Saving money at Disney World used to be easy, but, as Disney tries to hold onto every dollar, things have gotten more expensive!
I mean… As an Annual Passholder, I get the pleasure of watching the subtle changes at Disney World.
But It’s not so cool when you get to see the prices on things go up, up, up!
We LOVE Disney- it’s probably a borderline obsession at this point, but we can’t go and spend too much money at the parks so looking for those magical savings is extra important to make our trip fun and budget friendly!
Because let’s face it, Disney is magical and full of memories but those memories cost money. Just when you think that you have a handle on things, you need to pay for something else- Like the Disney Photo Pass, or the unique eats at one of Epcot’s Festivals or a new pair of shoes because the ones you have keep giving you blisters!
So how do you get the most of your magical vacation while saving money at Disney World?
It can be done, but it requires some planning, some basic understanding of Disney World, and some proper saving for Disney world to have enough for your dream vacation but without going into major debt for some Instagram worthy pictures!
Below you’ll find the top tips collected over the years, and ruthlessly updated to help you plan a budget friendly Disney vacation. Make sure to check out the complete list of free things at Disney World to compliment the tips you’ll learn about budget friendly disney below!
How to Save Money for Disney World
There’s a lot of ways to save money (and many tips below!) so first we should consider how much a Disney Vacation costs. Once you know the cost, you know how to save up for it.
Costs vary based on what you want to do. If you stay on property, you can expect to pay around 150 for a value resort per night (All Stars Resorts, and Sometimes Pop Century) depending on the season. This price does not include parking, but does include the Disney transportation.
Only 25% of people that come to Disney stay on property- many people choose other options like renting a house, staying at another hotel, camping/RV, stay with family.
Another thing we need to talk about is food. There’s a lot of hacks for saving money on food- but your biggest expense is going to be Water, Drinks and Snacks (as the quick service prices are pretty decent in comparison to other Theme Parks)
Here’s a guide on how to save money on food at Disney World. There’s a lot of things to consider, and You should budget a minimum of 50 dollars a day, though closer to 150 if doing table service and 200 dollars a day if doing a character meal (per person).
A little Disney World Money Psychology and Marketing Tricks to know
First things first, you’ve got to understand that Disney employs marketers and money strategists to get you to pay top dollar! They make Disney seem worth the high price tag so that way you spend the extra money.
One of the cool things (but also expensive things!) they do is label certain souvenirs with a color, not a price.
Again, you’ll find no number on the item- instead it will have a color on the barcode.
So you know that means that they can change prices in like, an hour, maybe less, just by switching out the cards that label what each colored price is. I’d love for the prices I listed to be lower- but if anything, you should take what I say and expect it to be higher (sorry!)
It also means you’ll get attached to something (or your kid will carry it around because you’ll check the price later) and instead you’ll end up buying it because you already committed to it!
I’ve also seen some inconsistencies between the parks for smaller items. The larger items, like plush animals and candies are the same across the park (especially if they are running a promotion), but other things, like beach towels or smaller souvenirs, can be anywhere from pennies to dollars in differences.
This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you, and I may earn commission on qualified sales, check out my affiliate disclosure for more information and all the legal mumbo jumbo.
The Disney World Savings Guide Updated for 2020-2021
Plan your Disney Vacation during the Off season- and plan to stay during the week. Disney has changed their pricing structure but it’s always better to go when they are slower like January and September.
SO basically, with their new date based pricing structure, they are trying to make sure they have something going on (like all the dessert parties that they offer, and the pay to play extras like BBB and after hours), and that there are no slow seasons.
As you can see in the pictures below, you can get regular light up toys from Disney (not the super themed one, or special character ones) for around 20 dollars (between 17-25). OR for that same price, you can deck the whole family out in glow sticks and smaller light up toys from amazon.
The biggest benefit in my opinion, of glow sticks and smaller light up toys, is that you don’t have to carry around ANOTHER dang thing in you bag that might get broken or leak bubbles everywhere. Glow sticks are small, and easy to use.
Tip #3- Lets talk TOYS
Limit your child’s spending by giving them gift cards for souvenirs. (This is a great way for other family members to contribute to your trip! Have them grab some gift cards as presents)
Disney knows Exactly what they are doing, they have stuff for kids everywhere. Take a look at the picture below, these adorable plushes are 30 dollars. For a stuffed animal. Yes, it’s cute, but besides adding it to a stuffed animal collection, is your kid really going to play with it that much? In the stores right now they have plushes, buy 2 get them each for 22. So 50 dollars for two stuffed animals…
OR you could grab them ahead of time. Even regular priced at Target is still less than Disney World! Check out the toy sections, clearance sections, or grab it from Amazon before your trip!
