Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

Planning a trip to Disney World on a Budget doesn’t have to be a challenge if you are willing to plan out where you spend your vacation money. Today we are sharing the top spending categories on a Disney vacation, and how you can save money for your Disney trip.

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Whenever we are planning a Disney 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:

  • Accommodations
  • Transportation Costs
  • Tickets
  • Food
  • Souvenirs/Gifts/Extras

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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3 Best Tips for Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

  • Plan during the off-season. This will save you money on transportation, accommodations, and even ticket prices.
  • Do some research before you book anything. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find the best price.
  • Take time to think about what you and your family really need. Don’t pay for things your don’t need.

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.

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.

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. If you are staying on-site, Disney has transportation to and from the airport(Disney’s Magical Express) and transportation to and from all the theme parks and Disney Springs.

Update: Disney’s Magical Express will be ending at the end of 2021. Mears will offer a paid Disney transportation service. You can find information here.

The only reason you may want to rent a car is if you have plans to visit other attractions off Disney property during your vacation.

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.

onsite at walt disney world transportation
On-site transportation can help you stay on a budget at Disney World.

Disney Trip on a Budget: Accommodations

You have two options for accommodations when visiting Walt Disney World: On-site and Off-site. On-site is at a Walt Disney World Resort and 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 to and from the airport as well as from your resort to the parks.

I like staying in the magic, so an on-site resort is 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

  • Early Theme Park Entry: On-site resort guests can enter any of the 4 theme parks 30 minutes before other guests.
  • Transportation around the Walt Disney World Resort
  • 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 kids love it!

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:

Art of Animation Nemo Theme Pool

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.

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, Undercover Tourist, and Get Away Today. 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, and 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.

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.

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.

If you are planning on splurging on character meals you may want to make room in your budget in different categories.

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.

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.

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.

Saving money on food at Disney World can help you stay on budget.

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: Order water instead of drinks and 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 glo-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.

Related Post: 9 Essential and Fun Packing Tips for Your Disney Vacation

kylo ren at disneys hollywood studios
Disney Photo Pass Photographer took this photo with my phone.

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.

Planning a trip to Disney World on a Budget can be done if you plan ahead and decide what your vacation priories are. We use them to help plan our visit and it allows us to visit year after year.

Read Next: 6 First Time Disney World Tips for Families

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