How to save money on your trip to Disney World
We just returned from our trip to Disney World and what a thrill it was. I had been forewarned of the cost associated with Disney and had several friends tell me it would be an expensive ride. I did my research and found several ways to save money on our trip to Disney, if you’re looking to create a magical experience for your family at the happiest place on earth without breaking your bank read my 10 tips.
I started planning our trip to Disney last November. Where did I start? With a blog, of course, I found a couple informative blogs to help me cut through the noise. Both blogger sites that I found focus exclusively on Disney planning and the information from these blogs is updated frequently.
The websites were bookmarked and I utilized their knowledge to cut through the overwhelming amount of information associated with this trip. The first blog Disney Tourist helped me narrow down where to stay and can be found here. The second blog helped me figure out how the theme parks worked. Especially how and when to book our fast passes, which rides to use the fast passes for and how to navigate transportation, the undercover tourist page can be found here. Most importantly it gave insight on when the crowds were low and the best time of year to visit. According to www.magicguide.com, almost 20.5 million people visit The Magic Kingdom alone each year so you’ll want to research the time of year you plan to travel.
Ten tips on how to save money on Disney World Vacation
Tip #1 Book cheap flights to Orlando Florida with Allegiant Airline.
We had previously flown out of Rockford with Norwegian Air to Punta Cana. At that time the parking was free and the customer service was fantastic. We had such a great experience with this small airport that we were looking forward to using it again. This experience fell short, they had one lady working the counter, therefore, check in was chaotic. She was on her cellphone and doing a million things at once, while other workers seemed to be standing around doing nothing. They never informed us that our flight was delayed so we were worried about the long wait for no reason. The price for a carry-on bag is $40 and a checked bag is $50.
Beware of airline fees
We combined our luggage into two big bags and checked them. At the ticket counter, we were informed that the weight limit is 40 lbs instead of the typical 50 lbs so we had to shuffle items around. Annoying! None the less we paid $713 for the flight, $270 in fees, $186 in seat selection fees (insert eye roll emoji). In addition to $100 in bag fees. Despite the nickel and dime method, we paid $317 each for our tickets, for a non-stop flight that arrived early afternoon.
Tip #2 Pass on the park hopper and just pick one park to visit per day.
We got the park hopper and only utilized it one of the four days. With all the walking, fast pass ride windows of time and so much to see and do in each park you won’t need to hop on the same day. At least if your kids are in the same age range as ours (4 & 7 years old). One park a day is plenty. Here is more information on ticket prices which recently increased in price.
Tip #3 Skip the car rental and stay on Disney property.
If you stay at a resort on Disney property it includes free transportation to all four Disney Parks by bus to the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom and by boat to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The buses and boats run around the clock every 20 minutes until midnight. Don’t hassle with parking and paying for a rental car. Time is money at Disney and this is an excellent service that will get you where you need to be.
Deciding where to stay is a personal preference but I fretted over this decision for the longest. We wanted enough space so that we could have a separate area for the girls to sleep. I wasn’t willing to break the bank on a hotel. Back when we lived in Atlanta and James was working his first corporate position, we stayed at The Swan and Dolphin because it was one of his accounts. As I dug and dug for information on where to stay this hotel ranked high in value, thus we booked our stay at The Swan and Dolphin again. I will review both resorts we stayed in more details so look for that. This is the best alternative to a Disney property at a decent price with many of the Disney resort benefits.
Tip #4 Buy snacks, snacks and more snacks!
I was planning to order snacks and water to the room from Amazon Prime but I waited a bit too long and the delivery wouldn’t make it in time. If you want to use this option plan to order 3-4 days ahead of your arrival and you will have to pay the hotel for handling the package $8. If you are staying at an official Disney Resort you can utilize their grocery service which includes wine and beer options, but this wasn’t an option for The Swan and Dolphin Resort. We simply asked our Uber driver to stop at CVS, I got snacks in regular sized bags and bought zip lock bags to portion them out for the day. I also used the bags to pack a couple baby wipes for hands and faces in my purse. He didn’t charge any extra for his time or the stop so I tipped him well.
Tip #5 Bring collapsible water bottles.
