Disney World can sure be pricey, but that doesn’t mean you have to shell out all of your hard-earned cash to have a blast!
Are you looking to save money on dining next time you go to Disney World? Or do you need some creative, DIY hacks to recreate some special events that would otherwise end up costing your family hundreds of dollars?
We have a few tips today on how you can still enjoy the “finer things in life” while on vacation at the Most Magical Place on Earth!
You can take advantage of Deluxe Resorts without actually staying there!
A misconception that we sometimes hear is that you MUST be a guest with a reservation in order to gain access to Disney World resorts. This is simply NOT the case! Guests are more than welcome to visit every single resort in Disney World, no matter where you are staying.
Keep in mind that you cannot take advantage of the various pools, as those are special amenities reserved for guests staying at those resorts. But all of the restaurants, shops, and most activities are available to everyone, even if you’re not staying on Disney World property.
If dining at the finest restaurants is a priority for you and your family, but you’re looking to save some pennies on your vacation, consider booking a Value Resort and visiting the Deluxe Resorts for a few meals.
A great pick would be Disney’s Pop Century Resort, which would grant you direct access to both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot via the new Disney Skyliner. You could hop on the Skyliner for a quick trip to Disney’s Riviera Resort to have a wonderful character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace.
We actually highly recommend including a hotel hopping day in your plans next time you go to Disney World! Some of the resorts have a lot of fun activities for the entire family that, again, are available to EVERYONE — not just the folks staying there!
For example, you don’t even need a park ticket to Animal Kingdom to see some of the African animals Disney has to offer! Head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and check out their very own savanna.
Looking for some fun, lively nighttime activities? We cannot recommend Disney’s BoardWalk Inn enough! This resort is a great spot especially if you’re traveling without kiddos.
Grab a drink at the AbracadaBar or a nice dinner at Flying Fish. Or you can swing by Jellyrolls Dueling Piano Bar for some drinks and spectacular entertainment (just be sure to arrive early; it’s often standing room only after 9:00PM!).
We especially love visiting all of the resorts during the holiday season. The Deluxe Resorts tend to go ALL OUT for Christmas. Trees, garland, and holiday music are plentiful throughout the resorts. Our favorite is the gorgeous giant (REAL!) Gingerbread House at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa!
You can easily fill an entire day checking out all the decorations (and snacking on some Christmas cookies OBV!).
One thing to note, though, is that Disney resorts have gotten super weird about letting guests park in their parking lots when they’re not staying there. It’s usually fine for resorts that don’t have direct access to parks (like Animal Kingdom Lodge or the All Star resorts), but if getting to the parks is easy via walking, monorail, boat, or skyliner from a resort hotel, you may run into difficulty.
You can either take a bus to the resort, park at the theme parks and visit resorts via the parks themselves (e.g. park at Magic Kingdom and pop over to California Grill for dinner via the monorail), or pay for valet (which kind of defeats the purpose of this article, but don’t forget that paying for valet parking allows you to valet park at any Deluxe resort as many times as you want for the rest of the day as well — so it might be worth it if you’re resort hopping for the day).
Eat Table Service-quality dishes at lounges for a fraction of the cost
One of the priciest line items of many Disney trips is the food and drink bill. Prices can easily add up if you’re eating your three meals a day, ESPECIALLY if many of these meals are at Disney’s wonderful sit-down restaurants.
Lucky for you, there are a few hacks we would like to share! One of the best ways to save while still enjoying some of Disney’s best food and beverage offerings is to visit restaurant lounges!
If you’re in Epcot, save a few bucks by visiting Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar. Cozy and welcoming, this lounge serves wines by the glass or bottle and a variety of small plates (as well as many items from the menu at the adjacent Tutto Italia Ristorante!). Bonus — you can usually grab a table with little to no wait! Just order a tasting plate versus a full entree — you get the experience without having to pay the big bucks.
You don’t need one of those hard-to-get reservations to eat there (just be aware that it is first-come, first-serve). PLUS you’ll have access to the full menu but can order just an appetizer and a drink instead of feeling guilty you’re not ordering full meal and a bottle of wine. (No Disney server would ever pressure you to order more than you’d like, but we try not to take up a server’s table if we’re not going to order all that much. If we DO, we’re sure to pay the same gratuity we would pay if we’d ordered a full meal.)
