Disney Saving Tips
Saving money at Disney seems like an oxymoron… unless you’re a Mommysaver! Here are some of the best Disney saving tips from our readers we’ve gathered over the years for both Disneyland and Disneyworld.
I’m planning my Disney trip right now! Check out the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for tons of great tips. I checked it out from my library (had to put a hold on it). If you don’t have time, here are a couple of the standouts:
-disney.com offers advanced ticket purchases for 4-6% off gate prices.
-look into buying “bounce back” passes if you won’t take advantage of the hopper passes. These may only be available at the gate.
-I have a reservation for a theme suite at the Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort for $89.00 a night using my entertainment card, compared to 150-175 rack room prices. Go to www.holiday-inn.com Under Rate Preference, choose Entertainment Card. — Angie from GA
Your Disney photo are often your best and most frugal souvenir. View our post: Disney Photo Tips and Ideas
Look for your Disney Passes on eBay. You can get big discounts from people who bought 4-5 day passes and still have days remaining.
One way I save money when traveling is to purchase Entertainment books from the destination I’m traveling to. You also can check out who is offering discounts in each book buy going on www.entertainment.com. They are currently offering discounts and free shipping for this years books because it is late in their selling season. — Vanessa from OH
When we visit Disney world we stay at the Disney budget hotel so you get free bus shuttles to the resorts. Also we have a refrigerator in the room (usually costs about $10 per night) and we bring breakfast items and cold cuts for lunch. this way we go to the park 1st thing in the morning back by mid-afternoon for lunch and a swim and then back to park for the rest of the night. — Judy from FL
We take a family trip to Disney World every year. Last year I purchased 3-4 matching bright shirts for my boys, age 3 and 5, before our trip. Watch the sale racks. For instance one set had Red and bright Yellow stripes. I’d dress them the same each day. It made them so easy to spot in a crowd. It really helped us keep tabs on them when they were running around the kids play areas. — Pam from CO
We’ve visited the Orlando area twice in the last 2 years. We got a 2-bedroom suite at the Holiday Inn Family Suites for no more than $109 a night (some nights were as low as $99). We booked on-line through different travel companies. Which on-line company you use doesn’t matter, but to get the price you need to book it on-line or you’ll pay a whole lot more. All rooms have Nintendo 64’s so if you have “64” games, bring them (they’re expensive to rent). They also have a fantastic free breakfast buffet so stuff yourself in the morning. There is also free transportation to the Disney World Theme parks, buts they are the only ones. If you want to go elsewhere you’ll need a rental car or a taxi. In addition, if your family drinks soda or coffee, purchase one of their refillable coffee mugs as soon as you arrive. You can refill it for free during your entire stay for free with soda, coffee, tea and/or icees, which was well worth it for our 2-week stay. – Mary B, Alaska
Do not purchase souvenirs at the Disney Parks. Go to the local Walmart and purchase lots of souvenirs for a fraction of the price! — L. Dennis from PA
Another tip, Fodor’s puts out this great travel guide. It is well worth the price of the book. It will help you plan your best route around the park, which rides are less crowded at which time. Also, take advantage of the fast passes. You get a ride pass and come back at a specific time with little to no wait. — Laura from VA
Food portion sizes were pretty good, so we would either get 1 adult size meal and share it (with my 5year old), or we would both get children’s meals if we wanted different things. There is a cart that does silhouettes at MK of your child for only $7. This will be something to keep forever, although it doesn’t say Disney on it. At MGM you can go in the 5&10 store and get a Disney guest of honor badge for $7 personalized with your child’s name on it. This is also neat so the characters call you child by their name. They can also keep this with their pins they collect while at WDW. Did you know that they let a child and their family ride in the front of the monorail with the driver? You just have to ask if anyone is riding up front before you get on and they give your child a co-pilots license… I saved it for our WDW scrapbook!! Neat-o and free!!! and FUN!! — Staci from MO
The night before put bottles of water in the freezer if you happen to be staying in an efficiency. When you take your things to the park, take one backpack and put your things including the frozen water – our kids took turns carrying it around. Believe me by the time you get thirsty, your water will be starting to defrost and it will be nice and cold. You will appreciate the refreshment and save from buying the expensive drinks in the park all day. — Laura from VA
