9 Ways to Afford a Disney Vacation
Most people who go to the Walt Disney World Resort are not rich.
On average, a family of four will spend $5,240 for their Disney World vacation. This includes their meals, a 4-night hotel stay, and 4 days’ worth of theme park tickets. The four theme parks include Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT.
You can certainly spend a lot more money at Disney resorts, but you can also spend less. So how can you cut some of the costs without dramatically altering your trip to Disney World?
Here are some of our money saving tips and tricks for your Disney World vacation.
Keep in mind that not all of these suggestions are for everyone. These are simply ideas and not recommendations for everyone. So don’t cut out the things that are important to your family!
Without further ado, here are 9 easy ways people afford Disney vacations.
1. Find A Side Hustle
The most obvious way to afford a Disney vacation is to make more money. Yes, I know – easier said than done. Plus, some of us are already working too many hours and just don’t have time to commit to another job.
However, if you have some extra time and energy, you should consider adding a side gig (“side hustle”) to your schedule.
Side gigs are a great way to ensure you’ll have a little extra money for your Disney budget. Over time, adding just a few hours of extra work per week could give you enough extra cash to cover the cost of your family vacation to the most magical place on earth.
Consider flexible part-time jobs like driving for Uber, delivering for Door Dash, working for TaskRabbit, at a café, as a security guard, or as a library assistant. Maybe you know someone who owns their own business and could use a little extra help. There are tons of possibilities!
You just have to find the right side gig and be willing to work a few extra hours per week to save money and make your Disney dreams a reality.
2. Plan Ahead for Your Disney World Vacation
Planning in advance is crucial when it comes to Disney Resort vacations.
Walt Disney World is one notable vacation destination where you can’t just walk up to the theme parks, resort hotels, or restaurants and expect to get in. Plus, you really need at least 4-6 months or more to plan and book your trip. Otherwise, you’ll probably discover that your choices are already booked. The early bird catches the worm!
As of 2021, guests can make their reservations for dining (and other experiences) up to 60 days in advance (down from the previous 180 days). Additionally, guests staying at a Disney Resort hotel are allowed to make their reservations up to 60 days in advance PLUS the length of their stay (up to 10 days). So there’s no time like the present to start making your reservations.
Planning ahead also means saving money…..but we don’t mean saving money as in “paying less.” By planning ahead, you’ll have more time to add money to your monthly or weekly layaway plan (more on that below).
3. Go When There Are Fewer Crowds
The cheapest time to go to Disney World is usually when it’s the least crowded. The most crowded weeks of the year typically have the highest hotel rates and highest ticket prices. As an added bonus, there are also shorter lines and less competition for hotel and dining reservations during these times.
So when is the cheapest week to visit Disney World?
The first week of January (after New Year’s Day) through Presidents’ Day weekend is typically the least expensive time of the year. On the downside, the weather at Disney World is cool during this stretch. Some weeks in the spring are also good choices.
The summers tend to be crowded. However, as kids return to school, late August through early September and non-holiday weekdays from October through December are much less crowded.
Since prices depend on the day and not the week, per se, please note that mid-week prices are less than weekend prices on average.
The most expensive times to go to Disney World are during school vacation weeks, weekends, holidays, and the summertime.
Some notable expensive (and crowded) times to visit are February Vacation, Spring Break, April Vacation, Memorial Day, July 4th Week, Thanksgiving Week, and the Christmas Holiday through New Year’s.
See our Disney Crowd Calendar for more on the crowds.
Do you still have questions about visiting Disney World Resorts?
Check with The Vacationeer for the best advice, the latest discounts, and Disney World vacation packages.
4. Stay At Disney Value Resorts
Walt Disney Company owns and operates over two dozen in-park resort hotels. Of these, they offer 3 tiers of hotels: Disney Deluxe Resorts, Disney Moderate Resorts, and Disney Value Resort.
The Deluxe resorts are spacious and beautiful, but they can cost $400-$1000 per night (and even into the thousands).
Moderates are more affordable and a great middle-ground. Still, they too, can be quite expensive, especially for those of us on a tight Disney World budget.