A bottle of water is going to cost you $3 and even though we traveled in mid-February the temperature ranged from 83-86 degrees. James was in his super dad mode making sure everyone stayed hydrated, sun screened and that we didn’t lose a child in the crowds.
Make sure you have a talk with your kids about not running off and staying within your eyesight at all times. That aspect of going to amusement parks is nerve wrecking. We purchased these collapsible water bottles and filled them at the hotel before heading out. You can ask for a free cup of water at any quick service spot to refill your water bottles. James has a gym sack gifted from his brother’s wedding and he carried our sunscreen, water bottles and the girls autographed books in that. Here is a similar bag.
Tip #6 Choose breakfast for your Disney character dining.
You can use a Disney travel agent for free and they will do all the planning for you. On our posh night at the Beach Club, we talked to a family from Staten Island that used this service. They had all their fast passes and dining taken care of, however, her husband was shocked when their character lunch cost their family of five, $300 dollars. Guess who pays the travel agents? Disney! If budget isn’t a concern, then use this service and take the planning out of it. I’m a control freak and what would I have to blog about if I didn’t do all this work for you? We found out that the breakfast was the cheapest character dining experience. We chose to do that which also worked well because their hair and makeup were the freshest. You need to be dolled up to meet the princesses. Later on, I saw other kids complaining about the princess dresses they were wearing that dragged the floor. As the sun got hot and the crowds thickened they didn’t want to wear them. After breakfast and lunch, we went back to our room and changed into swimsuits for the pool.
Tip #7 Eat offsite. We had an excellent meal at Disney Springs.
One of the best meals we had was at Enzos Hideaway in Disney’s Springs. This was such a cute area I wish we had more to explore it. Shopping, live music and plenty of dining options. The shuttle buses will take you there from the Disney properties. Don’t be afraid to step out and find food elsewhere.
Tip #8 Get all your Disney Gear ahead of time.
Since the Disney tickets were a gift from Santa we gave our daughters coordinating Disney attire as Christmas gifts. This helped build anticipation for the trip and give them a physical item to focus on while they waited for the departure date. We got cute t-shirts for the parents from target $13 each. The girls got Disney t-shirts, skirts and nightgowns from Kohls.
The showstoppers were these darling dresses from Mia Belle Baby. The dresses I ordered were from Nordstrom Rack for $34. Knowing the girls would want to feel like princesses, I packed gift bags and tissue paper. We gifted the dresses and sparkling shoes to the night before our breakfast with the princesses. I did their hair and make-up myself. Since we didn’t have the typical Disney dresses all the other girls were wearing my daughters stood out. We got stopped with compliments throughout the day and even Cinderella asked if she could trade dresses with the girls.
Tip #9 Set limits!
We let the girls know ahead of time that they would get to choose one souvenir that we would buy for them. Misha picked Nala the stuffed lion from Lion King and Giana chose the Minnie mouse ear headband with a veil. They brought their savings from their piggy banks, Giana got a Minnie mouse metal tag with her name engraved and a chain from Space Mountain for $15 and Misha got rocks from Space Mountain for $7 and came back with $6 change, she must take after her dad.
Tip #10 Take your own great photos.
If you want any of the pictures taken on rides or by photographers at the parks you’re going to pay for them. You have two options with the photo pass: you can buy the photos from one day for $69.99 or for a window of 30 days for $199. Take note of where the photographers are hanging out. Watch them take some photos of families so you can pick the best backdrop. I wanted to use my iPhone 7-plus for my pictures on this trip. Before leaving I found tips on how to take great photos. Here is a quick lesson on how to shoot with iPhone. I did opt to bring my T6 Rebel for the breakfast with the princesses since I knew we would not be riding rides and would head back to the hotel for our pool day.
All in, we spent about $4,000 on this vacation. We could have done an all-inclusive week in Mexico for the same amount. However, this is a bucket list trip for the kids and something they will hopefully remember for a lifetime. I’ve heard from friends that spent $10,000 on a week to Disney so I think we did well. I hope these tips help you save on your Disney vacation. For more family vacation tips check out our post on Punta Cana.
Stay tuned for our Disney resort reviews!