Disney on a Dime – 17 Money Saving Secrets
It’s no surprise that Disney World vacations can be expensive. Between flights, park tickets, lodging, meals, souvenirs, and other often unforeseen expenses, costs really add up quickly. So what steps can you take to keep a Disney World vacation within your budget? We have created a list of the top 17 Disney on a Dime – Money Saving Secrets that you can implement to save you money on your magical Disney World vacation.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save money before – and during – your Disney World trip. Doing “Disney on a dime” still allows you to get the full Disney vacation experience, just without the unnecessary costs involved. How much money you save will depend on smart planning and your ability to make comprises throughout the duration of your trip. Now let’s review the best 17 Disney on a Dime – Money-Saving Secrets for Disney World vacations.
1. Create a Savings Plan – Disney on a Dime
In the months leading up to your trip, formulate a plan to save for your Disney World vacation. Set aside $50-$100 (or even $20) a week devoted entirely to your Disney budget. Over the course of this time, you will be amazed at how much money you have saved to cover a portion of your Disney World vacation expenses.
2. Buy Discounted Disney Gift Cards – Disney on a Dime
Buying discounted Disney Gift Cards is an easy way to save a little money on your trip to Disney World. These cards can be used to pay for park admission tickets, annual passes, souvenirs, food at Disney dining locations, or just about anything on Disney property where credit cards are accepted. Search for discounted Disney Gift Cards online at Amazon and eBay, or in grocery stores, Sam’s Club, Target, or other participating retailers. See our Disney Gift Card Discounts page for more information.
3. Use Rewards Credit Cards / Loyalty Points – Disney on a Dime
Chase Bank offers two Disney-themed Visa credit cards which provide Disney Reward Dollars to be applied directly towards Disney merchandise and vacations expenses. These rewards cards also offer a host of amazing perks for Disney World guests, such as 10% Disney Dining and 10% of select merchandise, and 15% off the non-discounted price of select guided Disney World tours. Make your everyday purchases using the Chase Disney Rewards® Visa® Card or the Disney Premier Visa® Card and you will be amazed at how quickly your Disney Rewards Dollars add up. You can also use any cash rewards credit card to pay for discounted Disney Gift Cards (saving you money twice in one transaction). And finally, save more money by applying your airline frequent flyer miles or lodging loyalty points towards the cost of your Disney trip, if applicable.
4. Search for Disney World Discounts – Disney on a Dime
Before you book your Disney World vacation, check online to see which discounts you may be resorts, and the Disney Armed Forces Salute program offers discount park tickets to those in the military. You can find other deals like these if you hunt around, so be sure to search online discounts before you book your trip.
See our Disney World Discounts and Deals page for additional suggestions.
Avoid Discount Scams: Be wary of discounted Disney park tickets, especially those you find on websites like Craigslist. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Buy your tickets directly from Disney, through a reputable ticket reseller, or through a Disney travel agent (see #5).
5. Booking through a Disney Travel Agent (it won’t cost you a dime!) – Disney on a Dime
A common misconception is that booking through Disney travel agents will make your Disney World vacation more expensive. In fact, the opposite is usually the case, so long as you book with a reputable no-fee agency. Since Disney itself is the one who pays travel agencies to plan and book trips to Disney, you get the personalized services of a Disney World expert for free.
Not only do Disney travel agents help you plan and book your vacation (including making your FastPass+ and Advanced Dining Reservations for you), but they also look out for your bottom line. Agents keep abreast of all the latest Walt Disney World discounts and promotions and re-book your trip when a better deal pops up (to take advantage of the lower rates). You can really save more money utilizing their services rather than booking on your own. Plus. the headaches involved with booking a trip will be theirs to deal with, not your own. It’s a no-brainer!