And of course you get to take full advantage of those VIEWS! Our favorite part of dining in this lounge is it grants you full access to the fireworks viewing area at California Grill, which offers some stellar views of the fireworks in Magic Kingdom.
But here’s a HUGE TIP: Even if you’re not there during fireworks time (lounge tables go FAST in the evening, and some people just sort of camp there until the fireworks, unfortunately), you can eat earlier and bring your receipt back to the restaurant to see the fireworks!
Enchanted Rose Lounge is one of the newest lounges at Disney World, located in Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort & Spa. Inspired by Beauty and the Beast, this lounge serves up specialty cocktails and small bites for you to enjoy. While it is a bit pricey for a lounge, it does share its kitchen with Citricos, a Signature Restaurant at the resort.
So if you want to sample some of Grand Floridian’s signature food but you don’t want to pay for a FULL meal, Enchanted Rose Lounge is a great option with a more laid-back (thought still super fancy) vibe!
DIY your own fireworks dessert party or After Hours party!
This next tip is a TON of fun, but might require a little extra leg work! Disney offers many fireworks dessert parties, including three at Magic Kingdom and one at Epcot. These parties are a great opportunity to snack on some sweet treats with a premium view of the nightly fireworks spectacular.
This doesn’t come cheap, however, with the Happily Ever After dessert parties ranging in price from $79-99 per adult ($47-59 per child), and the Epcot “Frozen Ever After” dessert party costing $99 per adult ($59 per child). For a family of four, that easily adds up to the cost of an additional night at your resort (or more!!).
So, why not make your very own fireworks dessert party? If you can scope out a good viewing spot for the fireworks early, have someone in your group run and grab some desserts to munch on while you wait!
This is a great way to use up those unused Snack Credits if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan. If you’re waiting for the fireworks at Epcot, grab some School Bread from Kringla Bakeri of Kafe in Norway, or get an ice cream cone from L’Artisan des Glaces in France.
In Magic Kingdom, Main Street, U.S.A. is a haven for sweet and savory snacks. You can’t go wrong with a bucket of popcorn or a scoop of ice cream from Main Street Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. You can even DIY your very own MASSIVE ice cream sandwich. Or, stop by Casey’s Corner for our personal fave, the Corn Dog Nuggets (with EXTRA cheese, of course).
If you want to go super rogue and avoid spending extra dollars on a park ticket, you can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from outside the park! Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has some great spots on its beach to watch the fireworks, and the music is even played outside for guests to enjoy. (Remember, this is available to all guests; you DON’T have to be staying at the Polynesian to take advantage of this!)
Likewise, After Hours events and holiday parties like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are pretty hefty investments if you’re traveling with a larger family. Last year’s Christmas Party tickets ranged in price from $99 to $139 per adult ($94 to $134 per child ages 3-9).
We came up with a fun little DIY holiday monorail party for you to try if you don’t want to invest ALL that dough.
If you spend your day at Magic Kingdom, you can still experience much of what the Christmas Party has to offer: the decorations are up all day, the holiday music is playing throughout Main Street U.S.A., and many delicious holiday treats are available for you to enjoy all-day long.
When it’s time to depart, hop on the monorail and do a gingerbread tour! There are some spectacular decorations in the lobbies of the Monorail Resorts during the holiday season. We already told you about the gorgeous house in the lobby of the Grand Floridian, but at Disney’s Contemporary Resort you’ll find a massive Cinderella Castle gingerbread display with treats available for purchase as well!
Then, finish your evening at the Polynesian, where, you guessed it, you can watch the special holiday fireworks! Dress up in your best Christmas sweater (or not cause it’s still pretty warm that time of year!), and make your own holiday magic without shelling out hundreds of extra dollars.
If you’re creative, you really CAN have it all in Disney World without spending it all! We hope we gave you a few ideas you hadn’t considered for how to stretch those dollars and have the best trip possible for less! You’re WORTH IT!
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What is your go-to tip for saving money while STILL getting the most out of Disney World? Let us know in the comments!