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Ways To Save Money At Disney -- Saving Money At Disney

Updated on July 14, 2011

Discounted Disney

When it comes to theme parks, Disney World is hands-down, my favorite. I love the fact that there is so much to do. I love the fact that the grounds and rides are always clean and well-maintained. I love the fact that when you go there, you can escape on a real vacation for a few days. Most of my memories of Disney are positive, which is why I keep going back.

What I don't love, though, are the prices. Let's face it -- Disney can be expensive. Most people who visit there are staying at the park for at least four or five days, and are therefore eating all of their meals on-site, and are making their purchases in the park's stores. Most of the food and products are of high quality, but are also costly. For instance, I purchased one of those silly headbands with antennae on it shaped like Mickey Mouse. They were $6! Granted, no one put a gun to my head and forced me to buy these things, but it was still a lot of money for an item that I basically purchased as a joke.

If you travel with a large family, little things like this are only going to add up. In addition to paying for park tickets, the hotel and airline, and food, chances are your kids are going to want to buy souvenirs or buy ice cream at the snack stand. Shell out $6 here, $12 there ... and before you know it, you've spent a fortune.

The good news is, there are ways to save money at Disney and make sure that everyone in your clan has an awesome time. Here are a few tips for saving money at Disney.

Stay In The Park And Get On The Bus

1. Ditch the car and either stay on-site at one of Disney World's hotels or stay at a nearby hotel that offers a free shuttle to the park. Unless you're driving to Orlando, you really don't need a car to get around the parks. Disney's monorail, buses and boats make it easy to get from one destination to another -- and they're all free, so you save a bundle of gas. Consider this: Disney hosts a marathon each year, meaning folks are easily able to complete 26.2 miles. That's how massive the park is and how much driving you can end up doing. I found that the buses (which go to all of Disney's hotels) were quick and efficient.

2. Stay at one of Disney World's budget hotels. If you want to splurge on the Grand Floridian, go for it, but I was pleasantly surprised by the All-Star Resorts (All-Star Music, Movies Sports). They, as well as the Pop Century Resort, all cost around $80-100 a night. And while the outsides of the hotels are about as tacky as you can get, the rooms are subdued and quite nice. Ours was spacious and had two comfy double beds and a good-size bathroom. Also, the grounds -- once you walk through the hideous lobbies -- are lovely. There were several pools on campus and all sorts of activities for kids were offered.

3. If you don't want to stay on the grounds, though, there are several nearby budget hotels that have their own shuttles. Just make sure to ask that a) the shuttle goes to ALL of the parks, including the water parks b) that it's free and you won't get charged for the service c) that the shuttle has decent hours. You don't want your hotel's last shuttle to be at 6 p.m. so that you're missing the fireworks show.

4. If you're staying at one of Disney's hotels, MAKE SURE you sign up for the free airport shuttle, the Magical Express. I didn't the last time I flew in, which was a HUGE mistake. My cab from the airport to my hotel was $60!!! The next morning, I promptly made arrangements to take the shuttle on my way home. Turns out, it was efficient, comfortable -- and saved me a lot of money. Head's up: The shuttle doesn't go to some of the Downtown Disney resorts, so again, check with your hotel to make sure before booking it. Also make sure to book the shuttle well in advance to make sure they have a seat for you.

Disney Package Deals And Disney World Park Hopper Passes

1. When looking for a cheap Disney vacation package, make sure the outlet you're purchasing from is legit. The best place, of course, to start is by heading to Disney World's main Web site, which I link to on this page. They offer different deals all-year round and even have a system where you can type in what budget you're going with, and then they'll give you an offer. Many airlines like JetBlue also offer packages, but as always, do some shopping around before purchasing and see which deal is the best.

2. Get an annual pass or park hopper pass. The longer and more frequently you visit Disney World, the more money you save. That said, if you're going to plan a Disney vacation for your family, it's worth it to make it 7-10 days long. Each day you add to your park hopper pass will cost a little more money, but as you add days, you get more extras -- and save more money! For instance, the 4-day pass costs $225 per person, which is roughly $56 a day. Meanwhile, the 10-day pass costs $243 a ticket, about $24 a day. For a little more, you can also add a "no expiration" bonus to your ticket. This way, if you choose to spend Day 10 lounging in the pool instead of going to one of the parks, you can come back and use that day in the future.

Other Tips For Saving At Disney

1. If you don't stay at a budget hotel, consider staying at one of Disney's condo-style hotels, such as the Saratoga Springs Resort or Beach Club Villas. The suites can fit up to eight people and come with a full kitchen. Two families can share the space and save money by cooking some of their own meals.

2. Eat some meals in the hotel's dining halls. All of the on-site hotels have dining halls that open fairly early and close rather late. The All-Star Music (where I stayed) had a nice cafeteria, where you could pick up some pizza or a bagel, and the prices were reasonable. They also had a deal where if you purchased a decorative Disney tumbler, you had unlimited free drinks at the hotel. The tumbler was kind of pricey -- about $12 -- but for the next few days, I never had to pay for coffee or soda at the hotel again (this doesn't carry over into the actual park, though). I'd fill it with juice in the morning and saved myself from having to buy a couple of expensive drinks in the park.

3. Bring in your own snacks. It's worth it to get to a supermarket and buy some granola bars or cheese sticks or some other portable snack that you can take with you. This way, you won't be spending a fortune on Mickey Mouse-shaped ice creams (as yummy as they are).

4. Go to Disney on your birthday. On their main site, you can register your birthday and you'll get into the park for free!

5. Get a Disney credit card. You can earn points and get savings from this.

6. Go during the off-season because hotels and airfare will be cheaper and the lines will be shorter. Last time I visited Disney World was in August. Yeah, it was HOT but all of the buildings are air conditioned and it was nice to not have to wait on long lines.

5. Okay, this one might be a little hard to carry out, but work with me: Try to avoid buying too many souvenirs in the park. If you really want to show your Disney spirit, purchase the merchandise beforehand. For example, the Disney Store sells Princess costumes for about $36. Meanwhile, you can order a Princess outfit on Amazon for about $26. If you have three princesses wanting to dress up, you're saving $30! You can also find Disney items in most major outfits that sell clothes. Buy the cheaper items ahead of time, then surprise your little ones at the park with their new Disney purchase. This way, they can join in the fun and dress up, but you can avoid buying costly souvenirs at the park.

Remember, A Good Time Is Priceless

If you can afford an all-out ritzy stay at Disney World, where you eat at the most expensive restaurants, stay in the most luxurious resorts and come home with a bundle of souvenirs, good for you! Personally, I'm envious. However, if you're more like me and need to watch your money, take the time to come up with a budget, as well as small, realistic ways to save cash. It is possible to enjoy Disney on a budget -- and just remember that enjoying yourself in the park is really what your vacation is about.

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    • Scarlet Murdock profile image

      Scarlet Murdock 8 years ago

      Great information NaomiR. I will definitely keep this in mind when I schedule my next visit to Disney World.

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