Our Recommended Disney Travel Agency: TheVacationeer.com
6. Watch for Promotions – Disney on a Dime
Disney offers various promotions and secret pop-up deals throughout the year. Astute deal-watchers can take advantage of free dining, hotel discounts, and other special promotions – but you must act quickly because these offers are popular. As we mentioned before, Disney travel agents will watch for these promotions and re-book their client’s trips if cheaper rates become available. But if you book your own trip, sign up to receive email alerts from your favorite Disney parks and resorts.
7. Avoid Popular Times – Disney on a Dime
Room rates are almost always higher during the busiest times of the year, such as the summer months, school vacation periods, and around holidays. If possible, plan your Disney vacation around these times. Rates – and crowds – are typically less after the first of the year, the first half of May, Mid-August until before Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving week until mid-December. If you have a flexible schedule, save yourself some money and avoid the crowds by going to Disney World during these off-peak times. See our Disney World Crowd Calendar page for up-to-date crowd information.
8. Stay Off-Site – Disney on a Dime
Staying at a non-Disney hotel has a few money-saving advantages. For one, these hotels are almost always cheaper than Disney-owned resorts. They also offer a wider selection of spacious rooms and suites to accommodate larger groups and families. Many of these larger rooms come equipped with kitchenettes, which means you can cook meals in your room instead of dining at pricey Disney World restaurants. This alone can save you hundreds of dollars.
Although off-site hotels don’t have the same perks and cool Disney themes as their on-site counterparts, most of these hotels do have some wonderful amenities. The obvious downside is that you are situated further away from Disney World and will not have access to free Disney transportation services. Thus, you will have the additional expense of renting a car (unless you bring your own) or taking taxis/Ubers to the park. However, when all is said and down, non-Disney (off-site) hotels have the potential to save you money (if you are willing to deal with some inconveniences) vs. Disney Moderate and Disney Deluxe resorts. Disney Value resorts are the least expensive in-park lodging and offer competitive rates to rival off-site resorts.
Another Disney on a dime strategy is to search online for room or house listings near Disney World. Websites like Airbnb and HomeAway offer these types of short-term vacation rentals, most of which can be a considerable discount to staying at a resort. Consider splitting the rental costs with another family to reduce your lodging expenses even further.
9. Pay Less at Disney Value Resorts (and still get the Resort Guest perks) – Disney on a Dime
While non-Disney hotels are generally cheaper, there are also some money-saving advantages to staying on Disney World property. All Disney resort guests are entitled to freebies such as Extra Magic Hours (extended time beyond normal operating hours at designated Disney theme parks),
free parking, free Magical Express airport transportation to and from your resort, and free transportation from your resort to the parks. These perks and conveniences alone may be worth paying a little extra to stay on Disney property. But the fact that you won’t need to rent a car (or take Ubers or taxis) may actually save you more money in the long run versus staying at a non-Disney hotel.
If you want to stay at a Disney resort “on a dime,” consider one of Disney’s Value Resorts. Value Resorts are no-frills “Motel 6” types of rooms and are usually situated further from the park than other Disney World resorts. That said, these discounted hotel rooms offer a great alternative for guests who want all the perks of staying on Disney properties but without the higher costs. Take advantage of an off-season or promotional discount rate and save even more.
10. Spend One Day outside of the Theme Parks – Disney on a Dime
Take one day off from the theme parks during the course of your vacation. Not only will you have one less day of admission prices to pay, but it will also give you time to relax and rejuvenate. Spend the day exploring Disney’s Boardwalk or Disney Springs, go to a character meal during off-park hours or at non-park locations, ride the boats, take a monorail resort tour or just lounge by the pool. There are plenty of fun activities to do around Disney World that will save you money or won’t even cost you a dime.
11. Watch your Food Budget – Disney on a Dime
The food at Disney World is fantastic, but it’s also expensive. Consider the pros and cons of the Disney Dining Plan vs. a pay-as-you-go method before your book your trip. Some guests find that the Disney Dining Plan will save them money over the course of their vacation while others find that they save more money without any plan at all. It’s an age-old debate that really has no right or wrong answers – it merely depends on each guest and their individual priorities and preferences. Visit Disney’s Dining Plans page or talk with a Disney travel agent to see which option best suits your needs.
