We’ve all been there. And by “there” we mean thinking Disney is just not affordable. While most of our friends question over and over how exactly we can afford to frequent Disney as often as we do, we question them when they tell us there’s no way they could afford it. But isn’t it worth it to figure How You Can Afford It? Here are 13 really EASY ways you can save money on a Disney Vacation.
- 1 Make it a Budget Priority
- 2 Never Pay Full Price
- 3 Use a Travel Agent
- 4 Book With a Third Party
- 5 Use Disney Gift Cards to Pay for your Trip
- 6 Skip the Park Hopper Ticket
- 7 Skip Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane
- 8 Grab Disney’s Free Dining Offer
- 9 Stay Off-Property. Maybe
- 10 Buy Discounted Park Tickets
- 11 Use Rewards Sites and Apps
- 12 Consider Your Disney Dining Options
- 13 Visit Disney During Off-Season
- 14 Get a Walt Disney World Annual Pass. Maybe.
Make it a Budget Priority
To be clear, we make travel, whether to Disney or other destinations, a priority. we don’t spend money on a lot of stuff, eat out very rarely, and are just frugal in general. That being said, you don’t have to live like a minimalist to afford a Disney vacation. A lot of it has to do with very careful planning to make sure we are always getting the best deal. So here are some easy tips anyone can use to save money on a trip to Walt Disney World vacation. Read How to plan a Disney Budget.
Never Pay Full Price
Guys, did you hear that? we said NEVER. Ok so here’s the thing. Disney has special offers. All the time actually! So many people make the mistake of getting on the Disney website, getting a price quote, and either booking or not booking and leaving it at that. In fact, even if you’ve already booked your high-priced vacation you can still get on the phone and have them apply an offer. If you see that they’re suddenly offering a discount on rooms, packages or dining just call in and ask them to apply it. It can be time-consuming, but it can save you hundreds. Check out Disney’s Special Offer Page. Yes, they have a whole page! And if you’re still not happy with the price, head to AAA or MouseSavers. Both places will have deals and tips that get you there without breaking the bank.
Use a Travel Agent
Don’t want to worry about calling and asking for that discount? Use a travel agent! A good travel agent will make sure you get the absolute best price AND we’ve seen a lot of special offers through travel agencies who will offer little extras, like gift cards, themed goodie baskets, and sometimes even free room upgrades! And the best part about a travel agent is that they’re 100% FREE to use! Here are 10 reasons why we suggest using a Disney Certified Travel planner.
Book With a Third Party
Did you know you can book Disney Resorts through a third party and still receive the benefits of booking through Disney? Yep, you still get many Disney perks and it’s so simple! To give you an idea of how much you can save, we recently booked through hotels.com for a moderate resort and saved close to $200 per night. And furthermore, if you have nights that can be redeemed through a site like hotels.com, you can use those free nights on Disney property too! Did someone say FREE ROOM at Disney? Yep, if you do it right, a free Disney night could also be yours. Check out our entire post on how to book a Disney Resort with a third party.
Use Disney Gift Cards to Pay for your Trip
One of the Best Ways to Save Money on a Disney Vacation is to save a little (or a lot) of money on a Disney vacation is by buying gift cards to pay for your trip. Love Target? You can save 5% at Target on Disney gift cards when you use your RedCard to pay for them! We live near a grocery chain that offers free fuel with the purchase of gift cards, so we buy our gift cards for the trip there and usually end up earning a few free tanks of gas! Be on the lookout for gift card deals too, some retailers offer extra perks or discounts on gift cards during “sales”.
Skip the Park Hopper Ticket
Ok so some people might disagree, but unless you are extremely strapped for time, the Park Hopper is really not necessary. Read in detail why we believe this to be true at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. We are Annual Passholders now, but we haven’t always been and to be honest, we’ve never purchased a Park Hopper. It does require a little more planning to have to stick to only one Park per day, but it’s definitely doable! And we actually love adding in resort trips on days where we may not be doing a whole lot in the parks. So if Animal Kingdom closes early we head over to Animal Kingdom Lodge for activities and an amazing dinner instead of seeking out another park. Or if we’re bent on seeing Magic Kingdom Fireworks, head over to the Contemporary and watch them from there.
Skip Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane
If you’re traveling during the busiest times of the year at Walt Disney World, then this tip may not work for you. But, if you’re heading to Disney World and looking to save money, you can Skip the $15 per day per person fee for Disney Genie+ and just plan on using good old-fashioned Disney Ride Strategies instead.
Grab Disney’s Free Dining Offer
If you know anything about us, you’ll know that we love food. And the food at Disney World is no exception. So while this is not a given, Disney has offered Free Dining sporadically in the fall, typically during years when the economy is struggling. The details of the deal have changed over the years, but Free Dining really can be a great deal depending on your situation. The kicker: it must be purchased in a Magic Your Way package and you cant combine it with other offers. Check out our Free Disney Dining Offer post to get all the details. And if you have a big family and are wincing at the potentially 70-100 dollars per person/ per day price tag to eat at Disney, keep an eye out for these deals.
