Before sharing my tips and tricks on how we save money during our Walt Disney World vacations, I first need to admit that I can be a bit strange when it comes to spending. I love to save money. Love it. I am that person who gets nervous when her bank account goes below a certain number and cringes at the thought of paying more than $30 for jeans. I would rather spend
hours days weeks reupholstering a piece of furniture than spring for new furniture, and letting go of old toys when the kids just might maybe possibly get some more use out of them someday makes my skin crawl. But at the same time I take great pleasure in doing frivolous things like treating a group of friends to dinner or taking a last minute vacation to Walt Disney World with my family.
So what does that mean for my savings tips? It means that when I go to Walt Disney World, I spend money. A lot of it. But I also find fun ways to save to take the edge off that credit card statement…
Many people assume that a Walt Disney World vacation is a bank-breaking expense that needs to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The truth is that you can do what I call Disney Down and Dirty for one price and then Disney Deluxe for several thousand more and have equally fantastic experiences. The reality is that a Disney vacation can be within reach for everyone. It’s all about knowing your budget and making that budget work for you.
Walt Disney World Resort properties range in price from Value to Deluxe with prices ranging from $84 a night to $460 for a standard room. Deluxe Villas, part of the Disney Vacation Club properties, come with extra amenities like kitchens and cost a bit more per night to start. Looking at just the cost of the room only, your vacation costs can already vary from $504 to $2760 for a six night/seven day stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. We have stayed in the Disney Deluxe Villas, in the Disney Deluxe Resorts, and in the Value Resorts and have enjoyed all of our time spent at Disney properties. Each resort has its own pros and cons from location to transportation to amenities such as pools and restaurants, but if you are looking to save as much money as possible, don’t overlook Disney’s Value Resorts. Disney’s Pop Century Resort is our personal favorite with Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort coming in as a close second.
Looking just at the park tickets available at regular price through Walt Disney World, there are a variety of ways to shave a bit off of your budget. Purchasing tickets for more days at one time saves you money on the amount you pay per day. For example, if you buy a three day adult park pass, you will pay $80.67 per day, but if you buy a seven day adult park pass, you will pay $41.14 per day. There are also a variety of ways to spend a bit less on tickets by choosing the less expensive ticket options. The least expensive ticket is called a Magic Your Way Base Ticket. If you want the option to visit more than one park per day – for example, Magic Kingdom in the morning then head over to see Illuminations at EPCOT at night – you will need to add the Park Hopper Option. This changes the cost of a one day adult ticket from $89 to $124. Want the option to also visit the water parks at Walt Disney World? Adding the Water Park Fun and More option gives you access to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, and Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course. The number of visits you can make to each of these additional locations is dependent on the number of days of tickets you have purchased. Purchasing this option changes a one day adult base ticket from $89 to $146. My family is an incredibly impulsive group that may leave one park without warning and hop to another for just a couple rides or a meal at a favorite restaurant. Because of this, we almost always purchase the park hopper option. It is absolutely possible to plan your trip carefully, however, and not need to spend the additional money for this option.
Emma enjoying the glorious freedom of the Park Hopper option.
While choosing a Value Resort over a Moderate Resort or a Magic Your Way Base Ticket with no additional options will save you a great deal of money on your Walt Disney World vacation, there are additional opportunities throughout the year to save even more. One way is to open a Disney Rewards Chase Visa card. The first time I booked a surprise vacation to Disney without telling my husband (yes, I’ve done this to him more than once), I first opened a Disney Rewards Visa to receive immediate money towards my trip and begin to earn points for future trips. Once you are a card holder you will receive special opportunities including first dibs on upcoming offers before they are open to the public. It also important to visit the Special Offers section of WaltDisneyWorld.com. This is where you will find information about deals such as 30% off room offers and my favorite deal, free dining. Combine special deals with careful selection of your vacation package for the largest savings.
– Choose to visit during the “off” season: At certain times of year you can visit Disney for less. We have taken advantage of these blocks of time on more than one occasion and loved not only the lower prices, but also the smaller crowds. There is also something magical about seeing the parks during different seasons and seeing the various decorations in the parks and resorts.
– Purchase certain necessities at home: Prior to visiting Walt Disney World with our family the first time, we anticipated which items the kids would want to buy – from autograph books to t-shirts to glow sticks – and either purchased or made these must-haves at home to take along on our trip. Glow sticks happened to cost only a dollar for a canister so we took enough to hand out to the other kids on the shuttle buses riding into the parks at night!
– Survive the souvenirs: We set very clear guidelines with our children before each trip to not only avoid spending more money on souvenirs than we would like but also to avoid a week of “But mom, I WANT that!” From earning Disney dollars at home before your trip to setting an end of trip souvenir purchasing date, there are lots of tips to avoid dealing with souvenir issues during your vacation.
– Food savings: While we have taken advantage of the Disney Dining Plan on more than one trip, we more often opt to not purchase this plan but rather find ways to save on food. We take our own snacks for the kids that are healthy and easy to pack from small boxes of raisins to 100% juice boxes. While you certainly cannot walk into the parks with a giant cooler in tow, tossing a couple light, healthy, and inexpensive snacks into your backpack each morning before heading into the parks is a great monetary savings. We also get up early and eat breakfast in our rooms before heading in each day, getting us on the rides faster and saving us tons of money. Even when staying in a Value Resort, we are able to request an in-room fridge for just a small additional fee. We then pack a box of our favorite cereal along disposable cups, bowls, and spoons, and we purchase milk in the resort store upon our arrival. We’ve even gone so far as to pack sandwiches to take into the park leaving only one meal a day that must be purchased at park and resort prices. To learn more about having groceries delivered to your resort, visit GardenGrocer.com.