When it comes to Disney vacations, let’s face it, they can get expensive. But don’t worry, there are ways to save money at Disney World. From park tickets to travel expenses, resort stays, dining, and souvenir shopping, the costs can add up fast. However, with a little planning, you can make small savings here and there that will add up in no time. So, here are 14 fantastic ways to save money on your next Walt Disney World adventure. Get ready to have a magical vacation without breaking the bank!
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Planning a Disney World vacation in 2024? Be sure to check out our guide to all that the Walt Disney World Resort has to offer this year including the opening of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the return of the Disney Dining Plan, and more! (You can also find our 2023 guide here!)
Saving on Your Resort Stay
Resorts and hotels can really eat up your vacation budget. So saving money on your resort stay is one of the best places to start if traveling on a tighter budget.
1) Stay at a Disney Value Resort.
What you need to know first about Disney’s Value Resorts is that they are fairly basic when compared to other Disney Resorts. The rooms are similar to that of your basic hotel room. Each resort offers two or three pools, a food court, a pool bar, and a few additional amenities. Each of the five Value Resorts is very well-themed, however.
There are three “All-Star” Resorts: Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort. These are all located near one another in the Animal Kingdom Resort Area and are quite large and spread out. Then there are two additional resorts: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort. These are slightly more expensive than the all-star resorts for several reasons. Both are on the Disney Skyliner, and Disney’s Art of Animation features family suites.
Some could argue that staying off-site would be cheaper than staying on Disney property, and in some ways that is true. Central Florida offers a wide variety of hotel options that are less expensive than even the cheapest Disney Resort. However… you may not save that much money (if any) in the end.
If you’re thinking about staying off-site when you visit Disney World, don’t forget to consider parking costs and transportation. Right now, it’ll cost you anywhere from $25 to $50 to park for the day at the parks. But if you stay at a Disney Resort, you can park for free. And starting from January 10, 2023, you won’t even have to worry about paying for overnight parking at Disney World Resorts.
Plus, if you choose a Value Resort, you’ll get free transportation all around the entire Walt Disney World Resort, which is a perk that not all off-site hotels offer. So, before you make up your mind, make sure to factor in the cost of daily parking and transportation.
2) Consider a split stay.
Truth be told, split stays do require a bit of effort. If the idea of packing up your things once or twice during your vacation to switch resorts doesn’t appeal to you, then this may not be a good option for you. If you’re up for it, however, this can be a great way to enjoy a high-end resort without having to pay for that resort during your entire vacation. Opting for a Value or Moderate Resort for some of your stay can make splurging on a few nights at a pricier spot seem more justifiable.
Disney makes doing a split stay super easy. Just pack up your stuff in the morning, drop them off at Bell Services, and ask them to transfer them to your new resort. Then go have a blast at the park all day. (Don’t forget to give a tip to Bell Services for their help!) Your bags usually show up at your new resort by late afternoon.
Keep in mind, you won’t have access to your things (or a room) during the day of your switch. So a split stay may not be the best idea for those who need to take mid-day breaks at their resort. However, if you’re typically off exploring the parks all day, your luggage will be waiting for you at Bell Services when you check into your new resort in the evening.
3) Choose a Moderate Resort instead of a Deluxe Resort.
If you’re looking for better accommodations than basic Value Resorts on Disney property, consider staying at a Moderate Resort instead of a Deluxe. While the Deluxe Resorts offer impressive amenities and are truly amazing, Disney’s Moderate Resorts are also quite nice and provide a great option for those seeking a higher level of comfort without overspending. They also offer a lot of upgraded amenities and dining that Value Resorts simply don’t offer.
Resort options include Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (which is on the Skyliner), Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, and The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.
4) Travel during the “off-season.”
Obviously, when planning your Disney vacation, schedules come into play. With school and work, it’s easy to want to simplify things and go when there are natural vacations. The problem with this is that not only will the parks be more crowded, but your trip will cost you more. Disney park tickets go up during peak seasons. Hotels cost more. Even airfare will cost you more. Now, if this is your ONLY option, that’s one thing. But if you can make an “off-season” visit happen, even better.
Although Disney World has minimized the concept of an “off-season,” there are still periods that are more favorable for travel. During these times, Disney may provide discounted rates on resorts to fill empty rooms. Consequently, vacation costs decrease significantly when traveling during less busy seasons, such as September, where airfare is generally cheaper when compared to December.
Saving on Your Park Tickets
If you’re planning to vacation in Walt Disney World, park tickets will be required. After all, you can’t get into the parks without them! But there are still ways to save money.
5) Skip the park hopper option.
This is an easy way to save money on park tickets. While the park hopper option is nice and allows guests to “hop” between parks during the day, it’s a perk rather than a necessary part of your trip. You don’t technically need this option to enjoy the parks. In fact, many prefer staying in a single park for the day rather than taking the time to switch.
6) Plan a “free” day.
Why not take a break from the parks and treat yourself to a day of relaxation? Not only will you save some money, but you’ll also have a chance to unwind. Utilize Disney’s free transportation to explore the incredible Disney Resorts or enjoy a day at the fantastic Disney Springs. If you prefer a more laid-back approach, simply kick back by the pool and soak up the sun. This way, you can recharge your batteries and make the most out of your Disney experience (and potentially save some money!)
7) Shop for discounted Disney World park tickets.
