Sharing some tips for visiting Disney World on a budget!
Buy Disney gift cards at a discount. If you’re a member of Sam’s Club or Costco, you can purchase Disney gift cards at 5% off. We bought these at Sam’s Club and used them to book our resort and buy park tickets. We also used them insides the parks for food. It was stress-free using these gift cards that we knew were already paid for rather than carrying cash or swiping a card - which really makes vacation most enjoyable.
Book with an expert.
Once we decided we wanted to visit Disney World, before we did anything else, we decided to go talk with a AAA Travel Agent. I’m a AAA member (because when you’re still driving a 2005 vehicle, it’s really a smart decision … ) and as a part of membership, you can meet with their travel agents & they will help you book your trip for free!
Not only will they book your trip for you, they know where to find the best deals & have tips for the best time of the year to visit. We worked with an agent at AAA Ohio Auto Club who is a Disney EXPERT. We had originally been thinking of a particular week to visit, but she let us know that was the same week as a Disney marathon race and it would likely be really crowded. She recommended a different week for us based on a “crowd projector” website and it worked out great!
Our agent was also able to find us a great resort deal, package our park tickets into our resort booking to get us additional savings, and connect our flights to Disney’s Magical Express - free transportation to and from the airport for guests staying at a Disney Resort.
3. Choose a Disney “Value” Resort.
Disney World has four categories for their resorts - Deluxe Villas, Deluxe, Moderate, & Value. So … guess which category we chose? We picked value resort, Pop Century, and I’m glad we did!
The staff was friendly, our room was nice, & the price was a quarter of the cost of some of the other resorts. Also, we spent the majority of our time in the parks, so choosing a value resort made the most sense for us anyway.
There’s a few other reasons to stay at a Disney Resort (besides the Mickey waffles):
Magic Bus - Free transportation to all of the parks & Disney Springs. A bus to each destination arrived every 20 minutes so we never had to wait long. We also were able to ride the Magic Bus home from all the parks. Resort guests also get to take the Magic Express - free transportation to and from the airport. (a one way Uber trip to the airport from the resort would cost around $50)
Magic Hours - Staying at a Disney Resort gives you access to “Magic Hours” - hours when the park opens early or stays open late just for Disney Resort guests.
Early Access to FastPass+ Reservations - FastPass+ reservations let you choose three rides that you don’t have to wait in the regular line for at the park. Park guests who have purchased tickets can start making reservations 30 days in advance but Disney Resort guests can begin making reservations 60 days in advance, so you have better options on ride selections & when you want to ride.
Staying at a Disney resort definitely made the whole vacation experience more magical - if you’re looking for a place to stay within your budget check out Pop Century!
4. Plan your food.
There were definitely food items we wanted to try in the parks, but we didn’t want to buy everything in the park. Here’s a breakdown of what we ate in a typical day at Disney.
Breakfast: We ate a huge breakfast at our resort each morning because it was cost effective (around $10) and it kept us full for hours at the park so we could spend our time on the rides.
Lunch: *insert fanny packs.* Yes, we wore fanny packs to Disney World & they were soo convenient. We packed crackers & granola bars in them to snack on during the day. We also packed an empty water bottle that we could fill up for free in the park whenever we needed. We would also usually grab a snack in the park, such as a Mickey ice cream bar or a pretzel.
Dinner: A few nights we ate at a resort and took the Magic Bus to Disney Springs to eat at one of their many restaurants. We chose Disney’s Polynesian Resort for one dinner because their restaurant served their drinks in pineapples and that of course caught my attention. That’s one great way to see the more deluxe resorts without spending the money to stay there - anyone can go to any resort for dinner, not just guests! You’ll just want to make a reservation before you go as they’re normally booked up the night of.
5. Shop for themed clothing … outside the parks.
I wanted some themed clothing for our trip, but knew those items would be expensive in Orlando. So I started looking for items a few months ahead of time and found them at great prices.
Mickey Mouse sweatshirt: Lucky find at Second Chance Consignment Shop: $10
Ears: $9.85 on Amazon (these run around $25 in the parks)
Lion King tank top: Target: $12.99
Mickey Mouse tank top: Amazon: $19.99
Donut Mouse ears: My sister found these at Five Below for only $2 and I love them! She found them after our trip, but I’m hanging on to them for next time.
6. Rethink Typical Souvenirs.
I wanted to get something for friends & family at Disney, but souvenirs were super expensive. Then I noticed Disney-themed postcards in one of the gift shops for less than $2 a piece. Postcards are great souvenirs because they’re inexpensive and people love getting mail! And writing a message to a friend telling them about your trip can be a more thoughtful gift than a T-shirt.
I hope these tips are helpful when planning your next vacation to the happiest place on earth! What’s your favorite savings tip for visiting Disney World?