We’ve all been there. And by “there” I mean thinking Disney is just not affordable. While most of my friends question over and over how exactly I can afford to frequent Disney as often as I do, I question them when they tell me there’s no way they could afford it.
To be clear, I make travel, whether to Disney or other destinations, a priority. I don’t spend money on a lot of stuff, eat out very rarely and am 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 carefully planning to make sure I am 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.
1.NEVER pay full price
Guys, did you hear that? I said it. 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. So I get it. You want to book early so you can make your ADRs? Go ahead! But when Disney releases those discounts, make sure you get on the phone and have them apply it. It can be time consuming, but it can save you hundreds.
2. 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 I’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!
3. Book through a third party
This is an entire post that will be coming soon, but did you know you can book onsite property through a third party and still receive the benefits of booking through WDW? Yep, you still get those 180 day ADRs, 60 day fastpasses, Extra magic hours and magical express. And its 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 WDW property! Did someone say FREE ROOM at Disney? Yep, I sure did.
4. Use gift cards to pay for your trip
One of the easiest ways 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!
5. Skip the Park Hopper
Ok so some people might disagree, but unless you are extremely strapped for time, the Park Hopper is really not necessary. 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 its definitely doable; and in my opinion, really opens up some dining options you may not have considered beforehand.
6. Free Dining
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, since we’ve been going for the last six years, Disney has offered Free Dining in the fall. 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. You can read this post to see if Free Dining is something that will save you the most money or not.
7. Stay off property
Ok this is actually a maybe guys. 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 unless you’re an annual passholder if you choose to stay off property which is $20/day. You also forgo certain discounts when you choose to stay off property as well.
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!
8. Buy your tickets from an authorized Disney resaler
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 resaler so you don’t get scammed.
9. Use rewards sites and apps like Ebates, Swagbucks and Shopkick to earn gift cards for your trip
If you guys aren’t using Ebates, then I have to ask why not? What is Ebates? Its 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 bascally 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!
10. Reconsider your meals
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 Parks. 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.
11. Go during the slow season
So this is really dependent on whether or not you can actually travel during slow times, but if you can manage it, you can save a lot. 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 I’ve never seen crowds so low. Definitely a win.
12. Get an annual pass….maybe
So this is yet another post that we need to write, but an annual pass really may save you a lot if you travel to WDW more than once a year. Not only do you get discounts on food and merchandise, but you also get free parking as well as 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, its definitely worth considering.
While there are many many ways to save on a Walt Disney World vacation, we hope these tips show you that a Walt Disney World can be affordable.
What tips do you have for saving money at WDW? Tell us in the comments, we would love to know!