Tip #4- drinks and things
Don’t pay for drinks! Bring your own water- I like this reusable bottle from Amazon. If you do like soda, get a refillable mug for the resorts (it can ONLY be used at the resorts, not the parks! Don’t make that mistake)
Another reason you will want to do this is- paper straws! So you can go the ole reusable straw method, or you can bring in your own water bottle. Water works for you, just get a plan in place. Because as cute as paper straws are, and environmentally friendly, they just plain suck.
Bring your own autograph books and cool pens for your character meets.
Or make your own! The autograph books aren’t too bad at Disney, around 10-20 dollars depending on the type. What gets you is the pens and markers. They are all cute and themed and triple what you would pay in store.
Bring your own rain ponchos and umbrellas. They are so expensive at the park! You would spend 50 dollars for a family of four at the parks when it rains. That’s too much money to spend for something you can get ahead of time!
Seriously, you can get a pack on amazon for super cheap. Check out the current prices for those here, and add them to your Disney wish list!
Tip #7- snacking!
Bring your own snacks and meals into the park. I personally use this collapsible cooler so I don’t have to worry about it after lunch. It has saved me thousands!
Literally thousands y’all, just by bringing in some snacks and a few meals every time I visit. This is especially important at the water parks, as I feel that they lack lots of options.
You can grab your snacks in a few ways. You could bring them with you. You could have them delivered either by a package from Amazon or something like Instacart from the grocery store. At the very least, grab some from the resort! Lines are shorter, they sometimes have a larger selection than you can quickly find at the parks, and it will save you the hungry grumbles!
If you still trade Disney Pins, buy them before you get to the park. Especially the lanyards. Those things are like 5 dollars online but over 15 for a themed one at the park. Amazon normally has some deals on your Disney World Pin Collection
Another Great Option for Budget pins is to head to Target and Walmart by Disney World. Known as the “Disney Target” or “Disney Walmart”, these two locations have an area in the store JUST for Disney World. You’ll find a lot of budget pins, plus other items like shirts, souvenirs, mugs and autograph books.
Tip #9- Grocery Deliver and the favorite balloons!
Take Uber to the closest grocery store for all your goods, or get them delivered from Amazon. BONUS- buy your balloons at Publix!!!
4-8 dollars versus 15-20 dollars. My kid hardly notices the difference. You can even splurge for the bigger 8-10 dollar ballon at Publix and your still saving yourself HALF the price of the ones purchased in park.
He just wants Mickey, on a ballon, on our stroller. He doesn’t care about the money. 4 dollar ballon to the rescue!
Skip the Character lunch and dinner- do Breakfast instead!
Why? Here’s my Secret!
Breakfast is almost half the cost of lunch and dinner. Ok, maybe it’s not a secret as you can see prices online, but it’s something that most people don’t think about!
You can see your favorite characters without rushing and still not pay as much.
Tip #11- Do you Dine?
Disney has this really cool thing called the Disney Dining Plan. In a nutshell, you pay ahead of time, and they give you certain categories that you can purchase food from each day.
But here’s the kicker, does it actually save you money?
Skip the Disney Dining Plan- I’ve done the math, so. many. times. It is literally not worth it unless I want to do character dinners every day (which I don’t).
The reason it’s not worth it, even on the ‘free dining’ promotions, is that you often get way more food than you need. For our family of four (and a baby) we ALWAYS split meals. They give you so much food. And then you will be snacking!
I will say though, that if you want an easy trip, where you don’t have to pull out your wallet or look at prices, get the dining plan. It makes it much more like a “cruise ship meal plan” where you get to eat and don’t have to worry about prices.
Tip #12- the resorts
Stay off site (like renting a house!) Then you won’t pay for parking at the resorts if you drive. Otherwise, you could pay for parking at both the resorts and the parks, if you drive your vehicle!
This is something I plan to check on, many people say they have to ‘double pay’, some have said you only pay at the resorts and not the parks, some say the parks and not the resorts, and some say that they pay for neither!!!
Crazy right? I know. I personally experienced three of those- so more investigation is required into what you pay and do not pay when driving and staying on property at Disney!
Pack clothes for all kinds of weather. Florida is nutso when it comes to the weather.
We can go from sunny and nice, to cloudy and stormy for days! (And of course the temperature drops, and you are soaking wet all the time and mad that you only brought one pair of shoes!)
A jacket will easily cost you 40 and a onesie with pants over 30. Don’t get caught with the wrong clothing for your trip. Pack for warm and cold weather.
Tip #14- ticket pricing and getting the most from your vacation
To get the most from your vacation, you don’t want to be at the parks everyday.
weird concept right? as your going to go to the parks.
