50 Tips for Doing Disney on a Budget [Updated: 2019]

50 Tips for doing Disney on a Budget 

disney on a budget 2017

I recently updated this post 1/1/19, while at Disney World and drinking coffee.  There are more than 50 tips here now so get ready to make that Disney vacation possible NOW.

A trip to Walt Disney World is a dream come true for most people.  The challenge is finding tips and tricks that are going to actually save you money and help you go to Disney on a budget.   Luckily, there are many ways to cut corners from the moment you leave your home.  The perfect Disney vacation is not out of your reach.

I absolutely love Disney World, I’ve been there over three dozen times.  But I have a regular income so I HAVE to find ways to save money. 

We are going to break this down into 4 categories:

Getting There & Getting Around

Lodging

Food

Tickets & More

Getting There & Getting Around

SkyScanner.com

SkyScanner is one of my favorite flight tools and that’s because you can look at prices for flights across an entire month.  I use this option when I am unsure of my vacation dates and you should too!  That way you can build your vacation around the cheaper dates.  

What does this mean for you? If you have date flexibility, choose your date around flight costs using SkyScanner. This can lead to an easy savings of $200 each way each person. That’s $1600 total for a family of four.


Driving to Disney World

I am fully aware how long and tiring a drive to Disney can be. I just did it from NJ a few days before writing this.  I also have something on my most recent drive to Disney.  But driving is significantly cheaper than flying. Especially if you have more than two people in your family. Use the AAA Gas Calculator to estimate gas costs.

My most recent trip took 18 hours, three gas stops of $60 (we drove a sedan) and nothing more.


Cheap Disney Tickets

You need to become a Disney ticket pro.  On my most trip, I spent $274 on two 1 day Disney tickets.  They are expensive! Bookmark this post that is all about cheap Disney tickets and maximizing your money. 


Disney’s Magical Express

There’s nothing better than to get off the plane, onto this comfortable and magical bus FOR FREE. As long as you are staying at the WDW Resort, I would click here and make sure to use this awesome, free resource. A cab to Disney can run $60 each way while renting a car can cost hundreds.  


Disney’s Transportation System

One of Disney’s goals is to keep you on the Disney resort.  So they make it easy not to have a car. Even if you don’t…take advantage of Disney’s free transportation. Yea you heard read right. FREE

This allows you to skip a car rental or avoid l gas or parking fees from driving to the parks.


JetBlue Getaways

If you’ve read my story and why PlanningTheMagic exists, you know that JetBlue Getaways saved me. Often, on various sites, you’ll see hotel and flight “packages” that are the same price as getting them individually. JetBlue Getaways is super discounted. Watch the video below and see how it’s done.


Don’t Rent a Car and Use Uber

I have found from all my various trips to Disney that not renting a car is the way to go. When you stay on the Disney property, Disney’s free transportation is your best friend in helping you get around, and did I mention it’s free!

For those moments where you leave the park, whether it’s to one of the other local attractions, or grocery shopping -there is always Uber.

Uber is a taxi service which is usually less expensive than the other taxi companies. This is a way to save hundreds on your trip. Learn how to use Uber and get a free trip. 


Credit Card Points

There might be something better than a free bus ride (Magical Express).  A free flight and/or hotel room!  If you plan correctly and use PointsToNeverland.com, you will find your way to high valued freebies.  

Credit card and maximizing their rewards is a science all in itself, which is why websites like PointsToNeverland exist.  If you’re not looking to get too into it, start with a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred


Check out the newly updated Disney on a Budget ebook


Add to Cart


Lodging

Value Season

Value season, or basically the time when kids are in school, is always the best time to go to Disney. Crowds are smaller, flights are cheaper, and usually, Disney has a special/discount going on. Think of it this way, airlines want to make money and they know parents want to travel to Orlando airport (MCO) during spring break, so they hike up the prices. 


Fee-free Travel Agent

Many don’t know that a travel agent is usually free, and if you get a good one it is so worth it. Travel agents who specialize in Disney will know all of the ins-and-outs. They will know how to get discounts and even adjust your package once it books. Imagine waking up to an email about hundreds of dollars of savings. 


Hotel Tonight – Phone App

If you have the flexibility to wait last minute – you can use this cool phone app called Hotel Tonight. You can score last minute, non-Disney hotel rooms for cheap. Included in this are the Disney Springs hotels on Disney property.

