To some a trip to Disney World may seem like an expensive endeavor. But saving money on a Disney World vacation is actually a possiblity.
It just takes a research and digging.
And that’s where I come along to help make things a little bit easier.
Now you can have the ultimate Disney World trip of a lifetime with your friends or family without having to break the bank.
And with these tips, you may even be able to turn your once-in-a-lifetime Disney World blowout into a yearly tradition.
How to Save Money at Disney World (2021)
Below are some surefire ways to help you do Disney World on the cheap. Just click on the categories below to be taken straight to a certain money-saving section. Or just keep scrolling to learn as much as you can. 🙂
- Theme Park Tickets
- At the Parks (Food, Souvenirs, Etc)
- Hotel and Resorts
- Trip Planing
- Travel and Transportation
- Shady Ways (don’t judge)
Theme Park Tickets
Parks tickets are possibly the one thing that you almost have zero wiggle room to reduce costs. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
1. Buy tickets from Undercover Tourists
As an authorized Walt Disney World ticket seller, you can get discounted Disney tickets from Undercover Tourist. Best of all, you can opt for mailed tickets or e-tickets. You can literally save anywhere from $6 to $72 on tickets.
2. Plan your park visits on cheaper days
Disney World ticket prices varies based on time of year. Generally, you’ll find cheaper tickets on Monday-Thursday (excluding any holidays). When looking at tickets through Disney, you can see on their calendar which days are the cheapest to visit for every park.
3. Add an additional day
As crazy as it sounds but the more days you add to your tickets, the cheaper each day gets. For example, a one-day ticket starts at $174 per day. Then a two-day starts at $144 per day. Once you get to 6 days, it drops under $100 per day and switches to $90.
4. Skip a park
If there’s a park that doesn’t excite you or if you honestly just hate going to that park in general, then I recommend you skip it and buy 1 day less of a park ticket. Because let’s be honest, if you have young kids, they probably won’t have a blast at Epcot.
5. Figure out how many days you actually need to be at the parks for
If you’re going to Disney World for 5 nights, you probably won’t need a five or 6 day ticket.
6. Skip the Park Hopper
The Park Hopper option is quite possibly one of the coolest features of certain park tickets. However, you need to ask yourself if you are going to be jumping from park to park every day. If not, I would save your money and just get a 1 park a day base ticket.
7. Get a Disney Annual Pass if you visit at least 4 times a year
If you visit 4 times for 4 park days, four times a year, then it financially makes sense to get an annual pass. Plus, with an annual pass, you can get access to exclusive discounts and merchandise.
8. If you do get an Annual Pass or already have one, consider getting Tables in Wonderland
With a Tables in Wonderland membership, you cam get 20% off your entire meal (including alcohol) at participating restaurants at Disney World, including those at many of their resorts and Disney Springs.
9. Don’t go to the park on your first day if you land after 12 pm
Shoulder days (the day you arrive and the day you leave) are possibly one of the most annoying days because you can’t really do much. That’s why if you’re flying in, I recommend you not buy a ticket (and make a park reservation) for your first day because you never know if you’ll be in the mood to park it up after all that traveling. Plus, I would hate to waste a day at a park if my flight gets delayed a few hours.
10. Get the Disney military discounts tickets
Disney offers U.S. military personnel and their families exclusive military discounted park tickets. You can get a 4 day ticket with Park Hopper for only $265 plus tax. That same ticket normally costs $516. They also have 5 and 6 day tickets as well. Learn more about this military discount here.
11. Use AAA to get discounted tickets
AAA members can receive exclusive, members-only ticket deals with savings up to $40.
Saving Money at the Theme Parks
Honestly, a big chunk of money typically goes towards food, well at least for me, because Disney World food is so EXPENSIVE. But hey, what can you do about that. Thankfully, besides food, there really aren’t any additional costs unless you love souvenirs.
Here are some ways to make your day at the park more affordable.
1. Share your meal
Many of the Quick Service meals are actually pretty large portions. So if you don’t eat a lot or aren’t hungry enough for a full meal, sharing is a great option.
