With over 58 million visitors each year, Disney World is one of the top vacation destinations in the world. So as long as you take the proper precautions, like packing sanitizer and masks in your daypack, why not embrace the Mickey Mouse life and head there yourself? In this article, we'll go over planning a trip to Disney World on a budget so you can have a fun family vacation without breaking the bank.
You might be wondering — isn’t a trip to Disney World expensive? Can I really afford that? The answer is Yes! It’s just all about finding compromise when you can. Here are 12 tips to go to Disney World on a budget!
1. Buy tickets ahead of time
The early bird gets the worm. Buying your tickets ahead of time is cheaper than doing it last minute. That’s because you’ll pay more if you buy your tickets in person at a ticket booth.
Not only that, but you may be able to find a coupon code or discount site to buy your tickets from. One example: if you have a membership, Sam’s Club can save you up to $80 off gate prices when you buy tickets online.
2. Visit during non-peak times of year
Disney ticket prices work on a varied system, meaning the cost of tickets changes depending on the exact day you want to visit. It’s sneaky, but it allows them to charge more during peak times. So if you see something at a great price now, snag it as it might not be there next time!
Currently, prices for regular admission, one-day, single-park pass start at $109. That can go down to $105 if you get a three-day pass, $101 if you choose a four-day pass, and $83 if you choose a five-day pass. But on the high end of things? Tickets can cost as much as $159.
In general, you’ll want to skip the summer and holidays. As an example, the Disney theme park ticket price calendar currently shows ticket costs are higher over Christmas.
For lower-priced tickets, try January to March and late August through September. Weekends usually cost more, so factor that into your plans as well.
3. Enjoy the free amenities
Yes, going to the theme parks is the main attraction at Disney. But did you know there are plenty of other free activities you and the brood can try when you’re planning a trip to Disney World on a budget?
Disney World has a free monorail that transports you to all of the different resorts. It’s great if you want to go on a tour of all the fun Disney properties. While you may not be able to take a dip in the pools unless you’re staying at a Disney property, you can still check out the lounges, restaurants, and decor.
Disney Springs is another hotspot, especially for older kids and adults. It offers tons of shops, restaurants, and nightlife. You and your kids will love the free performances, street art, and more!
To immerse yourself in a different world, hop on over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is one of the Disney resorts, but even if you’re not staying there, you can still walk around and check out all the animals.
4. Take advantage of discounts
Disney currently offers special discounts to both military personnel and Florida residents. If you’re in the military, you can score a great deal on a four- or five-day promotional ticket. That includes the Park Hopper option!
Florida residents can also score big. They get 40% off four-day passes and 30% off three-day passes. And before you suggest it — no, you can’t have a Florida friend buy your passes for you. Disney uses strict residency verification when you use the pass, so they’ll know you’re trying to scam the system.
5. Skip the Park Hopper pass
It’s nice to be able to jump to all the parks using the Park Hopper pass, but it’s cheaper to spend a full day at each park. And realistically, travel between the parks can be difficult and cumbersome. Are you really going to want to interrupt your fun just so you can trek over to a new park? It may make more sense to spread out your visits.
6. Bring your own water bottles
Florida is ridiculously hot, so you need to stay hydrated. Unfortunately, Disney likes to take advantage of that. $5 bottled water? No thanks! A much cheaper (and more eco-friendly) alternative is to just pack an empty bottle and refill it. There are plenty of water fountains throughout the parks to top off.
7. Avoid vacation packages
Yes, they’re convenient. But they can cost a lot more than booking everything yourself especially when you can find various discounts. Vacation packages can sometimes have convenience fees built into them. So be sure to compare the pricing of the vacation package to whatever you are able to find on your own.
8. Stay off-property (or wait for deals)
Nearby hotels are usually way cheaper if saving money is your main goal when planning a trip to Disney World on a budget. Using Google Hotels, you can find nearby hotels that cost less than the Disney resort hotels.
That said, you need to consider whether or not you'll have a car with you to get to Disney World. You can’t walk to Disney World, so if you don’t have your own transportation, you’ll need to rely on Uber or a rental car. Still, in most cases, this ends up being cheaper than a resort.
If you’re dedicated to that true Disney experience, you can also find discounts on the Disney World property. Obviously, off-seasons are way cheaper. Disney also occasionally offers sales during random dates, so make a habit of checking their resort booking page.
9. Look for food bargains
It’s not cheap to eat! Our advice? Definitely skip the Disney Dining Plan. It provides lunch, dinner, and two snacks or drinks for each day you stay at a resort. However, it’s often a huge waste of money unless you really want the convenience.
Disney now lets you bring in your own food and drink, so just pack a lunch and snacks for your long day of having fun. Buying food from the grocery store is far cheaper than any meal Disney offers!
If you do want to splurge on a meal at the parks, just be smart about it. There are plenty of deals to be found at restaurants in every park. We suggest doing some food creeping while you’re waiting in line to see what portion sizes look like — you might even be able to share an entrée!
10. Shop for souvenirs online
Disney World offers a lot of collectible memorabilia you may want to grab to commemorate your trip. But instead of paying a premium at the park… why not look online?
You can find cheap Disney stuff on eBay. They are not knockoffs either. A lot of people specialize in selling authentic gear, especially collectible pins. You can likely snag this swag far cheaper than at the park.
But, if your kids just won’t take no for an answer when they see a cute pair of Mickey Mouse ears, make sure you have Disney gift cards on hand. You can buy them at Sam’s Club for a few dollars off retail value. Plus, if you use a card that offers cashback at warehouse clubs, you’ll get even more back.
11. Don’t pay for photos with PhotoPass
Disney PhotoPass is a premium service where you’ll get access to all the pictures photographers snap of you at the park. It sounds great until you see the price tag — $69 per day!
There are plenty of hacks around this. First of all — just ask someone to take a picture of you! You may even be able to ask the photographers to take a picture of you, just without their camera. That way, you’ll get all the professional framing and composition, but without the hefty cost.
12. Remember your sunscreen
Florida is hot and sunny! And unfortunately, Disney World (and surrounding areas) capitalize on this when it comes to selling sunscreen.
Sunscreen is often marked up 30% to 40% because they know it’s something you have to buy. That’s why you should pack some in your day bag. Prices will likely be higher right around the park as well, so you may even want to bring some from home in your checked bag.
Enjoy the magic!
Going to Disney World should be fun! So make sure you budget ahead of time so you aren’t stressing. When you use our tips for planning a trip to Disney World on a budget, you can have a great getaway the whole family will remember fondly for years!