Going to Walt Disney World is not cheap. Ticket prices went up in March, and resorts, food, and other prices have risen as well. Saving money where I can, when I can, has become something of a passion for me (I’m a financial counselor, after all!). Here are five ways you can save money on your Disney vacation.
- Buy Souvenirs Elsewhere
Souvenirs at Walt Disney World are pricey. Even with an annual passholder discount, I’ve got to say that I rarely buy stuff at the parks. One reason is that I’m fortunate enough to live near a Disney outlet store that will routinely have crazy-good deals like pins for 49 cents. But even if you don’t live near an outlet, you can still find reasonably-priced items at big box retailers, Amazon, or even eBay. When my kids were younger, I would give them a very small amount of money to buy something (usually it was candy!) in the parks, and would give them goodie bags of stuff I had bought somewhere else.
- Think Outside the Box When It Comes to Eating
Food is expensive at Disney, whether you are paying a la carte or purchasing for the Disney Dining Plan. If you are on the dining plan, make good use of it. If you are not on the dining plan, there are tons of ways to save a few dollars here and there, and those dollars definitely add up.
- Get a water cup instead of a soft drink. With soft drinks running around $3.99 and water bottles $3.50, you can potentially save quite a bit by just getting free water cups at restaurants and counter service venues.
- Split entrees. Many counter service and table service restaurants serve huge portions that could be split between people (Tangierine Café, T Rex, and Flame Tree are just a few)
- Order a kid’s meal. This is perfectly acceptable and great for those with smaller appetites. And kids meals at Disney are not all hamburgers and chicken nuggets. Satuli Canteen, Be Our Guest, and Sunshine Seasons all have interesting options for kids. And the kids entrees are typically a few dollars cheaper plus include a drink and a side. For example, the kids chicken bowl at Satu’li Canteen is $7.99. The adult version is $12.49 and does not include a drink.
- Order a table service “twin.” Some counter service restaurants have less expensive versions of table service counterparts.
- Take Advantage of Discounts – It Never Hurts to Ask!
Disney periodically offers discounts on rooms or packages that include tickets and dining plan, but there are a variety of other discounts out there, too. Some companies have employee discounts on tickets as does AAA. Warehouse clubs often sell discounted admission tickets or Disney gift cards. If you have a Target Red card, you can get 5% off on Disney gift cards. This may not sound like much, but if you have a vacation package priced at several thousand dollars, you will save hundreds by using discounted gift cards.
Passholders can get discounts on merchandise, tours, and other experiences. Some restaurants also offer passholder discounts. Periodically, Disney will offer passholder room or water park ticket discounts. Sometimes these discounts are not well-advertised, so you should always ask.
Some restaurants that are on Disney property are not owned by Disney and offer discounts or dining reward programs. Raglan Road, T Rex, House of Blues, Paradiso 37, Polite Pig, and Homecomin’ are just a few of the Disney Springs restaurants that offer military discounts. Homecomin’ and several of the Disney Springs hotels also offer first responder discounts.
The Patina Group owns the Edison, Enzo’s Hideaway, Maria & Enzo’s, Pizza Ponte, and Morimoto Asia, and has a loyalty program. Sign up for their newsletter and they will tell you about periodic specials or gift card deals.
- Time=Money. Stay on Property.
Staying off property can be cheaper, but assess whether you will really be saving money. Because of year-round, incessant traffic, the drive back and forth to the parks can be a real pain, and takes way longer than the distance on Google maps would imply. We stayed at a Holiday Inn once that was a mere 3.1 miles from Disney Springs and it took us around 40 minutes to get back to our hotel one evening. Sure, you may find a place that has a full kitchen, but will you really be using it? We have found that we never go back and forth to our hotel if we are staying off property.
Let’s put a dollar figure on your time. With the recent price increase, the least expensive (low season, advance purchase) four-day park hoppers cost around $511.43 per person. That’s $127.86 per person per day. If you stay in the parks for, say 12 hours per day, then the hourly “cost” for your theme park visit comes out to roughly $10.65 per hour. If you go back to your off-property hotel to “save” money by cooking a meal, it will take at least two hours round trip if you factor in getting in and out of the parks, parking, driving, cooking, eating, etc. If you have a family of four, then your money-saving trip in reality just cost you 8 hours of park time (2 hours x 4 people) which comes to a whopping $85.24! And that doesn’t even figure in the cost of parking at the parks, which is now $25 per day. Or the cost of the groceries you stocked at your off-site hotel. So we find that staying on property is what works best for us.
- Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
Finally, a travel agent like Trish from All for Dreams Travel can make your arrangements for you, saving you lots of time and effort. She will also provide you with tons of planning tips, and monitor any discounts that might pop up for your trip timeframe. And best of all, it’s FREE