2. Buy the refillable popcorn
Popcorn costs $5.25. But a refillable popcorn bucket costs $12 and only $2 for refills. If you eat a lot of popcorn of have a big family, this bucket will literally pay for itself in a couple popcorn stand visits.
3. Skip the overrated, overpriced snacks
There’s a few snacks that really aren’t worth their ridiculous prices like candy apples and cotton candy. I say skip it and go for something more unique.
4. Order iced water with your entrees at Quick Service restaurants
Soda is pretty expensive at Quick Service spots. Opting for free iced water can save you a fortune. Just note that Florida water has a “unique” taste. So bring a Mio flavor squirter.
5. Dine at Quick Service restaurants that have self service drink stations
Although not a thing right now due to COVID, but normally, a few Quick Service restaurants actually have self service drink kiosks where you can literally drink as much as you want and refill as many times as needed. Notable locations include Backlot Express, Restaurantasaurus, and Pizzafari.
6. At Quick Service Restaurants, don’t pay for sides you don’t want
Most meals that you see on the menu board usually comes with a side (french fries usually). You can actually tell the cashier that you don’t want any sides and you’ll get the entree only price. The same goes for any place that serves personal sized pizzas and a side salad like Catalina Eddies in Hollywood Studios.
7. Eat a lot? Go to a buffet
I’m a huge fan of buffets in general. There’s no better way to satisfy picky eaters while also eating enough to get your money’s worth.
8. Avoid Epcot festival booths
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE it when Epcot unveils their food booths during festivals. The only downside is that everything on the menu is expensive. $5 on up for a couple bites, to be exact. That’s why I recommend you skip it, especially if you’r budget is tight.
9. Skip the signature restaurants
I’m going to be honest, some of the signature restaurants at Disney are busts. Sure the meal and experience are usually great, but from a financial standpoint, it’s not worth it. Instead of paying $70 a person, I prefer $18 maybe even $30 if I’m feeling it.
10. Skip the alcohol (unless at Epcot)
Many of the cocktails and drinks you find at the park are very overpriced. The only time I would get a drink is at Epcot only because sometimes they have things that you can’t find elsewhere. Like the Cava de Tequila in Epcot’s Mexico has an amazing selection of tequila that you won’t find anywhere else on Disney property.
There’s a reason why Drinking Around the World at Epcot is so popular.
11. Kid’s can share an adult Quick Service meal
Quick Service meals are pretty big especially the chicken nuggets and fries. So if you have 2 or 3 kids, that’s more than enough food to share while also saving some money.
12. Get a kid’s meal for yourself
Kid’s meals are actually a good deal for adults because you get a respectable sized portion, side, and drink for a third the price of an adult entree.
13. Bring your own poncho
Ponchos are $15 for adults and $10 for kids. You can get them cheaper online or even at the dollar store.
14. Bring your own water bottle to refill throughout the park
There are a lot of contactless water bottle fill stations scattered throughout the park. I’d rather fill my own bottle up instead of paying $3.50 for a bottle of Dasani each time.
15. Skip Memory Maker package. Instead, let the photographer take your pic with your own camera/phone
You really won’t need Memory Maker. Instead ask a PhotoPass photographer to take your picture using your own camera or smartphone. Plus, now you can take pictures of your ride photos. Sure you’ll have a watermark, but it’s worth the savings in my opinion.
16. If you love Pin Trading, buy your pins before you come to Disney World
Pins are crazy expensive at Disney. The last thing you want to do is buy brand new pins only to trade them for used ones. Instead, I would search on eBay for crazy cheap bundles and bring them to the park with you to trade.
17. Buy your Ears before you arrive
Ears are $29. You can find cheaper, almost identical in quality ears online from many great Disney-themed Etsy shops.
18. Bring your own character autograph book
You can find these autograph books for cheap on Amazon.
