10 ways to stretch your budget on your next Disney World vacation

in Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Disney World budget

Credit: Brittany DiCologero / ITM

It’s no secret that a Disney vacation is expensive. Between accommodations, airfare, park tickets, and add-ons like Halloween and Christmas parties, seminars or workshops at Epcot’s festivals, and even just souvenir shopping, it is certainly not difficult to go over the budget you may plan to keep. Whatever your budget may be, there are plenty of ways to save at Disney World and these are just a few of our favorite money-saving tips:

Check for special offers

Disney Boardwalk Resort
Credit: Brittany DiCologero / ITM

However you choose to book your Disney vacation, be sure to check for available special offers, especially if you are an Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club member or have a military affiliation. You can find a complete list of current offers for accommodations and ticket packages on Disney’s website, but we recommend booking through an authorized Disney vacation planner (like Academy Travel). They’ll keep an eye out for offers during your trip dates (and update your package if a new one comes up) and in addition to booking, they can offer assistance with dining reservations, FastPass times, and more.

Make sure the Disney Dining Plan is right for you

Thanksgiving Disney World
Credit: Disney

The Disney Dining Plan has the potential to save you up to 35% off the cost of dining at the Walt Disney World Resort, but how much you would actually end up saving is entirely dependent on how your family tends to dine on vacation. Vegetarians, for instance, do not typically benefit as much from the Dining Plan because vegetarian entrees are typically less expensive and are therefore less of a value when you purchase them with the Dining Plan. If you book your vacation through a planner like Academy Travel, they’ll be able to help you decide if you’ll save more on the Dining Plan or by paying out of pocket. If you book on your own, take some time to estimate what your dining costs could be and compare this number to the cost of the plan to see which would save you more.

Focus on quick-service restaurants

Disney Quick Service
Credit: Brittany DiCologero / ITM

If you do skip the Dining Plan, opt for quick service restaurants over table service restaurants. Quick service entrees range from about $10-20 per adult, and many dishes are large enough to be shared. Moreover, while you can’t get away with ordering off the kids’ menu as an adult in a table service restaurant, quick service restaurants are fair game and doing so will save some of your budget (and stomach space for more snacking!).

Skip the Park Hoppers

Epcot Italy
Credit: Brittany DiCologero / ITM

Disney has a variety of ticket prices based on different options and upgrades, but in general, if your budget is tight you will likely want to stick with Magic Your Way Base tickets. These tickets give you access to one park per day for whichever duration you choose. Disney recently began offering additional ticket deals for Florida residents and late entry passes, and members of the military are eligible for discounted tickets as well, so we recommend reviewing all of the available options before committing to Park Hoppers. (And if you do decide you want to visit more than one park per day, you can always upgrade during your trip.)

Reconsider Memory Maker (or buy it in advance)

Disney budget Memory Maker
Credit: Disney

Memory Maker gives you digital access to give you all of your photos taken during your Disney vacation (by PhotoPass photographers around the parks and on-ride photos). If you take enough photos, the cost of Memory Maker would be a better deal over paying for them a la carte, but you have even more options to save on photos in Disney. If you to purchase Memory Maker, you can save by buying it in advance of your trip ($169 vs. $199). Without Memory Maker, you’d have to purchase ride photos, but PhotoPass photographers will be just as happy to take your photo using your own phone or camera.

Pass on bottled water

Disney quick service
Credit: Disney

At $3.50+ a bottle, drinking bottled water with your entire family over the course of your trip can really add up! Thankfully you can get free cups of water from any quick service location, simply head to the pickup counter and ask a Cast Member. Thinking of bottled soda? We recommend sticking to quick-service restaurants that offer free refills (or waiting until your table service meals). Bottled soda is also pricey, and if you happen to be on the Disney Dining Plan they are typically one of the worst values for your snack credits.

Stay at a Disney resort (most of the time)

Disney Port Orleans
Credit: Brittany DiCologero / ITM

For most Guests, the benefits of staying onsite outweigh the higher cost as Disney resort Guests can take advantage of early FastPass selections and advanced dining reservations, and Extra Magic Hours (which help add value to the cost of your park ticket!). Resort Guests also have complimentary transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport with Disney’s Magical Express and between their resort and the theme park so no car rental is needed. Of course, there are exceptions that may make staying off property a better deal: If you have enough rewards points with a hotel chain or can stay with family members nearby these would certainly save you over a Disney resort experience!

Skip a park ticket on party nights

Christmas Party 2019
Credit: Disney

If you’re planning to attend a seasonal party in the Magic Kingdom, like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, skip your regular park ticket on that day of your trip. Your party tickets let you into the park beginning at 4:00 pm, even though the festivities do not begin until 7:00 pm. If you use your party ticket at 4:00, you’ll be able to enjoy three hours in the park before the party begins!

Budget with Disney gift cards

Disney Gift Card
Credit: Disney

One of my favorite ways to pay for most aspects of my Disney vacation is with Disney gift cards. You can sometimes find deals on Disney gift cards at stores like Target or your local grocery chain, and regardless of how you pay for them, you can always use them to help budget. Once my trip is booked, I like to add money to a Disney gift card on a regular basis (perhaps weekly or monthly), so I’ll eventually have the total gift card balance to put towards my accommodations at a Disney resort or to use for spending money on vacation.

Decline housekeeping for an extra gift card

DIsney Pop Century
Credit: Disney

If housekeeping in your resort room is not a priority for your family, you can decline housekeeping at the front desk and in exchange receive a Disney gift card valued at $10 per night of your trip. Depending on how long your vacation is, this extra gift card could pay for a lunch or dinner! You can always still have your trash emptied and get extra towels if you need them, so if you are comfortable skipping the rest of housekeeping you’ll be able to score some extra spending money.

Want more tips? Contact Academy Travel! Our preferred Disney vacation planners at Academy Travel can help you with all of the above and then some. Click here for a free, no obligation quote and learn how you can save on your next Disney vacation today.

How do you stick to your budget in Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments!

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