One way to save money is to purchase food at local groceries stores and make your own meals, or even buy snacks on Amazon and schedule your package to be delivered directly to your hotel room. Some guests bring their own lunch (and snacks) along with them to the park. Disney World allows guests to bring food into the park, so you could conceivably buy no food inside Disney parks at all. We call that taking Disney on a Dime to the next level!
12. Beverages on the Cheap – Disney on a Dime
Walking around Disney World in the heat can make you thirsty. It is important to stay well- hydrated, but the expense of purchasing bottled water and sodas throughout the day can add up quickly. The solution: bring your own drinks into the park or bring a reusable water bottle to fill at water fountains (see our Packing List page for suggestions). In addition, ice water is totally free at all Disney World quick-service restaurants, so skip the bottled water and opt for a free glass of water.
13. Buy Souvenirs Online – Disney on a Dime
Disney World souvenirs are one unforeseen expense that can wreak havoc on a vacation budget. Souvenir shops are abundant in each Disney park and resort, and resisting the temptation of purchasing these mementos can be difficult. The best way to save money on Disney souvenirs (besides not entering souvenir shops at all!) is to buy them online before your trip. The main advantage is cost – many souvenirs tend to be cheaper online versus similar items found at Disney. Check out our Best Disney World Souvenirs article for tips on buying inexpensive trading pins, t-shirts, glassware, and other Disney souvenirs.
14. Bring your own Gear – Disney on a Dime
In order to do Disney on a dime the right way, be sure to pack your essential items before you depart for Disney World. Purchasing these items will cost you more at the parks than if you buy them online or back in your hometown stores, so arrive equipped with ponchos, toiletries, clothing, glow sticks, Frogg Toggs Chilly Pads, and any other items you may need during your vacation. See our Disney World Packing List for ideas, as well as our Best Backpacks for Disney World and Best Fanny Packs for Disney World for luggage suggestions.
15. Skip PhotoPass+ – Disney on a Dime
Disney’s PhotoPass is a nice perk that gives guests the ability to view and purchase photos that are taken by Disney photographers around the park. Cool – but costly. Instead of purchasing this add-on, bring your own camera and ask PhotoPass photographers to snap a photo for you. They are happy to oblige, and it won’t cost you a dime!
16. Avoid Park Hopper Tickets – Disney on a Dime
Disney’s Magic Your Way Park Hopper ticket allows guests entry into more than one theme park per day. This flexibility is great for guests who have a day or two at the park and want to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time. However, Park Hopper tickets are more expensive than regular park admission, and quite frankly, unnecessary for those who have a multi-day Disney World vacation planned. You will never run out of things to do on a full day at any of Disney’s theme parks, so the avoid extra expensive of Park Hopper unless you have very limited time at Disney, lots of cash to spend, or a very short attention span!
17. Bring your Toddler! – Disney on a Dime
Child discounts are a slight discount to adult prices, but they are still rather pricey. Park tickets must be purchased for any child over 3 years of age, so you can save a substantial amount of money if you bring your infant or toddler to Disney before they turn 4. You can also save money by either bringing your own stroller to the park or renting one off-Disney property, as the cost of renting a stroller at Disney World ($15) can add up over the duration of your Disney World vacation.
We hope these Disney on a Dime – Money Saving Secrets have helped you formulate a plan to save money before your trip, and while you are at Disney World. For more Disney World tips and trips, secrets, and advice, please visit the other Magic Guides pages, and sign up for our FREE 46-page Disney ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Planning! We also offer several Disney planning tools, such as our Disney Dining Plan Calculator and our Disney Transportation Map articles.
If you need help planning and booking your magical Walt Disney World vacation, contact our friends at The Vacationeer. Their services are always helpful and totally free of charge!