Disney World is a favorite vacation destination for many — and a pricy one at that.
When planning a Disney World trip, you probably have your mind on how much you’ll be spending. Between hotel costs, tickets, food costs, and more; Disney trip spending can easily rack up thousands of dollars for a family. Well, if you’re looking to spend as little as possible on your Disney trip then we’re here to help. Here is how to take your dream Disney World vacation on a budget!
Getting to Disney World
First up, let’s talk about getting to Disney World. Travel prices are a fickle thing and they can have a big effect on your vacation. For most domestic travelers, your first choice when planning a Disney vacation is whether to fly or drive. In most cases, making the drive to Disney World will be cheaper than a flight if you’ve got a full family coming.
Keep in mind if you’re traveling alone or with just a couple you’ll definitely want to weigh those gas prices versus airfare. Depending on where you’re flying from, you might find that flying is actually cheaper than making the drive. This can even be true for whole families when it comes to nearby departures headed to Disney World. For airfare in general, we recommend booking early and keeping an eye on fares to try to catch a low rate.
Still, if you are visiting Disney World from far away, you might find that the flying versus driving cost is a little bit deceptive. Though gas prices might sum up to a figure that is lower than airfare for your whole family, driving a long distance might mean booking another night in a hotel and potentially taking more time off of school or work. Keep in mind racking up loads of miles on your car puts a strain on your vehicle, including the engine and tires, so decide if the added milage is worth it. So, it is very important that you weigh your total cost of what the driving trip (including a hotel stay if needed) versus a flying trip would look like. Keep in mind that time is money, too. If driving means less time in Disney and more time in the car, you may have to factor that into your final decision.
If you do drive, having the added benefit of having your car with you can help make transportation a little bit easier IN Disney World. It also means you need to worry about parking costs. At this time, parking at the Disney World Resort hotels ranges from $15 to $25 per night depending on the level of the hotel you’re staying at.
Many off-site hotels do not have parking fees, however, if you stay off-site you will be charged to park at the theme parks. Typically this charge is $25 per day for standard parking. Theme park parking is free for Disney World hotel guests and Passholders. Plus, staying at a Disney World hotel will get you the added benefit of free Disney transportation. (ALL guests can use Disney World transportation for free, but it makes things really easy for those staying on-site!) If you don’t have a car you’ll find Disney’s free transportation is your best bet for saving on transportation. We love the convenience of rideshares like Lyft and Uber, but the cost of those rides can stack up and take a huge cut out of our Dole Whip budget!
If you fly, you have to think about getting to Disney World from the airport. Through the end of 2021, guests staying at a Disney World Resort hotel are able to book Disney’s Magical Express for free to get to and from the airport for their trip. However, the service is ending. So, in 2022 or now for guests who are not staying at a Disney World Resort hotel, you’ll have to factor in the cost of booking a rideshare or another travel service to get to Disney World. Make sure you consider either parking costs or any relevant Rideshare cost when determining how you plan to get to Disney World once you’re in Orlando. Mears shuttles has announced they’ll be offering a service (for a fee) similar to Magical Express soon as well.
Those staying off-site also won’t have access to Disney’s free transportation at all times. Still, as we’ll talk about in a second, staying off-site can have its benefits financially. So, if you opted to save by staying off-site, you can look for hotels that offer free transportation to Disney World or consider renting a car.
At this time, car rentals are sparse in Orlando and you’ll find prices are higher than they have been in the past. This might not be the most budget-friendly option right now, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be budget-friendly in the future. If you’re staying off-site and flying to Orlando, it might be worth it to look into the pricing for a rental car during your stay. If you can find a good bargain, you may ultimately save by not having to deal with rideshare. Just make sure you factor in those parking costs!
Speaking of rideshare, there are some tips to saving when you book that Lyft or Uber. First of all, you’re going to want to have both the Lyft and Uber app on your phone. Depending on driver availability you might find drastically lower rates on one over the other. So, whenever you’re looking to book a rideshare go ahead and take a look at the rates on both apps to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
In many cases, Rideshare apps have a wait and save feature that allows you to lengthen your wait times for a ride to save a few dollars. Those dollars can add up if you’re using rideshare a lot. We also recommend booking in advance to go ahead and lock in a low price if you’re going to be using rideshare during high-demand times like park open or close.
All right, let’s talk about accommodations. There are several ways that you can save money on your stay. First of all, you can always opt to stay off property. Many Disney hotels come with a “Disney premium” making nights there a little bit more expensive than you might pay if you were to stay in a Good Neighbor hotel. Good Neighbor hotels offer official Disney perks for a fraction of the price. Take a look at some of the options in the Disney Springs area!
If your transportation plans allow for it, you can also look for cheaper accommodations further from Disney World than the Good Neighbor hotels. This might mean another hotel chain or even rental houses totally off property. In many cases, you might be able to find a rental space that is much larger for cheaper than you would pay for a Disney World hotel. Some rental homes even have private pools! This can be particularly cost-effective if you’re planning a multi-family trip. Many of these homes can fit large groups so you can then share the cost!
If you do want to stay on property, and you have Marriott points you can use your Marriott Reward Points to stay at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel so that you’ll still be on property at a much lower cost. That’s definitely something to keep in mind if you take advantage of the Marriott Reward system.
And, if you’re looking to stay in a larger room (for instance if you have a large party), you might want to look into renting Disney Vacation Club points to get a deluxe resort stay for cheaper. The Disney Vacation Club hotels have suites and regular hotel rooms available at typically VERY high prices (well in the thousands for some of the massive 3 bedroom villas!). However, using services such as David’s DVC Rental, you can rent unused Disney Vacation Club points from Disney Vacation Club members to book your stay in official Disney rooms for a fraction of the price.
