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10 Ways to Save Money on Disney World Vacations

10 Ways to Save Money On Disney World Vacations
Written by Oana Schneider

A camping trip, a day at the beach, picnics at the park – these are some of the activities that families indulge in. Aside from them being fun, the togetherness bonds the family and makes for pleasant memories for the kids, something that they can bring with them once they grow up. When it comes to extended family vacations, however, Disney World is the ultimate destination.

Tagged as the happiest place on Earth, it’s a place that is not just for kids but it also brings back the kids-at-heart in every adult, especially parents. It was in 1955 that the first Disney theme park was built in Anaheim, California. There were only five themes on the park back then, with additional attractions added later on. Today, there are several Disneyland locations in different parts of the world including:

  • Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida
  • Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California
  • Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in Lantau Island, Hong Kong
  • Disneyland Resort Paris in Paris, France
  • Tokyo Disney Resort in Tokyo, Japan

The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is the largest with 25,000 acres of land and features like Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, The Magic Kingdom, as well as water parks called Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Another Disney World is set to be opened in China by the end of 2015.

Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Disney World Vacations

Now, if you are looking forward to spending a multi-day family vacation in Disney World – no matter which location – it would cost you a lot of money. You’d naturally want to bring the entire family with you, so if you will add the cost of food, accommodations, transportation, park tickets, souvenirs and other miscellaneous expenses, you really have to save up for the trip. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to save on such a family adventure. Here, we have put together the top ten ways that you can save money on Disney World vacations.  

1. Select a theme park location that’s closer to home.

Naturally, the first thing that you need to do is decide which Disneyland theme park it is that you wish to visit. To save money, choose a location that’s closest to where you live. In the US, are you near Florida or California? If you plan to take the entire family abroad, do you wish to visit Disneyland in Hong Kong, Paris or Tokyo? If you’re lucky enough to be able to drive to the nearest Disneyland, you can simply plan a road trip for the entire family.

It can be as spontaneous or as planned as you’d like, although you should heed the next few tips so that you can save money on the entire trip. For instance, you can visit sites like GasBuddy.com to save money on gas while on the road. You can also look for camping sites or cheap accommodations along the way if you would like to make an entire trip out of it.

10 Ways to Save Money On Disney World Vacations

2. Be flexible with the dates.

Next, if you really would like to save money on a Disney World vacation, be flexible with the dates. Choose dates which fall under the off season. Most Disney hotels have five pricing seasons. The Value season is from the middle of August through the middle of September; and early January through the middle of February. Obviously, the holiday season is when accommodations and even park ticket prices are the highest. The Value rooms start at less than $80 per night, although you would have to deal with crowded buses and not-so-fancy accommodations.

3. Book your accommodations in advance.

If you would like to give the kids the full-on Disney experience, you can definitely stay at one of the hotels inside the theme park. If you’re going off-season, then you can save money on accommodations – and it’s better to book these in advance. Check out other options like the Disney Vacation Club Resort rooms which are available for non-members. The more upscale digs are Polynesian Resort or the Beach Club Villas. Learn exactly what your options are and you can shave off a huge chunk of your food budget if you will choose accommodations with its own kitchen.

If the kids would not mind roughing it, you can check out alternative accommodations outside the theme park, although you have to make sure that there’s still easy access to it if you are not inside the park. You can also consider staying at resorts or campgrounds within the Disneyland location of your choice so that you can save money on accommodations. Check out websites like TheCouponProject or JetSetter for online coupon discounts.

4. Look for flight-and-hotel packages.

If the entire family needs to fly to Disney World, the best time for you to book accommodations is six to seven weeks prior to your preferred travel date. Again, it pays to go during the off-season so that you can take advantage of the Value room rates. The middle of November is an ideal time to go because the rates are not at its peak yet, but you can already feel the holiday spirit because the parks will be decorated for Christmas.

5. Learn how to save money on tickets.

If you’re a family of four and you plan to visit the park for just one day, tickets could set you back as much as $356. So what’s the best way to save money on tickets? It all depends on which Disney World resort you plan to spend your vacation in. In Anaheim, for example, there are 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day park or park hopper tickets that you can buy.

If you’re from the state of California, you are eligible for discounted rates, annual passports or vacation packages. For those who live outside of the state, the 1-day park tickets are usually overpriced so it’s better to take advantage of multi-day passes to save money.

