The reason so many people don’t do Disney is because they think that they can’t afford it. I agree, Disney CAN be expensive. But, it doesn’t have to be. The trick is knowing what you really need and what you don’t need. Why pay for something that you won’t end up using? You could be paying more for your vacation and not even know it!
Evaluate your Needs to see if you could be paying less for your vacation
The time of year you travel makes a big difference in the cost of your vacation. If you plan on traveling during Peak season, which is Holidays, the summer, and basically anytime there is no school, then you will pay more than if you wait.
By waiting, you can take advantage of Disney’s many money-saving deals (which is often a substantial discount off of hotels and/or vacation packages), so you need to be on the lookout out for dates and details. Another perk to waiting is dealing with less crowds and (hopefully) milder weather.
If you’re not sure of what deals may be out there, just ask a Travel Agent. We can let you know of any and all discounts that have been released.
The hotel is a large portion of your package price. Deciding where you want to lay your head at night is a big decision. It’s your vacation, so you want the best of the best.
But, when you think about it, there is so much to do at Disney that you’re probably only going to be in the room to shower and sleep. Why spend an arm and a leg for something you’re not going to use very much?
You can save a lot of money by choosing one of Disney World’s 5 Value Resorts. While most rooms hold up to 4, there are a few options for larger families, even at a Value Resort. Don’t assume that just because you have a larger family, you have to book a huge suite in an expensive resort. While there may not be as many choices, it’s not impossible.
Staying off property may also be an option for families to POSSIBLY save you some money. I don’t discourage families from looking off property (because there are some great ones out there), but if your sole purpose of staying off property is to save money, keep the hidden fees in mind to see if you really are saving any money before you book.
If you fly
- How will you get to your hotel and back to the airport?
- Will you end up renting a car or paying for a shuttle?
- Is there transportation to Disney World (or any other park) from your hotel? And if so, is it free or are there any charges? What are the hours they offer this transportation? If you plan on going to or leaving the Parks outside of these hours, remember to plan ahead for Uber or Lyft charges.
If you drive
- Parking at Walt Disney World’s Theme Parks will cost you an additional $22 per day for standard parking. ($45 for Preferred) The good news is that once you paid that Parking Cost for the day, it’s good for the whole day, even if you Park Hop. (Updated for new 2018 Prices)
- Are there any fees associated with parking your (or your rental) car at the hotel?
Some Guests think that if they are going to Disney for one week that they have to purchase 7 days worth of Park Tickets. That is not so.
We always go for a full week and we have never purchased more than 5 Days worth of Park Tickets. The way we see it, the first and the last days are travel days anyway. And due to all the things that can throw a wrench in your travel plans, you can never really know what time you’ll actually be getting there.
So, unless I plan on spending a full day at any of the parks, I will not purchase a ticket for that day. We use non-ticket days to swim, go Resort Hopping, and/or walk around Disney Springs. There are plenty of activities, like playing mini-golf, renting a boat, or eating s’mores with Chip and Dale, that are all located outside of the parks.
Park Hopper vs No Park Hopper
This one is totally up to your family. If you like the freedom to jump from park to park whenever you want, then the Park Hopper is for you. But, if your family is content visiting one park per day, then save yourself a lot of money and skip it.
If you’re unsure whether or not you will want to Park Hop, I suggest not getting them and waiting until you are at the parks.
If you find yourself wanting to do other parks during the day, you can upgrade your existing tickets for the remainder of your trip. It’s a better option than getting the Park Hopper and halfway into your trip deciding it’s not for you. Disney will not give you a refund, if you change your mind.
The only time that you will be “forced” to get Park Hopper is if you plan on utilizing Disney’s Free Dining Promotion, which currently requires you to upgrade your tickets. We love this promotion, and since the savings I receive is always greater than the ticket upgrade, I don’t mind “wasting” a few days by sticking to one Park.
The same thinking goes for the Water Parks. If you do not plan on visiting Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon, save your money and just not get them. (These are included in the Upgraded Park Hopper Plus Tickets)
Even if you do want to visit the Water Parks, if you’re only going one day, you’re probably better off just paying for the one day Ticket vs upgrading your tickets.
The greatest thing about Disney is that they allow you to bring food into the park. If you really want to save money on your trip, Dining is a great place to save. Even if you fly, you have the option to use a Grocery Service, like Orlando Grocery Express, Amazon Prime, etc…to deliver everything you will need for your stay. Either pack a lunch and dine in the parks or head back to your hotel room for your meal.
If bringing your meals to the parks doesn’t sound appealing, you also have the option to pay out of pocket. This is a savings for some families, especially if you have young children. You save a lot of money by ordering one meal and splitting it between the little ones. Just ask for an extra plate and they will give you one. The only Restaurants you’re required to pay for everyone in your party (regardless of how much they eat) is at Buffets or All You Care To Eat Family-Style Dining Restaurants. But there are far more places to eat where Cast Members are more than happy to let you share.
The last option is purchasing a Meal Plan. Disney World has 3 Meal Plans to choose from:
- Quick Service
- Disney Dining Plan
- Deluxe Dining
Obviously, the Quick Service is the cheapest of the 3. With the Quick Service, you are entitled to 2 Quick Service meals and 2 snacks per day. You also get a beverage with each meal (new in 2018, alcohol is also included), as well as a Refillable Mug for you to get unlimited Beverages at any Resort during your stay. For some, the meal plan is a money saver. For others, it is not. So, my suggestion is to look at a few menus to see how much you may spend out of pocket before making the decision to purchase a Meal Plan.
For us, the Quick Service has always been the best option for us. As magical as the Table Service Meals are, they take up a lot of time. And, personally, I would rather use my time riding all the amazing rides or seeing the shows than sitting in a restaurant. With a Quick Service Meal Plan, you can still book Table Service Reservations, but just be aware that you will have to pay out of pocket for those Table Service Meals. But, if you only plan on going to ONE Table Service Restaurant, it will most likely be cheaper than upgrading your Dining Plan.
Related Post: Why The Dining Plan Makes My Vacation Better
On our last trip, we had the Quick Service Meal Plan. We had a reservation for Be Our Guest, but since we went for Lunch, we used QS credits for that one. However, the boys also really wanted to go to T-REX, so we made reservations there, as well. Since we were making 2 reservations, we had a choice. We could upgrade our Free Dining to the Table Service Plan (giving us the option to change that Be Our Guest QS Lunch in to a TS Dinner), but that would have cost us an additional $600. Our other option would be to keep our Quick Service Meal Plan and pay out of pocket for T-REX. Which one we chose? We paid out of pocket for T-REX.
However, I earned money on my grocery apps, Swagbucks, and signed up for a Landry’s Select Card to purchase Landry’s Gift Cards, so I didn’t actually use any of my own money for that meal. And we had an extra QS Credit so we were able to get breakfast one day (we usually eat in the hotel before we leave).
So you see…there are many little things you can do to bring the cost of your vacation down. You don’t have to take a second mortgage out on your house to have a fun Disney Vacation! If you do…then you’re doing something wrong!
If you have any questions about how you can get an amazing vacation for less, please don’t hesitate to ask! Your next vacation may be cheaper than you think!