6 ways to save without looking like a cheapskate – PREP005

(Article last updated: August 4, 2014)

I like to save money but not to the point of looking like a cheapskate.

Today, I have 6 tips for you on saving money on your Disney World trip that will still allow you to get the full experience.

I also have a quick tip on what I think is the very best time to visit Disney World and pay the least while being able to do the most.

6 ways to save

The main expense categories for Disney World trips are airfare/gas to get there, park tickets, hotel and food.

Here are some ways to save on all of those categories:

  1. Book your trip during a less expensive season. Here are the seasons defined by Disney World, in order from least expensive to most expensive (season dates can vary by resort):
    • Value Season - most of January (except New Year's Day, Marathon Weekend and MLK Weekend), the first 2 weeks of February, August and the first 2 weeks of September
    • Fall Season - the last 2 weeks of September, most of October (except Columbus Day weekend), the first 3 weeks of November, the first 2 weeks of December
    • Marathon Weekend and MLK Weekend - these 2 seasons are about the same price. Marathon Weekend is often the 2nd weekend in January
    • Regular Season - last week of February, first week of March, all of April (except Easter week) and all of May
    • Summer Season - all of June and July
    • Columbus Day Weekend - this is just the 3 days of that weekend that have slightly higher rates
    • Peak Season - Valentine's Day, the week following President's Day weekend, the last 3 weeks of March and the third week of December
    • Thanksgiving - the whole week of Thanksgiving
    • Presidents Weekend - the 3 days for this holiday weekend have higher rates
    • New Year - applies to New Year's Day
    • Easter - the week before and after Easter weekend
    • Holiday Season - the weekend before Christmas through December 31
  2. Start your trip on a Tuesday or Wednesday since those days tend to have less expensive airfare. You can check bing.com/travel (update: kayak.com/flights is a better option now) for the best time to buy your airfare.
  3. Purchase your park tickets using the private link in the Mousesavers.com newsletter which is sent on the 15th of every month.
  4. Visit during a Free Dining period.
  5. Rent Disney Vacation Club points (I recommend doing it through DVCRequest.com). Details on how this process works can be found at https://wdwprepschool.com/how-to-stay-in-a-deluxe-hotel-for-moderate-prices/
  6. Stay at the Swan or Dolphin which have of the same benefits of on-site resorts but not all. Prices are similar to Disney Moderate Resorts. Guests can use Extra Magic Hours and on-site Disney transportation but can't use Magical Express or charge things on a room key. You can also use Starwood points to pay for stay at the Swan or Dolphin (info on using points to pay for a WDW tip can be found at https://wdwprepschool.com/how-to-get-a-7-day-6-night-disney-world-trip-for-free-using-points-and-miles/)

Quick tip

My quick tip: I think the way to get the best experience for the least amount of money is to stay at a Moderate Resort during Free Dining in September or October. That allows you to pay the least expensive nightly rates, get free food (including the Basic Dining Plan which is better than what's offered at Value Resorts) and visit during a less busy time.

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Hi Shannon we booked our vacation via a travel agency i New Zealand and are wondering if we will qualify for the summer promotion of up to 20 percent . We are staying at All Star Ports during July 2017. We have also booked our accommodation via them on 12 February and have read about the quick service promotion that was on if purchased by 12 February 2017. Can you perhaps shed some of your opinions here please? Thanks


Sorry Shannon the message may not have been clear, we’d like to know if we’d qualify for the promotions. Thanks


You talk about using the DVC points to stay at nicer places on-site. However my family usually relies on going during off-season to get the free dining plan. If you stay at a DVC resort/room during the time when they are offering free dining, can you still get free dining, since you are staying onsite? or no?

Jennifer Carr

No, you cannot get free dining when using DVC points. At least, that is what I have always been told!


We had a great time in Dec 2010 visiting for the free Dining Plan. We stayed at Port Orleans and got a ton of free food. (That’s when the DP had appetizers included). There was no one there and we got to experience all the Christmas stuff for cheap.


Oh, also: If you get your discount via “room only” sales, you can add on only as many days of park tickets as you will actually use. And this can reduce your expense, too. So you can plan a hotel day or a day off-site, and you’re not wasting the cost of a park-ticket (which would have come with “free dining” or play/stay/dine packages). So we have five nights at the Polynesian, with three days of park tickets and the Disney Dining plan for the four of us, for $2700.


We are going in late January, and found that it was much cheaper to book the “winter room only discount” at the resort (35 percent off the rack rate!) and then add on our park tickets and Disney Dining Plan — much cheaper than the “stay, play, dine” package discount OR the “free dining” offer. The room-only discount can be found at the bottom left hand side of the My Disney Experience or regular Disney website: Click “specials offers,” and then on the next page scroll down to the winter room-only thing.


I hope this doesn’t make me a cheapskate, but one we saved money on our trip was buying souvenirs ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, we still bought a few things at the parks, but we also brought a whole lot of stuff down with us. One tip I will use for next year is I will go to Disneystore.com on Cyber Monday because they have some awesome deals and a few of the items are exactly the same was what you would find at the parks. For example, my daughter wanted a small chip and dale plush, but… Read more »

I always do this Brenda! I don’t think it makes you look like a cheapskate at all! Just smart. 😉

Denise Leblanc

I’ve been looking into the discounted park tickets through mouse savers. Can you explain how this works? They state they are disney selected seller but I’m confused. Do they mail it to you? And can you add your park tickets to your key to the world card on arrival?


Hey, super excited that we scored your #1 tip and I didn’t even know it—arriving on Halloween after 5 days on DCL. Upgraded from a value to a mod with free dining and saved $700!. 🙂

Thanks for all the help you give via this site to those of us from the cornfields coming to the big city. 🙂


Glad to know Januarary is a value season. We are going Jan 5th-10th since the kids will be out of school longer than usual. We are looking so forward to it. We only owe $300 more on our trip and it will be paid off. It is going to be a long wait, but we are all so excited and I love getting these helpful bits of information.

Elizabeth Cox

Oooh, feeling smart! We have the second week in September booked at POR. There are five of us staying in one room so we really got a good deal with free dining. I’ve been shopping clearance for months for Disney fairy gifts, bought Photo pass plus, and got 4x fuel points for my Disney gift cards. We are having an over the top vacation for much less!


Going to DisneyWorld August 31- September 10. Free meal plan. We also got picked to try the MagicBands! Disney on the cheap all the way!!

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