Many families want to experience Walt Disney World at least once. But with all of the price increases that have happened in recent years, it can be tough for some families to include a Walt Disney World trip in their plans. Luckily, planning a trip to Disney World on a budget is still a viable option.
Planning in advance can definitely help because you’ll have many more different options available to you. Here are our tips – leave us a comment if we’ve missed anything.
I am a former member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World (and at the Hilton suite hotels), but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
Save money on your Walt Disney World theme park tickets by booking through Get Away Today. They offer vacation packages as well as individual ticket sales. Disney travel agents don’t charge guests an extra commission and can help you find deals.
Planning A Trip To Disney World On A Budget
Plan a Quieter Time of Year
Unfortunately, it can be difficult for families to choose their vacation time. Things like school, sports, and other activities can definitely limit your vacation availability.
However, if you’d like to plan a trip to Disney World on a budget, you’ll want to try to travel during a quieter time of year. At Disney, there are so many special events that the parks are busy most of the time. But you can still save money on flights by avoiding school vacations – especially spring break when vacations to the Orlando area are especially popular.
If you, like us, are absolutely constrained by school vacations, play with the dates of your vacation. Try to avoid flying in and out on the weekend, and instead look at weekdays. I like to go online and get the flight prices for a bunch of different itineraries before committing. In some cases, we’ve flown out right after school ends on the Friday before the break and have saved some money.
When looking at flights, you may have the option to fly a low-cost airline, like Frontier Airlines. I flew on Frontier for one of my recent Walt Disney World trips and enjoyed my experience. Just keep in mind that you may have to pay separate fees for check and carry-on bags, as well as seating assignments so make sure you really are getting a deal.
Thoughtfully Choose a Resort
If you are a regular reader here, you know that I love Disney resorts. But, if you are on a budget, there may be other resorts that are a better choice for your family.
If you’d like to take advantage of being close, and on the property, the Disney Value resorts can be a great choice. There are five Disney value resorts on the property – Pop Century, Disney’s Art of Animation, All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies, and All-Star Music.
Disney’s Art of Animation offers great family suites that have a bit more space than standard hotel rooms. However, they are more expensive, so it’s important to know that, especially if you are expecting value pricing.
For families on a budget, I really like Pop Century resort. The rooms at this resort were recently renovated, and include a queen bed and a (comfortable) pulldown queen bed. It’s also on the Skyliner, so it’s very convenient to go to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
There are also some great hotels to consider that are off-property. I recently visited some of the All Suites by Hilton brand, including the Embassy Suites, Home 2Suites, and Homewood Suites in Orlando, and was impressed.
These hotels offer a bit more space than a standard hotel room. Each of them offers a complimentary breakfast, which can be a great way for families to save money. If you get a room with a kitchen (like those at Homewood Suites), you can get grocery delivery and prepare some of your own meals. Or, if you have a car, stop at a grocery store and stock up (don’t forget things to bring to the parks, like water bottles and snacks).
Some of the off-site hotels also offer evening receptions. The one at Homewood Suites includes enough food that you could make a meal of it. While you may not want to have every meal there, it’s a good way to save a little bit of money.
Before you book an off-property hotel, I’d definitely recommend that you do some research first. Here’s what you’ll want to check:
- Does the hotel offer complimentary transportation to the theme parks? What is the schedule for the free transportation (is it viable)?
- What size is the rooms, and what amenities are included in the room?
- Are any complimentary meals/snacks offered?
- What amenities does the hotel offer? Is there a hotel pool you can enjoy on a day when you don’t go to the parks? Skipping a park day can help you save money.
Many of these hotels also offer loyalty plans, so you can accumulate points during your stay. If you are loyal to one particular brand, chances are, they will have a location in Orlando.
Reconsider the Rental Car When Visiting Walt Disney World
Depending on your plans in Orlando, you may not need to rent a car. That can definitely help you save money on the rental fee, parking, and gas.
If you are staying on property and flying into Orlando International Airport, I would definitely recommend skipping the rental car and saving money. While Disney’s Magical Express has been discontinued, there are other transportation options from the airport to Walt Disney World for a nominal fee. There is free transportation to the parks from the Disney hotels.
However, if you are staying off-site, it’s important to do the math to see what the better option is. If you won’t have access to a free shuttle to the parks, it may not be worth the cab/rideshare fees, especially if your off-property hotel has free parking.
Plan Your Days Carefully When Planning a Disney World Trip on a Budget
As you plan your Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll want to do some advance planning for each day. Walt Disney World tickets are priced by the day, whether you go for a few hours a day or plan for full days. To save money, the best way is to plan a few long days in the parks rather than a lot of short days. That way, you won’t have to buy as many days on your tickets.
During your Disney vacation, you may also consider spending a day or two outside the parks. Disney Springs doesn’t require a ticket, although you will pay for individual entry at the various attractions.
You may also consider staying at your resort hotel and taking advantage of the various amenities and activities offered there.
When you buy your tickets, it’s important to understand the various pricing options available to you. There are four Disney theme parks – the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and two water parks.
Standard tickets include admission to all of the theme parks – with one park per day. Add on the park hopper option if you’d like to go to more than one park per day. You can also add on the water parks if you plan to visit them.
Pricing is variable, so you’ll pay more for some parks and for some days. Again, this is when traveling in the off-season can really help.
I love having the park hopper option because we enjoy going to a different park for dinner each night. However, you’ll definitely save money without having the park hopper ticket option.
Each day, you’ll have the option to purchase the Genie+ add-on to your tickets. This can add a big expense to your trip, however. I do think that it could be a good option for one day if you want to get more out of a day. The cheapest way, however, is to skip the Genie+.
Consider Your Disney World Meals
Food can be a big part of your Walt Disney World vacation, but it can also take a bite out of your budget. Luckily, a little advance planning can definitely help you contain your food budget.
If you are trying to plan a trip to Disney World on a budget, it’s a good idea to choose one or two big experiences that you want to have. For example, this may include a character meal or a visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Once you’ve included those experiences in your plans, you can find ways to save money. If your hotel/resort doesn’t include free breakfasts, you may want to bring along your own food for breakfast (we bring cereal bars).
There are other ways to save money, as well. You can eat at Walt Disney World quick-service restaurants, which are typically less expensive than table-service restaurants. You may also consider sharing some meals at the quick service restaurants.
Bring along your own snacks, or get grocery delivery. That way, you won’t have to purchase snacks in the parks. A reusable water bottle is another good idea, and you can fill it throughout the parks.
If you are traveling with kids, it can be tempting to make lots of souvenir purchases at the parks. Save money by purchasing souvenirs outside the parks. Many of the mass merchandise stores and drugstores outside the parks offer Disney merchandise.
Set a budget with your kids, so they aren’t begging for souvenirs. On the plus side, it’s a great way to start teaching them basic personal finance. Another good idea is to give Disney gift cards as gifts before the trip.
Have you planned a Walt Disney World vacation on a budget?