Whether you’ve been to Walt Disney World or not, most people know that it is an expensive trip; there’s food, hotels, souvenirs, and more, and it can be very overwhelming! However, there are tips and tricks you can use to budget your money and get the most out of what you pay for while planning your trip.
1.) Stay on Disney Property
While many would say that staying on Walt Disney World property is more expensive, they don’t take everything about staying on property into consideration. While the Disney hotels may be a little more expensive than one 20 minutes away from the parks, the money is well spent when you consider everything you get from it. In addition to the magical qualities the hotels have, they also provide a lot of free services for guests, such as parking, transportation to the parks, and airport transportation. Those who don’t stay at a Disney hotel have to provide all these things for themselves, including the gas money to get there and a $20 per day fee when you park a car at the parks. The Disney hotels also offer special services that you won’t find at just any hotel, such as child care services and pet boarding, so it makes your life easier when planning your vacation. If you stay at the Value Resorts such as the Pop Century Resort, or Moderate Resorts such as Port Orleans Riverside (my personal favorite!), then the prices will be much more affordable than the deluxe resorts, and it’s almost as much fun as visiting the parks!
2.) Be wary of Park Hopping
The Park Hopping option, for those who don’t know, is when you pay extra to have the ability to go to multiple parks in one day. While this sounds like a fantastic idea in theory, it can actually be incredibly tiresome in practice. Not only is it exhausting to try to do multiple parks in one day, but it’s also expensive and detracts from the experience. Each Disney Park is so unique and has so much to it that it’s extremely difficult to try and do more than one park in one day, and we’re not just talking about the Magic Kingdom; Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios are all amazing, magical parks that deserve their own days. I will say, though, that if you’re just there for the big rollercoasters, park hopping would be a great idea, because then you can hit them all in one day. So, if you feel up to park hopping, go for it; but be aware that it is expensive, and once you get into a park, you may not even want to use it!
3.) Save your change in empty 2-litre bottles!
My younger sister recently discovered that if you fill an entire empty 2-litre Pepsi bottle with dimes, it totals up to about $700. After we found this out, we didn’t stop at just dimes- we have a bottle for dimes, pennies, and nickels, and a gallon-sized bag for quarters. Every time we find change at the house or on the street, we put them into their respective bottles. My sister has been devotedly doing this for about two months now, and she has each bottle filled up about 1/3 of the way. This money is completely dedicated to our Disney fund, and once all the bottles are full, the money will be put towards tickets, hotels, and souvenirs! Not only is this a great way to save, but it makes the younger kids get really involved and learn how to save up for something they want- and when they know they’ve contributed, the trip will be that much sweeter.
4.) Don’t buy every t-shirt, souvenir mug, and photo album you see
In other words, be wise about what you and your companions choose for your souvenirs. While the t-shirts are great, they’re also very expensive, and once you go home, they can lose their charm. While maybe not as common as t-shirts and photo albums, there are some amazing collectibles and keepsakes you can get for souvenirs that hold up to their value. Some of my favorite souvenirs are a hand-made Alice in Wonderland teacup I found in the emporium and instantly fell in love with, and a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal my boyfriend bought me on our anniversary trip. One is currently in my kitchen on display for everyone to see, and hasn’t ever lost its charm; the other stays on my bed at all times and is still as cuddly as the day I got it; both were also much cheaper than the $60 t-shirts. Mickey ears, customizable parasols, cookware, hand-made blankets, stuffed Disney characters, and so much more are at your fingertips while in the Disney parks, and are definitely more bang for your buck when it comes to durability and sentimentality than plastic mugs and photo albums.
5.) Plan which restaurants you want to go to before you arrive in Walt Disney World
One of the best ways to budget and plan for your trip is to do research on the various restaurants in Walt Disney World before you go. There are many spectacular options for you and your entourage to choose from when it comes to dining, and many are surprisingly affordable. Lucky for us, the full menus for each restaurant with full prices are posted on the Walt Disney website; all you have to do is look under the restaurants in each park to see their options. They also tell you whether it is quick-service, table service, and/or character dining. Thanks to this handy feature, you can actually plan the amount you’ll spend on dinner without having to do too much guessing.
6.) Keep an eye out for special ticket and hotel prices
It’s no secret that Disney tickets are expensive; however, Disney is known to have discounts on tickets and hotels from time to time, especially during Spring and Fall. For Florida Residents, there are special offers year-round for tickets and hotels at Disney. Many institutions also get discounted tickets; my college, for instance, offers discounts on Disney tickets to all students and faculty. Other organizations, such as AAA, have discounts for its members. It’s important to always be on the lookout for any discounts you can get on tickets and hotels, and when you find them, take them! It will make your budgeting and planning so much easier.
7.) Know about Extra Magic Hours and Fastpasses before you go
Two more perks of staying at a Disney Hotel that gives you more for your money are the bonuses of Extra Magic Hours and Fastpasses. Extra Magic Hours are times when the various Disney Parks are open earlier or later than normal to guests of WDW resorts, enabling them to experience more magic in the parks. The Magic Kingdom, for example, which usually opens from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., has had Extra Magic Hours that enable resort guests to stay until midnight or later, allowing them access to rides and restaurants that would normally be incredibly crowded after most of the crowds have gone. Disney Hotel guests are also allowed to reserve Fastpasses up to 60 days before they even step foot in the park, which means they get first pick. Getting Fastpasses this early can save your family a headache and sore feet while in the park because you won’t necessarily have to wait 120 minutes to ride Space Mountain. Remember that Extra Magic Hours are only available at specific parks on specific days, so you need research these before you go, as well as which rides you’ll want to Fastpass in order to make your life easier.
8.) Don’t be afraid to bring food into the park
Walt Disney World allows their guests to bring outside food and drink into the park, which is a major advantage for everyone on a budget. My family and I usually eat before we set foot in the park; we actually bring breakfast food items like cereal that we can eat in the hotel room. We also bring lunchables or sandwiches in the park with side items like chips, apples, granola bars, and of course, water, in order to save money on lunch. We buy must-haves at Disney, like dole whips and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, and we always eat dinner in the park. Doing this saves our family over $100 dollars per day, and we can be sure to do it every time we go to the park!
9.) Don’t forget to pack the essentials!
This is probably one of the BEST ways to save money at Disney World. Things like sunscreen, sunglasses, extra undies, backpacks, first aid supplies, and anything that you’ll need during your stay can cost a fortune in the parks or hotels. The best way to remember all of these things is to make yourself a checklist. Write down everything you’ll need, and everything you think you won’t need. Just because it’s December doesn’t mean you won’t need sunscreen; you’re in Orlando, remember? The weather is unpredictable, and so is what will happen in the park. Some of the most expensive things you buy in the park may be the essentials that you forgot to bring!
10.) Always Do your Research
Just like any other vacation, you HAVE to research your trip. You need to know everything from the route you’re taking to Orlando to what the weather will be like during your trip. Walt Disney World takes a lot of budgeting and planning, even if you’ve been 24 times. You should be researching from the beginning to the end of your planning process. It is incredibly important to know what you want to do and what you DON’T want to do before you go, because let’s face it, Walt Disney World is expensive, and none of us are made of money. Always calculate how much tickets, hotels, food, souvenirs, and other expenses will be before you go; and it’s always good to overestimate, because if you don’t actually spend as much as planned on necessities, you’ll have a little extra spending money in the park to pick up that special souvenir you’ve always wanted!
So, the next time you go to Disney, look back at these insider tips and tricks before you start planning. They will help you save money on your next Disney trip and give you more time to experience the magic with your loved ones!
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Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper