How to Save Money at Disney World

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If you’ve ever thought about going to Orlando, you’ve probably started to research how to save money at Disney World. There’s no doubt that it can be an expensive experience, but there are plenty of ways to see Disney World on a budget. Honestly, going to all the theme parks don’t have to cost you that much as long as you’re smart with your money. If you want a rough estimate of costs, check out this post I wrote, but keep reading now for my top tips for saving money at Disney World.

Check for Disney discounts

Disney constantly offers Disney World deals that are posted on their special offers page. Quite often you’ll find Canadian exclusive discounts that will save you about 20% off the regular price. These deals are good for future travel so you can buy your tickets even if you don’t have a set date in mind yet. In the past, Disney has offered other discounts on dining packages and hotels so check back often.

Book additional days

A single park ticket starts as low as $99.50 USD a day which can be pretty expensive. However, if you purchase multiple days, the price per day drops quite a bit, so you’re essentially getting discounted Disney tickets. For example, 4-day tickets cost as low as $87.50 a day while 10-day tickets end up being just $44 a day. Disney World has 4 theme parks with tons of attractions and 2 water parks so you could easily spend a whole day at each. There’s definitely a lot of value when buying multi-day tickets.

Skip park hopper

Unless you’re tight on time, purchasing a park hopper ticket is not a great value. Sure it’ll allow you to see multiple parks in one day, but you’d be rushing everything. If you’ve only got time to devote one day to theme parks, I suggest picking just one park and paying regular admission price. When you factor in wait times for rides and stopping to snack and eat, there are plenty of things to keep you busy for the day. If you’ve taken advantage of the 4-day base theme park ticket for Canadians, then there’s no real need to purchase park hopper.

Use a travel credit card

Many people know that using one of the best travel credit cards in Canada can save you big, but let me show you how. Let’s say you’re a family of four: two parents, two kids. If both parents were to apply for the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, they would each get $250 WestJet Dollars after their first purchase as well as an annual companion voucher for $119. Both parents and the kids would also get their checked bags free. Even though the card comes with an annual fee of $119, that family of four could still end up easily saving $1,000+ depending on where they’re flying from.

Purchase a refillable cup at resorts

If you’re staying at one of the Disney properties, be sure to purchase a refillable collectable cup the first day you arrive. For $18.99 US, you’ll get unlimited coffee, tea, and fountain drinks. This may sound expensive, but you’d be paying about $3.50 each time if you didn’t have free refills. Also note that free bottled water is not supplied at any of the hotels. However, you could use your mug to get free hot water or ask for a free cup of water at any of the restaurants.

Consider a Dining plan

If you’re a foodie, the Disney dining plans can be of good value. Generally speaking, the mid-range plans are of decent value, but you need to understand the value of your credits and choose your dining options accordingly. For example, some of the top restaurants require two dining credits while others cost one. Since you can order any entree, you’re better off picking restaurants that require only one credit but have a few dishes that are similar in price to two credit restaurants. Note that, most of the best value restaurants tend to be at different Disney resort properties so to maximize the value of your dining plan, you do need to travel around.

Bring your own food

Instead of the dining plan option, you can simply opt to bring your own food to the park. Disney allows you to bring your own food and drinks in so you can pack everything. As soon as you arrive, make a grocery run so you’re well stocked. Even if you don’t have access to a car, you can still get groceries by having it delivered to you via Garden Grocer. You may pay a small premium for the service, but it’ll be much cheaper than buying every meal.

Think about your snacks

I’ll admit that snacking is fun but it gets expensive after a few treats. It’s unlikely anything will cost you less than $5 whereas a meal at counter service may only cost you $10-15 which is much more filling. It’s often worth splitting a meal as one of your snacks. That being said, splurging on Mickey Shaped ice cream is worth it.

Don’t bother with the extras

If you ever see a “combo” anywhere e.g. a meal with fries or another side, you can often decline them to save a little bit of money. A Mickey pretzel with cheese sauce is about $6, but if you say no cheese, it’ll only cost you $5. You can’t always decline the combo, and admittedly, combos are usually of good value so ask about the price difference if you just want just the entree.

Enjoy the free things

If you’re trying to save money at Disney World, then you’ll need to enjoy some of the free things. The Magic Kingdom has an opening act put on by the cast and characters which can be seen from the public areas of the front gate. Since all the hotels are themed, there are plenty of free events you can check out such as seeing animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. There’s also Disney Springs, a shopping, dining, and entertainment area which has no admission cost.

Skip the rental car

When people want to know how to save money at Disney World, transportation usually comes up. Instead of renting a car, you can use the free shuttle service between all the Disney Parks, Disney Springs, and Disney resorts. Buses come roughly every 20mins so you never need to wait long. Guest parking is $20 USD a day, but that adds up when you factor in the cost of your rental car. If you want to go off-site, Uber is available on Disney property, but they can only pick you up and drop you off at certain locations. Another option would be to book a Minnie Van via the hotel staff / Lyft which costs just $20 USD one way to anywhere on Disney property and can be booked in advance.

Stay off-site

If you do have a vehicle, then staying at a hotel off-site is an easy way to save money at Disney World. There are plenty of basic to mid-range hotels that fall in the $50-130 CAD range. Look for hotels that offer a free shuttle to Disney or consider renting a condo via Airbnb. If you book a place that has a nice pool and waterslides, you can keep the kids entertained for free. That being said, Disney does have special offers from time to time at on-site resorts which can be reasonably priced when you also consider that you won’t need a rental car.

Don’t overdo it on the merchandise

If you want to know how to save money at Disney World, then avoid buying merchandise. Okay, it’s easier said than done, but you can be smart about your purchases. The best advice I can give you is to only buy what you need. It’s easy to spend more than you anticipated since there are so many “deals” available. For example, the price might be $20 each when you buy two or more of an item, or $24.99 if you want just one. Sure buying two saves you money, but you’re actually spending more.

Pass on Memory Maker and Photo Pass

I admit that Memory Maker is a fantastic option, but it can be quite expensive since it costs $169 USD in advance or $200 after your trip to access all your digital photos. Instead, take advantage of the Disney photographers who are more than happy to take pictures with your phone or camera before taking shots with theirs. You’re under no obligation to purchase anything so you might as well take advantage of their photography skills. Alternatively, if you’re travelling with friends and family, you can purchase a single Memory Maker plan but then use the Memory Share option to access the photos of other people in your group.

Use a no foreign transaction fee credit card

Unless you have an American credit card, the odds are that your credit card charges you a 2.5% fee whenever you make a purchase in a foreign currency. Fortunately, there are credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees so sign up for one before you leave. Don’t forget to let them know that you’ll be travelling so a hold doesn’t get put on your card when you make your first charge.

Consider a different Disney resort

I know this article focuses on Disney World, but both Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Tokyo Disneyland are cheaper than Disney World. I realize that they’re different experiences, but what makes those parks appealing is that people usually do them as part of a bigger trip. So if you want some fun while doing a California road trip or going across Japan, then check out Disneyland and Tokyo Disney.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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  1. […] that’s right, I said DISNEY WORLD. It’s only about an hour’s drive from Florida’s Space Coast, making it an easy daytrip for […]

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