Disneyland and Disney World may well be the happiest places on earth, but they’re certainly not the cheapest. Don’t fret—you can plan a vacation that the whole family will love even if you’re on a tight budget. Here are 12 clever tips for saving money at Disney (World or Land) so you don't break the bank. (No wishing upon a star required.)
How to Save Money at Disney World: 12 Genius Tips
1. Look For Deals
Captain Obvious over here, but your first port of call should be checking out the Offers & Discounts page on Disney’s website. The parks update these constantly so depending on when you’re traveling, you could score discounted tickets, cheaper hotel rooms, deals for fan club members and more. Another great spot for money-saving hacks is MouseSavers.com—a site dedicated to sourcing and sharing free information about Disney discounts.
2. Go During Low Season
Prices on flights and hotels soar in peak season (usually when kids are out of school) so if you can, take a trip to see Mickey during the off-season (like mid-January through mid-March). Going for a short visit? Midweek (Tuesday to Thursday) is cheaper than weekends plus typically has shorter lines for rides. Win-win.
3. Skip The Disney Hotels
Sure, the park resorts are pretty magical but their prices are anything but. Save money by opting for a hotel or apartment within walking distance of the park—or one with a free shuttle (more on that later). The Hilton Garden Inn for example, is just 1.5 miles away from Disney World resorts and offers free Wi-Fi and free shuttles to the parks, starting from just $98/night for a family of four.
4. Pack Your Own Snacks
Did you know that Disney allows guests to bring their own food? If you’ve got a fridge in your room, you can save big by making your own breakfasts and lunches, but even packing a couple of water bottles and some crackers to snack on will help cut down on costs. You can also use food delivery services like Garden Grocer to get groceries delivered to your room. Just be sure to budget for those Dole Whips and the Sparkling Volcano Dessert from the Rainforest Cafe—a Mickey must-have.
5. Make A Game Plan
Fact: You’re more likely to make costly mistakes when you’re stressed. Get the most out of your trip and keep your budget in check by coming up with a (rough) schedule. Remember to take advantage of Fast Pass+ reservations that will allow you to book those can’t-miss rides (ahem, Splash Mountain) beforehand.
6. Buy Your Memorabilia Ahead Of Time
You can’t visit the happiest place on earth without bringing a little bit of that joy back home with you, but those toys and souvenirs don’t come cheap. Top tip: Buy some Disney memorabilia ahead of time (either online or in a Disney store) and pack it in your suitcase to surprise the kids with when you reach the hotel. Genius.
7. See If You Qualify For Discounts
It pays to be a member—Disney offers reduced tickets for military personnel, D23 fans and AAA members. Check here to find out if you’re eligible.
8. Save Money On Parking
Depending on where you’re staying, you could save a serious chunk of change by leaving your car at home. Lots of hotels offer free shuttles to and from the park, and there are plenty of other transportation options that don’t involve spending $20 to $40 per day on parking. Phew.
9. Double Check Your Receipts
If you’ve wined and dined at a park restaurant, be sure to read the fine print on your receipts before throwing them away—sometimes they include same-day shopping discounts.
10. Go Local
Florida and Southern California residents don’t just get to enjoy more sunshine than the rest of us—they can also purchase cheaper tickets at their local Disney resort. Just prove your residency and voilà.
11. Bring Your Own Stroller
Stroller rentals are pricey (approximately $15/day) and there’s no guarantee that there’ll be one available for your little prince or princess. Skip the hassle and the extra cost by bringing your own—just make sure that it fits Disney’s size parameters (no larger than 36 inches by 52 inches) and think about tying a bright ribbon around it so that you can easily find it in a sea of other strollers.
12. Pass On Photopass
Of course you want photographic evidence of your little Mouseketeer meeting their idol, but not at $5 a pop. Here’s a secret: You can actually ask the professional photographers walking around to take a free snap using your own camera. Ta-da—a picture-perfect memory (and no selfie stick required).