9 Hard Choices That Can Make Your Walt Disney World Vacation More Affordable

When planning a trip to the Disney Parks, you’ll be faced with A LOT of decisions. While some of them will be total no-brainers, others can be quite difficult to make– especially when it comes to managing your budget!


That’s why we’ve put together a list of our top NINE toughest decisions you’ll face when it comes to splurging or saving on a Disney vacation!

Yes or No to Adding Park Hopper?

While the convenience of splitting up days between different Parks can’t be beat, this ticket add-on can really add on the bucks! If you’re more of a planner, you can probably get by just fine without the approximate $60 per person Park Hopper; planning for just one Park per day certainly simplifies some things. 

Magic Kingdom

Park Hopping looks a little different these days than what you’re probably used to. Currently, Disney World’s modified Park Hopping allows guests to visit additional parks, but only after 2PM. So, you may not get the same “bang for your buck” out of Park Hopping than you did before!

Click here to read the answers to some of the biggest questions when it comes to modified Park Hopping!

How Long Will You Be Staying?

Planning the duration of your trip to Disney is another tricky one. You want to stay long enough to experience everything on your must-do list and maybe even enjoy a few repeats (we’re not satisfied unless we get to ride Pirates at least FOUR times during our vacation!). 

Pirates of the Caribbean

But keep in mind that while the cost of your Park admission goes down each extra day, you’ll actually be spending more on additional nights at your Resort, eating more meals, and possibly buying more souvenirs!

Choosing a Value, Moderate, or Deluxe Resort

We know, once you’ve stayed at a Moderate or Deluxe, it can be really hard to recommit to a Value resort — but you can save a TON of money this way! And we’ve had our fair share of time staying at several Value, Moderate, and Deluxe Resorts, and we can confirm that there are pros and cons at EACH level.

All-Star Music can be a ton of fun!

If you absolutely MUST stay at a deluxe resort, look into renting Disney Vacation Club points from an online broker– yup, it’s actually a thing, and it’s a fraction of the cost of staying in the non-DVC rooms at these high-end resorts!

Click here to read more about renting DVC points!

Will You Fly or Drive, and Will you Rent a Car?

Airline tickets may cost a lot, and depending on where you’re visiting from, this decision may be a no-brainer. However, parking prices at Walt Disney World have exploded in recent years! You can really hang onto some cash by using the free Disney Bus Transportation instead of bringing or renting a car. It currently costs $25 per day to park at the theme parks or $45-50 a day for preferred parking.

Mickey Mouse Bus

You may be tired and sweaty when the parks close and you’re standing on a crowded bus, but your wallet will thank you!

Are You Pulling Your Kids Out of School?

While some parents fear the ridicule of teachers and other parents, many families are already hip to this money-saving tip! There are just too many positives to outweigh the perceived cons here! Park tickets and Resort rates are significantly cheaper — not to mention the crowds tend to be lighter — when you travel while most kiddos are in school! It’s definitely something to at least consider, particularly when your kids are young!

Cinderella Castle

Choose Those “Enchanted Extras” wisely

UPDATE: As of right now, not all extras are currently unavailable. Be sure to check back for more updates when we learn more about their return.

Dessert parties, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, After Hours, VIP tours– these are just a few of the upgrades that Disney has to offer for an additional cost. But are these add-ons really necessary for a good time at Disney? Sure, they’re A LOT of fun, but we think it’s safe to say you’ll have a magical vacation even without any enchanted extras! These add-ons can easily cost the same as an extra night (or more!) at your resort hotel.

Grand Floridian’s  Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Keep in mind too that many of these extras are not available at this time during Disney World’s phased reopening. If you’re used to these enhancements adding those extra bits of magic to your trip, you may want to hold off until they return to book your next trip.

To Refillable Mug, or Not to Refillable Mug? That is the Question.

While unlimited fountain drinks, iced tea, and coffee may sound like a dream come true, at $21.99 a pop, we’re talking a whopping $100 for a family of five! But the biggest drawback of a Refillable Mug is that you can only use these 16 oz. cups at your resort! 

Refillable Resort Mugs

So unless you’re planning on spending a lot of time hanging out in your room or you plan to bring your mug to the Parks to fill at water fountains and Bottle Refill stations, it might be worth the cost to invest in these refillable mugs. Keep in mind, however, that these do come included in the cost of the Disney Dining Plan (more on that in a little bit!).

Read all about Disney World’s Refillable Mugs here!

Then There Are ALL of Those Dining Decisions!

It’s notoriously difficult to decide if a Disney Dining Plan is best for you and your family. Basically it boils down to one simple question: do you enjoy ordering, or are you willing to order the most expensive item on the menu? If so, you can probably save a few bucks by going with the Plan, otherwise the savings will probably be negligible, and you may be left with more food than you know what to do with!

