Are you wondering how you’ll be able to afford a Walt Disney World vacation with your family? Find out my top tips for doing Walt Disney World on budget. Keep scrolling down!!
This Walt Disney World on a Budget post was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
How you plan and budget for a trip to Walt Disney World will vary greatly depending on several factors.
If you’re traveling with young kids, your needs (and wish list) will be vastly different than if you’re exploring Galaxy’s Edge with your teens.
Taking into account what your goals are for your trip, your must-dos and must-sees is paramount.
Once you know what you want to get out of your trip, it makes it a bit easier to narrow down how to go about getting in as much fun as possible.
What likely isn’t a question is the fact that you’ll want to save as much money as possible on your trip to Disney.
With so many options and choices, you’re guaranteed to find ways to shave a few dollars off of your trip.
Walt Disney World on a Budget: How to Save on Tickets
Often, tickets to Walt Disney World can be where families spend the most money.
Getting to and from Walt Disney Resort will vary greatly. Some families prefer to drive and will need to shell out money for plane tickets.
Making use of gas cards, airline miles and rewards will depend greatly on the resources available and the options you choose.
When buying tickets to Disney however, there are a few options that will work for most families.
If you’ve decided to purchase a Disney package vacation, accommodations and park tickets will be rolled into your total.
It may make sense to visit Undercover Tourist to get a feel for some of the prices and options they offer.
One important thing to note is that the cost of tax is built in to the prices you’ll see on the Undercover Tourist website.
If comparing and contrasting against the Walt Disney World website posted prices, remember that tax isn’t added to those prices until checkout.
Undercover Tourist offers several options in terms of days and length of stay.
They also do offer tickets for special events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
GET AWAY TODAY
Get Away Today is also a great company to use when trying to save money on Walt Disney World Resort ticket and hotel packages.
I’ve used them this past year when booking both my Disneyland and Walt Disney World vacation packages and they have incredible customer service.
DISNEY CHASE VISA
Another way to save money on tickets is with a Disney Chase Visa credit card (more on that below).
There are often options for vacation financing and specials when you use your card to book tickets.
Additionally, the Orlando CityPASS lets you create our own theme park vacation. The purchase of one CityPASS per family member allows you to customize your vacation package.
You can choose options at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort.
AUTHORIZED DISNEY VACATION PLANNER
Finally, consider securing tickets through an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
This service costs you nothing as they receive commission directly from Disney for booking your vacation.
Often authorized planners will have access to discounts and specials that you may not have heard of.
They’re able to book everything for you and keep an eye on ticket prices to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
We’ve used Christina Salisbury of Ears of Experience in the past and she’s got amazing customer service and really went the extra mile for us!
Use the Disney Chase Visa Credit Card to Save Money
Consider applying for a Disney Visa credit card. Right now, they are offering $200 statement credit.
Not only can Disney cardholders save money on periodic vacation financing specials, there are fun benefits within the parks.
Cardholders have access to special Meet and Greets at Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.
The card also gives a 10% discount on purchases over $50 in the parks and at the resorts. Disney Stores nationwide also honor the 10% discount.
In addition to dining discounts, ticketed events like the Behind the Seeds Tour and the Star Wars Tour can also be booked with the card at a discount.
Play the Disney Gift Card Game to Save Money
For those that love a challenge and enjoy doing the legwork of helping save for vacation, purchasing Disney gift cards can help defray vacation costs.
Target regularly offers discounts on Disney gift cards. There are also countless apps and programs that offer discounts and Sam’s Club regularly sells discounted cards.
Purchasing cards in advance can help when you’re ready to start spending because you simply apply the gift cards to your account.
Many guests use the cards to help pay for accommodations, meals, tickets and keep them organized by putting the cards on their My Disney Experience account.
Walt Disney World on a Budget: How to Save Money on Disney Accommodations
One of the easiest ways to save money on lodging is to stay at one of the Disney Value Resorts.
DISNEY VALUE RESORTS
Additionally, the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort are a fun option for families that prefer a more rustic experience. RV travel being what it is lately, these are a popular option for budget-minded travelers.
Each of the Value Resorts offer access to the Magical Express that brings guests from the airport to their respective resort.
Guests of the Value Resorts will also receive Extra Magic Hours benefits, and Dining Plan opportunities.
Access to FastPass+ reservations two months in advance and Advanced Dining 180 days in advance is also a big draw in staying at these resorts.
While there are no monorail stops or boat transportation, each Value Resort has access to buses that bring guests to and from the parks.
A big draw of staying on site is that there’s no need to pay for a car rental, gas or daily parking at the theme parks.
Eliminating these expenses is a great way to free up more money for other areas of your Disney vacation.
This next tidbit of information goes hand-in-hand with the section on timeshares below.
DISNEY VACATION CLUB (DVC)
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is similar to a timeshare in that members purchase access to weeks at a specific Disney resort.
