Disney on a Dime – 18 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. Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to win a free Disney trip, you’re going to be watching your expenses. So what steps can you take to keep a Disney World vacation within your budget? We have created a list of the top 18 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’ll save will depend on smart planning and your ability to make comprises throughout the duration of your trip.

Now let’s review the best  18 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.

Here’s a video to help you plan for your Disney vacation:

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, the 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 that provide Disney Reward Dollars to be applied directly towards Disney merchandise and vacation 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.

disney on a dime

4. Search for Disney World Discounts – Disney on a Dime

Before you book your Disney World vacation, check online to see if there are any discounts for park tickets and resort stays.

For example, the Disney Armed Forces Salute program offers discount park tickets to those in the military. There are also discounts for Florida residents. And of course, Disney is constantly running a variety of fantastic deals on vacation packages.

You can find other deals like these if you hunt around, so be sure to search for online discounts before you book your trip.

See our Disney World Discounts and Deals page for additional suggestions or contact The Vacationeer for the latest information.

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 that pays travel agencies to plan and book Disney trips, the client (you) gets the personalized services of a Disney World expert for FREE.

What are the benefits of using a Disney travel agent?

For one, they can help you plan and book most aspects of your vacation. This includes giving you expert advice and making informed recommendations, purchasing your park tickets, making your hotel, dining, and transportation reservations. They can even handle your stroller rentals and wheelchair rentals if you should need them.

Disney vacation planners will also look out for your bottom line. They keep abreast of all the latest Disney World discounts and promotions and apply them to your trip. They’ll even re-book your trip if a better deal pops up after you book (to take advantage of the lower rates). Plus, they can set up a Disney payment plan so you don’t have to pay for your trip all at once. 

You can really save more money if you utilize their services rather than booking a trip 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

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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  Best Time to Go to Disney World article and 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. We would encourage you to book this tier if you want to be close to the action without costing you an arm and a leg.  See our Disney Value Resorts and Cheapest Hotel in Disney World articles for more information, or contact The Vacationeer to review your options. It’s often cheaper to book through a Disney Travel Agent. Plus they can help you set up a payment plan for your Disney vacation.

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 extended time beyond normal operating hours at designated Disney theme parks, free parking, 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.

As we said before, 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. Stay at  The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Do you like camping? If so then consider The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort as an alternative to Disney Value Resort. You can stay at a tent or pop-up campsite for $73 – $179, depending on the dates. Disney allows up to 10 people at each campsite at Fort Wilderness.

What if you have an RV? Full hook-up campsites, preferred campsites, premium campsites, and premium meadow campsites allow room for an RV plus a tent. There are more expensive than the tent/pop-up campsites but they’re still quite affordable per person.

11.  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.

12.  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 grocery 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!

save money at disney world
disney world on a dime

13.  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).

We will also note that ice water is totally free at Disney World quick-service restaurants. Therefore, skip the pricey bottled water and opt for a free glass of tap water.

14.  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.

15.  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.

16.  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’re happy to oblige, and these Disney World photos won’t cost you a dime!

17.  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.  Or maybe you want to just see as much as possible in a limited amount of time.

But keep this in mind: the Park Hopper tickets are more expensive than regular park admission. With that said, it’s probably unnecessary for those who have a multi-day Disney World vacation planned.

Quite frankly, you’ll never run out of things to do on a full day at any of Disney’s theme parks. Therefore, avoid the extra expense of Park Hopper unless you have very limited time at Disney, lots of cash to spend, or a very short attention span!

18.  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 3.

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. See our Disney World Strollers article for more on this.

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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 browse through some of your other pages. You may wish to start with our How Much is a Disney World Trip, Disney World Resorts ComparisonPlan a Disney World Vacation Guide. Disney Dining Plan Calculator or Disney Transportation Map articles.

And if you plan on going to Universal on your trip, check out some of those pages. Our Universal Orlando Map, Universal Orlando Rides, and Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips articles are helpful.

If you need help planning and booking your magical Walt Disney World vacation, then please contact our friends at The Vacationeer. Their services are always helpful and totally free of charge!  Click HERE for a free, no-obligation price quote.