Pulled Pork Sandwich at Flame Tree BBQ

One of our best money-saving dining advice is this: use counter service hacks! While it’s not widely known or advertised on Disney menus, you can order just the entree at most Disney counter service restaurants and skip the side of chips or extra fries to save a few dollars. Or share a large Quick Service meal between two people. Then you can use your saved cash to have a snack later when the hunger pangs kick back in!

Learn more about the Basic Disney Dining Plan here!

Capturing Memories

Having photos of everyone together is a great way to remember your vacation, but the PhotoPass Memory Maker is expensive– it costs $69 for just one day of photos, or $169 for your entire vacation when purchased in advance or $199 after you arrive at the Parks!

PhotoPass Photog Attire

Unless it’s your honeymoon or you’re celebrating a really special occasion, this perk might be a bit out of your budget. A trick we’ve used in the past is getting our pictures taken by PhotoPass photographers and having them snap a few pics with our phones or cameras. Note that at this time, PhotoPass photographers may not take personal phones for health and safety protocol. 

Click here to read all about PhotoPass!

Which decisions are the hardest for you to make when planning a Disney trip? Do you have any money-savings advice or tricks of your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section!

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17 Replies to “9 Hard Choices That Can Make Your Walt Disney World Vacation More Affordable”

  1. Travel, everyone talks about flying or driving. What about the train? We take the auto train every time we come to Disney. So no need to rent a car. Works out to be similar or lower price than flying and renting a car.

  2. One other thing you forgot to mention is that Disney allows outside food and drink into the parks, so bringing water bottles that can be refilled in the park or snacks like protein bars and fruit snacks can keep a person satisfied until they can eat a full meal outside of the parks and off Disney property where food is less expensive (if this is an option for you and you are locked into the Disney bubble with lodging and transportation limitations).

  3. Our choices:
    1 Hoppers – Don’t pay extra to also waste time transferring between parks.
    2 Length of Stay – minimum 5 days, max 8 days
    3 Hotel/resort Choice – Mods are not too expensive lovely resorts
    4 Car/Parking Fees – Arrgh! >:-( We like our car.
    5 School – Take kids out of school no more than 3 days for a trip.
    6 Extras like BBB, DAH, Dessert Party, etc.- 1 per trip only. You can have a perfect trip without any, but these are very fun.
    7 Refillable Mug – Only with Free Dining
    8 Dining Choices – Best Value was in AK, Pizzafari’s Family style meal. Under $20pp, it included apps, salad, pizza, entree, desert and drink. Not bad, and Restaurantosaurus also for the free burger toppings bar (You can pile enough stuff on to make a burger sharable). We also like Baseline Taphouse’s $10 Charcuterie sharable snack in HS.
    9 Memory Maker Photos – We splurge on this because kid’s grow so fast and these memories feel priceless. We average 75+ photos a day and dozens of professional quality pics per trip.

    To save money I recommend going less often but a longer stay, eg- instead of yearly 4-5 day trips, go every 2yrs for 7-8 days. Travel expenses are cut in half, ticket prices reduced by 40% per day, and there’s more time to save up.

  4. Back to the Mugs, sure you can save a few dollars but every room I have stayed at has a coffee maker in the room. And another thing that free refill can easily be a 1/2 mile walk or more at many Resorts. If your room is close to the refill station sure get a Mug. If it’s a 20-30 min walk to get a refill is it worth it. Just order some supplies from many local stores easy and cheap, or uber to that Walwart right next to the All Star Resorts and get whatever you need . Uber and Lift are so cheap in orlando it’s like 10$ a trip around the Disney area.

    1. when we are on vacation im not fusing with making coffee we paid to relax see attractions, ride rides and forget about the real world. We get up early enjoy a walk at the resort , almost always eat breakfast at the resort and we always stay at moderate resorts and we have never even come close to having to walk for 20-30 minutes even being at the furthest point out at a resort, Including Caribbean Beach. your Uber is already more then half the cost of a mug , you still have to buy the items you want , and how much time have you wasted doing it? Im sure its more then the time it takes to walk to the Food Courts at the resorts and enjoy the scenery. The mugs are well worth the price and make it real smooth and easy.

  5. I have used few harder choices that make Disney more affordable:

    – Stay off property
    Staying in the Orlando area can cut the price down by half. Staying off of FL-535/Lake Buena Vista normally costs half of a value resort. Many offer free bus service to the parks, but it is extremely limited and only offered at certain times and has to be reserved in advanced. I have always driven a car and greatly enjoyed the ice cold air condition at the end of my park day. You have to decide how much the extra magic hours and 60-day FP+ reservations mean to you. However, I have gotten some great fast passes with only one week to my Disney trip.

