Sure, you can get a package deal because your ‘on vacation’ and don’t want to worry about money at a time like this…
But instead, I’ll encourage you to vacation to your budget, NOT the one that Disney wants you to spend! Disney is a business after all, and they are happy to take your money.
Let’s strike a balanced budget full of fun and some frugal options for an absolutely magical, and totally unforgettable Disney World Vacation!
Speaking of a business, this blog is my business, and some links may be affiliate links. Learn more here about my affiliate disclosure, which details how I may earn a commision if the sale meets the requirements of the referrer (but I only recommend products I believe are going to make your trip easier!)
Avoid deals that are too good to be true
30 dollar tickets? nah bro, you’re getting scammed. If it’s too good to be true, it really is.
There are tons of ticket scalpers in real life around the parks, and also on places like eBay and the forums. I would advise you to skip ALL of those options as you could end up without tickets and without your money. (It’s one of my top ‘money mistakes’ people make when planning a vacation!) For best options in 2021, you’ve got to go with somewhere like Get Away Today (who also normally has some great promos!), or another authorized reseller. (Just make sure it’s legit!)
Go the best time of the year for budget friendliness
Which, in case your wondering when the best times to go to Disney World are, the months of January and September tend to be the ‘cheapest’ and the most expensive is November and December.
Let’s say you can’t sneak away because of work or school… well in those cases, you need to stay on the best days! The most budget friendly days are checking in on a Sunday and out on a Thursday, but you can play with your days and the resort booking options to see how this will impact your trip.
and BIG HINT, only 25% of people visiting Disney World stay in the resorts, so if it’s not in your budget, don’t worry! There’s great hotels outside of the Walt Disney World Bubble.
Get the cheapest souvenirs you can find at Disney World
There’s not many things you can get for less than a dollar in the US- and certainly not at a theme park.
But there ARE a few things.
Pressed pennies anyone? Yep, these little guys are a great way to have fun AND stay on a budget.
Looking for some great options for souvenirs instead? Why not head over to one of these secret places to get cheap Disney World merch (and yes, it’s authentic!)
Bring the water and snacks in with you!
The food that is- I don’t care what anyone says. When my kids are screaming I end up spending 40 dollars on ice cream and 50 dollars on bottle water.
EEEKKKKKKKK. No thanks.
Think about it, 4 dollar bottle of water, and I buy 6 in one day (plus get a bunch of free cups at the quick service places!). 6 bottles times 4 dollars is almost 25 dollars a day. That’s a souvenir! Then times that buy four days in the parks and I’ve spent one hundred dollars on WATER.
Bring in some water and snacks so you don’t end up spending more out of desperation from the long lines and hunger. Getchu a water bottle, and a couple of bags of snacks you know your family will love!
Best water bottle? Ideally one that is insulated so your water doesn’t end up super hot, and one without a straw. straws get funky on day two or three… and skipping the straw means it’s easy to clean and rinse in the sink!
I highly recommend this insulated no straw bottle from Amazon, and then this straw insulated bottle from Amazon. but you can also just pop over to Target or Walmart and grab a bottle there for vacation.
Real talk though, Disney doesn’t allow glass. So plastic or stainless steel water bottles only!
Want to take it up a level? Of course you do. Hop over to this complete guide for saving mega bucks on your food budget
Spend time in the parks on the right days
Disney changes their pricing daily- it’s fascinating from a marketing standpoint but not so great if your watching your budget * if you are on regular tickets* Those of you with annual passes or shades of green tickets can skip this!
There’s a reason they don’t have the prices online or on the app most of their restaurants, instead, they have the ever elusive ‘pricing scale’. In off seasons and middle of the week days, you’ll find that pricing for meals and snacks can change by dollars or cents.
The days that err on the less expensive side are the weekdays, with the weekends being more expensive in the months of January, February, October and November. The rest of the months tend to be expensive no matter the day BUT the difference is that you might not get the dining options you want. (so plan ahead to save money!)
It’s raining… it’s pouring
Please- if there’s one thing you do, plan for the weather. You don’t want to buy a 25 dollar umbrella, 50 dollar rain coat or a 15 dollar umbrella. Personally, I grab a big pack of ponchos from amazon to bring with me, because I’m not about that 15 dollar poncho life.
There’s some other things to consider when it rains (especially if it rains the whole time you are there!) Here’s 9 things I recommend when it rains, and then a rainy day touring plan for Magic Kingdom!
Plan to relax
Relax? On vacation? HA.
Well- you can relax at Disney World and it’s recommended. Take a day off from the parks and enjoy many of the cheap and free things at the parks. This will save you from paying for a park ticket and give your feet a break! (after all, you’ll walk like 13 miles)
No seriously, take the day off. The parks are exhausting. You will be so much better off when you are resting on your vacation and actually enjoy the time you are in the parks.
People swear by staying on property because it ‘saves money’ but I’ve done the math a 100 times and I’ve never seen it if your resort has transportation to the parks and can offer things like free breakfast.
Especially somewhere like the Swan and Dolphin where you can use points to pay for your stay. Or do a Priceline deal if you want budget friendly and don’t care where you end up!
