There are so many things to consider when planning your first, second, tenth, or even one hundredth Disney World trip!
And there are quite a few things that Disney probably wants us to tell you — like how some of their snacks are ridiculously delicious, or how they’ve got some cool activities you’ll want to check out during your next trip. But, there are also quite a few things that Disney probably does NOT want us to tell you, like that you shouldn’t pay rack rate for your hotel or how to save some BIG BUCKS on Disney merch. So, today we’re sharing 10 things you need to know that Disney doesn’t want us to tell you!
1. You Should Never Pay Rack Rate for Your Hotel
Okay, first we’ve gotta address those rack rates. A Disney hotel room can be EXPENSIVE. The “rack rate” is the flat, full price for a Disney Resort hotel room. And while you might see that price online and think that’s what you’ve got to pay, we’re here to tell you “no way!”
You should NEVER pay the rack rate (or at least do your very very best to avoid it). There are typically a variety of discounts available on hotel rooms from Disney. The full price is almost never the price you have to pay to book your hotel!
So, dig around! Check our page of all the latest discounts and deals, look at the special offers and discounts pages on Disney’s website, check for Annual Passholder and Florida resident-specific coffers, do some research on third party sites to see if you can score a discount, and maybe even consider working with a travel agent to help you.
Typical discounts can range from 10% to 20% or more!
If you’re thinking of booking a hotel with Disney Vacation Club accommodations, instead of booking a DVC room straight through Disney, consider renting DVC points through reputable third parties like David’s Vacation Club Rentals. Not only could that help you stay in a great room, it could help you save BIG BUCKS!
You might need to do a bit more planning when it comes to renting DVC points as you’re more likely to get your first choice if you plan a certain number of months in advance depending on what room you’re looking for, but that advanced planning could help you save a lot of money!
2. Value Resorts Have the Same Perks as Moderate Resorts
Another thing Disney doesn’t really want you to know is that value resorts generally have the same perks as moderate ones! We know that there are quite a few reasons why you might be drawn to stay at a deluxe or moderate resort like the elevated theming, some larger rooms that fit a 5th guest, their overall size as some are smaller and feel more intimate, and, of course, their reputation for being of high quality.
BUT if all you’re doing is going back to your hotel to shower and sleep after spending the whole day in the parks, you can really save a LOT of money by just staying at a value resort!
There are even some value resorts — namely Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s All-Star Music Resort — that have family suites, so you could still fit a larger group all in one room while saving money. WIN, WIN!
The value resorts also offer the same basic amenities as the moderate resorts — pools and playgrounds, gift shops, dining, that Disney customer service we all know and love, free transportation to the parks, and more.
Sure, the theming at the value resorts can be a little over the top. But, if you’re not spending a lot of time there, then who cares that there is a GIANT Ursula in front of your room!!
And, if you’ve got kids, the over-the-top theming can actually be a fantastic aspect of the value resorts that they’ll really enjoy. And it’s Disney, so maybe you’re going to a Disney hotel in hopes that there will be a giant Ursula right outside of your room!
The biggest difference really between value and moderate resorts is the dining situation. Value resorts generally only have food courts available for guests to enjoy, while moderate resorts typically have some table service restaurants available as well.
If all you really need is a food court for some quick and basic snacks or meals, then that might be fine for you. If you want to come back to a hotel after your park day that has more dining options, then you might want to consider booking a moderate or deluxe. BUT just remember that you can eat at any resort (even ones you’re not staying at). Just be sure to follow the current rules regarding resort hopping.
Click here to see 8 reasons you should definitely consider staying at a Disney World value resort hotel!
3. Anyone Can Order Off of the Kids’ Menu!
There are SO many delicious food options all around Disney World. But, if you’re looking to grab something to eat, save money, and not waste food — then ordering off of the kids’ menu might be perfect for you!
Generally, anyone can order off of the kids’ menu. At quick service locations, we’ve really never encountered an issue ordering off of the kids’ menu. This could save you some BIG bucks, and the portions might be just right — filling, but not SO big that it’ll make you feel overly stuffed.
At table service restaurants, your mileage might vary in terms of ordering off of the kids’ menu, so just be aware of that. Sometimes, the restaurants will let you order straight off of the kids’ menu without any adjustments. Other times, they might give you the option of getting an adult-sized portion of the kids’ menu item at an adult-meal price.
Whether you’ve got a picky eater in the group, you just prefer the items on the kids’ menu, you see something on there that intrigues you, or you’d just rather have the smaller portion size — just be sure to speak up if you see something on the kids’ menu that you’d like to order!