But in all seriousness, not only is it exhausting going to the parks everyday, but its expensive paying for tickets and food.
Save yourself the trouble and Plan for an “off day” go to the water parks, go putt putt golfing, or go completely free to Disney Springs or Resort Hop! I’ve got lots of great ideas here.
Tip #15 Stroller Options for Disney World
Kids are going to need strollers at Disney World, even if they’ve outgrown them for shorter day trips locally (here’s a great article talking about what age you can ditch the stroller at Disney World)
But do you want to lug your stroller on you way to and from Disney? No? You could always rent one of the heavy plastic ones at the parks.
Do you want to have a stroller to carry the kids to the parking lot or resort? Yes? Consider bringing your own, or renting a third party option!
Umbrella strollers are also available for purchase at Disney World. These are handy but don’t do much for rain/sun protection or extra storage.
Tip #16 Flying vs. Driving
First things first, you have to decide if you are going to fly or drive (and if you plan on flying with a toddler, there are quite a few tips for making it less stressful. )
I mentioned this some above, but driving isn’t always cheaper, especially with the pricing changes at Disney.
If you fly, don’t rent a car. Take Uber if you need something special, but otherwise stick to Disney Transportation since you now pay to park at the resorts!
Having your own vehicle is convenient at Disney, but so expensive!
Tip #17- Budget Food Items
My husband and I can share an adult meal and I sometimes share a meal with one of the kids.
So it’s highly recommended that when you do eat at the park- split your meals.
Or make it a buffet style picnic with a few a la carte items from a quick service and the snacks you brought in.
Also- at quick service they aren’t picky on who orders a kids meal. That’s really only table service, and even then, there’s been plenty of times I split an adult meal (or didn’t get a meal at all) so that way we don’t end up with way too much food!
So your at the parks and your debating- should I get the park hopper? Disney will try to tell you that you will feel up to fighting transportation at more than one park in a day, and you’ve got the energy of a 20 year old athlete.
But, it’s really exhausting to park hop.
Skip the Park Hopper pass- at least initially. If you get to the parks and decide you can’t live without it, you can add it later on!
Tip #19 Pictures Galore
Yes, it’s awesome to have all these picture perfect events at Disney. Especially with instagram and social media, it’s so fun to share your own Disney World Pictures!
And you phone, especially with portrait mode, takes some dang good pictures!
So with that in mind, another way to reduce expenses is to skip the Disney PhotoPass.
Disney Cast Members (or a fellow traveler) can snap pics on your phone or camera. Just remember to bring a cell phone charger or an extra SD card.
Full Disclosure- this does mean you miss out on the ‘magic shots’ so if that’s important, consider getting the PhotoPass. The magic shots are additions to your pictures, like characters, or a short 10 second video. It gets downloaded to your MyDisney App.
Pack a wellness/first aid kit. Yes, you can get bandaids from the First Aid Center.
But you might need other things like sunscreen, headache medicine, or you might get an upset stomach from all the crazy foods you’ve been eating (hellooooo pepto!).
You dont want to get it from the resorts with their high dollar markup. If you dont have room in your bag, get it Shipped with Amazon when you order all your snacks and souvenirs!
Don’t put your credit card on your magic band. In fact, I would limit what you have in your wallet. If you dont feel comfortable with cash, use a debit card, prepaid card, gift card etc to stay in your budget.
This is especially important because sometimes the magic bands don’t work, and certain places don’t except the magic bands!
Check out this list of great Freebies
Don’t go to Epcot’s Festivals OR plan to budget extra if you do go. My family of four (two small children) spent 150 dollars at Epcot Flower and Garden Festival because they have all the little food kiosks. Those 6-12 dollar treats and 8-15 dollar drinks add up quickly when everyone in your party tries one or two things during the day. The festivals are fun- but designed to get you to spend more money to try out all the new treats and fun new merchandise they have available!
Another great way to save money at Disney World is by using credit cards! You can learn more about using credit cards for saving money at Disney World.
There you have it folks, some of my money saving tips for budgeting a Disney World Vaca in 2019. While it’s harder to do Disney on a budget, you can afford it if you plan ahead and stay up to date on their prices.
So save this post! I plan to update it throughout the year, especially as I notice price changes or purchase something (yes, I had to purchase one of those 25 dollar onesies because of a diaper mishap one time. Not my happiest moment!)
Recommended Budget Posts
Curious on how to save money on Food at Disney? Check out my Ultimate Guide here!
Planning to enjoy your Christmas at Disney? Check out my 5 tips for budgeting for Christmas at Disney World.
Liked my Tips? I tried to keep it original with things I had never seen online. Share this Post so others can save at Disney too!!