Ideally members of other timeshare networks (like RCI noted below) can exchange their weeks at DVC.
These exchanges are possible, but sell out quickly, so it is not something to completely bank on. If you’re a timeshare member, this is likely something you’re already aware of.
You can also rent DVC points from places like David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
We’ve used them to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village for a greatly reduced rate right before the holidays.
Walt Disney World on a Budget: Save Money by Staying Off Property
As noted above, timeshare members across several companies (RCI, HGVC, etc) are able to exchange their points or weeks depending on availability.
For example, an RCI member may be an ‘owner’ at a resort in Nuevo Vallarta but doesn’t feel like traveling to Mexico year after year.
The owner pays a yearly fee (in the $500 range) that gives them points to deposit toward vacation.
Depending on time of year and location, each property is assigned a point level and that member is allowed to ‘exchange’ their points somewhere else.
These exchanges come in handy when you’re traveling to Walt Disney World as there are countless timeshare resorts close to the parks.
These properties are beautiful, offer their own fabulous amenities and are often within just 15-20 minutes of a given theme park.
Some offer shuttles to and from the parks as well.
The benefits of staying off property are many, especially when traveling with a large family.
Units include full or partial kitchens, washer and dryer and often are 2 or 3 bedroom condos.
Families fill up the refrigerator and can bring less clothing because they have those in-room amenities. Those savings with a large family can’t be beat.
Within the Disney Springs area there are 7 hotels that, while not on Disney property, will still make you feel as though you’re in the “Disney Bubble.”
These Disney Springs Good Neighbor Hotels offer transportation to and from the theme parks and water parks. Tickets are also sold at the hotels and some offer character breakfasts as well.
Finally, vacation homes in nearby towns like Davenport can be found and purchased on Ebay.
Of course, due diligence is recommended and it is advised that you do your research on the seller. (Check reviews, call them ahead of time, etc..)
Often these homes can be rented for an entire week at just $300-400.
Another option of course is using AirBnb, these are great ways to save on Disney area accommodations, though you may have to of course do a bit more legwork to ensure you’re not getting scammed.
Walt Disney World on a BudgetL How to Get Free or Cheap Souvenirs
When you go to Disney, of course you’re going to want to bring something home to commemorate the experience.
If you’re traveling with kids, even more-so. There are countless ways to bring home free or cheap souvenirs when visiting Disney.
Pressed pennies are located throughout the parks and resorts.
Purchase a Pressed Penny Passport and get your quarters and pennies all lined up in a M&M’s mini tube so they’re at the ready when you come across a machine.
Additionally, Disney pins can be purchased in bulk lots on Ebay along with lanyards for each family member.
Trading pins with cast members is one way to get fun, inexpensive souvenirs.
Be sure to read up on authentic pins and what they’ll look like so you know you are buying the real deal online.
Collecting autographs is another fun thing to do at Walt Disney World.
For a unique and budget-friendly Disney autograph book, grab a copy of the Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters.
If you’re traveling with littles, book a first haircut at Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.
Your little one will get “First Haircut” Mickey Ears, a lock of their hair in pixie dust and a fun certificate.
If you’re celebrating something special whether its a birthday, anniversary, first trip or any other special event, you can also get a free Celebration Button.
Walt Disney World on a Budget: How to Save Money on Food
If you’re staying off property at accommodations with a full or partial kitchen, it’s easy to save money on food.
Simply purchase or order groceries from a local store or Amazon Pantry and stock up.
Some families traveling with littles and staying in condos will leave for the parks in the morning and then head back to the resort in the early afternoon for lunch and naps.
Later, they’ll head back out to the parks well-rested and well-fed. This allows families to save money on food in the parks (they’d only need a light evening dinner).
You could even eat breakfast in your hotel; oatmeal, juices, granola bars, cereal and protein bars are great on-the-go options before the park.
Taking advantage of the aforementioned gift cards is another way to save money; use the cards to purchase meals within the parks.
Consider character breakfasts if you’re an early riser.
Fill up on a delicious breakfast buffet, meet some characters and then by lunchtime you’ll just need a nutritious snack to keep you going until dinnertime.
DISNEY DINING PLAN
It’s up to you, your budget and your families preferences if determining whether or not the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal.
There’s much that goes into it, so it’s hard to determine whether its a true savings for some families.
In 2020 Disney is offering a Free Dining Bounceback offer for guests visiting in May through December.
It’s important to stay on top of dining discounts and offers because they change regularly.
This is where having a dedicated Disney Authorized Planner in charge of your reservations could come in handy.
Depending on how you choose to configure your Walt Disney World family vacation, there are several choices and options to consider.
Despite how it all works out, the fact remains, a magical Disney vacation is one that won’t soon be forgotten.
When all is said and done, the money you spent (or saved) will be forgotten. What will remain are the family memories and laughs that will last a lifetime, and that, is priceless.