5 Rules for a Cheap Disney World Vacation

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The Internet is littered with old posts about doing Disney World on a shoestring budget. When we first had kids I read countless articles with the same old boring advice and irrational numbers for their budgets. 

The only problem was that they weren’t realistic.

Which is kinda weird, like why are you lying online? No you can’t take your family to Disney World and stay at a Deluxe resort for 500 dollars!

But you can save a lot of money when you go to Disney World, and it’s not too hard.

Here are the top 5 Rules for a Cheap Disney World Vacation- if you follow all of them your pocketbook will be sure to thank you.

If your not interested in learning the tools for saving at Disney, you can earn some more money for everything you want to do! Learn how I earned 2000 for Disney World in under a year- just 350 a month and I was set to have extra spending money!

This post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you, and I may earn commission on qualified sales, more information is in my affiliate disclosure.

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Want to know the most important ways to save on a Disney Vacation? These five rules will keep you on the right track to a budget friendly Disney Destination.

Don’t under-budget your food

Yep, I said dont under-budget.

You need to have realistic expectations when you are planning your vacation. I see so many budget articles say, “Ok now here’s 200 dollars for a family of 4 for 5 days” and I just scoff.

Because that only works for when you are at home and have a full kitchen to make and prepare food– let alone at Disney when you are on vacation.

To get a hotel with a full kitchen is cheaper for food, especially for a large family, but you will still end up with prepackaged foods and a special treat or two!

Not everyone wants to skip out on a character meal or a coffee from Starbucks. Check out my Ultimate Guide on how to save money on Food at Disney– it isn’t hard, but it doesn’t require some realistic planning. 

Purchase Souvenirs ahead of time 

I can’t stress this one enough, as a central florida native I see the prices change from day to day.

Most of Disney’s products are on a color coded system, so they rarely have a price tag.

Which means that they can change what the colors stand for in… an hour.

Or overnight.

You will be in sticker shock when you see what Disney charges for some items! Bring your own souvenirs, your own autograph books and your own ponchos.

If you don’t have room, order them from Amazon and have it shipped to your room- it’s worth it! 

Stay off site

Disney Resorts are beautiful but oh so expensive! And the price keeps going up.

And they just added parking fees if you drive your own vehicle.

Sigh! We used to love “hotel hacking” and staying one or two nights onsite for our vacations, but it’s so expensive now that we stay offsite. 

 If you can stay off site, you will end up saving at minimum, several hundred dollars. Some options can include:


Staying with friends or relatives

Camping with tent or RV (or RV rental)

Getting a timeshare close by

Renting a house or condo (and maybe go with another family so you can split the cost!)

If you want a really cheap vacation, then plan with your sleeping arrangements. Just don’t forget about your food budget and plans (like needing a fridge or a stove). 

butterfly topiary at flower and garden festival

Play with your ticket options 

Ticket prices are- out of this world. I’ve been an annual pass holder for forever, so I know I’m spoiled, but even those are going up in price every year!

My recommendation is to plan an off day- so come for 4 days and plan one off day.

You can do free things like Disney Springs, Explore Orlando-I-Drive, and Resort Hop. Other paid options could be things like going to Kennedy Space Center, The Crayola Experience or The Orlando Science Center.

You can also purchase a one day water park ticket for Disney. 

Another option with the tickets is to look at annual passes, or mixing and matching ticket offers.

For Instance, it’s better for us to get the gold annual pass and the water park annual pass instead of the platinum pass. We only miss out on 2 weeks in the spring and 2 at christmas time- but we get the water parks all year.

It’s a one dollar difference. Definitely worth it for us!

Maybe you only want to do one or two days at the Disney Parks. There are a lot of things you can do without a ticket at Disney!

I also don’t recommend the park hopper- it’s exhausting! 

I have a good family friend that came down for 4 days, but only did Disney for two!

They took the kids on the monorail Resort Hop for one day and then spent the next day around Orlando at the Mall and I-Drive. It might be more of an “Orlando” vacation, but you will still get to Disney World and meet the mouse! 

They really get you with all the cute merchandise!

Hide your cash! 

This is last but NOT least! Don’t get spend happy.

Lock up those debit and credit cards. Be careful how much cash you bring to the park. Don’t put your credit card information on your magic bands.

Give the kids gift cards with spending money for items they might want.

There is this magic thing about Disney that makes you want to rip out your wallet and throw money around like it’s a wild Friday night.

Save yourself the headache (and the remorse) and set a daily budget or a spending cap for any extras like snacks, souvenirs or light up toys!

BONUS NOTE- If you want to stay on site, or use disney dining- Use a Disney Travel Planner

Disney hires out travel companies to help you plan your vacation- FREE.

There is no uncharge on your end and every time I have used one I have saved time and money. Seriously, there is no reason not to use one!

If you want to stay on site- use a planner and ask about promos, the best and cheapest times to go, and how to get the most bang for your buck! 

Wrap Up- Disney on a Budget

Disney on a Budget can still be done in 2019- but you need to be realistic and look at areas you might be able to live without. (Like skipping the parks for a day and staying offsite). 

And take advantages of those freebies! Yes, There are still Free things to do at Disney World in 2019!

I have more money saving tips in my updated 2019 money saving tip guide for Disney World. 

Let me know if you are planning a Disney World trip on a budget and plan to use any of these tips! Reach out if you have any questions. 

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