6. Find ways to save money on food.

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you are eligible for two dining plans: Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining or the Magic Your Way Package Plus Quick-Service Dining Plan. Either of these is suitable for families who would like to save money on food but still get the full Disney meals experience. If you are camping out, you can save more by cooking your own meals, or buying snacks from groceries and taking them with you inside the park.

10 Ways to Save Money On Disney World Vacations

7. Buy Disneyland souvenir items in advance.

If there’s one souvenir that you should buy inside the theme park, it’s none other than the refillable souvenir mug. Depending on the number of days that you will stay inside the resort, you are entitled to free refills of the non-alcoholic beverage of your choice: coffee, iced tea, juice, soda or hot chocolate. This will definitely save you a lot of money in the long run on drinks, especially if you are staying for a good number of days. The Quick Service Dining Plan for resort guests includes one refillable mug.

As for the other souvenir items like Mickey Mouse headbands, t-shirt, balloons or the other stuff that the kids might want, it is really less expensive to buy them outside the resort. You can purchase them from Wal-Mart, Target or Costco – most carry cheap Disney merchandise. Buying them inside the theme park will cost so much more.

8. Scour the Internet for Disney World vacation deals.

The website of Disneyland itself is a great source of discounts. The park used to avoid offering discounts to customers, but they now have packages and offers as part of a more aggressive marketing campaign. Check out the Special Offers section on the website where you can book packages with free park tickets or free food for the duration of your stay, especially if you are planning to visit the park for a multiple number of dates.

9. Be realistic with your ticket buying options.

You should actually be realistic in how much ground you can only cover within one day, especially if you have a small child with you. Again, if you’re a family of four, you might be tempted to purchase the most expensive ticket that will cover everything, or purchase one add on after another. But how long a walk can the kids actually take before they get tired and complain?

The biggest Disney World is twice as big as Manhattan, so you will be spending most of the day walking. For the most part, a basic ticket is more than enough for the entire family. If you want to add something, check out your Extra Magic Hours option to save money on tickets. This option is for free parking and bonus time before or after the park is open to the general public. 

10. Think twice about getting a rental car.

Finally, don’t bother getting a rental car anymore. There are plenty of shuttle services that can take you from your hotel to the theme park and vice versa. There are also shuttle services to different lands at the theme park, especially the biggest ones.

By taking heed of these tips, you can save money on the ultimate Disney World Vacation that you can plan for your family, to the happiest place on Earth.

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

6 Comments

  • I have yet to go on any Disney worlds out there so these tips would really help me and my family once we do plan to go. I find saving money on amusement parks really important as most of the time we need to shell out a lot of cash just to have fun but there are ways to enjoy without spending so much and these tips tell us that.

  • I would really love to visit Disneyland. Eversince I was small, this is one of my bucketlists. Well, my cousin Leah is working as a head coach for cashiers in Disney and she could invite 3 persons to go to Disney for free! So a lot of my cousins there in Cali, already went there like 5 times or so.. But since I am in the PH, I really could’nt go in there.. I’m so jealous right now! Well, I gonna save up for my air ticket and visit Disney hopefully for the next 2 years..

  • That’s very interesting because my girlfriend once told me about her trip to Disneyland and it was quite interesting hearing from her. I actually thought how that costed a lot of money and I never knew there is a possible way till I came to this article, haha. That’s really cool though.

  • It’s amazing just how much of a difference it can make if you can go at whichever date is the cheapest. That goes for any holiday, too, not just at Disney. I have seen breaks go up by an absolutely ridiculous amount when the children are on school holidays, for example, so if you have the chance to go during term time it is always going to be a heck of a lot cheaper. And, yes, closer to home is better. The parks are so similar that it’s hard to warrant travelling to another country when you have a park on your doorstep, almost.

  • I’m moving to Orlando soon (as I’m going to school at UCF), and this is definitely a helpful article for me as your typical broke college student. It never dawned on me of all the times that I’ve been to Disney to purchase souvenirs outside of the amusement park; it just seems like the “in” thing to do is to buy those expensive Mickey Mouse ears at one of the gift shops inside. I’ve always managed to go during the off-season, however, so that’s never been a problem for me.

  • I have visited the Anaheim Disneyland Resort several times over the past decade as part of my family’s annual vacation, and it has just dawned upon me how much I could have saved on each of those trips! Thankfully, the booking for these trips was always done online, from travel package websites, as pit stops on our way to other destinations, so I feel like I couldn’t have done much damage. I’ll definitely keep these pointers in mind next year!

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