts, or go to Disney Springs.
Believe it or not, there are lots of activities that don’t cost anything. Here is a list of some of the most popular:
- Swim at the pool.
- Most pools have activities at certain times of the day, such as games or trivia.
- Visit other resorts. And take an interesting form of transportation to get there – monorail, skyliner, or by boat!
- Roast marshmallows by the fire, along with other campfire activities. Available at almost every Disney World resort.
- Watch a movie under the stars.
- Hunt for hidden Mickeys.
- See African animals at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
- Play on the playgrounds. Every resort has at least one playground.
- Watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks on the beach at the Polynesian Resort.
- Watch the Electrical Water Pageant. It can be seen each night from the shores of these Magic Kingdom Resorts – Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, or Fort Wilderness.
Look for an activity board at your resort for more ideas:
What are your favorite ways to save money at Disney World?
I’m sure this post is just scratching the surface. Please let us know what you have done in the Comments below! 🙂