Are you wondering how to do Disney World on a Budget? These tips will help families plan and budget for a Walt Disney World vacation.
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Whenever we are planning a Disney World vacation on a budget we look at these 5 categories to decide where we can save and where we can splurge.
There are 5 categories of where we spend the most money on a Disney World vacation. They are:
- Transportation Costs
Depending on the Disney vacation you are planning and the needs of your family these may vary, but most people have the same 5 categories when planning a family vacation.
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Best Tips for How to Plan Disney World on a Budget
- Do not visit during peak times like spring break and holidays. Plan during the off-season. These times typically have lower price and lower crowds.
- Do some research before you book anything. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find the best price. Check Disney ticket and hotel deals.
- Look at the Disney World Crowd Calendar to see what the best times to visit are.
Don’t Purchase Things You Don’t Need
- Take time to think about what you and your family really need. Don’t pay for things your don’t need.
- You may not need a park hopper ticket if you have small children and traveling from park to park will be a lot of work. We rarely purchase the park hopper option to save money and to focus on one park a day.
- Consider the extra cost of things like the water parks, table service meals/character meal, etc. If you are trying to do Disney the cheapest way you will have to cut some things out of your Disney World trip.
Disney Budgeting Tip
My biggest tip for a Disney trip or any family travel trip is to be clear about what is important to you and budget for Disney in a way that works for your family.
There are no activities that you have to do if it doesn’t make sense for you. Figure out your Disney World vacation budget and figure out what fits and what doesn’t.
I usually use a pencil and paper to write out the cost of the trip. At first I add everything we want to do and then I start removing things that won’t work for us.
Florida residents should consider checking the special offers page for deals. If you are not a Florida resident I still suggest starting with the special offers page to see what is available on Disney’s website.
After checking Disney’s website I go to our partner Undercover Tourist to see what special Disney deals they have. Then I compare them both.
Disney on a Budget: Transportation Needs
Transportation can carry a huge price tag, especially if you fly or need to rent a car. If you are driving you will pay resort parking fees ranging from $13.00-$24.00 a night.
I share a detailed breakdown of the cost of a trip to Disney World for the five of us. Read it for an honest look at what our vacations cost and where we save: Disney Vacation Cost for a Family of Five
We live in New York state and although we have made the drive, we typically choose to fly. It saves us time and often I can find great deals through Southwest.
On recent trips we have flown Frontier Airlines to save on the trip.
Our biggest issue is flying out of our home airport, Rochester. Usually we don’t find the best flight deal.
I like to search nearby cities to find the best deals. Sometimes it means a bit of driving but we save a lot of money flying from a different airport.
We also rarely rent a car when staying at Walt Disney World. The only time it makes sense to have a car is if you are staying off-site or visiting other theme parks like SeaWorld or Universal.
When flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO) you have a few options. You can reserve Mears or Sunshine Flyer. You can also use Uber.
We used Mears for a Universal Orlando trip and it was on-time and picks you up right at the hotel. It was a great service. You can find information here.
I have heard people like to use Uber or Lyft to keep costs down and be able to visit other Orlando attractions.
If your goal is to stay on a budget, staying at Disney for the duration of your vacation is recommended.
Best Way to Save Money on Transportation:
- Fly during off-peak time and days.
- Stay on-site and use Disney transportation.
Disney World Trip on a Budget: Accommodations
You have two options for accommodations when visiting Walt Disney World: On-site Disney Resort Hotels or Off-site.
Off-site is at an Orlando hotel that is not part of the resort.
This is definitely a personal preference but staying on-site gives you access to the transportation options from your resort to the parks.
If staying at a Disney hotel you will have access to boat, monorail, bus, or Disney Skyliner transportation.
We have stayed at all of the Disney Skyliner resorts and they are some of our favorites. Check out the reviews:
- Disney Art of Animation Review and Family Suite Room Tour
- Disney Riviera Resort Review
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort Review for Families
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (Review coming soon!)
I like staying in the magic, so Disney World resorts are always the best choice for us. Especially when you add up rental car and parking fees. It makes sense for our family.
What You Get When You Stay On-Site at Disney
- Transportation around the Walt Disney World Resort including Disney Springs.
- Disney Magic! This may not seem like much but staying at a Disney Resort continues the Disney magic after you leave the parks. Check out the Art of Animation resort. It has amazing Disney magic throughout the resort and really cute hotel room theme. Kids love it!
- Early Theme Park Entry for Deluxe resort guests only.
Disney World has 4 theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom and often when you plan to visit them all it makes going to and from the parks easier to be on-site.
Related Posts About Disney On-Site Resorts:
- Disney World Accommodations for Large Families
- Disney World Value Resorts Overview for Your Disney Vacation
- Disney Moderate Resorts Overview for Your Disney World Vacation
- The Best Disney Resort for Kids on Any Vacation Budget
What You Get When You Stay Off-Site at Disney
- A break from Disney. This is great if you are planning to visit other places or are not planning on visiting multiple parks.
- Usually more spacious rooms for the cost. You can find large rooms on property at Disney but they can get expensive.
- Food options outside the park that may save you money. You can purchase your own food to take to the parks and make meals at home.
Usually off-site you can find a house rental. We have stayed at Encore resorts and think they are a great option for off-site accommodations when visiting Disney World.
Off-site are great options if you want to rent a car or if you are traveling with a large group.
Some off-site hotels do offer shuttles to the parks but they might have nightly parking fees or resort fees. Read the fine print when booking.
