Tips and tricks on how to save money at Disney theme parks so you can enjoy your vacation to the most magical place on Earth!
Disney vacations are fun and exciting but they can be pricey… especially for a family. It’s not uncommon for families and Disney guests to spend THOUSANDS on their Disney vacations.
But traveling to Anaheim, California, or to Orlando, Florida on a shoestring budget isn’t impossible. There are definitely ways you can save your pennies! Here are some of our favorite ways to save money on a Disney vacation:
How to Save Money on a Disney Vacation
1. Bring Your Own Souvenirs
Most of the items you can buy at the park can be found online at the Disney store, and if you have enough advance notice you can buy them at discounted prices.
Target, Walmart, and the dollar store carry licensed Disney merchandise, so purchase souvenirs before you leave, pack them in your suitcase, and then skip all the gift shops.
When your kids start asking for a special toy, tell them that Mickey left them a surprise at the hotel. Each day before you leave for the parks leave a little something on their pillow for them to find before they go to bed. They get the magic, you get the extra money in your pocket!
An easy souvenir we recently discovered is the trading pins. My father-in-law bought each of the kids 1 pin at the beginning of the day and they traded at almost every pin trading spot we saw! It was a souvenir and entertainment all in one that only cost a few bucks!
2. Say No to Soda
Soda is expensive at Walt Disney World, but water is free. When ordering meals or just quenching your thirst; ask for water in a cup.
You can bring your own reusable water bottles, but if you don’t want to carry it around, you can walk up to any snack stand and ask for a cup of ice water. They’ll give it to you for free!
If you must have soda wait for one of your character meals because they have free refills. That way you can drink as much as want without spending a fortune!
3. Check Membership Discounts
Memberships like AARP, AAA, and D23 fans can get discounts on a variety of things. When you get your card there should be a name of an agent for you to call with questions. Make sure to call them and see if they offer discounts. They may not, but it’s always worth trying!
4. Take the Shuttle
While it may seem more convenient to take your own car, it is definitely cheaper to take a shuttle. You will save a bundle on the parking fees!
5. Stay Off-Site or at a Value Resort
I usually discourage staying off-site because there are a TON of benefits to staying on Disney property. But if you are on a really tight budget, staying off-site can be very budget-friendly.
Be sure to check out the Disney resort Hotels that are considered “Value Resorts.” You might be surprised at how affordable they are!
Check Airbnb for vacation rentals with a kitchen and you can buy groceries and save money on meals at Disney, too! You can cook breakfast, pack a lunch, and bring any leftovers from your dinner entree back to your room to enjoy later.
Also, sometimes on Craigslist, you can find people selling their timeshare dates and vacation rentals for pretty cheap.
6. Skip Park Hopper Tickets
Unless you have reasons for skipping around to parks, you can save a bundle by buying a 1-day park ticket for one park at a time. It is nice to leave a park for another one if you get bored, but plan your week and then buy day tickets accordingly.
7. Take a Day Off
If you are staying 5 or more days it’s great to take a day off. Your family will probably need it and you will definitely save a few bucks. Plan a day to lay around the pool at your Disney resort, or visit Disney Springs/Downtown Disney.
With some of the money you have already saved, you could have a great lunch at Disney Springs or go to Splits – a fun bowling alley in Orlando. At night the lanes are lit up and the bowling balls are Disney-themed. It’s a lot of fun!
8. Discounted Gift Cards
Check online for stores that sell Disney gift cards at a discount. The last time we went to Disneyland, I bought $500 gift cards for $485 at Sam’s Club. You can use the gift cards just like you would a credit card to buy Disney tickets or meals inside the park, and while it doesn’t seem like much, $15 here and there definitely adds up!
Bring your own snacks! I like to give my kids their own fanny packs with their own water bottle and plenty of small snacks so they can eat and drink while waiting in line. I’ll give them granola bars, fruit snacks, small candies, etc. This not only keeps them busy and less likely to be bored, but it keeps them from wanting to stop at every churro and ice cream stand in the park!
10. Check the Calendar
If your travel dates are flexible, consider going to the Disney parks on a cheaper day. Admission prices and rooms at Disneyland resorts are typically higher in the summer, around Halloween, and in December for Christmas. If you can plan your vacation for early spring, you’ll get the best rate on admission.
Even with all the tips out there, you could still end up spending a small fortune at Disney. But if you really check around and do your homework, you can cut quite a bit off of the price. Be flexible and allow the magic to happen, because, in the end, all that really matters is the magic and the memories!