Who doesn’t love a good deal? While Disney World vacations can vary widely in price, for people looking to maximize their vacation dollars there are ways to cut some of the most common costs you’ll have.
Here’s how to save money at Disney World.
Purchase the right tickets
When it comes time to purchase your tickets for your trip, you’ll have to decide the length of ticket you need, as well as if you’ll want to add on things like Park Hoppers or Water Parks.
If you absolutely, positively, 100% know that you’ll want to park hop or visit Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon, definitely add those on at the time of purchase.
But, if you aren’t positive, think about waiting, and here’s why:
In nearly all cases, you can upgrade your tickets to include additional features like Park Hopping, Water Parks, or even more days, but you can’t get a refund if you added something that you never used.
It isn’t uncommon for visitors to go into a vacation thinking they’ll be hopping from park to park, only to discover before they hop even once that they prefer to stick with 1 park-per-day. Or, maybe your plans are that you’ll visit a water park only to have bad weather during your trip.
And, if you have a family of 4, having entitlements on your tickets that you never used can really add up.
So, instead of wasting money, wait to upgrade until you are certain.
In many cases, tickets can even be upgraded online or by using the My Disney Experience app on your phone or by calling (407) 566-4985.
You can also visit Guest Services or ticket booths at any of the parks or Disney Springs to upgrade.
Rent DVC points to save big on resort costs
Renting Disney Vacation Club points is probably our most favorite way to save money on a Disney World vacation.
In a nutshell, Disney has their own version of a Time Share called Disney Vacation Club. And, just like with other Time Shares, owners can loan or rent out their allotments to other people.
The savings comes from the fact that it costs way less (up to about 50% less) to stay at a Disney DVC villa with rented points than it does if you book the exact same room directly from Disney.
There are lots of pros and cons and other things to consider, and we cover them all in our guide on How to Rent DVC Points linked below.
Keep your eye out for discounts
Disney frequently offers discounts, and if you snag one you can save a lot of cash.
You can apply a discount when you book your trip. But, you can also apply a discount after you’ve booked.
Lots of people don’t realize that is even an option. And, while it does mean that you’re either keeping your eye out for discounts or working with a trusted travel agent that is doing the work for you, if you do so, you can save a lot of cash.
Be smart with food
With so many different places to eat – all at different price points – food expenses can be one of the biggest “unknowns” when it comes to figuring out a budget.
But that also means that it can be one of the easiest ways to save money at Disney World.
Here’s a few ways to do that:
Choose to eat breakfast in your room
In our earliest trips with our families, we might have planned 1 or 2 pre-park opening breakfasts for each trip, but the majority of the time we opted to eat breakfast in our room before we left for the park.
Not only is this an easy way to save a bunch of money, it also makes the mornings slightly less hectic since you don’t have to worry about rushing around to get to a reservation.
Even if your room doesn’t have a microwave, things like fruit and granola or protein bars are easy things to eat before you head to the parks.
Share some meals
There are some things that you probably don’t want to share…like Dole Whips or the Crème brûlée at Le Cellier. But, many of the meals at Disney World are so large that sharing makes sense.
Keep in mind that meals that are served buffet or family-style can’t be shared, but in general, most other meals can.
And, as an added bonus, sharing meals also means that you’ll probably save room for testing and trying out plenty of other Disney snack items.
Eat Table Service for breakfast or lunch (not dinner)
We love a good Table Service meal at Disney World. Not only can you find lots of tasty options, being able to sit down and get away from the heat and crowds is a definite plus.
And, for many people, the highly-themed restaurants at Walt Disney World are part of the entire experience.
But, Table Service expenses can really add up. So, to help with that, consider limiting your table service meals to breakfast or lunch since those services can often cost less than dinner.
Rent your stroller and ECVs offsite
Many guests visiting Walt Disney World need strollers and/or ECVs (scooters).
Disney does rent them, but they can be expensive and if you rent from Disney, you have to leave them in the park.
Of course, you are welcome to bring yours from home but that isn’t always practical.