It is also important to price out rental cars. When researching be sure to list the cost of a rental car against the cost of accommodations.
Often you may not save much money and staying on-site may be a better choice.
You can also shop around for nightly resort prices at Disney. I always run the prices for our room through a few options.
Typically, the Walt Disney World site and Undercover Tourist. You do not have to book directly through Walt Disney World to receive the on-site perks.
I also watch for Disney promotions that usually start about 3-6 months before you travel. You can book your trip and then change if there is a promotion.
Disney World has three tiers of accommodations: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Each level offers different amenities and price points.
We have stayed at all three and it really depends on what your needs are. The values offer less frills but they are where you should start if you are trying to do Disney World on a shoestring budget.
Best Way to Save on Accommodations:
- List the different cost options available.
- Factor in renting a car vs. not renting a car
- On-site vs. off-site
- Where to book
- Consider staying at a value resort. Also be sure to think about what your needs are as a family.
Budgeting Disney Vacation: Tickets to the Parks
Tickets are where it is the most difficult to save and can be very pricey. Usually the best place to purchase tickets is the official Walt Disney World website.
I have also purchased through Undercover Tourist but it is not always the best price. Mousesavers.com has one of the best lists of ticket deals and I check often to see if I can find a deal.
Walt Disney World tickets are based on the day you are visiting and how many days you visit. If it is a high season, like during Christmas break, the daily price of the ticket will be higher than a low season day.
Also the more days you visit the less per day you pay.
The picture below shows what the pricing is like as of May 2019. If you purchased a 6 day ticket your total price would be $420.
If you purchased a 2 day ticket the price would be $214. The more days you purchase the less per day you pay.
If you are trying to do Disney on a budget it is best to stay on-site and only visit the Disney parks because your dollar will go further.
If you break up your trip with a visit to Disney and another Orlando theme park the cost will be more.
Guests now need to consider if they want to purchase Genie+ for their visits to the theme parks. Genie+ allows guests to skip long lines and reserve a time to ride an attraction.
It is an add on charge starting at $16.00-$31.00 per person/per day. Read details on Genie+ here. If you are trying to stay on a budget at Disney you may not want to purchase Genie+ for all of your days.
Best Way to Save on Tickets:
- Check prices from different places.
- Stay longer and visit the parks multiple times during your trip to pay less per day, or stay less time to spend less.
- Decide if you need Genie+ for every park day.
Budgeting at Disney World: Dining Budget
Food is typically where you can go way over budget or stay on budget. This is where we usually try to save the most money on our vacations.
There are two types of dining quick service and table service meals. Quick service is counter service and table service is sit-down. Table service typically needs reservations.
If you are planning on splurging on character meals you may want to make room in your budget in different categories.
When the Disney Dining Plan was offered character meals were a good use of your points. It has not been offered in years but there are rumors it may come back. Always check the special offers page on Disney’s website.
If you want to do Disney on a budget you can meet characters during your time in the parks and dine at the quick service options. Currently character meals like 1900 Park Fare will be a big chunk of your budget.
Quick service is the counter service options at the Walt Disney World parks and resorts. These are where you walk up to order and find your seat. Check out our favorite quick service meals at Disney World.
One of my best Disney tips is to use Mobile Ordering to save time waiting for your food. Read More: How Mobile Ordering Saves Us Time and Stress at Walt Disney World.
We save money on food at Disney World by bringing our own snacks. Food and drink are allowed inside the park.
We bring goldfish, fruit, granola bars, and anything that helps us between meals. We rarely bring water because you can ask for a cup of water at any food service place in the parks.
Carrying around 5 water bottles is heavy and unnecessary. We also never order drinks besides a cup of water and that saves us at least $10.00 a meal.
At some of the restaurants the meals are large and we share them.
This might not work for everyone but it is an easy way to save a bit of money during your trip.
If food is a high priority during your trip plan your budget around where you will spend money, and save in other areas.
Best Way to Save on Food:
- Opt for quick service instead of table service for some or all of your meals.
- Eat breakfast in the hotel room and have an early lunch.
- Order water instead of drinks
- Share larger meals
- Bring snacks and food into the park
Disney Vacation on a Budget: Souvenirs/Gifts/Extras
This one is simple for us-we don’t shop very often at the parks. We are usually busy experiencing the attractions that we don’t have time to stop in the stores.
Sometimes we will purchase a small ornament as a group gift.
If you want to purchase things consider stopping at Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store before you go to the parks.
We have purchased shirts, water bottles, and glow-sticks to bring with us to the parks. They are less expensive then at the parks.
If you really want to purchase something from the parks consider setting a budget for your kids before you leave or have them bring their own money.
There are not many extra costs when you visit Walt Disney World after the ones I shared about above. All the shows, rides, attractions inside the park are included with your admission ticket.
There are Photo Pass photographers around the parks and this is an added fee to purchase. You can purchase pictures but we always have them use our camera and the pictures come out amazing. Learn more about Disney Photo Pass here.
Best Way to Save on Souvenirs:
- Avoid the shops and stick to the rides and shows.
- Have the Photo Pass photographer use your phone or camera to take a picture for you.
- Set a souvenir budget before you arrive and stick to it.
I hope this have given you tips on how to do Disney World on a budget. If you plan ahead and decide what your vacation priorities are you can enjoy a great Disney World vacation.
Related Post: 9 Essential and Fun Packing Tips for Your Disney Vacation and 6 First Time Disney World Tips for Families
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