If you have a couple of families going together, don’t bother staying on site at Disney. It’s a lot cheaper to rent a house! — Jennifer from DE
We try to take our kids to Disney World every summer, but with a family of 4 kids (soon to be 5), we are always trying to save $$. We have stayed at the budget and the moderate Hotels on Disney grounds and nothing compares to the “Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort”! This place is GREAT, you get a LARGE kids suite with a private bedroom with a King bed for the adults and another separate bedroom that has bunk beds, a single bed, painted theme walls, a TV, for the kids. There is also a Large bathroom, wet bar area with small fridge and, sink and cabinets and a small kitchen table. The sofa also pulls out to make another bed! The hotel itself has 2 VERY big pools and very nice play areas in and out of the water. FREE breakfast buffet every morning (this is GREAT), plus kids eat FREE for lunch and dinner with a paid adult at there restaurants in the hotel (Pizza Hut, A&W Rootbeer, Hotel restaurant), FREE shuttles to all the parks (only located 1 mile from the Disney World Resort), Game Room Kids Train every morning, and soo much more! All of that for CHEAPER then a normal room at a Disney Resort. The kids were disappointed when we stayed at the resort 1 year after staying there, we shouldn’t stay anywhere else now! Make sure to bring a bunch of your own snacks and water bottles into the park, especially fresh fruit, everything is very pricey there. We always try to eat a large breakfast at the resort (since it is a buffet), a mild lunch at the parks (or FREE for the kids at the Hotel if you go back for a swim or nap) and a big dinner off the property. Have fun!! — Traci from IL
The best thing that we found was a book called Birnbaum’s. It gives lots of hints and ideas. We also used the strollers. We have 3 kids but even out 7 & 9 yr old used the stroller (we used the double at $13 per day it was worth it). We stored our back packs (which held snacks and water bottles) so we didn’t have to carry everything with us. We kept our valuables (camera, wallet, asthma meds, etc) in a large fanny pack that I could wear on the rides. And for little ones (even as old as 4 yrs old) bring a change of clothes. My little guy fell asleep wet himself accidents happen. Go around their schedules. Let them relax by the hotel pool in the afternoon then go back at night. Don’t do it all in one day! — Patti from VA
My best Disney tip is, the night before you go to Disney freeze a couple of bottled waters. Take them out of the freezer right before you leave for the park. By the time you and your kids get thirsty they water is ice cold. Once all of the water is gone then you can fill the bottles back up at the drinking fountain. Water at those parks are $2.50 plus. Think of all of the savings. — Beth from FL
My whole family (grandparents, aunt and uncles, everyone) went to Disney World last May when my daughter was only 4 months old. I bought a little sun umbrella that has an adjustable clip from WalMart ($3 or $4) before we set out for the day and when we got there my husband fastened it onto our baby’s stroller, so not only did she have top protection from the stroller’s shade but front protection as well from the umbrella. I felt so bad for the tiny babies who were cooked from the sun at the end of the day. One great thing about Disney is that they have nursing mothers rooms, out of the sun, AIR CONDITIONED, and peaceful! — Carrie from GA
Disney Tip! Stay at a hotel that is a little outside of Disney. We have stayed at a nice hotel less than 2 miles from Disney for $50 per night! This hotel had 2 huge beds, microwave, fridge, 2 pools. They also provided shuttle service if you wanted to Disney. The other nice thing about staying just outside of Disney is there are lots of other attractions, shops, and restaurants that are nice to go to also. If you have relatives that live in Florida another great tip is to just go to Downtown Disney. The shops are fun and you can have a great Disney experience without going to a park. We go about once a year. — Tricia from WI
We went to Disney last year with a 3 yr old and 5 yr old and here is how we saved money:
1. Brought along instant oatmeal and breakfast bars for the boys for breakfast.
2. Brought along our own snacks and juice pouches to take to the park. We took a backpack and then put all the stuff you have to lug to the park in one place. The space that your snacks took in your suitcases now can hold your trinkets.
3. If you stay on site, buy their travel mugs. You can then fill up as many times as you want with either coffee, juice, or soda at the hotel.
4. We went in January after all the crowds had left. The weather was great and there were no crowds. No long lines to see the characters. The prices are also the lowest.
5. No need to comparison shop between the park shops and the Disney hotel shops. . . Everything is the same. But buy your autograph book before you even step into the first park. You’ll see lots of characters and will want to be prepared.
6. My boys loved the playgrounds at Disney MGM and Animal Kingdom. It wore them out and we didn’t spend any money to do it.
