We know how hard it can be to actually SAVE money on your Disney World vacation.
Say whaaaaat? SAVING money at Disney World? Yeah right. Well, it can be done — you just need to know a few tips and tricks in order to make it happen. Ultimately, though, you are planning a trip to the Most Expen- uh, Magical Place on Earth — so you will have to shell out at least some money on your trip. But just how much money you spend can be totally up to you — so we’re taking a look at the cheap, cheaper, and CHEAPEST ways to visit Disney World!
Whether you’re trying to save a few bucks here and there, or are really trying to get the most bang for your buck and save HUNDREDS, we’ve got all the tips you need to save on your Disney World vacation — so let’s get into them!
Depending on where you’re coming from, travel is one of those parts of your trip that can vary drastically. If you have to fly to Disney World, there are some things you can keep in mind to help you get the cheapest flight into Orlando International Airport (MCO).
First things first: seasons. If you have control over when you can take your trip, try to wait for “off-peak” times. Mid-to-late August can be one of the best times to find cheaper flights since many families are wrapping up their summer trips and heading back to start the new school year.
Another option is to plan your travel for weekdays. Flight prices typically depend on demand, so the old adage of buying flights on Tuesdays doesn’t really apply. But, when you actually fly out might make a difference — early to midweek tends to be cheaper than weekends, and if it’s a historically busy weekend, flight prices will be higher.
Which airline you choose to fly with can also make a huge difference, but can be tricky because it really depends on what flights are available at your airport. Spirit and Frontier Airlines usually offer the best flight deals, just keep in mind that you get what you pay for when it comes to budget airlines. Your closest airport might also not be the cheapest option — see if you can find cheaper flights at other nearby airports (if you can!).
Once you’ve actually landed at MCO, you have to figure out how to get to Disney World. Unfortunately, Disney’s Magical Express service is gone so this is going to cost you at least a bit of money. If you’re trying to do Disney on the cheap, a rental car is out because not only do they cost a pretty penny, but you’ll also be faced with those dreaded Disney World parking fees!
Instead, consider booking a trip with Mears Connect or the Sunshine Flyer. A round trip on Mears will run you $32 per adult and $27 per child, while the Sunshine Flyer costs $32 per adult and $20 per child. So, for a family of two adults and two kids to take Mears Connect you’re looking at $118, but the Sunshine Flyer would cost $104!
Of course, you can always take a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. They do switch up their pricing and often have surge pricing as well, but they don’t charge per person like the shuttles do. Depending on how many people are in your party, you might have to do a little bit of math to figure out which is right for you.
If you’re planning your trip far enough in advance and have the extra time, consider hitting the road and driving to Disney World instead. Even if you have to make a hotel pit-stop along the way, this can be much cheaper than flying — especially if you’re in a large group. And, depending on how many adults you’re traveling with, the cost of hotel rooms can be split up to make it even cheaper.
We’ve seen gas prices fluctuate recently, and hotel rooms are typically subject to surge pricing as well. Because of this, the further you book a hotel room or start planning your road trip can actually save money — last-minute stays can hike up the price more often than not.
If flights are just WAY too expensive for you right now, and you don’t want to shell out the dough to stay in a hotel on your way down to Disney World, there is another option — BOOK IT to Disney World in a 1-day drive! Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you’re a frugal fan who wants to have the cheapest trip possible — this might be a good option.
To do this, though, you’re going to need to start your day EARLY so you can pace yourself and take breaks throughout your drive — a good rule of thumb is a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving.
You’re also probably going to want to try to split up driving duties, if that’s an option. Taking shifts and rotating drivers can prevent anyone from getting too tired and needing to pull over to rest at a hotel (remember — we’re avoiding extra expenses here).
And finally, don’t forget the road trip SNACKS. Stay hydrated, too. Yes, the more water you drink the more you’ll have to stop to go to the bathroom, but if you’re dehydrated by the time you make it to Disney World, you could get sick and not be able to enjoy your trip!
HOORAY! You’ve made it to Disney World — and got there without breaking the bank. But, where will you be staying that’s actually cheap? Value Resorts are going to be your best friend here — but, they are Disney Resorts which means they’re not necessarily going to be “cheap.” During peak seasons, Value Resorts can still end up being over $200 per night.
Let’s say you’re still traveling with two adults and two kids (props for not losing anyone on the journey) during Disney World’s downtime in August. A standard room at one of Disney’s All-Star Resorts could cost around $141 per night — which really isn’t that bad for a Disney hotel, all things considered. But — there’s an even CHEAPER way to stay at a Disney-owned resort.
Grab your camping gear, because we’re roughin’ it at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds! You can rent a campsite and live in the “great outdoors” for around $74-$131 per night during the slow season, and you’ll still get access to all those Disney World perks like Early Theme Park Entry and free transportation.
