Saving money at Disney World used to be easy, but, as Disney tries to hold onto every dollar, things have gotten more expensive!
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 at least $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.
This is important to note, because you might find a Cheaper Rate offsite, but then have to pay for Parking at the Hotel AND at the Disney Parks.
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 outside of Tickets,Lodging and Travel 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 per person, 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.
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The Disney World Savings Guide
Tip #1 Understand that the ‘Value’ Season of pre-2020 is gone
Disney used to have some solid ‘value’ seasons and off seasons at the Parks. But with high marketing, more work from home, and more flexibility to vacation, there are no slow seasons at Disney World.
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.
This means it will be harder to find a Budget Ticket, and you will need to save money in other areas.
#2 Purchase Tickets through a Third Party for Savings options
Disney has only one real savings option for tickets if you are coming from outside Florida, and that’s a multi day ticket! For those in Florida, you can get some decent Florida Resident Tickets.
Otherwise, you need to talk to a Third Party Authorized Seller to get the best deals on Tickets.
#3 Pack Wisely, and Plan to do some shopping when you get here
In the age of Tiktok packing hacks, Amazon lists and all the nifty compression packing solutions and travel sized items- it’s easy to bring everything you need for vacation.
BUT, you can also get most things delivered to your Resort while on Vacation! There’s options for delivery from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and more, all from your phone.
I personally do a Target Pickup Order, since there are two Targets very close to Disney World. I grab items like sunscreen, a case of water, and fresh fruit.
Tip #4 Bring your own Light Up Souvenirs, or Budget for them ahead of time
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.
You can see all of the current options, plus prices for the Light Up Toys at Disney here.
Tip #5- Souvenir Budgets, how much should you bring?
Souvenirs are a classic part of any vacation, and of course, Disney has a LOT of options to choose from. Disney knows exactly what they are doing, they have stuff for kids everywhere.
Plan at least 50 dollars per child for Souvenirs, as most options rang between $15-$45 dollars (and typically have some additional add on items)
You can limit your child’s spending by giving them gift cards to use for souvenirs. This also helps you keep track of how much they’ve spent, and how much they have left to spend. (This is also a great way for other family members to contribute to your trip! Have them grab some gift cards as presents)
OR you could grab souvenirs ahead of time. You can give them a toy each day, or give them a smaller option to keep them out of the toy section by letting them know you are here for the rides. 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 #6 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! I’d recommend Kingdom Strollers for several reasons, but mostly that they are easy to rent and have great customer service.
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 #7- Save money on Drinks, Waters and liquids.
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)
You can refill your water bottle up at several locations around the parks (see the full list of water bottle refill stations here)
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.
#8 Use a Travel Agent
While this might sound Counter-Intuitive, it’s similar to paying for a Mid Level Hair Dresser (instead of the regret, time lost, and extra money spent if a novice messes up your hair!)
Travel Agents have been there, and done that, and the right one will be able to recommend a Budget option that is perfect for your family. It’s important to be up front and honest, and not waste your time (or there’s) by letting them know your budget and what you’d like to do.
Tip #9 Reinvent the Autographs
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.
Tip #10 is all about the Weather at Disney World
You’ve likely seen the short form videos on Instagram and Tictok about the Torrential and unexpected rains at Disney World.
It’s just a matter of life, but Florida is known for random and heavy showers that seem to come out of no where!
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!
If rain is in the Forecast, you can also pack for rain with this wet weather packing list.
Tip #11- Money Saving Snacking Tips
Most people aren’t aware, but you can actually bring in snacks to the parks with you. This can be an item you bring with you to vacation, purchase at the local stores (or have delivered), or purchase at the Resorts or other parks and carry around with you.
Bring your own snacks and meals into the park is a great way to save money, especially on snacks. I personally use this collapsible cooler so I don’t have to worry about it after lunch. It has saved me thousands with three kids who always seem to need a snack right after we’ve had a meal. 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!
#12 Preferred Parking to save Cash
With three young kids, this is the Budget Hack that keeps on giving! You’ll need to plan ahead some, but this is how it goes.
The goal is to purchase Preferred Parking for the three parks that have it Preffered up close (EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, but not Magic Kingdom). Then, not only will you be up front and not have to worry about folding strollers for trams, but you’ll also prepack lots of items!
You’ll pack a cooler with drinks and lunch and snacks.
You’ll back a bag with clothes, weather options and souvenirs.
Then you can send an adult out to get these items, or you can just take a mid day break and relax in the air conditioning in the car, and enjoy what you’ve brought.
Tip #13- 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!
Tip #14 Here’s how to do a “Budget” Character Meal
Skip the Character lunch and dinner- do Breakfast instead!
Why? Here’s my Secret!
You can see your favorite characters without rushing and still not pay as much by heading to Breakfast. While you won’t get as much food, you will be paying less and still be able to enjoy the Characters.
Tip #15- Preplan your 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!
Here’s my favorite Quick Serves for a Budget Meal:
Magic Kingdom- Peco Bills for TexMex Bowls
Hollywood Studios- Sandwiches and Fries from ABC Commissary
Animal Kingdom- Bowls at Harambe Market or Satu’li Canteen, Pizza’s at Pizzafari
EPCOT- Platter from Regal Eagle
Tip #16 Only get a Park Hopper if you plan to use it
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 #17 Reconsider the Photopass add on
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. I personally don’t think a small photoshopped item is worth the price for the quality lately, especially with the new automated booths.
If you’d like to skip all the ‘mystery’ charges (and not go over on your budget), avoid using your Magic Band for purchases.
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 accept the magic bands!
Tip #19 Plan ahead for Pin Trading
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.
Check out this list of Great Freebies at Disney World
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.
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