Another reason to consider a Disney Vacation Club resort is that any one, two, or three-bedroom suite/villa comes with a full kitchen and washer/dryer in the room. This could add up to some savings if you’re willing to make some of your own meals and cut down on airline baggage fees if you wash your clothes while on vacation. This may not sound like a “vacation” for some families, but it could be a consideration for those looking to save those pennies.
Whatever you book on Disney World property, keep an eye out for special offers. Disney often introduces special offers that can save you a good chunk off of the standard rate. And, if you see a special offer pop up that applies to your stay AFTER you’ve already booked, give Guest Services a call and ask to have it applied to your room. As long as a special offer applies, they’ll be happy to help you get it added to your reservation. In certain cases, you may need to cancel and rebook your trip to get the deal.
Speaking of special offers, the same applies to park tickets. For instance, if you are a Florida Resident, you’re definitely going to want to keep an eye on special offers as they tend to pop up very regularly. Sometimes, this can mean steep discounts or added days for little to no added cost.
Plus, park tickets can sometimes be a part of a package deal you book with Disney. Some deals will charge you full price for your room but deep discounts on included tickets, which can often come out to be the better deal. Crunch the numbers for your family and see! So, when you’re looking at those special offers for your hotel see if any of them help you to save on park tickets too!
When purchasing tickets, you’ll be faced with the decision of whether to buy Park Hoppers or not so that you can get from park to park in the same day. If you are not 100% sure that you’ll use Park Hoppers, we recommend waiting to buy them. You can add a Park Hopper to your ticket at any time so don’t add it until you know for a fact that you need it. Even if that means deciding day-of in EPCOT that you want to end of the day in Magic Kingdom. THEN you can head to guest services, and get that part ticket upgraded. Just keep in mind that Park Hopper will be added to ALL days of your ticket, so make the decision early so you don’t pay for days you’ve already used up!
Dining can actually make for huge costs when in Disney World, especially for larger families. But, we have some tips to help you with that! For one, if you don’t mind skipping the table service meals it’s a great way to save money. Sit down food in Disney World usually = $$$$. Counter-service is so diverse these days that you can truly enjoy a wide variety of cuisine without ever sitting down for an expensive table service reservation.
In Disney Springs, you can even enjoy celebrity chef spots that each have some sort of counter service window or bar. You can enjoy the celebrity-created cuisine without breaking the bank or spending the time to eat a large sit-down meal. Try the walk-up bar at Homecomin’, Morimoto Asia Street Food, or The Basket at Wine Bar George. Remember, in Disney World time is money too.
When you’re in the parks, we recommend bringing in your own snacks and maybe even meals to save money. If you just need a little snack, it’s a lot nicer to have a bag of Goldfish in your park bag than having to go and splurge on one of the often-overpriced bags of trail mix you’ll find in a gift shop.
If you’re flying or otherwise don’t have easy access to a grocery store, you can use Garden Grocer or other grocery delivery to have snacks, drinks, breakfast items, and more delivered to your hotel. The grocery delivery will have a fee of its own, but having access to these items could save you money in the long run.
For the meals that you do plan on purchasing, price them out in advance! Menus are up on the Disney site with prices so, if you know what reservations you’re booking, you should be able to gauge how much that will cost you. That way, ahead of your trip, you know exactly how much you need to budget for food.
Plus, when you’re at those table service experiences, make sure that your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach. Disney portions are big and in a lot of cases, they are shareable. Check out our restaurant pages here on DFB to see if we have reviews of specific items so that you can see those portion sizes in advance. If you suspect you might be able to share, we definitely recommend it.
Finally, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Don’t spend money on bottled water in Disney World. Bring in reusable water bottles and use the water bottle refill stations or get free water at many quick-service restaurants. Bottled water in Disney World tends to come at a premium and those costs can rack up when you’re trying to travel on a budget.
Consider Using a Travel Agent
If all this planning and discount-hunting feels overwhelming, consider using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner Travel Agency (we LOVE Small World Vacations)! Your travel agent can help find the best discount for you and apply it to your trip for you.
The best part — using them won’t cost you a cent! Using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner Travel Agency won’t increase your cost whatsoever — they get paid a commission by the vendor (Disney), not by the guest (you)! They can’t make all of the decisions for you, but they can definitely help take some of that stress out of your planning.
And before we go, we’ve got a few more general tips!
- Book in advance and pay on your trip monthly! Then you aren’t having to dish out a HUGE amount at once.
- Buy gift cards and budget in advance. Gift cards help you to limit your spending and you can even find discounted gift cards at stores like Sam’s Club or Target!
- Check Sam’s Club, Costco, and more to see if you can find a discount on tickets. These discounts can make a big difference!
- You can also save your cash-back rewards if you use a credit card to book your trip. Then, you can use those rewards toward gift card purchases, flights, and more to help save (depending on your reward card).
- If you’re in a position to get a Disney Credit Card, you can use that to specifically earn rewards dollars towards your Disney trip.
- And finally, check out the DFB Guide! We are EXPERTS in saving money in Disney World and our e-book will take you through EVERY. SINGLE. TIP. to help you keep that budget in check. Click here to buy our 2021 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining!
And there you go! Hopefully, this post has been helpful when it comes to money-saving tips for Disney World. As always, you can stay tuned to DFB for all of the latest tips, tricks, and more for your next Disney trip!