I used to suggest Hotel Tonight all the time, but recently I found it didn’t have the best deals, it was just an illusion.  For the best prices on accommodations or car rentals, Priceline is the way to go.  They have proven to me, time and time again, that they have the most reach and therefore best prices.  


Rent DVC Points

If you are considering staying at a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa resort at Disney World, help yourself and save more than 50% by renting DVC points from David’s. Read more here.


Consider Camping

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Lodge can sleep up to 10 people for $60/night. It is a super good value for bigger families and you get all of the same perks for being at a Disney resort. 


Disney Spring’s Resorts Discount

Disney Springs hotels are the perfect compromise to stay on site but not at a Disney hotel. If you decide to go this route make sure to head over to MouseSavers.com and take advantage of their discounted rates.


Stay Offsite

There’s no doubt an offsite hotel is going to be cheaper. Just not more convenient. Use sites such as Priceline and Orbitz to find a room at the low end of $30/night.  Here is a video from my Definitive Guide to Planning a Disney Vacation.


AirBnB 

AirBnB has been a blessing for budget travelers like myself.  Last April, I stayed on the beach in Cartagena, Colombia with an infinity pool for dirt cheap.  I suggest this to my friends and they did the same thing a few months later. 

Disney is no different.  But what exactly is AirBnB?  Well, BnB stands for bed and breakfast. It’s basically an online marketplace that allows people to rent out their entire homes or spare rooms to travelers.  It’s very safe as there are various verifications measures in place, and it helps travelers save a ton.  

disney on a budget

Just head over to the website and look around, you won’t be disappointed.


Rent a House

A lot of people don’t ever think of renting a home when going on a Disney vacation but it really can bring you significant savings when traveling with a large group. There are homes that are less than 5 miles from Disney that are less than $100/night and fit 10 individuals. Think of how nice having a private pool would be. For more information, I suggest AllStar Vacation Homes.

Food

Plan Out Your Meals

You really can’t go wrong by doing the research and outlining what your meals at Disney will look like. Not to say that you have to plan every meal out but doing the research will go a long way. Without a plan, you’re likely to make a bad decision in a moment of hunger.  Cheap eats at Disney can be found here.


Pack It Up

Bring your own water and snacks to the park to cut out what can become an excessive cost.  This last trip, we bought stainless steel canteens with us and refilled them at the fountains. 


Disney’s Famous Free Dining Special

Disney often will have special deals going on but the Free Dining is the most well known. With certain vacation package purchases Disney will throw in free dining of some sort. This special often comes out in April and covers fall dates.


Garden Grocer

Use this grocery delivery service to get groceries delivered to your hotel for a $14 fee. Use groceries to save on meals, drinks, and snacks all around.


Amazon Pantry

We are huge fans of Amazon. With Amazon Pantry you can send yourself non-perishable groceries. Your Disney resort will hold your package for you. Shipping is free for Prime Members and also orders over $35.


Grocery Store aka Publix

The most obvious way to get groceries, there is a Publix a few miles from Disney and a mini fridge in every Disney hotel room. You can drive if you have your own vehicle or take an Uber.


Know your Quick Service Options

Not all food locations at Disney are created equally. Some locations provide better quality or more food than others. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a good example of a great location. Do your research to easily find the right places to eat.


Skip Disney’s Meal Plan

I do a very detailed layout in my eBook about why the dining plan is not for those who are looking to save money or get the most bang for their buck. You want to use groceries for some of your meals, plus discounts for restaurants, etc. The dining plan will take away that flexibility.


Eat Breakfast In Your Room

I do this every trip. It saves me a whole lot of money and a ton of time. I like to get to the parks a few minutes before they officially open, for that reason, I’m having breakfast on the go. Granola bars, a bagel with cream cheese, yogurt, and especially coffee.


Who Doesn’t LOVE Pizza

I look forward to Flippers when I head to Disney. You can feed a family of 4 quite cheaply. Please try the breadsticks!


Split Meals 

We talked about Quick Service locations not being created equally.  Many Disney meals come with sides and extras that make them very shareable.  I rarely can finish an entire meal on my own.


Earl of Sandwich

Earl of Sandwich is great!  Even people who don’t like sandwiches love this place.  Sign up for their newsletter for coupons to use at their Disney Springs location!


