It’s no secret that a trip to Walt Disney World has the potential to be incredibly expensive, but just like any destination…there are tips and tricks to stay on budget.
Here’s How to do Disney World on a Budget
Strategic Hotel Pricing
Let’s be honest here, the idea that Walt Disney World can be done at bargain basement prices is pretty much unheard of in today’s marketplace. That being said, there’s money to be saved in the incidentals…especially when you’re looking for a place to get some sleep at night.
I’ve swayed from staying on property to staying at a Disney Springs resort, but it’s because they are now able to offer perks that previous to 2018 were exclusive to official Disney World Resorts. Does this mean that you shouldn’t look for deals on property? Absolutely not…but knowing in advance that your goal is to find a bed that’s close enough to a theme park OR within $6-$10 uber ride, you’re good to go.
Over the last year, we’ve stayed at Pop Century, All Star Sports, Best Western Disney Springs and Holiday Inn Disney Springs. All gave different levels of access to the magic…with significantly different experiences. I did an article about our stay at Holiday Inn Disney Springs, if you’re interested in knowing more.
I’ve tried to do a “bargain-style” trip before, and the last thing you want to do is to plan to eat every meal out of a lunchbox and then waste money on things that really don’t matter to your vacation.
In our “What to buy online for your next Disney Trip” article, I bring up the idea of ordering (or packing in your checked baggage) items like Pop Tarts, granola bars, juice crystals or other things in the “pantry” category.
The other way to stay on budget is to pre-buy the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan, but that’s only available if you’re staying at an official Disney Resort AND requires you to really think about your eating habits. I’ve got an article about both sides of the DDP…Reasons to get it and Reasons to Pass on it.
Splurge vs Impulse Buying
My first trip to Disneyland was hilarious, because we had saved change for months beforehand and turned it into Disney Dollars (yea, I’m that old) for souvenirs. I was so excited to have the dollars as a souvenirs that on the last day…I ended up with a deck of cards!
We look at a splurge item as something that we get as a reminder of our vacation. It may be a dated piece of merchandise or maybe a print from Art of Disney, but your goal is to know what you want and then go and get it.
The other part of the splurge is to allocate your funds for experiences and not ‘stuff’. This means that a walking tour or a special dinner could take priority over a new pair of Mickey Ears or a lego set. Instead of buying bottled water, get free ice water at Quick Service restaurants.
We also allocate an evening at the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland to hit up the Disney Character Warehouse to see what’s in store for cheap. Very rarely do we actually find something, but it’s a fun adventure off Disney-Property and there’s a bunch of solid outlet deals at the mall!
Something New vs Something Borrowed
Do you have friends who have been to Walt Disney World before? Maybe reach out to them and ask if there was anything that they used for their trip that would really help your vacation. I’ve had friends offer planning books (like the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) to offering their DSLR camera and bag. It’s all about the level of comfort, but sometimes it’s worth bringing in your network as you plan.
Also, just as a tip for those of us who like to read every piece of information available – check out the library. It’s amazing how many copies of the new & updated travel guides your local branch may have on hand for you to reserve. We may be a little different up here in Toronto, but our library is actually a full system, in which you’re able to search for titles and subjects online and if they’re available at another branch in the city…they’ll actually deliver it to your local branch for you to pickup. That’s how I re-watched all the Harry Potter Films;)
Length of Vacation
It has to be included in this list, as we’re talking about budgets. The longer the trip, the more expensive MOST things are. The one exception…Park Tickets.
There are discounts on plenty of aspects to the trip, so doing a simple Google search for “Disney Ticket Discounts” may be helpful. We usually start our discount search at UndercoverTourist.com, and then go from there!
Avoid Park Hopper Tickets
Park Hopper tickets add an extra 15-20% onto the price, which you pay for flexibility throughout the day. As long as you’re doing your research and planning, you can easily plan to be at one park per day with your FastPass+ and Dining reservations. Just be aware that the option is available, but if we’re talking about an easy place to save some money…it’s in the add-ons like Park Hopper.
In conclusion, your budget is a personal decision and with over 50 million visitors heading to Walt Disney World annually…there’s a vacation plan that will fit your goals. Don’t stress about things that are outside of your control, but knowing ahead of time where you can save money or re-allocate funds, the vacation of your dreams is just around the corner:)