There are places online to purchase park tickets and transportation at discounts, but be mindful of where these deals are coming from. Some are reputable… others, not so much. The last thing you want to do is purchase discount tickets that don’t work once you get to the park!
Sites such as Get Away Today and Undercover Tourist offer a variety of different discounted (and reliable) tickets. When Disney World raises their prices, places like Undercover Tourist usually still have some tickets available at the old, cheaper rates. But act fast! They get snatched up quickly, so don’t wait around if you want to score a deal.
Ways to Save on Dining
Dining is a big part of any vacation, but there are definitely ways to eat for less and still have an amazing dining experience in the parks.
8) Utilize food and grocery delivery.
Disney doesn’t currently have their own delivery service for food or groceries, so guests will have to arrange their own food and grocery deliveries through sites and apps.
If you’re looking for food delivery options, you can try out apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. Another option is to check if the restaurant has its own delivery service on its website. Keep in mind that these services usually have a delivery fee and minimum order requirement. Also, if you want it delivered to your room by Bell Services or Luggage Assistance, there’s a $6 fee per delivery. But you can always save that fee by picking it up yourself from Bell Services.
*It is worth noting that the protocol is a bit different for those staying at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. These deliveries can be dropped off at the smart lockers outside Melody Hall.
Grocery delivery works very similarly. You can use services such as Amazon Fresh, Walmart, InstaCart, or Whole Foods. Most of these allow you to order online via your phone or computer, however, some may require you to download their app to place an order. Be prepared for a delivery fee of up to $10 or more and some services require a membership.
Unlike food delivery, grocery deliveries usually give you a window of time later in the day for the delivery as it takes time to gather your groceries. That means you most likely won’t need to stay glued to your hotel after ordering. You should be able to leave, enjoy your day at the parks, and come back a little before your window of time hits.
The retrieval process for grocery delivery works the same way as food deliveries. You can still get these groceries brought up to your room for a fee, but you may want to grab them yourself to avoid the fee and to ensure your items are refrigerated as quickly as possible.
9) Take advantage of the Disney Dining Plan.
Many park-goers are excited to see Disney Dining Plans returning to Walt Disney World in 2024! Essentially, these dining plans allow guests to add dining to their Disney World vacation packages. Depending on how many nights you book, every person in your party (ages 3 and up) will receive a certain amount of meals and/or snacks to use at any time during your vacation.
It’s a great option for those who want a more all-inclusive feel to their vacation without having to worry about paying for meals once in the parks. It can also be a great money saver depending on how you choose to use your meal credits.
Keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t always save you money. If you’re utilizing grocery delivery, bringing your own food, or sharing meals, it may not save you much if anything. It’s best to do a little math before deciding if this will be a money-saving option for your family.
10) Choose your dining wisely.
It’s no secret that there are multiple price points when it comes to dining at Walt Disney World. Quick service options will obviously cost less than a sit-down character buffet. Plan your dining budget and then stick to it. One of the best ways to make this happen is to take advantage of quick service dining. There are many quick service options that offer much more than your standard fast food.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Magic Kingdom
- Columbia Harbour House | American
- Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe | Mexican
- Connections Eatery | American
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbeque | American
- Hollywood Studios
- ABC Commissary | American
- Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo | American
- Woody’s Lunch Box | American
- Animal Kingdom
- Flame Tree Barbeque | American
- Harambe Market | African
- Satu’li Canteen | American
Additional Money-Saving Tips
There’s more to saving money at Disney World than just resorts, tickets, and dining. There are tons of other clever ways to keep some cash in your pocket while still having a blast in the park.
11) Skip Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.
While purchasing Genie+ can be beneficial, particularly in Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, it is not essential to fully enjoy your vacation. This optional add-on can certainly save you valuable time, but it is not obligatory to buy it for every day of your trip. If you are looking to cut costs, consider skipping certain days or forgoing Genie+ altogether. Ultimately, the decision depends on your budget and preferences. Remember, there are numerous other ways to make the most of your visit to these theme parks without relying solely on Genie+.
12) Avoid ticketed events.
Don’t get me wrong, Disney knows how to throw a party! But after-hours events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will cost extra. These ticketed events are a lot of fun, but it is entirely possible to enjoy your Disney World vacation without them. And don’t worry… you will still be able to enjoy numerous holiday activities and dining throughout the parks without attending an event.
13) Utilize credit card points and earn free airfare.
If you are someone who uses a credit card, considering one that offers air miles can be a worthwhile option, especially for travel enthusiasts. In addition to air miles, certain cards provide extra travel benefits or points that can be redeemed for various travel expenses, such as park tickets and hotel accommodations. It’s important to note that this money-saving tip may not be applicable to everyone’s financial situation and spending habits.
14) Create a souvenir budget and stick to it.
Souvenir shopping at Disney World is a must and there’s no shortage of amazing shops to explore for die-hard Disney fans! But let’s be real, it’s super easy to go overboard and spend more than planned. So, here’s a tip: set a budget before entering the park and stick to it. This way, you’ll hold yourself accountable and avoid any post-trip regrets.
This strategy worked really well for our kids on our last Disney World trip. We encouraged them to earn money before the vacation and they could only use what they had saved. Once it was gone, it was gone. No exceptions, no extra splurges. Trust me, it’s a good way to avoid blowing your budget and still enjoy the shopping experience at Disney World.
We hope you enjoyed our guide on ways to save money at Disney World! If you’re in the process of planning your Disney World vacation be sure to visit my step-by-step guide to get started!