4. You Can Order Ahead and Save Money on Fuel Rods
In Disney World, you’ll likely be using your phone a LOT — checking the My Disney Experience app for ride wait times, taking photos, Mobile Order, Mobile Dining Check-In, Mobile Merchandise Check-Out, MagicMobile, PhotoPass, and more!! And there’s more phone tech on the way.
So, you might find your phone battery dying VERY quickly in Disney World (even if that’s never a problem for you at home).
So, we highly recommend that you bring a portable phone charger that you can keep with you to use throughout the parks and keep those phones ready to go. One popular choice is to get a FuelRod. FuelRods are portable device chargers and you can find machines to buy them all over Disney World.
Once you buy one FuelRod, you can plug in your phone and charge it up. Once the juice from that FuelRod is drained, you can swap it out with a fresh one at any of the machines in the parks as often as you need to FOR FREE!
FuelRods are definitely convenient in that aspect because you won’t have to worry about charging them back in the room and potentially forgetting them there or anything like that. If you buy a FuelRod in Disney World, it’ll cost you $30 for a starter kit that comes with the portable charger and some charging cables.
BUT, if you buy it online in advance you could save some money! For example, on Amazon, you can get a single FuelRod kit for $20, or you could pay $30 but actually get 2 FuelRods. You’ll still be able to swap them out all over Disney World for free without any issues, AND you’ll have saved some money by getting it in advance!
Sometimes, you’ll also find FuelRod stations in malls, airports, and other spots, so you can look for them there too. And while saving $5 or $10 might not seem dramatic, that could be one or two extra snacks! You gotta think about the food possibilities, people!
5. You Can Save BIG on In-Park Merchandise By Buying Online
Okay okay, this can be a big one! It is SO easy to drop a lot of $$$ on souvenirs in Disney World. And if you’ve got little ones, it’s even harder to try and stick to a budget. We’ve got lots of tips and tricks to help you avoid the ways that Disney tries to trick you to spend more money, but one of the biggest comes with souvenirs.
There is some in-park Disney merchandise that you can truly only get in person. BUT, quite a lot of in-park merchandise has recently started to make its way online at shopDisney. In fact, sometimes Disney will release merchandise online on the very same day that it becomes available in the parks.
Now, not all merchandise will be available online, but before you head to the check-out counter with that new set of ears in Disney World, be sure to check if they’re available online.
WHY should you look to see if an item is available online? Well, it might be easier or more convenient for you to just order the items online. You could also check for those signature items ahead of your trip and potentially buy them before you even arrive in Disney World. But the really BIG reason you’ll want to see if the items are available online is because shopDisney often has sales that the stores in the parks don’t!
We have literally found a souvenir in the parks and then found it online for MUCH CHEAPER! There are typically big sales online twice a year, and sometimes special offerings on different days.
So, there are a few things you might want to do when it comes to souvenirs. First, before you leave for your trip, look at shopDisney and see if any of the items you’ve been hoping to get in the parks are available and/or on sale. You might be better off buying it in advance and then bringing it with you on your trip. This can be especially great for kids if you buy them souvenirs in advance, when they’re on sale, and then take them out little by little throughout the trip to keep them happy and entertained but also curb their desire to buy more in the parks.
Second, while you’re in the parks, if you’re thinking of buying something, you might want to take a look and see if it’s available online for cheaper! You might be surprised at how much money you can save. Just be sure to factor in shipping.
6. You Can Get Discounts on In-Store Snacks
Looking to grab a snack or bottled drink in Disney World? Well, you’ll want to skip buying those at snack kiosks. Instead, if you’re an Annual Passholder, Cast Member, Disney Vacation Club member, or member of something else that grants you discounts on Disney merchandise, be sure to grab those snacks and drinks in MERCHANDISE locations to get a discount!
Snack and drink kiosks generally don’t accept these particular discounts. But, if you grab your snack at a merchandise location instead of a snack cart, you could save some money!
You also might be surprised what spots are considered “merchandise locations” where you can score a discount on food. One of the greatest examples is Karamell-Küche in the Germany pavilion in EPCOT. This is actually marked as a merchandise location, so you can use your AP and other discounts here on that delicious caramel popcorn and more!
So, if/when you can, skip the snack carts and opt to get some treats in the merchandise locations to take advantage of those discounts.
ANDDDDD don’t forget that you can get FREE WATER in Disney World. We know, we’ve said this a million times, but we still see people paying for water so once again we will remind you — you can stop by quick service locations and get a FREE cup of water. Be sure to take advantage of that and save money while staying hydrated.
7. You Don’t Need to Go Back Every Year
This is something Disney probably doesn’t want us to tell you but, truly, you do not need to go back to Disney World every year. New attractions, restaurants, and more are constantly opening up in the parks. You really can’t do everything in a single trip (no matter how hard you try), and there will almost always be things that you want to come back for. But, you really don’t NEED to go back every year.