    – Consider an annual pass
    Easily saves a lot of money. Consider the number of nights you are staying and the cost of the ticket with park hopper and parking. Sprinkle on some pass holder discounts, free Magic Bands, and don’t forget you get discounts at most Disney Springs stores/restaurants. Although the initial purchase price is steep, you can easily break even on ticket costs if you plan on taking a second Disney World vacation later in the year. Gold and Platinum annual passes even include PhotoPass.

    – Don’t buy water/soda at the parks
    You can ask any of the quick service counters/bars for a glass of ice water. Make sure you do so if you order any food, alcohol, or specialty beverages. You can keep soda in your hotel fridge and bring a bottle in with you to the parks.

    1. I would have to disagree regarding staying off site. My most recent stay at All Star Music was $89 per night. Take on the cost of parking at the parks and a rental car and it would most likely have cost me more to stay off-site. Not to mention the further distance, the inconvenience, the loss of amenities (Past passes, dinning reservation, extra magic hours)and having to drive instead of being transported (The bus service from park to resort is fast, comfortable and dependable). And let’s not forget the free bus service to and from the airport. PS- the buses are all air conditioned

      1. Wow! $89/night is a wonderful price that I would take myself. Rarely do I see rates like that, but they do exist. If you fly in then you definitely want to consider staying on property, but a lot of other people drive to Disney. Since I live in South Florida I would never consider flying in. Recently I stayed off property in the Sea World area for $77/night + free parking. Only a 15 minute drive to the parks and back plus I get free parking at the parks for being a pass holder. Usually the extra magic hours aren’t so tempting to me, but this year I do have reservations in October at Pop Century so I can get into Galaxy’s Edge at 6 AM.

        1. Very good point. I would agree that if you drive to Disney, off-site accommodations might be an option to consider. Since I do fly, the benefit of staying on the property is much more convenient and makes more sense economically as well.

      2. I don’t think there is a wrong or a right answer. My first instinct is that staying offsite is always the best way because of cost. Last year we stayed in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath condo that slept 8 people just 5 miles south of Disney property for $85 per night. Currently the same condo is $95 per night. Yes, we had to pay for parking every day (we drove our own car, so if you fly, you have to pay a few hundred for a rental as well), but the extra savings was worth it to us: not having to eat out every meal and being able to fix our own breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening saved us a lot of money, much more than if we stayed on site and used Disney transportation.

        But having read your response again, I see what is important to you: 60 day fastpass window, extra magic hours, being chauffeured, and food. You don’t get any of those perks by staying offsite (except food, but lose the 180+10 day window for ADRs).

        1. You are right in part, but you miss the underlying reasons. My first objective is to have fun with my family and that is best achieved by avoiding long lines by utilizing extra magic hours and fast passes. We are able to go on many attractions more than once. In the days before the fast pass, my son and I spent most of our time standing in line. Secondly, I am looking to save money and that is best achieved if you are flying by staying on site. For me, a Disney vacation is spending time at the parks, fixing my own meals robs you of hours each day that you could be accomplishing that objective.

  6. The 2 comments so far are about the refillable mug!!! Like thats some HUGE savings. Some people save pennies and think they are saving hundreds.

    1. I dont think much research went into listing the mug prices as expensive,the mugs are saving you money, our average stay is 7 days and just having 7 coffees at 3.29 each is 23.03 for just coffee, i also drink pop and iced tea at least once a day at the resort i stay at. I can also fill it with water and not have to buy any. i agree its not hundreds of dollars but why not save money where you can. i also still use all of mine at home and havent had to buy any mugs for home use.

  7. Who are we kidding Disney World is expensive. The only way to make it cheaper is to stay at cheaper hotels or eat all fast food, thats basicaly it. On season off season whatever, its expensive period. All the little saving add up to like nothing in the overall vacation. You want to go for a week and fly in , $350 plane ticket
    disney springs hotel $150 per night, 6 day hopper like $475 or so not sure, food $50 per day, uber say $200 for the trip. Thats about as cheap as you can do it and thats usually whay we do. Adds up fast.

  8. It is incorrect that the mugs can be used only at your resort. They can be refilled at any resort. So if you go to a monorail resort for lunch or dinner and are staying at Pop Century for example, you can refill your mug at the monorail resort. This can be a huge money saver, especially if two people purchase one mug between the two of them like us. We drink for pennies a refill and have a souvenir to bring home and use over and over again.

  9. I’m a coffee drinker, so the mug works for me – even though coffee is on the “honor system”. 2-3 mugs in the morning and then ice water later. If you’re a soda drinker I’d think you could get it delivered to the Resort by one of the grocery services cheaper than the mugs.