Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is the ultimate family vacation for good reason. This theme park mecca boasts four separate theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), two waterparks (Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon), and a massive shopping, dining, and entertainment complex. It’s easy to spend weeks at Disney World without running out of things to do. Unfortunately for budget travelers, all of this fun comes at a high price. However, with the right planning and preparation using the budget-friendly advice that follows, you can enjoy a Disney World vacation without busting your budget.
When Visiting Disney World on a Budget, Timing is Key
While the theme park admission price is set at least one year in advance, you can save money by purchasing your passes for the least expensive travel times. The highest-priced tickets correspond to the busiest times of the year. Disney does this to help distribute the crowd levels, but you can save money by picking the value travel times.
Traveling during the off-season will also save you loads of money on hotel accommodations, especially if you’re staying at an onsite Disney resort. To maximize your savings, you’ll want to avoid travel over the holidays, spring break and peak summer periods. Traveling during January and September will yield the most savings.
Forgo Park Hopping
Disney will put the hard sell on you to upgrade your ticket passes to the park hopper option. With the park hopper addition, you have the ability to visit more than one park in a single day. Essentially, this means that you could start your morning in the Magic Kingdom and then switch over to the Animal Kingdom for the evening. While this may be tempting, it’s not a necessary indulgence.
Adding the park hopping option to your tickets can cost as much as $85.20 to add to any four-day or longer ticket. When you multiply that number times the number of people, you can see how this convenience adds a significant amount of money to your budget. A better alternative is to carefully plan your time at each park so that you can maximize your time without hopping back and forth between gates.
Buy Your Disney Vacation Gear in Advance
Shops inside the Disney theme parks have all kinds of attractive merchandise, but you’ll soon discover that it’s not priced for families who intend to visit Disney World on a budget. You’ll save the most money by shopping for Disney apparel, mouse ears, reusable water bottles, ponchos and other Disney gear at Walmart, yard sales, thrift shops, Facebook Marketplace or other stores before you head to the magical kingdom. You can even buy less expensive souvenirs from stores in Orlando, Florida that aren’t on Disney property.
Resist the Food Temptations in the Disney World Theme Parks
There’s no denying all the sights and smells of the foods in the parks will leave your mouth watering, but if you indulge, the cost of those treats can have a major impact on your Disney World budget. To keep costs down, you can bring your own snacks and lunch into the park, so do a little grocery shopping off Disney property. You can’t bring in coolers, so when deciding what snacks and lunch to pack, be sure to choose foods that don’t have to be kept too cold.
Rather than pay for an overly priced bottle of water, refill your water bottle at a water fountain or go to any restaurant or cafeteria where you’ll get free ice water just by asking.
Share Your Meals
If you really want to splurge on at least one meal from a restaurant or cafeteria inside the theme park, consider sharing an entrée. Disney restaurants are known to be generous with their portions, so sharing is possible and will save you money.
Use Complementary Services to Get Around Disney World on a Budget
Utilizing the official Disney transportation system is an easy way to get from one park to the next without having to spend extra money on parking and rental car fees. In order to take advantage of Disney World’s complimentary transportation, you have to stay onsite at a Disney value resort or campground.
As a resort or campground guest, you’re eligible to use the Magical Express shuttle to get you to and from Orlando International Airport. This free shuttle will drop you off at your resort. Once there, you can continue to use Disney’s complimentary public transportation network, which includes buses, monorails, boats and gondolas.
If you drive to Disney World, you’ll already have a way around, so you may save more money by lodging off of Disney’s property. There are quite a few affordable Airbnbs that aren’t far from Disney World.
By funneling your travel dollars into the things and experiences that truly matter, you will create lasting memories with your family without creating a hole in your wallet.