I’ve lived in the Orlando area my entire life. Needless to say I’ve also been to the land of the mouse a fair share of times. With each experience, I gathered some of the best money saving secrets of Disney World. Now Disney has the park hopper, and let me tell you – it IS possible to do every single park in ONE day, but it takes some planning out, motivation and discipline. Otherwise, it is very easy to make it to all the parks leisurely in a 3-day long vacation.
I decided to write about this one because here is the sincere truth: those that don’t go to Disney very often go about it all wrong. And I say this because every family most likely goes into planning this trip with the mindset of [This is the trip of a lifetime for our kids, so we really can’t think about the cost, since they’ll probably never go again..], or [It’s Disney, you can’t PLAN Disney…]. Well, yes you can plan around Disney, and unfortunately, you’re more than 50% likely to visit Disney a 2nd time around even if you blow a hole in your wallet. But you can avoid that, and still make it a great experience for the family.
While most go into planning this trip with a budget in mind, the budget doesn’t necessarily have to be what parks you cut on your list. You have to think about the lesser of the costs that eventually add up, such as: hotel costs, meals out or meals in the park, the knick-knack souvenirs your kids beg you to buy them, transportation to the parks and the guilty pleasures that exist outside of the theme park world of Orlando.
I can help you cut other minor but majorly built up costs that control the most you get out of your vacation to Disney. These tips may sound strict, but if you’re on a tighter budget then I can guarantee your budget to the perfect Disney vacation is more than a dream.
Money Saving Secrets Of Disney World From A Floridian
The Ultimate Secrets To Traveling To Disney On A Budget
If you plan on staying at one of the Walt Disney Resorts, partake in the complimentary transportation
Not only are these free, but they’re so convenient! A lot, if not all, of the resorts on Disney property have free transportation – it IS why you’re spending Boo-Koo bucks at those resorts. All you have to do is check their transportation schedules and plan ahead as to what their times are for what parks.
Save money by staying in outer vicinity hotels, who also offer free park shuttle transportation
Such as the Clarion Suites. They’re rate compared to the Disney resorts can easily double the number of parks you set in your budget, while they also offer free park transportation. Again, you have to check your hotel (calling is better since most may not update their website regarding park transportation) about time schedules and for what parks. If you happen to find a hotel that does not offer free transportation, UBER people – UBER. Enough said.
Be flexible on the time of year
Avoid going on major holidays, like Christmas, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Weekends are obviously busiest all year long, but it might not be a bad idea to pull the kids out of school for a week or a long weekend and plan on going to the parks during a weekday. Disney also seems to have some special offers come late in the year or the start of a new year, so purchasing tickets at the right time is crucial.
The early bird catches the worm
For the less busiest times of the day, go to the parks when they first open. If you’re visiting for a long period of time, or are an A.P. (annual pass holder) you can always spend your mornings at one park, take a couple hour break at your hotel, then visit a second park in the evening (when crowds tend to leave for dinnertime).
Don’t let the rain stop you
Tourists tend to flee when it even smells like rain. Rides still tend to go as long as there is no close visible lightning in the area, since most of the rides are ‘indoors’. Embrace the rain. Besides, being at a theme park is no fashion show. But if in this case, stash your own umbrella(s) or poncho(s) in your backpack – do not waste your money on buying those in the park for over 3x the price. Come prepared!
Unless you’re aware of the price, do not taunt your children with what they can’t have
They’ll see it on TV – dining with the princess in her castle, or have your hair done just like Cinderella. But if this sort of thing isn’t in your price point for a vacation, don’t bring it up to your children. Don’t promise them something they’ll never get out of the trip. And before you cave, know the price beforehand. Budget that in first. Give your child a budget of their own beforehand. This will teach them to prioritize what means most to them to have on the trip. If you give them $20 and say, “Now, here is what you are allowed to spend, and once it’s gone – it’s gone. No more.”
Skip the park food
Don’t dine every meal in the Disney parks. The restaurants and snacks there are expensive, when considering per person – where the Mickey ice cream bar today is about $10 (back in the 90’s I remember they were $3-4). And to be honest, the food is worse and more bland than a typical McDonald’s. You are allowed to bring a back pack of snacks and waters, as long as the edibles don’t require being heated. So stash a good amount of nutrition bars, popcorn, chips, or cookies with you and save your cash for better food off park premises.