7. In Animal Kingdom, one of the restaurants served a half chicken, potatoes and green beans for the same price as another restaurant’s pizza dinner. Look to see which each restaurant sells what so you get the best deal. — Deb from MD
When traveling with kids to Disney, we have found the easiest is to stay on the property. They have value resorts which are really nice, considering you don’t spend a lot of time in the room. Then you catch a bus everywhere, no car seats to deal with, no parking fees and very easy and fun for the kids. Also, do hopper passes if going for a few days, you can hop from park to park during the day. animal kingdom does not take all day, mgm, not very good for young ages, really only 2-3 good shows for them. so worth going on a hopper. — Carol from FL
Disney World Tip: Stay at the All Star Resorts. They are in the park, provide free bus service to all the parks, have a food court that is cheaper than eating in the parks, has a pool, movies non-stop, and laundry facilities. You can get pizza delivered to your room, and they have a video game room and gift shop for all the Mickey Mouse stuff you don’t want to carry through the parks with you and items you forgot to bring from home (like Tylenol). The rooms are not big, but you only sleep and shower there anyway. You also get into the parks an hour before the general public if you stay at one of the WDW Resorts which can help you get to some of the attractions with the long lines. I have stayed at the All Star Music twice and All Star Movies once and definitely will again. I also take a soft back-pack with me to the parks with snacks, water, etc. These are very expensive in the park. You can buy fresh fruit, snacks and wate or juice at the food court at the resort. It’s cheaper than in the parks. Or you can bring your own if you drive to WDW. — Debbie from TX
We went to Disney in January for a friend’s wedding (held IN Disneyworld!)… a couple of moneysaving ideas:
1. GO OFF SEASON! Not only is it cheaper, but you will see much more and have much more fun. We had one sunny Saturday during our trip when the parks were MOBBED. It was awful – every other day, we waited no more than 15 minutes for any ride (taking advantage of FastPass when available, but often not needed).
2. Pack snacks and water so you only have to spend cash on meals. Carry in a backpack, which can also hold sweaters, autographs books (again bring from home) and purchases.
3. We shopped sales before leaving home, so my kids went already wearing new Disney clothes bought a T-J Maxx, etc. We splurged on Mickey Hats/Ears when we arrived… and they each had Disney Money of their own to spend (we told family/friends about the trip, and encouraged Disney money as Christmas gifts). The hardest part was convincing them that they had all week – and that just about every item was available in every park, so nothing need be bought immediately, just because you saw it!
4. Borrow a good guidebook from the library – I read the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World cover to cover – and while not everything applied to my family (like which rides to RUN to during the summer) – it was very helpful in deciding our itinerary for the day – where to plan to eat – which days to do which parks, etc. PrePlanning is a must!
5. Relax and have fun!!!! There really IS no place like Disney! (Don’t miss Fantasmic or the evening fireworks – choreographed to Disney music – at Cinderella’s castle – you can’t help but feel “the magic!” Everyone is a kid at DisneyWorld! — Sue from PA
Disney saving tips – Book your own trip on the Disney website. We went to a travel agent and she just called the same 800 number that we had to call. You can customize everything for your own tastes. We booked our own flight and saved hundreds. Plus, if you send away for the promotional video, you get a discount code with it. — Stephanie from WI
We used Priceline for our hotel room. We got a large beautiful suite at the Hilton on Downtown Disney for $63 a night, unbelievable! We also spent only 2 days at WDW and bought a 5 day ticket to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure for only $90 per adult ticket! It was an internet special, that is less than $20 a day and we liked the Universal Parks better! — Jennifer from OH
Read everything you can on the web. There are a lot of tips! Also, with the price of drinks and snacks at Disney, we used UPS overnight to ship ourselves snacks, drink boxes, bottled water, etc. When we arrived at our hotel, the staff delivered our boxes to our hotel room. — Chris from PA
We traveled to Disney last year and we were shocked at the price of soft drinks! They were even $1.50 in the machine at the hotel. We immediately went to the nearest grocery store and bought can drinks and bottle water and juice boxes and filled our cooler. We took drinks in our stroller in a clear ziploc for easy baggage checks. We saved a fortune since all three kids wanted their own soda and it was 106 degrees! — Harriet from SC
The best Disney saving tips are: pack snacks and juice boxes for the kiddies and adults. Yes, it’s a pain to carry the food around, but you can easily spend $20-25 for lunch or a snack and suddenly an entire day of entertainment ends up costing quite a bit when you add in all the food stops.
Also, we have a 3 year old son and we simply don’t buy him any souvenirs, Mickey Mouse ears, huge lollipops of the characters, balloons, photos with Mickey, etc. etc. etc. It’s enough entertainment and fun to spend the day together at the Magic Kingdom (or wherever) and all of that other stuff looses it’s excitement after the first 10 minutes anyway and you end up carting home tons of stuff.