The good news is that almost 75% of the people visiting Disney World stay off property, and I know quite a few that enjoy the accommodations at Universal better, even though they end up driving over to Disney!
Make it a double adventure!
This may sound counterintuitive, but getting an annual pass can provide more savings if you plan to come more than once.
Annual passholders get discounts on food, merchandise and hotel stays, and it really makes a difference if this isn’t a once in a lifetime trip. Plus there’s so many cheap and fun things to do around the parks!
Or consider a special event pass
Disney has lots of ‘extra’ options that can be a big bonus to your budget.
For example, you can skip a regular park ticket and instead get a special events ticket like for Mickey’s Not so scary halloween party.
So sleep in that day, then go to the party that night. This way you save the cost of a ticket you’ll only use for half the day.
Make use of all the free and cheap things you can do at Disney World
SO MANY FREE AND CHEAP THINGS I CAN’T LIST THEM ALL
Let’s do my top 5 favorite
Free- go to the fort wilderness campground singalong and hang out with some hilarious folks and chip and dale
Free- chill out at the pool all day and put your feet up
Free- walk around Disney Springs and check out the World’s largest Disney Store (plus there’s a ton of free things for kids to do at Disney Springs!)
Cheap- go putt putt golfing! You normally get a coupon if you preorder your magic bands and stay on property.
Cheap- dining outside the parks at the character meals on property
Park Hopper Pass? or skip a day?
This is an extra expense that hardly ever is a make or break for your vacation. PLUS if you decide you want it after your there, you can always add it on (but you can’t take it off)
I’m a fan of actually doing less days in the parks, but doing the park hopper option so you can still see all the parks!
When you compare a 3 day park hopper, with a 4 day no park hopper, the cost is almost the same! Consider which one is best for your family, because you might get the park hopper but be too exhausted to actually take advantage of it. See the cost breakdown in this post about how much Disney World actually costs.
Enlist your family and friends in helping to save for your trip by asking for gift cards for birthdays, celebrations and holidays!
Get Gift Cards on Sale. Like Target offers 5% off, and other places like Sams Club and Costco occasionally offer deals.
But your kids on a budget with there very own gift card. AND make it extra special by transferring their money to a new gift card at the parks that is themed with their favorite characters (like frozen or star wars!). It seems silly to you and me, but the kids just love having their own themed card they can use to purchase fun things!
Save your cash for the parks
CASH-people. NOT debit/credit card. NOT magic band. I get in SO much trouble when I have a card (or magic band) because you don’t realize how much you’ve spent. YES DISNEY STILL TAKES CASH IN 2022. You might not feel comfortable so…
Put it on a gift card if you need to.
or take actual cash so you don’t overspend and leave some or all of it in the safe when you aren’t using it.
Also, Disney has a new credit card policy that puts a lot of unnecessary holds on your account- so it’s even more important to have cash. I’ve talked to too many people who were stranded because of excess charges on their account and having to wait on hold with Disney to resolve it.
Bring enough Footwear
Because Disney KNOWS that you will need new shoes. They have them in every single store and they are 60 dollars for a pair of Mickey Crocs you’ll never wear again.
Last time my brother visited, he went through 2 pairs of flip flops. And my kids? one time they actually lost a shoe (I won’t name which child, but I’ll also tell his wife the story when they have kids someday in the future!), plus the blisters!
Oh and the rain… it’s a shoe ruiner.
Here’s a few things to do:
- bring more than one pair of shoes per person
- bring a spare pair of shoes to the parks for each kid
- pack moleskin and large bandaids for any blisters you get
- consider a chaffe cream (this is NOT sold in the stores, so if you get chub rub, bring it!)
Budget Photopass options
The photopass can be great… but it can also suck. What I mean, is that some pictures turn out blurry, out of focus, other people are behind you, there are instances where the magic shots don’t show up or you get someone elses pictures!
Here’s what people might not know… DON’T buy it but do USE it.
What wait? scan your card, get them loaded to the online portal, then pick out the 2-4 that you like and order them as individual prints or as photoproducts right through Disney. This could cost around 30-60 dollars for pictures you actually enjoy, without spending 200 dollars. BUT if all the pictures suck (because sometimes they do) don’t order anything and then you aren’t out any coin.
AND, you can ask the photopass photographers to take the pictures on your own phone too!
You can also get a steep discount if you are in the military and purchase it on base.
Another option is to just do Genie+ and do the AR photos there on your own phone. There’s lots of ways to play with budget picture options.
Basically… You can do a Budget Friendly vacation to Disney World… but it might require getting creative (something those of us in the working class are all too familiar with) or changing expectations.
Make a priority list (or a bucket list), and map out what a trip there would look like just doing your bucket list. IF you can add other days or things on, then do that. If not, enjoy your trip that is uniquely yours. Lots of folks bring in sandwiches, lots of folks put the vacation on their credit cards, lots of folks only come for a few days- No judgement here, make those memories however you can!
But if you don’t pay attention… you could easily spend thousands of extra dollars on a week vacation. Disney’s marketing department is **too** good!
Need some thoughts or a friend to give you some straight-forward no frills advice (Warning: I’m very blunt), then connect with me on social media or leave a comment below.