Plus, make sure you check DFB for the latest Disney World hotel deals that have been announced!
Not a fan of the camping idea, but still not sure if you can swing a Value Resort? No problem — consider staying at one of Disney World’s Good Neighbor Hotels. These hotels partner with Disney to bring savings and park perks to guests — like Early Theme Park Entry, free transportation, and more.
They can still be a bit pricey as they range in levels of luxury, but more often than not they’re still going to be much, much cheaper than a Disney-owned-and-operated hotel. For example, your 2 adult, 2 kiddo group can stay at the Residence Inn Lake Buena Vista in a 1-bedroom, 2-room suite with 2 Queen beds and a sofa bed for about $135 per night during off-peak times.
Sure, that might be roughly the same price as a Disney World Value Resort — but this time, you get an entire SUITE! It also comes with a full kitchen so you could save even more on your trip by having meals in the hotel room — but more on that later.
Or, you could stay at the Rosen Lake Buena Vista in a Deluxe Bedroom for — drumroll please — $85 per night! Plus, this hotel also has added perks like free parking, a free shuttle to the parks, and a kids eat free program so you can save even MORE. There are plenty of Good Neighbor Hotels (over 40 actually) so you shouldn’t have a problem finding something that might fit your needs!
The cheapest option, though, is going to be traveling a bit off the beaten path and further outside the Disney World bubble to greater Orlando. There are hotels EVERYWHERE — and you can probably find a cheap hotel that will work for you if you do just a bit of research.
Airbnbs are also popping up like weeds all over Orlando near Disney World, and that can be a great option for larger groups or those who are looking to rent an entire space. But, your mileage is going to vary with non-Disney hotels and AirBNB — just check the ratings and reviews before you book. You tend to get what you pay for when it comes to travel accommodations.
IT’S FINALLY TIME! You’re heading to the parks! But HOW can you get there for cheap? First, check out the Disney World Special Offers, Deals, & Discounts page on their website for the latest discounts and ways to save — we also keep track of them all right here!
You can also partner with a travel agent like our friends at Small World Vacations — they can keep an eye out on the best Disney World savings and help you get them applied to your trip. And of course, we’re always on the lookout for the latest Disney deals, so consider subscribing to our newsletter if you haven’t already! The best part about these strategies is that they won’t cost you a dime.
Disney World park tickets vary in price depending on the time of your visit (are you sensing a theme here?) so let’s check out some examples. Say your family of 2 adults and 2 kids wants to visit all four parks with single-day tickets. During an off-peak time like August, tickets could cost anywhere from $106 to $108 per day (so around $1,800 total).
It’s also important to note that if you decide to hit up fewer days in the parks, the price ranges will increase. Essentially, the more days you visit the parks, the cheaper each ticket will be!
Like we said, 4 parks and 4 tickets for 4 days is NOT cheap — so let’s see what we can do about it. How does a weekend trip sound? This way, you’ve already eliminated 2 park days — you’ll just have to decide which parks you’ll want to visit.
But, if you REALLY want to visit all 4 parks on your weekend trip, it’s still possible with the Park Hopper add-on. You can visit 2 parks per day with the $65 extra Park Hopper charge and hop to a different park after 2PM (assuming you’ve already scanned into your first park — read more about park hopping here!).
For our example family of 2 adults and 2 kids to have a weekend trip during the off-peak season — you’re looking at around $1,300 for tickets. Still expensive, but about $500 cheaper than 4 parks and 4 days. But, if you’re only worried about paying for your own ticket – a weekend full of park hopping with friends will run about $334, which might be an easier pill to swallow.
Want to save even more? Head to a water park instead of another theme park!
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon offers a TON of water rides, slides, a pool, and everything you need for some fun in the Florida sun. Tickets for Typhoon Lagoon are around $65 to $69 for adults and $58 to $63 for the littles!
The absolute CHEAPEST option when it comes to Disney World is doing a weekend trip and just visiting ONE park. But, what do you do with the other day? Well, that’s when you check out all of the FREE things you can do around Disney World! Yep, we said FREE.
Roam around Disney Springs, hang out by the pool at your hotel, catch a Movie Under the Stars or play trivia at your resort, and more. All of these offerings are complimentary and feature much of the Disney World magic you’d get in the parks. Plus, the monorail and Skyliner are basically rides you can get on without a park ticket, so there’s that.
Having a cheap Disney World trip sometimes means having to make sacrifices and not being able to do everything you want to do — so we wouldn’t recommend this for first-timers. But, if it’s a cheap trip you’re after, this is probably the best way to do it!
Now is our time to shine. Sure, we’re experts in ALL things Disney World planning, but food is where we really get excited. First, let’s go over some discounts and loyalty programs that you might not know you can use at Disney World!
