Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth but it's also thought of as one of the more expensive places to vacation as a family. If you don't know what you're doing you could easily price yourself a vacation that exceeds your trips budget. Thankfully there are many ways to save money and here are 5 of our favourites!
1) Choose a Hotel That Fits Your Budget and Needs
The big hotel room debate is whether to stay on-site at Walt Disney World or off-site. If you're looking for the absolute cheapest option you can't beat staying off-site but staying at a Walt Disney World resort does offer a lot of benefits!
- Free transportation to/from the airport via Disney's Magical Express and the four theme parks plus Disney Springs
- Free parking at the theme parks if you're driving ($20 per day for off-site guests)
- Extra Magic Hours (extended time in the theme parks just for Disney resort guests)
- Book FastPass+ 60+10 days before your arrival (30 days for offsite guests)
- Book dining reservations 180+10 days before your arrival (180 days for offsite guests)
- Free Magic Bands (used as your hotel key, park tickets, FP+ & for making payments)
Your first thought might be: "A Disney hotel can't be cheap?". Disney actually offers three categories of resorts: value, moderate and deluxe. Value resorts start at a reasonable $99 US per night while deluxe resorts can easily run hundreds of dollars per night but the level of luxury and amenities received will reflect the higher prices.
Consider what the perks of staying at a Walt Disney World resort are worth to you and stay where you feel you're getting the most bang for your buck.
2) Go When it's Less Busy
If you can go during slower times of the year you'll benefit in many ways. The lines will be shorter so you'll spend more time having fun than waiting in line. Some of the best times to go are from the end of August to May but make sure to avoid major US holidays and things like spring break. Christmas week is the busiest time of year at Disney World.
You'll also typically find that Disney offers more hotel discounts and even the most coveted discount of all, Free Dining, during these slower periods. Typical value resort savings are 10-15% while deluxe hotels can offer as much as 30% off. Off-site hotels also offer more deals during slower times as well.
3) Save Money on Your Food at the Parks
At Disney World you can bring food and non-alcoholic drinks into the parks. You'll save a lot of money making PB&J sandwiches everyday to take with you but who really wants to do that? Let's look at things you might actually want to do to save money on food:
- Buy a souvenir popcorn bucket for $10 and refill it as often as you want for only $1.50 a refill.
- Anywhere with a soda fountain will give you free ice water.
- Quite a few quick service menu options are large enough to split (looking at you, chicken and rib combo at Flame Tree Barbecue!)
- Bring your own snacks. Sure, that Mickey-shaped pretzel looks good but if your kid is happy with a $0.50 pack of Goldfish crackers you can put that money towards other things.
One of the biggest ways to save money on food is to go when Disney offers their Disney Dining Plan for free when you book a hotel and ticket package. Staying at a value resort during free dining will get you the quick-service dining plan which includes 2 quick-service meals and 2 snacks per day per person. This should cover most of your food costs so you'll only pay out of pocket for purchases above and beyond what's included. The quick-service dining plan costs $138 US a day (based on a family of 4 with 2 adults and 2 children aged 3-9) so the savings are significant. Availability is very limited though so make sure you book quickly when Disney releases the offer. Did I forget to mention everyone also gets a free resort mug for unlimited fountain drinks and coffee at their hotel?
4) Theme Park Tickets
The more days you buy tickets for, the cheaper the per day cost becomes. A two-day ticket is approximately $99 US per day but if you purchase the maximum 10-day ticket your cost drops to $44 US per day. We recommend a minimum of four days so that you'll at least have a full day at each of the four theme parks.
Disney also sometimes offers special Canadian resident discounts which can provide even more savings. Earlier this year they offered a special Canadian resident discount of 25% off regular priced tickets which was very popular with RedFlagDeals members. Keep an eye on our travel deals section as we always keep it updated with the latest Disney World offers.
If you're an Airmiles collector that's another great way to save on tickets. You can earn points from everyday purchases at select retailers and redeem those Walt Disney World tickets. We even recapped one RFD member's journey to earn his Disney World tickets solely from buying Bick's sweet relish!
5) Don't Break the Bank on Souvenirs
It's hard to go to a place like Walt Disney World and not buy some souvenirs. There are some must-buy items that you can only get at the parks like the new Rose Gold Mickey Ears and collectors' edition Magic Bands but you can also find a lot of Disney items at the local big box stores.
Target and Walmart stores in the area have large Disney sections and the items are reasonably priced. A side bonus is you can pick up some cheap snacks for the room while you're there. There's also Disney's Character Warehouse outlet stores at the outlet malls and you can usually pick up older park merchandise at outlet prices.
Hopefully some of these tips will help save you some money on your next Walt Disney World family vacation and help make it extra magical. Let us know in the comments if you have any of your own tips and we might just include them in our next article!