19. Skip the character meals unless there’s a character you absolutely must meet
I’m not a big fan of character meals only because the food you get isn’t that great. The only time I would do a breakfast is if I can meet a character that normally doesn’t meet at the parks. For example, it’s impossible to find Lilo and Stitch unless you do the ‘Ohana character breakfast. I just think that you don’t need to pay a premium in order to meet a character when you can find their meet and greets throughout Disney.
20. Eat off Disney property
Living in Orlando, one thing I do notice is that restaurants outside Disney World property that have higher prices that usual. That’s why I recommend eating off-property to save a few bucks. Plus, it’s now literally to the point that whatever restaurant chain you want, Orlando has it. Shake Shack, White Castle, Portillo’s, Chick Fil A, you name it, we have it.
21. Avoid the Mcdonald’s on property because it’s more expensive
This recently renovated, solar powered McDonald’s is pretty cool. But their menu is much more expensive than most normal McDonald locations. Instead, you’ll find a few locations just minutes off of Disney property.
22. Pack your own meals and snacks
If you don’t care about theme park food, then packing your own sandwiches and snacks is great way to save a lot of money.
23. If staying off property, eat your breakfast outside the park
I can’t recall a great affordable breakfast on Disney property. So if you’re staying offsite, I would just eat at your hotel or at a Denny’s or Chick Fil A nearby.
24. Bring your own stroller
Renting a stroller at Disney will add up $
25. Buy a Disney Gift Card to use during your trip
Loading a Disney Gift Card is a great way to budget your money and keep track of your spending. This is my favorite tactic during the food festivals and Epcot that way I don’t go overboard at all the food and wine booths.
You can also get Disney Gift Cards at a slight discount if you use your Target REDcard. As of right now, the discount is 5%.
26. Use a cash-back, restaurant/travel-friendly credit card
I’m a big believer of earning credit card points and cash back. Best of all, Disney restaurants qualify to earn you points when you use them to pay for your meals.
27. Check out these Disney World dining tips because time is money.
Although not every tip out of the 120+ that I have listed in my guide will save you money, many will save you a lot time. Because time is the most precious form of currency at Disney World for sure.
28. Skip the park souvenirs (instead shop at the Disney Outlets)
The merchandise at the parks and resorts are pretty expensive. That’s why I recommend you go check out the Disney Outlets (located at both Orlando Premium outlets) and discover some great, affordable finds. Many of the things located here are from previous seasons or holidays, but it’s well worth it.
29. At restaurants, wear a Celebration pin to possibly score a free dessert
Doesn’t work 100% of the time, but if your server knows you are celebrating something like a birthday or anniversary, you might be able to score a free dessert.
Plus, in my experience working in Quick Service, sometimes if I see a celebration button and that guest and I have a pleasant interaction with each other, I would hook them up with a cupcake.
30. Cancel any dining reservations you made more than 24 hours in advance
Disney now charges you $10 per person for any reservation that have been cancelled within 24 hours of the reservation time or if you are a no-show. Tip: Move your dining reservation to a different day, no matter how far in advance, confirm it, then cancel it. That way you avoid the charge.
31. Find the same food items, but at a lower price elsewhere.
Did you know that some of the food that you get from some Disney restaurants can actually be found cheaper in other locations. For example, at the Polynesian Village resort restaurant called Kona Cafe, they serve an amazing Tonga Toast with side for $16 (plus tip). But you can get the same thing downstairs at Captain Cook’s Snack Company for only $9.29 plus take, no tip needed.
So when you see a food item you want on a sit-down restaurants menu, be sure to check nearby Quick Service restaurants to see if that exact dish is on their menu at a lower price.
32. If visiting in September, go to local Orlando restaurants instead of Disney ones
September is Orlando Magical Dining month which means a ton of restaurant chains throughout Orlando offers crazy discounts, deals, and prix-fix menus.
Hotel and Resorts
If there’s one thing I love about Disney World, it’s the fact that there is an amazing hotel for every budget.
But it doesn’t stop there because there are so many new and existing hotels around Disney property that you can literally stay for pennies.