As an alternative, you can rent scooters and strollers from offsite vendors.
Doing that not only will save you some cash, but, if you rent from offsite you’ll also be able to use the devices everywhere (not just in the parks).
Keep your travel dates flexible
This one is probably a no-brainer, but it is still worth mentioning.
Just like with any destination, certain times of the year are more expensive than others.
It is all about supply and demand: the more people who are traveling (like over the holidays), the higher the costs.
And at Disney World that can mean you pay hundreds of dollars more per night, not to mention the premium costs for tickets and at some restaurants.
Travelers that can be flexible are better positioned to snag good deals. For families, that typically means traveling outside traditional school breaks. But, if you can do that, you can see big savings.
Disney’s cross-generational appeal is fantastic for a lot of reasons. But, that same nostalgia that makes your eyes tear up can also make it easier for you to dive into your wallet to make purchases that you might regret later.
No matter what your souvenir budget, it is a good idea to have a plan. Here are some things to consider:
Consider using Gift Cards
If you’ve visited Walt Disney World before and stayed onsite, you’ll know that with MagicBands and the ability to charge stuff to your room, Disney has made it very easy to spend money without even realizing it.
Because of that, some people find it easier to stay on budget if they utilize only Disney Gift Cards for extras like souvenirs.
Understand what you’re getting into
Disney has lots of amazing attractions and rides, tons of great places to eat, and about a million different places to shop.
Ok, maybe not a “million,” BUT there is no shortage of places to purchase souvenirs:
- Carts. Carts are typically placed in high traffic areas and are often packed with high-visibility items – like the bubble wands you’ll see kids with. And, at night after the sun goes down, mobile carts can often be seen rolling about, selling toys that light-up. In our experience, typically the things that the carts sell are things that little ones and kids are drawn to like magnets. In addition, there are a few carts near attractions or lands that sell items themed towards what is nearby.
- Attraction gift shop. Some attractions have gift or “dump shops” at their exits. These gift shops are often at headliners and typically feature a selection of items themed around the attraction as well as general merchandise items.
- Specialty shops. Specialty shops are spread throughout all 4 parks and Disney Springs. These are the shops where the majority of the items inside are themed towards 1 thing – like Bonjour! Village Gifts (with items themed after Beauty and the Beast) or Disney’s Pin Traders at Disney Springs that sells primarily only things relating to pins and pin trading.
- Large stores. Every park and Disney Springs has at least 1 store or a collection of connected shops that will carry a huge assortment of items that are found throughout that park (and the entire Walt Disney World Resort). These stores aren’t necessarily themed, although they will have some themed items or sections. And, they don’t carry everything, but they will have the largest selections.
Think about doing some research
Trust us – Disney World is packed with all sorts of cute things that you’ll be itching to buy.
But, unless you have an unlimited budget and an unlimited amount of space at your house, you can’t buy it all.
That’s why it is a good idea to have a decent idea of what is available ahead of time. Not only will it help you narrow down how much money you’ll likely want to allocate towards souvenirs, but it will also help you stay focused on purchasing only what you really want when on your trip.
There are lots of places to keep up-to-date on the latest Disney merchandise trends, with Instagram probably being the most popular.
If you are a regular there, try searching hashtags for things like #disneymerch or follow accounts that post a lot of Disney Merchandise. The official ShopDisney account is a good one to start with.
Skip unnecessary room upgrades
While we used to always suggest Preferred Rooms at the Value and Moderate resorts that offer it (because it puts you closer to many things), we no longer do at some of them.
That’s because some resorts have added new features that aren’t closest to the Preferred Rooms, so you might be better off skipping the extra cost depending on what you want to be near.
For instance, Pop Century, Art of Animation, and Caribbean Beach Resort all have Skyliner stations that are not closest to the Preferred Rooms, so you’d be better off booking Standard rooms if being closest to the Skyliner is a priority.
Over at Coronado Springs Resort, the main pool isn’t closest to the Preferred Rooms, so you’d be better off booking a Standard room there if being near the main pool is important to you.
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