Many families want to go on a Walt Disney World vacation, but as prices are rising, it’s become more and more challenging to afford. While a Disney vacation can definitely be expensive, there are some things you can do to save money and still have a fantastic time. Here are our tips for visiting Walt Disney World on a budget.
Disclosure: I am a former member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World, but all opinions are my own. I’ve also been on many trips at my own expense. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
Disney World on a Budget
Select Your Dates Carefully
As a parent of middle school kids, I know how difficult it can be to find a good time to go on vacation. Sometimes, school vacations are really the only time that we have to go on vacation. However, a Walt Disney World vacation, like other family travel destinations, can be much more expensive during school vacations.
To go to Walt Disney World on a budget, it’s a good idea to try to find a good time to go when everyone else isn’t going. Tickets, airfare, and hotels will be less expensive, and you won’t have to battle the crowds.
If you absolutely have to go during a school vacation week, play with the dates. It can sometimes be helpful to leave on a Thursday or Friday and return midweek. If you can avoid leaving and returning on the weekends, you may be able to save at least a little on airfare.
When my kids were younger, we always loved visiting during the first week of May. That way, we avoided school vacations as well as the heat of the summer. Fall is also a great time to visit if you aren’t stuck with school vacations as your only option.
Seriously Consider Whether or Not You Want to Stay on Property
Sometimes, families assume that you can save money by staying off property. That’s definitely a possibility. If you stay off property, you may choose to stay in a suite hotel, a budget motel, or even a vacation home. Staying somewhere with a kitchen will allow you the opportunity to prepare meals on your own, and even pack a lunch to bring with you to the parks.
However, you can also save some money if you stay on property. For instance, you’ll be able to take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express and on site transportation. You may not need to get a rental car, which can definitely save money.
I’d recommend that you look at both options, and decide what’s best for your family. Remember that there are some additional benefits to staying on property at Walt Disney World, including earlier access to book FastPass+, complimentary MagicBands, and the ability to purchase the Disney Dining Plan.
If you do choose to stay on property, the Walt Disney World value resorts can be a great deal. These Disney resorts offer the same benefits as all of the on site hotels, but at a more affordable price. Our favorite is Pop Century, but there are other options as well.
Larger families may want to consider the family suites at the All-Star Music resort. Those are more expensive than standard rooms, but can accommodate up to 6 people. The Art of Animation resort also offers family suites.
Booking a Disney vacation package that includes your Disney resort hotel and park tickets can result in some savings as well, so it’s a good idea to look at combining everything.
Check Walt Disney World specials
Walt Disney World does offer specials on occasion. These include free dining (which you can often get in the fall), and ticket deals. There are several places to look for specials. First, I recommend that you regularly check the independent website MouseSavers.com. This site lists loads of different Disney deals you can get, including off property hotels.
You can also look for specials and purchase tickets on GetAwayToday. They have a page that lists any current specials when you are ready to book.
Walt Disney World Park Tickets
When you purchase your Walt Disney World park tickets, you’ll find that there are loads of options. You can save money by understanding the various ticket options and purchasing the cheapest option that you need.
Some of the various options include the park hopper, which lets you visit more than one park per day. For instance, if you want to visit Animal Kingdom in the morning and then go to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon, you’ll need to have the park hopper. My family typically likes having that option, because we love eating dinner in Epcot’s World Showcase, but don’t necessarily want to spend all of our days in Epcot.
However, the park hopper does cost extra. If you’d like to save money, you can definitely visit just one park per day and buy base tickets without the park hopper.
There are other park ticket options as well. For instance, if you don’t want to visit the water parks, make sure you don’t include water park admission in the tickets you buy.
Remember that you don’t have to go to the park everyday. Disney Springs is free to enter and you’ll only pay for what you do. You could see a movie, window shop, eat a meal, or even go bowling for less money than a day at the parks.
You can also spend a whole day or more at the resort, enjoying the hotel amenities like the pool. That’s a good relaxing way to regroup after some busy theme park days.
Eating at Walt Disney World
Meals can be an expensive part of your vacation. If you stay on property at Walt Disney World without renting a car, you’ll probably be eating all of your meals on property.
Because my family doesn’t typically eat a big breakfast, I usually bring along cereal bars for us to eat in the room. That way, we don’t have to spend money on breakfast. If you regularly drink bottled water, you can bring refillable water bottles to fill up in your room, or ship bottled water to your room. The Garden Grocer is a grocery delivery service that can deliver water, snacks, and other essentials directly to your Disney hotel.
Quick service meals at Walt Disney World are pretty large, so you may want to share meals where possible. The Disney Dining Plan can also be a good way to save money, but you’ll want to make sure you take advantage of it. The plan does include a lot of food!
Souvenirs at Walt Disney World
When doing Disney on a budget, you’ll definitely want to save money on souvenirs. There are so many fun things to buy at Walt Disney World, but you can definitely blow your budget.
Consider buying some things in advance before you go. If you’ve got younger kids, hide these in your suitcase and present them on a daily basis. Other things that you may want to buy, like rain ponchos and water sprayers, can definitely be cheaper if you buy them before you get to the parks.
If your kids are in a stroller, bring your own rather than rent one. You should also make sure that you purchase enough essentials, like sunscreen, when you are home. I also bring along a small first aid kit with over the counter medications, in case we need them while we are there. I’d prefer to return home with everything, rather than have to spend extra money on something I already have at home.
Saving on Flights
We have a whole collection of tips for saving money on flights here.
Have you visited Walt Disney World on a budget? What tips have you used?