I did break down and rent the stroller to avoid carrying ours around, but that would be a good place to save $10. If your kids are older or used to getting treats every time you turn around, simply talk with them beforehand about the incredible treat they are going got have going to Disney itself and tell them that they have a small allowance for 1 souvenir (make it small, so it’s a post card or key ring, etc.) Make a game of it and you’ll find that everyone has more fun.
Although Disney is THE BEST, it’s easy to get carried away at these theme parks and when the admission for the day is already over $50/person – there’s simply no need for all of the extra stuff. — Diana from VT
On a recent trip to Disney, (our first with children!), we made arrangements before we left with a “limousine” company. We were met at the airport by a friendly driver who helped us load our bags. We asked him to stop at the grocery store on the way to our hotel. All of this cost $70/round trip, less than the “bus” from the airport to the park! My husband and kids napped in the car while I did a “quick” run through the store buying sandwich fixings, cereal bars and “special” snacks. (The cookies we never buy at home…fruit snacks, etc.) I also bought bottled water to take to the park. We rented a fridge from the hotel($5-$10)/night. When the kids needed a snack after swimming or were hungry “now”, we were ready! Many of the hotels at Disney have a snack bar set up. We went down for lettuce tomatoes and condiments when we purchased a drink. (Spend the $7-$10 on the “souvenir cup”. You have something to remember you stay and the “free ” refills pay for themselves. May be you know a neighbor who stayed the same place you are staying on your visit and you can “borrow” their cups…we did!) Freezing the bottles and then packing them in a knapsack for the day helped cut down on the high prices in the park…not to mention the waiting in line! Our food expenses were way below what we had budgeted and we were able to splurge on a fun dinner for the 4 of us our last night in Florida! — Jo from PA
Saving Money at WDW: We go every year. When we arrive – we go to the store and buy groceries, tea and water. If you stay in the resort you will have a kitchen with dishes, fridge, etc. Raspberry tea from Lipton is a favorite of the whole family. Make sure you put sunscreen on every day and chapstick. Carry the chapstick in your backpack. We also carry a small bottle with water which we spray on to our faces when we get hot. The kids love this and kids around us will ask us to spray them also.
We have a backpack which we put water bottles in and a couple of the water bottles are frozen the night before. They will melt by the time you use them. The water can be refilled at fountains. We make our own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which we keep in a tupperware container that is square. We buy the big box of nutter butter cookies (4 are wrapped in each package-I believe there are 36 packages in the box) We take several of these a day. We also bring the Smuckers and/or Kraft packages of crackers with peanut butter and jelly which you spread on yourself. We have people watching us eat these and saying that was a great idea. We take beef jerky which is a favorite. I also slice apples and oranges and keep in a ziploc bag. We take a banana for each person. You want to eat breakfast in your room before you leave. Eat cereal or oatmeal or muffins. Something that will fill you up and give you energy.
We have dinner in our room. Cold cuts, grilled cheese, pizza, brats, mac and cheese, etc. Don’t buy too much as you don’t want to worry about what you’ll throw away when you leave. Swimming of an evening makes every one eat well.
Pack a light jacket as it can get chilly of an evening or rain. Go play in the rain anyway as it does not last long. Talk to park employees and find out (their name tags) where they are from. Sometimes they will treat the kids to a WDW ice cream on a stick. If it is your child’s birthday find out where to get a birthday name tag; this will get you recognition from the characters and sometimes a trip to the front of a line. Buy those glow in the dark bracelets and necklaces from Oriental trading ahead of time and have the kids wear one every evening. They will love this and you won’t have to buy them at the park which is very, very expensive.
We have the boys wear bright colors so that they are easier to keep your eyes on. We always get a 2 seater stroller even though they may not use it most of the time; they still get tired and need to rest their legs. We go for 5-7 days so that we are not rushed to try and see every thing in just a few days.
Do the Kids Centers from Family Fun at Epcot. This is a free craft which is relaxing for everyone. Try and learn “thank you” in each language and have your children say it to each host. You’ll get a wonderful smile.
We go first thing in the morning and head towards the back of the parks when the gates open. Most people start at the beginning. When a parade is starting; you will find characters by the front entrance of Magic Kingdom and no waiting in line for pictures.
Bring rain jackets for the wet rides and just have a plastic bag to put them in when you are finished. We also take advantage of the fast pass lines. This will get you on the rides quicker and is worth coming back for while trying another ride.