Here are a couple ways to save money on Disney World hotels and accommodations:
1. Stay at a Value Resort
Disney Value Resorts are the cheapest category of hotels available at Disney World. But this doesn’t mean they’re awful because nothing could be further from the truth. With they’re cool and unique theming, food courts, and multiple pools, staying at a Value Resort will save you a lot of money.
2. Downgrade your stay
As much as I love the Disney Deluxe Resorts and Villas, I just can’t wrap my head around spending that much to stay there. To me, the biggest flaw staying here is that you really won’t be in your room that much especially if you want to spend most of your day at the parks. That’s why, I recommend that if you want to stay at a Deluxe Resort, downgrade to a Moderate one. My personal favorite is the Grand Destino tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs.
3. If attending Food and Wine, avoid staying Disney’s Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk Inn
Since these resorts are walking distance to the World Showcase entrance of Epcot, they seem to always be the most expensive during the festival.
4. Don’t stay during the weekend
Weekend room rates aren’t astronomically high like in Las Vegas, but they’re still going to be higher than on weekdays.
5. Avoid marathon weekends (unless you’re running of course)
Planning a trip during the marathon weekends is just a headache waiting to happen. Expensive rooms rates, busy parks, and higher airfare.
6. Book a room using Disney’s military discount promotion
Disney offer’s military room rates for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. You can also look into Shades of Green, a military resort nestled between two PGA championship golf courses, just a 2 minute walk from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
7. Know a Cast Member? Get a friends and family rate
If you happen to know a Disney Cast Member, they can hook you up with a friends and family hotel rate. Typically, you can expect to save around 30 – 40% on your stay.
8. Are you a Cast Member? Book on The Hub and get insane discounts
The room discounts found on The Hub are incredible. Expect to save at least 50% on your rooms.
9. Book your hotel with points (credit card or loyalty)
The Swan and Dolphin Resorts are both owned by Marriott which means you can book rooms using points.
10. Book a suite/villa
If you normally book two rooms, a villa or multi-bedroom suite might be a more affordable option.
11. Stay in a Disney-recognized Disney Springs Resort
When you stay at an official Walt Disney World hotel in Disney Springs, you’ll get exclusive benefits that can’t be found off-site such as a shuttle service to all the parks, s savings booklet, and the ability to book Fastpass+ 60 days in advance if you purchase tickets though them.
12. Don’t book a room with a view at a Moderate Resort
The views at Moderate Resorts suck. Since most building are only 2 or three levels, you seriously can’t see anything. Plus, with the exterior corridors, your window looks out onto your outdoor “hallway.” Save your money and get a standard view.
13. Decide if you really need that premium view at a Deluxe Resort
I can only think of a handful of resorts where a premium theme park view is worth the cost – the Polynesian (Magic Kingdom view), the Contemporary (Magic Kingdom view), and Animal Kingdom Lodge (savannah view). Besides that, it’s not really worth spending all that money.
14. Skip the Club Level Rooms
Besides the private lounge filled with free snacks and beverages and the dedicated concierge staff, there really isn’t a true benefit of staying in a Club Level room that justifies the additional cost.
15. Skip the Water Park and use the hotel pools instead
The waterparks are fun but they are expensive to go to. And if you go during the warmer months which is literally March to October, they’re going to be packed. I recommend you skip it and just swim at the free pool in your resort. Some even have slide and other cool ares. For example, The sand bottom pool at the Yacht and Beach Club along with the slides is the poor man version of Typhoon Lagoon.
16. Stay off Disney property (off-site)
The amount of off-site resorts in Orlando is mind-blowing. And they literally keep building more. With that being said, there’s literally a hotel for every budget imaginable.
17. Look into Airbnb
You can find entire, multi-bedroom homes for under $100 a night.
18. Stay at one of those other competing Theme Parks
If you are splitting your time between Disney World and Universal Studios, I recommend checking Universal’s room rates at their on-property resorts to see if it’s cheaper to stay there than at WDW.