A La Carte

Disney meals come with a few sides you might not like so it’s important that you are aware of the ability to order an entree “a la carte” to avoid wasting money.


Saving on Theme Park Tickets, Free Things to do, and More!

Pre-Purchase Souvenirs 

This is so important that I have an entire post written up on it.  Souvenirs can really burn a hole in your pocket while you are at Disney World.  If you pre-buy and surprise your kids with a few a day, you will save a ton of money!


Raise.com

This site allows you to purchase discounted gift cards from multiple retailers.  I’ve used them myself without issue.  There are giftcards offered for gas, restaurants, Disney, etc. You can get giftcards for 5-12% off here.  You can use Raise for anything like Pizza Hut or the movies and take what you save for Disney.


Free Disney GiftCards 

Asking for Disney gift cards on Holidays like Christmas or on your birthday is a great way to save money! The gift cards can be used for just about anything, whether it’s for paying off your Disney package, park tickets, meals, or buying fun souvenirs at the park! The possibilities are endless with Disney gift cards.


UnderCover Tourist

WDW ticket discounts are so hard to come by but  Undercover Tourist is an authorized dealer that will save you the most money possible.  Expect to save as much as $40/ticket.


AAA

AAA members get discounts on Disney hotels and tickets.  With the basic membership being anywhere between $53-$65, it can definitely be worth it.


Disney’s Boardwalk

One of my favorite things to do on a day where I am not visiting any parks, or have some downtime is to visit the Disney Boardwalk located at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas. There’s so much to do here from the different restaurants, ice cream parlors, arcades, and of course fun magic tricks! It’s a great place to take the kids for free or for a nice walk down the boardwalk and watching the amazing shows, and not to forget the delicious funnel cake!


Free Picture Memories

Believe it or not, any Disney photographer will take your photo for free with your own camera.


Loose Change Jar

I remember back in 2009ish, I had a 1991 Acura Legend that needed some type of repair.  I took my change jar and got $90 out of it!  I was a happy teenager!  Do the same thing for your Disney vacation and see how fast your change adds up.


Rain, Rain, Go Away

Ponchos are sold at stores like Walmart, Target, and Amazon for about $1.50/each.  At Disney, they’re about $10/each. Here’s an example 


Swagbucks.com

I am obsessed with Swagbucks.  Basically, this site allows you to take surveys, watch videos and more to earn Swagbucks that you can convert to giftcards.  I read an article on a woman who paid for 95% of her $3500 Disney vacation with Swagbuck’s gift cards.  I’d love to just pay for Christmas gifts with this.  And you get a bonus for using my link to sign up.


Chip And Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long

Join Chip and Dale for a nighttime celebration around the fire. Roast s’mores with your own supplies which will make this activity free!


Know Your Ticket Options

The worse thing you can do is over-buy park days or add on options you don’t need.  Do research, or just wait.  You can always add on at the park but you can’t get a refund for overbuying.


One Park a Day Keeps the Debt Away

If you’ve never been to Disney World before then it can get a little bit overwhelming to plan your agenda for your trip. I think a good place to start, that’s going to save you a ton of time and money, is to commit to one park a day. Here’s a chart I created that’s part of my guide to planning a Disney vacation. As you can see you can easily dedicate a full day or more to any given theme park.

disney on a budget 2017


Buy Disney Apparel Elsewhere

You’ll see most of the people at Disney with the cutest shirts.  Disney shirts.  Bring yours with you to avoid the high costs at the park.  Buy these at Walmart or Target. This one is so cute!


Disney Visa Credit Card by Chase

With Disney’s reward dollars and 0% promotional APR for 6 months on certain vacation purchases, this might be the right route for you.


Resort Adventures

Resort hopping is so much fun and FREE.  This never gets old for me.  Head to the Polynesian for dinner or Port Orleans Riverside for some beignets.


Pin Trading

Pin trading is an awesome Disney tradition.  I mostly collect my pins.  There are really nice pins you can get under $10.  Not only are they inexpensive souvenirs, but they’re fun to trade too.   


Pin’s off Amazon

We talked about pin trading and how some are collectible but some are great for trading!  Amazon and eBay allow you to buy them in bulk for cheap! Perfect way to start your collection and get your kids going. Here’s 25 for less than $1 each


Pennies?????