We stay in a different resort each time and we don’t have a favorite as they are all so family friendly and fun for every one. You can pool hop at most of the resorts and that is fun for the kids to try a different pool each day.
We always end our vacation with a few days on the beach just to wind down. So, if you’re able to do that – go to an area where you can take the kids to an orange grove, or see alligators, etc.
Kathy in Littleton, Colo
Mom of 3 boys ages 6, 7 and 21
My best advice for theme park gimmies is to start looking at thrift stores and garage sales a few months before you leave. This gives you time to get things cleaned up. Put them in an extra bag in your suitcase. When you get there you have plenty of items to stem off the gimmies before they even start. This will work for most children if they have been brought up with thrift store treasures. Both of my boys get more excited going to the thrift store than to any BIG MART. — Dana from NM
To save money at Disney, we bring a backpack filled with sandwiches, snacks and cans of soda. If you don’t want to lug it all around, rent a locker and store it there. Also, when leaving for the night, use the monorail for the contemporary hotel if the monorail to the parking lot is too long. You will stop at the hotel and then the next stop is the parking lot! If you are staying at one of the Disney resorts, buy a refillable cup and your drinks at that resort are free. You can also purchase a refillable cup at Animal Kingdom which will get you reduced price refills. Unfortunately, they do not offer this at any of the other parks. — Cherryl from FL
Give each child their own fanny pack. Fill it each morning with little snacks. This gives them a sense of independence for their own snacking, plus it helps cuts down on the $3 ice cream and expensive snacks.
Bring your own memo pad for autographs instead of buying one at the parks.
Buy your own disposable rain poncho for under a dollar at Walmart or Target before going.
Use the website: www.allearsnet.com for excellent money saving tips.
Pack a suitcase of snacks and food with you. When you leave that bag is used for souvenirs.
When scheduling a character meal, make it for breakfast or lunch. It is cheaper. — Dana from IA
If you stay on Disney resorts, buy the refillable cups! We drank for 8 days for the price of the cup (around $15). I also packed an extra suitcase of snacks. We ate them all week and then loaded them with souvenirs for the way home. I pre-purchased stuffed Mickey and Minnie dolls at the Disney store in the mall and presented them to the kids before we left for the plane ride. I also pre-purchased matching t-shirts from the Disney markdown and “saved” them for the trip. Pack too much film, it’s about triple there. — Lorie from IL
We have headed to Disney World several times in the last few years. My biggest moneysaver? Checking certain websites on a regular basis such as www.mousesavers.com & www.themouseforless.com. These sites are brimming with expert information on how to save for a fabulous trip to the house of mouse! — Heather from CO
My husband and my son went to Walt Disney World last year for the Pop Warner Super Bowl. As parents we found out a lot of things that we could have done differently before going there. First, not to stay at the resort. We could have saved a lot of money but Disney required that we stay there. Stay in a hotel in Orlando close to the resort. Second, Have breakfast and dinner in Orlando, you’ll have more choices and better prices. Purchase Hopper Passes for the time you are there. This will allow you to visit all the parks as often as you like. There are free buses to take you around to all of the parks. This is the best information that we can give. We had a football team of 32 boys, so we learned a lot from that visit to Disney. So wear comfortable clothes and good walking shoes. If it rains buy one of their ponchos for $5.00. And have fun! — Valerie from AZ
I wish we had known this four years ago when we went to Disney World! This would have saved us A LOT of money! When you call 1-407-W-Disney to book your room; ask for the ROOM ONLY with the Triple A discount. Triple A costs approximately $41.00 a year, but you receive a nice discount on your room, possibly three times that amount, depending on which Hotel you stay at. For instance, if you choose to stay at the All Star Movies resort, your room would only be $92.00 a night with your Triple A Discount. You must show your Triple A Card when you check in during your stay. Also, another way to save a bundle is to buy your Park Hopper Plus Tickets, good for all four theme parks plus one of the water parks, at the Disney Store, instead of buying them when you book your room. Length of stay passes are around $380 a ticket, with the Disney Store discount, Children under 10 years old are $147 each and older children and Adults are $197. It really pays to plan ahead! — Carlie from NJ
Stay in Kissimmee! Close to park & a lot more affordable! — Christine from MA
Stay on site… it is very easy to get around and you can enter the parks early and go back to the rooms to take naps if needed. It costs more but makes the vacation more enjoyable. — Barb from MN
My family is going to Disneyworld in October, but I’ve already began the research for the best deals out there. There is a website called www.mousesavers.com It is by far the best informational website I have found. — Melissa from TX