Disney World on a Budget
It’s no secret that Disney World is expensive. With an increase in prices every single year, people are trying to do Disney World on a budget more and more these days.
It’s ALSO no secret that I will give them my money over and over again (I have a problem).
BUT, when you’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed it’s really important to create a budget for your Disney World Trip.
Are there ways to save money? Absolutely!
Are there any short cuts that don’t require any planning? Not really.
Here, let me walk you through it.
I’m going to cover 8 tips that can really make a significant difference in the cost of your trip.
This post is going to cover BIG savings. I’m not going to talk to you about how you can save $10 on your trip, or give a long list of memberships you can join that will give you a very small discount.
Those are mostly American anyway, and as a Canadian I find it frustrating when people list discount that are only good for people in the US!
Anybody and everybody will benefit from this post.
These 8 tips are, honestly, some harsh realities everyone going to Disney just needs to face. If you face them, you can save a lot of money!
1. Try to be flexible with the time of the year you’re traveling
If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you can save tons of money.
Disney raises its price based on the time of the year. Meaning, traveling during the “off-season” can help you save some serious cash.
The most expensive times of the year are around the holidays: Christmas, New Years, Spring Break, Memorial Day (US Holiday), and American thanksgiving.
The most affordable times of the year for Disney are typically dates in January, February, August, and September.
Because these are months in the off-season, these months will also have smaller crowds! That a win-win, if you ask me.
If possible, be flexible with your planning and keep your eye out on the prices for those cheaper months!
2. Consider how many park days you really need
This is really going to be different for everybody.
One of the biggest ways to cut your costs is to cut your number of park days. Disney World has 4 main theme parks, which means I recommend having at least 4 park days.
Keep in mind that each park is huge and full of things to do. So as a first-time visitor, it will be hard getting everything done without a Disney travel planner.
Who, by the way, are completely free!
But if you have the time to do your research then you can DEFINITELY make it work!
Okay, now let’s get into Disney’s prices.
Remember, Disney pulls you in by showing you that you “save” money if you buy more tickets. The more number of days, the cheaper the ticket price per day.
While your price per day goes down, your overall price still increases.
For example, if you originally wanted to go for two days, that would cost you $107USD per day, which is $214USD in total. If you jump to three days, you’re paying $106USD per day, which is now $318USD in total.
See where I’m going with this? Overall, you’re spending $104USD more then you originally planned.
The only time this decrease in price per day becomes useful is when you look into going above 4 days.
If you go for 4 days (my recommended minimum), you’ll spend $103USD per day, which is $412USD in total. If you go for 5 days, you’ll spend $88USD per day, which is $440USD in total.
That’s only $28 USD more per person if you jump from 4 days to 5 days. So you think you’ll be saving money, right?
Well, for one you’re still spending an extra $28USD. Then you’ll have to factor in another 3 meals and another resort/hotel night.
Still think you’re saving money?
I’m not saying it’s not worth it! I’m actually being a little hypocritical because I spend as many days at Disney as possible (once again, I have a problem).
But I’m always making an informed decision. And that’s what I want you to do!
3. Cut costs on food
This is a big one!
Disney sells the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) like nobody’s business. Any Disney blogger will tell you that “the Disney Dining Plan is only worth it if you plan on eating all of the food they offer and plan on purchasing more expensive menu items”.
This is true. But, I like to word it differently.
The Disney Dining Plan is not worth it if you’re looking to save money. Period.
If you eat all the items and plan on getting the most expensive items on the menu is it worth it? Sure.
But most people who are looking to save money wouldn’t originally be doing those things had they not purchased the DDP. Therefore, not worth it.
You can cut costs by packing your own food (yep, you can do that!), going to budget-friendly restaurants, and eating mainly at Quick Service Food and Beverage Restaurants (QSFB).
Eating QSFB can feel like you’re eating fast food all day so I recommend placing budget-friendly restaurants in the mix.
4. To park-hop or not to park-hop
When purchasing a park ticket, you’ll notice the option to make your ticket a “Park Hopper”.
This means that you can go to multiple parks in one day. It sounds appealing, doesn’t it?
They also give you the “Park Hopper Plus” option, where you can see multiple parks in a day and go to the water parks.
While some families swear by using park hoppers to master their vacation, I personally never recommend it for first-time visitors!
Unless you’re there for less than 4 days – that’s a different ball game altogether.
But if you have at least 4 full days at Disney World, and you’ve never been there before, then I’d skip the park hopper!
I strongly recommend dedicating at least one full day to each park if you can.
However, if you’re there for 5 days, you could maybe get a park hopper for one of the days in case you can’t decide which park to go to.
But if you’re trying to save money, getting a single-park ticket is your best way to go.