The cheapest options are Disney Value Resorts. There are five on-site Value Resort hotels to choose from, and any one of them should fit into the most budgets.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the newest Value resort and boasts the largest and one of the best pools at Disney World. However, despite being a Value resort, it is one of the cheapest om the Disney World property.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort is a really fun resort and a good choice for those on a budget. However, it’s still not the cheapest.
The lowest-priced hotels are the three All-Star resorts – Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort. See our Cheapest Hotel in Disney World article for more about All-Star resorts.
See our Disney Value Resorts page to learn more about these Disney World hotels.
5. Go To Walt Disney World When Children Are Under 3
Even though we think the best age for Disney World is between ages 3 and 12, don’t let that stop you from taking your infant or toddler.
Parents are always happy to learn that children age 3 and under are free at Disney World.
That’s right. Your child doesn’t need theme park tickets. And there’s no charge for their hotel stay.
If the adults are on the Disney Dining Plan, there’s also no extra charge for these kids if they eat off the adult’s plate.
6. Use Disney Gift Cards And Credit Card Rewards
Disney Gift Cards are a great way to save on your vacation, especially if you can find discounted Disney Gift Cards.
These gift cards can be found at select grocery stores, big-box retailers, and pharmacies. They are a convenient way to pay for your Disney vacation package, Disney World souvenirs, dining costs, and other vacation expenses.
Use your Target RedCard to save 5% on your Disney Gift Card purchases. Also, check Kroger and Sams Club for Disney gift cards at discounted rates.
Credit card rewards are another easy way to afford a Disney vacation. You can leverage your rewards/points to pay for airfare, hotel rooms, or meals.
Which rewards cards are best for Disney vacations?
We like the Disney Premier Visa because it gives you in-park perks and discounts on your Disney World trip and expenses.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card, United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card, and the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card are a few more to consider.
7. Plan A “Skip Day”
Take a break from the Disney parks for a day. It will save you money but also give you an opportunity to relax or explore the rest of the park.
Here are some ways to spend your off day. Soak up some sun at your resort’s pool, ride the Monorail and Skyliner and check out the different resort lobbies, enjoy the nightly firework, or catch movie night at your resort.
We’d highly recommend a trip to Disney’s BoardWalk and Disney Springs, Disney’s two shopping, dining, and entertainment districts. But be warned: you may be tempted to spend money on some amazing souvenirs and yummy foods! Can you resist the temptation?
There is so much to see at Disney World, and not all of it involves theme parks or spending money. Check out our Free Things to Do at Disney World for more ideas.
8. Set Up A Disney Payment Plan
Not everyone can afford to pay for their Disney World vacations in one payment. Luckily you’re able to set up a payment plan for Disney vacations so you can gradually pay off your balance over time.
Disney requires an initial $200 deposit to book a reservation. After that, they give you the flexibility to set up any type of layaway plan that works for you. You can pay a little each week, month, or in one or two lump-sum amounts at any time you wish. After that, it’s up to you.
Need some help setting up a layaway plan? No problem.
Authorized Disney travel agents can create a payment plan that fits within your budget. Make your life easier and let them worry about the details.
The earlier you book your trip, the longer you’ll have to pay off your balance. By the time you are packing your bags for Orlando, you’ll have your trip completely paid off!
9. Book with a Disney Travel Agent
Is this your first time at Disney World? Do you have questions? Do you want recommendations straight from a Disney expert? Want some help booking your trip and finding the best deals?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s time to connect with an authorized Disney vacation planner.
Your Disney vacation planner will personalize every aspect of your trip, so it’s exactly how you want it. They will also book all of your Disney reservations for you, including hotel, theme park tickets, dining, and so forth.
As we mentioned before, they can set you up with a payment plan so the cost of your vacation will fit within your monthly budget.
Lastly, your Disney travel agent will monitor all the Disney discounts and make sure you get the best rates. If a better rate becomes available AFTER you have booked your trip, they will then automatically apply the promotion to your total, so you will pay less.
And the best part? Many of the best Disney travel agencies charge you absolutely nothing to use their planning services! There’s really no downside to working with an authorized Disney travel planner. See our article on the reasons why you should use a Disney travel agent for more information.
But not all Disney travel agencies are created equal. We recommend The Vacationeer, the best of the bunch!