You can enjoy both the journey AND the destination without totally breaking the bank during your Walt Disney World vacation!
Planning a Walt Disney World vacation is exciting, but with so much to consider, it doesn’t always go smoothly. Along the way, there’s a lot of research to be done and information to process — and a lot of the stress of your planning is likely financial.
We’ve put together tips on how to maximize your Walt Disney World budget in the planning stages and during vacation.
First things first, you have to GET to Central Florida. Airfare costs can add up pretty quickly. We recommend utilizing a flight planning app or checking Google Flights to find the cheapest flights available. And remember that if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you can request a free ride to your Resort from Orlando International Airport on board the Magical Express.
Bottle Refill Stations
Before you take off, be sure to pack your refillable water bottles to save both your planet and your wallet at the same time. Recently, bottle refilling stations have been installed in the parks. These dispense cool, filtered water directly into your water bottle without touching the dispenser. Of course, you can also use standard water fountains if you’re fine with water from a fountain. Either way, you’ll be thrilled to keep some money in your pocket. Bottled water goes for $4 to $5 per bottle these days, so that adds up quickly!
There are near-endless amounts of value to be found by staying on Disney property at one of their over 25 resort hotels. Perks include the airport shuttle service known as the Magical Express, included transportation to Walt Disney World Themes Parks, Water Parks, and Disney Springs, the ability to book FastPass+ reservations (time is money, after all!) 60 days in advance (as opposed to 30 days for non-Disney resort guests), and much more.
It is no surprise that Disney Resorts can be pretty pricey, but there are often promotions available. The 2020 discounts are available now for booking and allow guests to save up to 25% on their Disney World Resort hotel rooms on specific nights in 2020. Active and retired U.S. military personnel are eligible for room-only discounts for dates throughout 2020 as well. Annual Passholders can also join in on the savings with 25% to 35% off at select hotels. (Lots of fine print on these discounts, but if they work for you, it could mean big savings!)
Another tip to note: don’t rule out a Value Resort. They offer the same top-notch service we’ve come to expect from Disney but at a more affordable price.
Now that your travel and accommodations are taken care of, the next big items are theme park tickets. If not purchasing a Vacation Package, there are seemingly endless ticket options that vary in availability and price and by season and range from 1 Day/1 Park tickets to Park Hopper tickets to the Mid-Day Afternoon tickets .
When pre-purchasing your theme park tickets, consider big-box retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club. They will often offer discounted tickets that vary by season. But you do have to act pretty fast when you see these discounts as they’re usually offered temporarily.
If you’re a frequent guest of the Walt Disney World resort or planning more than one trip in a year, consider an Annual Pass. AP status not only opens you up to a slew of additional discounts, like 10% off select food and drink options, but also to exclusive merchandise, events, and much more. You can even use the Passholder exclusive entrance at the Parks to save time when entering!
We also can’t recommend enough taking at least one day or afternoon off from the parks during your vacation to enjoy your home resort and all of its amenities. Another day off option is to resort hop. There’s no cost to visiting a Walt Disney World resort, but you’ll want to use Disney transportation (sometimes resorts don’t let in day visitors for a variety of reasons). Try some of the resort dining, peruse their shops, or just enjoy the epic theming you’ll find across property!
The Disney Dining Plan is a pretty controversial topic among Disney fans; there are many ways to save big with it, but there are also lots of times that it doesn’t save much. Luckily, there are plenty of clear-cut ways to save on dining during your next vacation.
Disney just recently announced their 2020 Free Dining for Kids package. This package is eligible for most nights from January 1-March 7, 2020, and available now for booking. Open to kids ages 3 to 9 on the reservation, it offers a free Dining Plan with the purchase of a non-discounted Magic Your Way package for you and your child (or children). Magic Your Way packages include a room at a select Disney Resort, theme park tickets, and any level of Disney Dining Plan.
Eligible to Disney Vacation Club Members, Annual Passholders, and Florida Residents 21 and older, Tables in Wonderland is a dining discount program with the potential to offer great value. The program offers 20% off Food and Beverage (including alcohol) at a wide selection of over 100 restaurants and lounges in both the theme parks, Disney Springs, and Walt Disney World Hotels. California Grill, Narcoossee’s, Yachtsman Steakhouse, and Be Our Guest are among some of the coveted dining spots included in this offer. (Don’t forget the free parking, valet, and exclusive events included as well!).
Alcohol can easily add up during your vacation but we know you may want to indulge after a long day trekking around the parks. Consider booking an All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Dining Experience that includes alcohol to spare yourself the sticker shock when receiving the dinner bill. Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue & Spirit of Aloha are two noteworthy All-You-Care-to-Enjoy dining experiences that include unlimited beer, wine, and sangria.
Happy Hour at Disney Springs is another way to save on Alcohol. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Happy Hour within the parks or at a Disney resort hotel, but Disney Springs offers a slew of opportunities to save. Morimoto Asia offers happy hour in the lounge and late night dining every week from Monday through Thursday, while STK, an energetic steakhouse, offers an excellent late night Happy Hour Thursday-Saturday that includes $2 dollar oysters.
There’s also no shame in avoiding pricey Table Service meals and instead focusing on Quick Service options and lounges. There are some pretty incredible quick service experiences offering up inspired gourmet dishes at a cheaper price. Satu’il Canteen in Animal Kingdom’s Pandora offers up inventive, global inspired quick service dishes, while BaseLine Tap House at Hollywood Studios offers small plates including an affordable Charcuterie Plate and Coffee-rubbed Rib-eye Steak Puff.
Another way to save on dining is to order off of the kids’ menu. Those adult entrees can often be twice the size of an average meal, and quick service spots always allow an adult to order a kids’ meal. Table service restaurants might take a little convincing, though.
Imagine how much more MAGICAL your vacation will be by using these money saving tips!