“One of my favorite souvenirs to collect is the pressed pennies! They have them located everywhere throughout Disney along with the penny collector book with slots to save all your pressed pennies. What better way to remember all my favorite parks, and favorite rides, not to mention such an awesome collection starter!” -Lisa


Strollin’

I can completely understand how strollers can be a nuisance at Disney.  Especially since you have to close them on all Disney transportation (except the monorail), but bringing your own stroller is free.  Renting a stroller costs $15/day at Disney.  That’s over $100 for 7 days.


Plan Plan Plan

Plan your days at Disney as much as possible to make sure you are self-providing as much as you can (vs buying).  This will also give you the ability to find ways to cut your costs.


Ebates

I earned $400 in the last three months for free. Ebates is a cash back portal that helps you earn money easily and for free.  Right now, if you sign up, they’ll give you a $10 bonus.  Interested in free money?  Click below ↓
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back




Bonus

Birnbaum’s Disney Guide Book

You can usually get the official Disney World Guide (Currently under $15).  The savings/budget part comes in with coupons that are in the back of the book.  

Make sure to share this if you think anyone you know would benefit from these tips.


What are your favorite Disney budget tips?  Comment below.
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35 thoughts on “50 Tips for Doing Disney on a Budget [Updated: 2019]

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    This is an AMAZING collection of tips! One thing I love about Disney is you can certainly go ‘all out’ but you can have just as much fun on a much smaller budget, too.

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      Thanks Rachel! You are so right about that.

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    Tons of tips, thanks! It’s crazy how differently you plan for WDW on a budget than for Disneyland. Lots to consider so thank you!

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      I never thought of it that way. Alldaymom.com has a great Disneyland on a Budget eBook. Thanks!

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      It would be. I’d love to have my entire family there for a week and maybe hire a chef. That might burst the budget though

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    Great tips – my husband and I decided we’d be cutting our Disney budget in half next time by leaving our two kids at home (they’re adults now) 🙂

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    I love these tips!!! It is amazing especially when you go with kids how fast the trip can cost more money.

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    Budgetting ahead of time before travelling can saves you time and of course money. You need to go strictly with planning on things and make it happen so everyone is happy including you. Great tips!

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    I’m bookmarking this article. Disneyland is such a fun place to be and sometimes we do go over budget. These tips you shared are amazing! I learned a lot and will be wiser with spending on our next Disney trip!

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    Looking out for the best deals on everything is important, from your flight to your accommodations to the food. It would be awesome to be able to take the kids to Disneyland or Disneyworld despite being on a budget! These are awesome tips!

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    Skyscanner is something I use myself and it is brilliant for budgeting. I hope to be able to visit Disney one day it would be a lot of fun.

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    I love your tips. This post is very helpful to me, I am planning on visiting Disney this holiday season!

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    These are lovely tips. Renting a car and hotel are really expensive. Good to know about these tips.

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    I can’t even believe how much I learned with this post. I’m pinning it to my travel tips board. thank you!

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    This is great. I have heard it is very expensive!

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    These are gret tips! It is so cool that you are helping people make their dream trip to Disney a reality 🙂

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    These are awesome and helpful tips. Good thing we get to take advantage of the military discount. That’s a great help! Thanks for sharing!

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    I am so excited to take the kids to Disney next year. I am always looking for ways to save money on our trip. Thanks for the great tips.

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      Thanks Jessica! Hope you guys have a fantastic time 🙂

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    wow, these are great tips for doing Disney on a budget. I can’t wait for our next visit 🙂

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    Be careful and don’t get more gift cards than you can use. Unless you want to buy park tickets at the gate, you can only use one gift card when buying tickets online and two if ordering tickets from Fisney by phone.

    You can buy a whole cooked pizza at the Port Orleans hotel food court for maybe $13? It’s a real deal in Disney World.

    You can also buy food and drinks at better prices than Disney at the Speedway gas stations on property.

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    I love love love all of your tips. Just one thing though, it’s port orleans French quarter that has the beignets 😉

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    Great list of tips – we have used many of these on our multiple trips to Disney!
    Planning is essential – it saves time which means you get a better return for your investment!
    Also, condo rental is a great way to save money!

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    Disney gift cards can be combined onto one with a value of up to $1000. That way you can pay with one higher value card.

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