Many families with young children dream of taking a vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida, but some might be tempted to take that dream on hold when they realize how expensive it can be.
Before you defer your Mickey visit due to sticker shock, consider some of these money-saving tips below to make your Disney World vacation more affordable.
Save on Transportation – Drive If Possible
The first way you can save money on your Disney World vacation is by spending as little as possible on getting yourself there.
If saving money is your number one goal (and you live in the continental United States), driving to Orlando will be your best bet. Be sure to calculate gas, meals during the drive and overnight accommodations if needed.
Compare this total to what plane tickets would cost for the entire family. Unless you’re redeeming frequent flyer points or have another discount that will reduce the cost of the flight significantly, odds are that taking a plane to WDW will still be more expensive.
Another potential perk of to driving is that you’ll have a vehicle with you during your entire stay. If you plan to stay off-site or want to visit non-Disney property, it will make getting around much easier.
Save on Accommodations – Stay Off-Site or at Disney Value Resort Hotels
Your choice of hotel will also significantly affect the overall cost of your Disney vacation. You can certainly save money by staying at an economical off-site hotel.
We really loved Floridays when we did a Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando trip several years ago – you can read our review here.
Just a heads up about staying off-site though – you’ll lose the perks of staying at a Disney owned hotel like free parking, free transportation via bus, boat or monorail to the parks and other Disney resort hotels, the ability to book FastPass+ reservations further in advance, and the benefit of being able to attend Extra Magic Hours (when Disney resort hotel guests get to enter the parks earlier or stay later than non-Disney guests).
If you want the benefits of being a Disney hotel guest but budget is your top priority, consider booking a room at one of Disney’s Value Resort Hotels.
Value Resort Hotels are the least expensive of Disney’s resorts and all have colorful, child-friendly decor with larger than life sized character statues and themed pools.
For families looking for a little more luxury, Moderate or Deluxe Resort Hotels tend to be more upscale, elegant and some are much closer to the theme parks than the Value hotels.
But if you are looking to save money and know that the majority of your time will be spent in the parks, Disney’s Value hotels will do just fine for families on a budget. There are several that can accommodate large families (5 or more people).
Save on Accommodations – Timing Counts
It’s important to note that Disney resorts at every level vary depending on the time of year. Resorts are the most expensive during peak travel times, such as during the summer and during the holiday season, when the greatest number of people visit the Orlando area.
Even the Value Resorts can be fairly expensive at peak times, so consider visiting Disney World at a less busy time of year to get the most bang for your buck. We tend to travel in the early Fall (September/October) or slightly before or after the holidays (early December or January/February).
Save on Park Admission – Skip the Add-On Options
Park tickets are one of the biggest expenses you’ll have on your Disney World vacation, and unfortunately, there are not a lot of ways to save a boatload of cash on the price of park tickets.
Fortunately, due to the way Disney prices their tickets, the more days you stay, the less you will pay per day for your theme park tickets.
Although you may not be able to find much of a discount on the tickets themselves, you can save money by forgoing expensive add-ons like Park Hopper tickets, which allow you to visit more than one park per day.
Although this option can be nice, traveling between parks can be time-consuming (it’s even slower with little ones!), and it is by no means necessary in order to have a good time.
Save on Food – Pack Snacks and Lunches
As is the case with most theme parks, food at Disney World is expensive. Disney offers three different dining plans, which many people think will save them money, but this is not necessarily the case.
The dining plans are generally not all that cost-effective unless you have a family of particularly hearty eaters who tend to order the most expensive menu items and eat dessert with every meal.
The good news is that Disney does allow guests to bring food into the parks. Skip the dining plan and pack your own snacks and maybe even lunches, and you could save a significant amount of money. Doing so will allow you to spend more on a few nice, memorable table service or character meals without breaking the bank.
If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, make sure to bring enough diapers, formula and snacks with you as they are significantly marked up at the Baby Centers in the parks.
Save on Souvenirs – Buy Beforehand
Every hotel, theme park ride and attraction either ends up in a gift shop or is attached to one. It’s very easy to spend as much on souvenirs as you do on your WDW vacation itself!
To avoid spending more than you’re comfortable with, start looking for discounted Disney souvenirs at home before you head to Florida. Craft stores, dollar stores, and big box stores are good places to find Disney branded products on sale.
If you prefer to shop online, make sure to check the shopDisney.com and Amazon regularly. Check out our Walt Disney World Vacation Must-Pack Items post for some ideas.
Although Disney World is expensive, a Disney vacation may not be as far out of reach as you would imagine. With careful planning, a magical vacation might end up being more affordable than you initially thought.
Have more suggestions on how to make a Disney World vacation more affordable? Leave a comment below!