Most restaurants in the parks will gladly offer you a cup of ice water for free if you ask, just know that it is probably from tap.
Don’t eat at the hotel
Just like the parks, hotels have their own restaurants. It’s such a scam – you don’t have to drive anywhere, just a few steps from your hotel room. While one time may be acceptable, but avoid eating each meal at the hotel. Hotels jack up their prices by more than 20% than regular restaurants in the Kissimmee area that are just as nice. There are plenty of fast food places in the area, and many places with happy hour specials for diners that tend to eat before 6pm. Snacks as well. Take the time to visit a local grocery, Walgreens, CVS or even gas station and stash up on snack foods for the parks and in between meals.
Military, Florida Resident & AAA discounts
Take advantage of these. The discounts save tremendously on park tickets, which also include up to a certain number of tickets for your family as well (for the Military discount). The rates and special prices changes variously throughout the year, so you have to keep checking their specials and offers on the Disney website.
Don’t buy souvenirs at the park
Like those balloons they sucker you with right at the entrance of the park. Don’t waste the $15. Everything is highly overpriced. Since Orlando itself is a tourism sanctuary, there are many, many outlets and stores that carry the exact same items for way cheaper outside of the parks. Yes, you might have to deal with some tantrums along the way, but here’s a good trick: don’t step foot in those toy stores or souvenir shops in the first place!
The Park Hopper battle
While most say the park hopper is a waste, since it is actually a little bit more money than a regular one day one park ticket, someone like me finds it extremely beneficial if I’m looking to get every park in within a day or two.
But here is my argument, as I go in to explain my fashion when visiting theme parks: I don’t walk, I fast walk. I don’t like being stuck behind people walking slower than I, and naturally I may not even go on every single ride in that park (if the Pirates of the Caribbean has broken down twice in the hour, with a 2-hour wait time, forget it – not going). Little do my husband and I even stop to pee as we go from ride to ride. We’re not avid park photographers, taking pictures of the pretty flowers around us, and rarely do we even bring belongings with us to have to place in a locker before a ride. Nor are we constantly stopping for a snack or drink in a 20-minute line at a snack bar or restaurant. We mean business when were there. We’re paying a lot of money to be here and to see what we want to see. We weigh out our options, and if we’re done with one park – it’s onto the next. No stopping.
And I’m convinced there are many others out there like us, and if that’s you – then do the park hopper. It’s well worth the little extra money if you think you’re the type to get done with one park in 3-4 hours, because let me tell you – it IS possible, especially if you weigh your priorities.
And sure – we realize most families include small children (we overestimate the fact those groups cannot get around the park that swiftly and easily), but you’re children don’t know any better. If you go in to the park with the mindset of the number of rides in the park, schedule out which ones you might make top priority within a time frame. But ultimately, if it’s a laxidasical outlook you have when enjoying a theme park, then you are probably going to waste your money going to more than one park in a day.
Stay on budget – avoid Disney guilty pleasure attractions
Such as Disney Springs, a new hot spot for restaurants, family fun, live music, shopping and eating. You will easily lose yourself in the over-priced dining (like the famous Rain Forest Cafe) and expensive retail. If you can hold out on all of that, then you can have a nice evening walking around enjoying the music and maybe dessert without breaking the bank. My tip is go to bed early and rise early. You should be exhausted after a day at a theme park, anyhow.
Wait until it’s the right time, and age
If you’re little ones are ‘too tiny’, say, to even ride the rides, maybe it’s best to wait. You are still paying for a ticket for a person who can’t yet enjoy the excitement that Disney offers, when they probably don’t yet even understand any of it.
There are endless ways to spend your time at Disney. Whether you have a budget, or maybe you don’t, you can still get carried away without realizing how much is spent – then you go home to a credit card bill that is double or triple beyond what you expected. Then you’ll never return knowing that’s how much you spent in such a short period of time, and that’s not the goal for the tourism industry, but it’s the reality. You should be able to return to Disney time and time again as your family grows, but knowing these tips at hand. It’s the same as if you went out of the country – there are just some things you want to avoid wasting your precious money on that will bite you in the butt in the end.