Stay Off-Property. Maybe
Ok this is actually a maybe. If you’re super strapped for cash and lodging costs that will make or break your vacation, stay off property. You can save a lot of money on your room to stay off property but there are a lot of other expenses to consider when choosing this option. How will you get around? Will you need to rent a car? If so, how much will that cost? If you’re driving, you will need to pay for parking at your resort, rates vary, and again at the parks which is another $20/day. You also forgo certain discounts when you choose to stay off the property as well. Read our On or Off Property posts for Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Another benefit of staying off property is that you can take advantage of places like AirBnB where you can potentially have your own kitchen and cook your own food which will save you money too. Sign up through this link to save $40 off your first stay!
Buy Discounted Park Tickets
We like Undercover Tourist for discounted tickets and this is one area that you need to be careful in. Make sure that you are buying from an authorized resale site so you don’t get scammed. We also highly recommend Get Away Today if you’re looking for a complete Vacation Package, or tickets at a discount, with deals like getting a free day, or cheaper kids tickets. Check out Get Away Today.
Use Rewards Sites and Apps
Use rewards sites and apps like Ebates, Swagbucks, and Shopkick! If you guys aren’t using Ebates, then why not? What is Ebates? It’s like a rebate site/ app. Make purchases as you normally would through the site or the app and you’ll earn cash (or gift cards!) back. Its super easy and you’re basically earning on things you’re already buying! Also- remember those third-party sites we talked about earlier? Book them through Ebates and you’ll even earn money back on your trip! Sign up through this link and you’ll get $10 just for joining!
Swagbucks is another great way to earn gift cards for your trip or gift cards for places like Target where you can buy your Disney gift card. There are lots of ways to earn with Swagbucks, so check it out and do what works best for you! With Shopkick, you can earn quite a bit without spending a dime! By opening the app every time you enter a participating store, scanning items, or uploading a receipt for certain products, you can earn points that translate to gift cards. I usually use this for our Starbucks runs while at Disney, but you can also redeem for Target gift cards as well. These are just examples of ways to use sites and apps to save money for your trip; there are tons of options out there! Check out our favorite apps to save you money.
Consider Your Disney Dining Options
Ok, so you can take the much less expensive route and not eat at Walt Disney World since you can bring your own food in. But we love the food at Walt Disney World and feel it would be a shame if you didn’t eat at least some of it.
One way we try to have the best of both worlds is by doing a little of each and bringing some of our own food and eating it at the hotel and then staggering our meals when we are at the Parks. So for example, we may eat breakfast in our room, grab a snack at the Park and then eat a late lunch/early dinner while at the park. This works really well if you enjoy buffets because you can fill up on whatever you’d like and the price doesn’t change.
Another option is to share your meals. Honestly, the portion sizes at WDW are pretty hefty and a lot of times my daughter and I are able to split a meal and still be full. We’d also recommend that if you didn’t get the Free Disney Dining Plan offer and need to go cheaper on the food, grab a refillable mug for every person in your travel party. This way, you can still bring your packed food into the commissary at your resort, and refill that mug as needed. If you’re looking to Save Money on a Disney Vacation then figuring out your meals is a good place to start. Check out our post on setting up a Disney Dining Budget BEFORE you go on your vacation so you know exactly how much you’re paying for food!
Visit Disney During Off-Season
While Disney doesn’t really have an Off-Season, they do have cheaper times to visit Walt Disney World throughout the year. On-Season for Disney is the Summer and during Holidays ( think every holiday… and spring break). So this is really dependent on whether or not you can actually travel during slow times, pull kids out of school, get off work, etc. But if you can manage it, you can save a lot by visiting during off-peak times, like January- February, and September- November. Check out our best times to visit Disney posts for your best bets. And the best time about traveling during the off-season is that everything is cheaper including flights AND the crowds are much more manageable.
When we visited last January, not only was the weather much more tolerable, but it was extremely affordable and we’ve never seen crowds so low. Definitely a win.
Get a Walt Disney World Annual Pass. Maybe.
Think you can Save Money on a Disney Vacation by getting an Annual Pass? Maybe. In fact, it’s a big maybe. One of our most popular posts, being an annual pass holder breaks down how being a WDW AP has definitely changed how we vacation at Disney. An annual pass may save you tons of money depending on how you travel each year. Not only do you get discounts on food and merchandise, but you also get free parking at the parks plus Passholder-only resort discounts as well. If you’re only planning a once-in-a-while trip, then the annual pass is not for you, but if you plan to spend more than 10 days in the Parks per year, it’s definitely worth considering.
Easy ways to Save Money on a Disney Vacation
While there are many ways to save on a Walt Disney World vacation, we hope these tips show you that a Walt Disney World can be affordable. And don’t forget to avoid the hidden fees at Walt Disney World to help save you even more money. Or check out the Free Disney Souvenirs to avoid going over budget. What tips do you have for saving money at Disney? Tell us in the comments, we would love to know!