5. Staying off property vs. staying on property
This one is tricky. Personally, I highly recommend staying on property.
Why? Because, [warning, cheesy statement coming through] that’s where the magic is!
That’s what gives you all the convenience of Disney transportation, that’s where guest service really comes into play, and that’s where you get access to amazing Disney World food and amenities
When I go to Disney I want it to be all Disney, all the time.
However, I also understand that for a lot of people, staying on Disney World property just isn’t within your budget.
The cheapest Disney World resort starts at $119 dollars a night (approximately $167.91CAD). That’s a lot of money! And that price is likely going to increase depending on the time of the year.
If you time to postpone your Disney trip to save the amount of money required to stay on property, once again, I really recommend it.
However, you’ll save a SIGNIFICANT amount of cash if you stay off property at a local hotel or resort.
When calculating this, remember that if you stay off property you’ll have to pay for transportation (e.g., renting a car or paying for an uber/lift/taxi). If you rent a car, you’ll also have to pay for parking.
You also won’t get magicbands for free if you don’t stay on property. These last a lifetime and are EXTREMELY useful.
One way to reduce your resort cost is to make sure you travel during the off-season. Also, make sure you keep up to date on Disney’s deals and discounts to see if you can snag a percentage off your resort price.
6. Do you really need those water park tickets?
Alright, I’m just going to come out with it – I’m not the biggest fan of the Disney World water parks.
Alright all you water bugs, don’t come for me.
I’m not saying water parks aren’t great. And if I really wanted to go to a water park, I’d want to go to a Disney-themed one!
But if you’re on a budget I would really take the time to consider whether going to the water parks is worth it.
Think about WHY you’re going to Disney world, and prioritize where you’ll be getting that “why”.
It’s likely in the regular four theme parks.
From what I hear, even people who love water parks would categorize the Disney World water parks as being like any other water park (minus the Disney theming).
If you have the time and money, then great! If you don’t, then it’s not worth the coin.
7. Consider using a Travel Agent
Disney travel agents are great for every kind of guest.
From those who have never been, to those who have been a million times, a Disney travel agent adds a lot of value to your trip.
The best part? They’re free! A GREAT option when going to Disney World on a budget.
You don’t pay a Disney travel agent, DISNEY pays them. The travel agent gets a commission from what you paid for your trip – and this DOES NOT increase your trip price.
If anything, travel agents are perfect because they monitor Disney’s deals and discounts and can apply what best suits you and your group.
Ideally, they are experts at Disney World. They know all the ins and outs of planning the perfect Disney trip, and if you’re on a budget, you don’t want any disappointments!
As you know, I offer free Disney World Planning Services. Simply because I love it, and because I want your vacation to be as magical as possible!
But there are also other great independent travel agents and full-scale travel agencies dedicated to Disney vacations. It’s worth doing some research to see if it suits you and your needs!
8. Check Disney for discounts – continuously!
If you had a Disney travel agent, you wouldn’t actually have to do this part!
But if you’re someone who loves planning their own trips and doing their own research, and has the time to do so, then this tip is for you.
Disney World provides different discounts and offers all year.
The best part?
Even if you’ve already booked your trip, you can apply a new discount to your trip as long as your vacation hasn’t started.
Yup! Simply give them a call and ask them to apply the new discount to your upcoming vacation. As long as it meets the parameters required for the discount, you’re in.
This requires that you check Disney’s special offers page regularly, but you can save big money if you’re willing to put in the work.
Just because Disney says you’ll be saving money, doesn’t mean you actually will be.
Disney won’t offer anything that doesn’t make them money. And while that may sound bad, it makes complete sense. They’re a business after all.
For example, you’re only actually saving money with the Disney Dining Plan if you use every credit and buy the most expensive meal on the menu every time.
As another example, if you get a Free Dining Plan, you can’t apply a discount on your resort stay and you may have to buy a park hopper ticket. You’ll have to calculate the costs and benefits associated with that.
There are just two examples that demonstrate that you ALWAYS need to crunch the numbers yourself instead of relying on Disney telling you how it is.
Don’t get me wrong, for some families they may save big bucks with these offers.
But for some, you may end up spending more than you planned in one area, just to save in another. You need to calculate and see if that ends up being more money spent overall.
And the all lived happily ever after
Alright! That covers it. These are 8 tips to save where it counts when going to Disney World on a budget.
Remember that if you ever need help planning your Disney World vacation, I offer free planning services! You can fill out a planning request by clicking the image below.
You can also get in touch with me through my IMYM Instagram account!
I’m just one mouse-click away.
If YOU have any suggestions or tips, I would love to hear about them in the comments section.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see ya real soon!
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