Hacks for saving money at Walt Disney World

Do you want to bring your family to Walt Disney World, but are a little shocked at the cost of the vacation? Below are some hacks that can save you hundreds of dollars on your Disney World Vacation.

  • Leave the Disney resort to buy souvenirs – The problem with buying souvenirs at the Walt Disney Resort is that they are rather expensive. I would not say they are overpriced, but it is like shopping for a premium brand. Even a t-shirt is going to cost you $20 or more. If you really want to save money there are many discount stores within a few miles of the Disney World property, that sell discounted Disney merchandise. For what it would cost you to buy one t-shirt at Disney World, you can get four t-shirts at the discount stores.
  • Purchase emergency Ponchos at Walmart – If you are unfamiliar with central Florida weather, this might sound weird. However, it rains a lot there, especially in the summer, when there is an afternoon thunderstorm almost every day. Disney is aware of this and just about every store has ponchos that they keep hidden at the cash register. As soon as it looks like it will rain the ponchos are put on display and sell for $10. I like to go to Walmart or Academy and purchase the $1 emergency ponchos prior to my trip. In their packaging these ponchos are just the right size to put in your pocket.  Then if it rains you have a poncho at the ready and have saved yourself $9.
  • Purchase glow in the dark necklaces/ toys at the dollar store – When my children were young, they always wanted the glow in the dark toys, necklaces and bracelets that Disney sells prior to the fireworks, night time shows or night time parades. After a couple of years of spending $20 or more on things that stopped glowing and were thrown away before we left for home, we figured out that we could by similar toys at the dollar store. Every day at Disney we would bring a few to the park and when my kids saw the glow in the dark stuff for sale, we would pull some out of our backpack. The kids were happy and we saved a lot of money.
  • Look into staying at facilities that are not owned by Disney – Like souvenirs, when you stay at a Disney hotel you are paying for the brand. If you do a little homework you may be able to save yourself a lot of money by staying at a property not owned by Disney. For example I usually travel with a party of six, since 2012 we have been staying in condos or townhouses about 2.5 miles away from Disney World. We have far more space and a full kitchen, and even with the $20 per day parking we can stay for a week for about $400 less than the cost of two rooms or a family suite at a Disney value resort.
  • Don’t buy more ticket than you need – By this I mean do not spring for ticket extras like park hopper or water parks unless you are positive that you are going to use those features. Actually, I recommend that you just get the base ticket, as Disney allows you to upgrade your tickets within 14 days of the tickets first use. You can upgrade your tickets at guest relations, the theme park ticket window, or the concierge desk of a Disney hotel. So if you don’t buy enough options on your ticket you can always upgrade, however if you buy options on your ticket that you do not use, you can not get your money back.
  • Eat Breakfast in your room – Bringing food with you to Disney World, or having it shipped to you using Amazon or a service like GardenGrocer.com, is a fantastic way to save on breakfast.  Even just buying a one serving box of cereal or an muffin at the Disney food courts will cost you $2.50 to $3.  Using GardenGrocer.com as an example you can get 8 single serving boxes of cereal for $6.50.
  • Bring snacks into the park – Did you know that you can bring a backpack or cooler into Disney World?  As long as it is smaller than 24″ X 15″ X 18″ you can bring it in.  Disney security will want to check it, to be sure that you are not trying to bring alcohol or some other banned items into the park.  An item that is not banned is food.  When my children were young I used to run into a problem where they will tell us they were hungry, we would buy them something and they would eat two bites then tell us they were full.  So we started to bring a back pack with their favorite snacks in it.  A snack size bag of gold fish is far cheaper then anything you will be able to purchase for a snack from Disney. If you really want to save money you can pack sandwiches or other foods that travel well.  I once saw a family that brought a loaf of bread, and a jar of peanut butter.  They made peanut butter sandwiches for themselves while waiting in line for Splash Mountain.  If you are traveling by airplane to Orlando you can do the same thing I suggested about breakfast food, and use Amazon or GardenGrocer.com to order food and have it delivered to you resort.
  • Eat at table services restaurants at lunch – If you are planning on enjoying the food that Disney has to offer consider eating at lunch time instead of at dinner.  The lunch menu at many of the table service restaurants is cheaper than the dinner menu.  I suggest you make an informed decision though, by looking at the menus on the My Disney Experience app, to make sure you are not missing your must have meal, by eating at lunch instead of dinner.
  • Order a cup of ice water / And bring a water bottle to the park – Orlando during the summer is hot, and you will need to drink lots of water in order to stay hydrated.  With as much walking as you will do in Disney World this is even true in the winter. However, you do not need to spend $3 on a bottle of water every time you need a drink at Disney World.  At counter service and table service restaurants you can order a cup of ice water for free.  Something else you can do is bring a water bottle to the park.  My family carries RTIC water bottles and refills them with the free ice water from the restaurants when we eat lunch and dinner.

So do you have any other money savings ideas for Disney World?  Please leave your idea in the comments.  If you like what I have to say please share my blog.

Choosing a place to stay on your Walt Disney World vacation

Choosing a place to stay for your Walt Disney World vacation can be a daunting task. By itself Disney owns and runs 28 hotels on it’s property. When you include all the hotels, rental homes, and time shares in the area surrounding Walt Disney, you have a lot of options to choose from. So how do you choose? Let’s start by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of staying in a Disney hotel versus a hotel or property not run by Disney.

Let’s start with the non-Disney properties usually referred to staying “offsite” by Disney fans.

Advantages of Offsite accommodations :

  • Most offsite accommodations cost less (sometimes significantly less) than the Disney resorts,
  • Most offsite locations offer more room than the Disney resorts
  • If you go the rental home route you will have a full kitchen, which will allow you to save money on dining.
  • You can escape the Disney Theming.

Disadvantages of Offsite accommodations :

  • Depending on where you are staying you may need a car, or need to plan on the additional expense of Uber.
  • Travel time to the parks may be increased. (When choosing offsite locations be sure to check how far away from Disney it is on a map).
  • If you hotel does offer bus transportation to the Theme Parks it may not be as reliable as Disney’s bus services.
  • If you are driving to the parks, you will have to pay $20 for parking each day.
  • You will not be able to reserve your fast passes till 30 days before you arrive at the theme park.
  • You will not be able to take part in Extra Magic Hours.

Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of staying at a Disney resort. This is what you will usually see Disney fans referring to as staying “Onsite”.

Advantages of Onsite accommodations:

  • Free transportation from your resort to the Theme Parks, Water Parks and Disney Springs.
  • Disney’s Magical express, a free bus service to and from Orlando international airport.
  • Extra Magic Hours, which is time in the parks for only Disney Resort guest.
  • The ability to reserve your FastPasses 60 days prior to your check in date.
  • Free parking at the parks if you decide to drive your own vehicle or rental car.

Disadvantages of Onsite accommodations:

  • Rooms are normally more expensive than rooms at hotels offsite.
  • The standard rooms in the resort are normally far away from the bus stops and dining options.
  • Rooms are usually smaller that at offsite hotels.
  • You will often find yourself waiting in line for the Disney Buses, especially when trying to leave one of the parks after the nightly fireworks.

You also have to keep in mind that both the price and size of accommodations both Onsite and offsite vary widely. When making your accommodation you need to keep in mind that saving money and having more space in offsite accommodations may result in you sacrificing convenience, or exclusive benefits. You also need to consider the amenities at the place you are planning on staying. Will you actually be spending a lot of time there to enjoy the amenities, or will you be spending most of your waking hours in the parks.