For example, this year Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and La Creperie de Paris are set to open on October 1st, right when Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebrations begin. If you went to Disney World last year you might be thinking “we GOTTA go this year to see all of that new stuff!” And, if your family can afford it and it’s important to you, then you might be able to do it and have the best time ever!
But, especially if you’re looking to save money or potentially see these new things with lower crowds, you might want to skip on the trip this year and wait a little bit. If you wait until the new things are not so “new” anymore, the crowds will likely die down some, making it easier for you to enjoy the area.
Also, if you wait, you might get to enjoy MORE of the new area or land, rather than just seeing things open in phases. And you might get to experience shorter lines and crowds. Basically, what we’re saying is plan the trip for when your time and budget allows. If you skip the trip this year and save up more money, you might be able to take a longer trip in the future and see even MORE (because by that point another 2 new restaurants, hotels, etc. likely would have also opened up).
8. You Can Buy Just 1 Annual Pass and Get Perks for the Whole Family
Another thing Disney probably doesn’t want me to tell you is that you only have to buy one Annual Pass to get perks for the whole family! Annual Passholders get a variety of perks in Disney World including free parking, discounts on some food and merchandise, specific discounts on hotels, access to AP-specific merchandise, and more.
But, you can do all of that with just 1 AP. So, for example, if you’re looking to get free parking — only 1 of your family members needs to be an AP to get free parking for the car you’re all driving in.
You just have to crunch the numbers and see if it’s worth it for you. Depending on how many trips you plan to take in a year and how long each trip will be, it might be worth the price and the savings tied to it. And, if you can, you could try to schedule your trips a bit closer together to make sure you can maximize your benefits while the AP is still valid.
Just keep in mind that right now NEW Annual Passes for Disney World are not being sold, except in very specific cases. So, you might have to wait a bit to take advantage of this.
9. You Can Bring Your Own Food
Yes, some of the food and snacks in Disney World are DELICIOUS and are totally must-get items, but buying food in the parks for every single meal, every day of your trip, for every person in your party can be very expensive!
What Disney might not necessarily want us to tell you is that you can save BIG on food by bringing your own! Snack bars, cereal boxes, water bottles (especially this), sandwiches, chips — you can bring all kinds of delicious treats into the parks to help significantly cut down on your costs. The savings could add up to even equal the cost of another park day, another merchandise item, or something else. Truly, you just have to decide where you want to spend your money and budget/plan accordingly.
10. You Might Not Need that Park Hopper
And finally, the last thing Disney probably does not want us to tell you is that you might not need that Park Hopper Ticket! In 2021, Park Hopping returned. In order to hop between parks, you need to buy a ticket with the Park Hopper option, which is an additional cost for each day of your trip.
You must make a Park Pass for the first park you want to visit, you must visit that first park, and then when Park Hopper hours begin (which has been at 2PM so far, but is subject to change), you can hop to other parks as long as they have availability.
Right now, a 1-day, 1-park ticket starts at $109, while a 6-day, 1-park per day ticket starts at $75 per day. If you add on the Park Hopper option, that 1-day, 1-park ticket now starts at $174, and the 6-day ticket starts at $90 per day. Particularly on longer stays, the day-to-day additional cost might not seem like TOO much for the Park Hopper, but if you multiply the cost across every person in your party for every day in your trip, you’ll see that the cost can REALLY add up!
Before buying the Park Hopper option, you should really figure out if it is something you actually need. Take a look at the days you’re visiting, how much time you’ve allotted for each park, and the things you want to do. If your plan basically only consists of you visiting 1 park per day for the most part, then a Park Hopper must not be right for you.
Right now, you also can’t even hop until 2PM. With some parks having shorter hours (although we’ve seen quite a lot of hours extended), you’ll have to decide if that’s worth it for your family. You might be tempted to have the freedom of a Park Hopper to go wherever you want to go, but if you’re not actually going to use it that much, buying just 1-park per day tickets can save you LOTS of money.
Also, you can typically add on the Park Hopper option later if you want to. Just keep in mind that you’ll be charged the price for every day of your trip. So, if you decide to add on the Park Hopper option on day 2 of your trip where you have 5-day tickets, you’ll be charged the Park Hopper option for the full 5 days. So, don’t wait until day 4 to add it on. If you’re going to pay for it, you might as well be able to use it to the fullest!
And keep in mind, you generally cannot REMOVE a Park Hopper option from your ticket. Once you pay for it, it’s generally stuck there. So, be sure that you REALLY want the Park Hopper before you take the plunge!
And that’s our list of the 10 things Disney doesn’t want us to tell you! This post was based on the DFB video below. Be sure to click and watch it to learn more.
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What are your very best Disney World money-saving tips? Tell us in the comments.