Being a parent usually means that a Disney World vacation is in the cards sooner or later. While Disney World is a lot of fun for adults and kids alike, it can also cost a lot of money. With the flight being the largest cost (at least from Newfoundland), the ideal situation is to use a travel rewards credit card, and fly down on points. But besides (or in addition to) using points, here are some effective ways to reduce your Disney World vacation costs.
Six Ways to Save Money at Disney World
1. Time your Trip – Go During Low Season
Perhaps one of the biggest ways to reduce the cost of a Disney vacation is to go during low season. When is low season? In Orlando, low season is when kids are in school. September to early December, then January to early June (minus holidays, like Christmas and Easter which are extremely busy). Yes, even the stifling hot summer months are high season for Disney.
Disney recognizes the low season and usually has reduced pricing for their onsite resorts during the fall. In fact, in recent history, they have included free dining (~$50/person/day for the standard plan) for guests who stay at a Disney resort during the fall season. In addition to reduced Disney resort rates, accommodations all over the Orlando area usually have reduced pricing during this time.
2. For Larger Groups or Families, Stay Off Site
If you have a larger family or group that requires multiple bedrooms, it’s usually more cost effective to stay offsite. There are numerous resorts just outside Disney World that have condos and townhouses at very affordable rates, particularly during low season.
From our research, a 3 bedroom condo at a highly rated and popular resort outside of Disney World costs around $100/night including taxes and cleaning fee (providing that you stay longer than a week). We received numerous quotes that ranged from $68/night to $130/night. Besides price though, there are considerations like reputation, communications with the owner, proximity to the resort pool, distance to Disney World, and the condo level (the higher the floor may mean less noise). In addition, the more popular resorts will have gated security, a large swimming pool, a clubhouse, and a play ground for kids.
3. Save Money on Car Rentals
My article on how to save money on car rentals explains a strategy, that I have used a few times, to help get the best price possible on a car rental. At a high level, watch car rental prices over a few weeks on Hotwire until you see a price that you are happy with. Then bid a slightly lower price on Priceline. Note that car rental prices in Orlando are typically very reasonable during low season.
4. Save Money on Disney World Tickets
Another significant cost of a Disney vacation are the Disney World tickets themselves! I must admit that I was in disbelief when I first did a quote for how much tickets would cost. For a single day pass, it costs around $96 USD/adult, however, ticket prices reduce quite significantly when you purchase more than a 3 day pass. For example, once you get up to the 5 day pass level, the price per day works out to be closer to $55/day/adult (around $50/day/kids ages 3-9).
Unfortunately, there are very limited legit ways of getting discounted Disney tickets, however, there is one way that saved us around $35 or 4.5% off our tickets. A popular site to buy Orlando theme park tickets is UnderCoverTourist which has some reduced pricing on multi-day passes. However, Mousesavers has a special link which gives you further reduced pricing on UnderCover’Tourist, particularly when you buy a 5 day pass.
5. Plan your Park Visits to Save Time (and Money)
A park day will go by much faster than you think, likely because of all the time spent in line ups. If you have limited park days purchased, then time is money, so I recommend planning and optimizing your park visits.
One strategy is show up when the park opens and go to the busiest rides first while utilizing the FastPass system as much as possible. One of the better resources I’ve found is a blog post on EasyWDW that includes “cheat sheets” on the recommended order of rides to take.
Another great resource for planning your Disney vacation is “The Unofficial Guide to Disney World” which can be picked up in most libraries.
6. Save Money on Food
If you are staying outside the park, I would recommend a hearty breakfast before you leave for the theme parks. However, even still you’ll need to consider lunch and dinner meals which can be costly if eating out with a large group. If you follow the strategy of showing up first thing in the morning, then it’s likely that you’re going to have a meal in the park itself. Fortunately, lunch meals in the parks are not too onerous and average around $10/per adult ($5.99 for kids meals) and some of the portions can be generous for sharing.
One tip is that all meals come with sides included, but if you request to not have the side, you’ll save $2 on the meal. Another tip is to bring a back pack full of snacks and freeze water bottles the night before.
If you decide to leave the park in the evening and go out for supper, the good news is that eating out at the franchises in Orlando is very inexpensive. For example, IHOP has a promotion where kids eat free after 4pm, or Applebees offers an appetizer and two entrees for $20. As well, coupon books are plentiful in Orlando, so keep your eye out and you’ll likely find appealing restaurant deals.
If you’d rather cook back at the condo/house, then groceries are very reasonable at the Target/Walmart/Publix nearby.
Disney is a very enjoyable trip, but even more enjoyable knowing that you got the best deal possible (at least it is for me). Do you have any money saving tips for a Disney World vacation?