19. If you have an RV, stay at a Disney campground
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort has full equipped campsites with full hookups. Prices start at $129 a night.
20. Go camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
You can camp in the great outdoors at their full equipped campsites. Prices start around $98 a night. usb don’t forget to bring your tent or pop-up camper.
21. Use the free Disney Wi-Fi
If you don’t have an unlimited date plan then you’re in luck thanks to the free wi-fi that can be found at every park, resort, bus, and even Disney Springs.
22. Enjoy a free movie night under stars
Many of the resorts will host free movies nights under the stars. One of my favorite free activities.
23. Make your own coffee in your Disney Resort room
Every room at a Disney resort has a coffee maker. Just need to bring your own grounds.
24. Pack you own portable battery charger
You can rent portable batteries for a fee but if you happen to have one laying around, don’t forget to bring it. This is one of the many things we recommend packing for WDW.
25. Order food via Door Dash or Uber Eats
Room service food isn’t going to be as good or affordable as some of the nearby restaurant and fast food options.
To be honest, an affordable Disney World vacation starts with planning. Here’s a few tips to help you plan a cheaper trip to Disney without skimping on any of the fun.
1. Plan you trip during the off-season
Visiting from October to Thanksgiving and after New Years to March is generally the cheapest, least busy time to go. Here’s a crowd calendar to get a general idea of how busy your trip may be. And please, at all costs, avoid Christmas time. So expensive and insanely busy.
2. Plan a no park day
One of my favorite things to do is to skip the parks one day and instead enjoy my resort and all their wonderful amenities, pools included. This also is a great time to go to Disney Springs. Or better, go book a fun hour of foot golf at Disney’s Oak Trail golf course.
3. Take longer trips
Like with most vacations, since you’re spending all that money on flights, it’s best to just stay a couple days longer. Park tickets are cheaper the more days you go. Plus, if you don’t plan on coming back anytime soon, why not just play at Disney for just a few days longer 🙂
4. Shop for low hotel rates on Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, etc.
You’ll be able to find cheaper room rates on these sites thanks to the numerous promotions they’re always running. You’ll also be able to find most official Disney World hotels listed on these sites too.
5. Keep an eye on official Disney World special offers on their website
Disney World is always running some type of promotion or special offer on their website. I recommend you bookmark this page.
6. Avoid eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook marketplace
99.9999999% of the time you’ll never find a legitimate park ticket or promotion on these sites. The scammers are out there, believe me. Also don’t always believe those signs you see on the side of the road, no matter how close these places are to Disney World property.
7. Skip the Disney Dining Plan if you don’t eat a lot
The Dining Plan forces you to eat plain and simple. And since you have a certain number of credits you need to use before you go home, there is a chance that you won’t be able to use every single one of them. Worst of all, any unused dining credits are lost. No refunds, no nothing.
8. Get the Disney Dining Plan if you eat a lot
If done correctly, you can actually eat more food on the Disney Dining Plan that what you paid for. Here’s how.
9. Book your trip during the Free Dining Plan promotion
Once a year, Disney will offer a free dining plan promotion if you book a vacation package through them. I mean what’s better than getting free food on your vacation?
10. Rent Disney Vacation Club points
You can stay in deluxe villas for significantly lower prices. You can learn more at DVC Rental Store.
11. Plan free activities to do during your trip
Although it may seem like everything at Disney costs money, there are a couple free activities you can enjoy such as movie nights under the stars, campfires, and character drawing classes, just to name a few.
12. Plan to go to the grocery store when you arrive
The stores found in most hotels are filled with overpriced goods. That’s why I recommend you go to a nearby Publix to stock up on snacks, bottles of water, and other essentials.
13. Buy Disney Gift Cards with a Target REDCard
You can purchase Disney Gift Cards online and get a 5% discount if you use your card. It’s a small discount but hey, it’s something.
14. Skip the holiday parties or special events
These parties are expensive and if you are someone who doesn’t care about parades or character meet and greets, it’s not worth the $100+ you’ll be spending on it per person.