The Levy Loyalty Program can help you save at spots like Paddlefish and Terralina Crafted Italian, and the Landry’s Loyalty Program will get you discounts at Yak and Yeti and Rainforest Cafe. Blaze Pizza in Disney Springs has an app that occasionally sends free offers, and the Patina Restaurant Group has an email subscription with perks like deals, discounts, free appetizers, and more.
The Edison, Enzo’s Hideaway, Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, Pizza Ponte, Morimoto Asia, and all the restaurants in the Italy Pavilion at EPCOT are all operated by the Patina Restaurant Group, so you have the chance to save at quite a few different spots!
But, where are the cheaper restaurants in the parks? Well, quick-service spots are going to be your best friends here. In Magic Kingdom, we love Casey’s Corner for some corn dog nuggets, Friar’s Nook for loaded tots, and Sleepy Hollow has some stellar waffle sandwiches.
If you’re heading to Hollywood Studios, one of the cheapest options (although not necessarily knock-your-socks-off food) is Catalina Eddie’s for some puffy pizza. One of the better quick-service restaurants in Hollywood Studios is Woody’s Lunch Box — here you can get totchos, grilled cheese and tomato soup, and those fun Lunch Box Tarts! Protip: you can order off the kids’ menu at quick service spots to save even more.
At EPCOT, Choza de Margarita has affordable small plates and snacks (not to mention some delicious frozen margs), but another option is to make festival booths into your meals! Depending on when you’re visiting, chances are there’s going to be a festival going on. Prices can vary, but if you purchase a Disney gift card and pre-load it with a set amount, you can stick to your budget!
If Animal Kingdom is on the agenda, we love the mac and cheese options over at Eight Spoon Cafe. These cups of baked mac and cheese are technically snacks, but they’re really filling and make a great lighter meal. Or, head to Mr. Kamal’s to pick up those excellent seasoned fries with saffron aioli, honey kimchi ketchup, and Tandoori honey mustard for $5.99 (and you can thank us later).
Even if you only bought the absolute cheapest foods at Disney during your trip — those costs are still going to add up QUICKLY. Save even MORE by packing your own food and snacks! It’s totally cool with Disney, just make sure you’re not bringing anything with you that’s not allowed.
We’re in the parks constantly and are often eating snacks on the go, so here are some of our favorite things to toss in our park bag or keep in our hotel room!
- Granola bars or trail mix
- Uncrustables or pre-made sandwiches
- Peanut butter crackers
- Mini muffins
- Veggies and fruit (carrots, celery, grapes, oranges)
- Goldfish, Teddy Grahams
And make sure you pack your reusable water bottle for FREE water in the parks and to stay hydrated. You can also get free water cups at most quick service locations, but filling up your own bottle is often easier and more convenient.
What’s a Disney World trip without something to bring home to commemorate your epic vacation? Before you drop any cash at one of the stores on property, make sure you check the shopDisney website to see if you can find the item for a little cheaper. Plus, they often have online sales that might not be offered in-store.
You can get all kinds of park merchandise on shopDisney including festival merch! You can always keep an eye on the item online and wait for a sale to pop up — but this requires patience and there’s no guarantee that the item will actually ever go on sale.
Save money by being PREPARED. You can often find cheaper Disney merchandise at places like Target, Walmart, or even the dollar store. If your kiddo is set on bringing a souvenir home with them and are just BEGGING you for it — whip out the $10 Walmart ears you got instead of the $35 park ones.
But, if you still want to have that experience of buying a Disney souvenir in the parks (or want to share that experience with your kids) try setting a dollar limit or item limit instead. That way, you’ve committed to something and won’t spend a single dollar more. Maybe. Probably. If you put blinders on your kids’ eyes.
Remember how we mentioned earlier that sometimes having the CHEAPEST Disney World trip means making sacrifices? Souvenirs are another area where you just might have to. Just don’t buy anything extra — seriously. Disney is trying to get you to spend money (and they’re GOOD AT IT) so just tell yourself that extras are not an option this time around.
Extras like Genie+ and even the new MagicBand+ can be great, but they can also be some of the easiest ways to rack up extra costs on your trip. Just take your time, ride rides, see all the shows, check out the details — and have a good time.
Planning a cheap trip to Disney World isn’t impossible, it’s just a bit challenging and requires some careful planning. Our BEST tip for sticking with your budget at Disney World will forever be to plan ahead – especially for dining!
When you buy our DFB Guide to Dining at Walt Disney World, you’ll get immediate access to our downloadable worksheets for planning your trip, as well as sample one-day dining itineraries! And as a DFB reader, you’re entitled to a discount! Use code WDW2022 for 25% off your purchase.
Be sure to stay tuned to DFB for the latest Disney planning tips and more!
Are you going to plan a CHEAP Disney trip with these tips? Let us know in the comments!