15. If you’re a Florida resident, take advantage of your discounts
There are quite a few promotions Disney runs to get more locals in their parks. The most recent one was a 4-Day ticket for only $199.
16. Bring your own medicine, hand sanitizer, etc.
Disney World does have a lot of hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the park, but it’s better to have your own. Plus the ones that they sell are theme park priced aka more expensive than usual.
17. Bring the kids at the right time
Kids are free before 2, and you’ll get child rates before 9 years old.
18. Make a budget
This really doesn’t need to be said, but budgeting for your trip is the easiest way to save money at Disney World while avoiding the risk of overspending.
19. Make sure you’re not going to Magic Kingdom on an event day
Throughout the year, Magic Kingdom hosts Mickeys’ Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. On these, days, the park hours are reduced drastically. The last thing you want to do is spend money for a “full” day at Magic Kingdom only to be kicked out by 7 pm.
Travel and Transportation
For most people, airfare is usually a big chunk of their vacation costs. But with the ongoing pandemic, airfare is actually insanely affordable.
Here are some ways you can save money on transportation such as flights, Uber, and rental cars during normal times:
1. Fly a low-cost airline
Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, and Southwest dominate Orlando (MCO). That amount of cheap flights to Orlando is quite staggering, in a good way.
2. Rent a car if you’re going to explore a bit
There are a few other popular theme parks nearby like Universal Studios, Sea World, Legoland, and Busch Gardens, so if those places are on your list, renting a car is a good option. Plus, there are some cool things to do around Orlando that doesn’t revolve around Disney such as Top Golf and shopping at the Premium Outlets.
3. Don’t rent a car if you don’t plan on leaving Disney property
If you are going to be on Disney property your entire trip, there is no need to rent a car thanks to Disney’s expansive bus, monorail, boat, and Skyliner system.
4. Don’t check a bag at the airport (instead, use your kids)
A cool way to avoid checking a bag and paying those ridiculous fees (unless you’re flying Southwest) is to use your kids. Just give you kid a full-sized carry on and load any additional clothes and items you may need for your trip right in them.
With those record low gas prices, driving to Disney is very affordable. (This all depends on where you live, of course)
6. Take an Uber or Lyft from the airport if Magical Express is unavailable
Magic Express (the free bus service that will bring you from the airport to your Disney resort is ending soon). Taking an Uber or Lyft is the next best thing. Plus, you don’t have to worry about making stops at other resorts on the way to yours. UberX is a great option since it’ll save you the most money when ride-sharing.
You can use my code UberAdamBryan to get a free ride up to $15.
7. Skip the Minnie Vans
As cool as they look, their fares ain’t cheap. They’re about $20 one way when UberX can get you there for half the price.
8. If staying off-site, and you’re renting a car, factor in Disney Parking fees
Parking at all four parks starts at $25 per day. Check and see if your hotel offers a free bus transportation service to the park.
9. Use flexible date search to find the cheapest travel dates for your Disney trip
I love using Google Flights to see when flights to my desired city are the cheapest and on what days.
10. Use Momondo to make sure you’re getting the cheapest flight possible
Momondo will help you find and compare the cheapest flights possible to Orlando.
11. Watch out for the sneaky airline fees
Even though a fare seems cheap doesn’t always mean that’s going to be your total. You still have to factor in baggage fees, seat selection fees, etc.
12. Set a fare alert to see if a specific flight to Orlando drops below a certain price
When using Google Flights, you can track prices for your next Disney trip’s flights and get email updates.
13. Skip the taxis
You won’t find a taxi cheaper than Uber or Lyft these days.
14. Use the Disney Buses when going from Resort to Resort
Using this method will make your trip feel even longer since you have to transfer at the nearest park, it is free.
There are a couple ways to beat the system and save a couple bucks. But I won’t post them here. Instead, check them out here (coming soon)
So with that being said…
If you happen to have any other cool and useful ways to save money at Disney World, please leave a comment below.
Or you can shoot me a DM on Instagram at @disneytastebud