Disney on a Budget…can it be done? I’m not going to say that a Disney World vacation is inexpensive, but there are ways you can do Disney on a budget and still enjoy the most magical place on Earth.
Whenever we are planning a Disney vacation we look at these 5 categories to decide where we can save and where we can splurge. There are 5 categories of where we spend the most money on a Disney World vacation. They are:
- Transportation Costs
Depending on the vacation you are planning and the needs of your family these may vary, but most people have the same 5 categories when planning a family vacation.
3 Basic Tips for Disney on a Budget
- Plan during the off-season. This will save you money on transportation, accommodations, and even ticket prices.
- Do some research before you book anything. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find the best price.
- Take time to think about what you and your family really need. Don’t pay for things your don’t need.
Transportation can carry a huge price tag, especially if you have to fly or want to rent a car. If you are driving you will pay resort parking fees ranging from $13.00-$24.00 a night.
We live in New York state and although we have made the drive, we typically choose to fly. It saves us time and often I can find great deals through Southwest.
Our biggest issue is flying out of our home airport, Rochester. Usually we don’t find the best flight deal. I like to search nearby cities to find the best deals. Sometimes it means a bit of driving but we save a lot of money flying from a different airport.
We also rarely rent a car when staying at Walt Disney World. If you are staying on-site, Disney has transportation to and from the airport(Disney’s Magical Express) and transportation to and from all the theme parks and Disney Springs.
The only reason you may want to rent a car is if you have plans to visit other attractions off Disney property during your vacation. I have heard people like to use Uber or Lyft to keep costs down and be able to visit other Orlando attractions. If your goal is to stay on a budget, staying at Disney for the duration of your vacation is recommended.
Best Way to Save Money on Transportation: Fly during off-peak time and days. Use Disney’s Magical Express to transport you to and from the airport and around the parks.
You have two options for accommodations when visiting Walt Disney World: On-site and Off-site. On-site is at a Walt Disney World Resort and Off-site is at an Orlando hotel that is not part of the resort.
This is definitely a personal preference but staying on-site gives you access to the transportation options to and from the airport as well as from your resort to the parks.
I like staying in the magic, so an on-site resort is always the best choice for us. Especially when you add up rental car and parking fees. It makes sense for our family.
What You Get When You Stay On-Site at Disney
- Early Magic Hours- These are special times that on-site guests may enter the park before it opens to all guests.
- Transportation to and from the airport and around the Walt Disney World Resort.
- Disney Magic! This may not seem like much but staying at a Disney Resort continues the Disney magic after you leave the parks. Check out the Art of Animation resort. It has amazing Disney theming and kids love it!
What You Get When You Stay Off-Site at Disney
- A break from Disney. This is great if you are planning to visit other places or are not planning on visiting multiple parks.
- Usually more spacious rooms for the cost. You can find large rooms on property at Disney but they can get expensive.
- Food options outside the park that may save you money.
Some off-site hotels do offer shuttles to the parks but they might have nightly parking fees or resort fees. Read the fine print when booking.
It is also important to price out rental cars. When researching be sure to list the cost of a rental car against the cost of accommodations. Often you may not save much money and staying on-site may be a better choice.
You can also shop around for nightly resort prices at Disney. I always run the prices for our room through a few options. Typically, the Walt Disney World site and Undercover Tourist. You do not have to book directly through Walt Disney World to receive the on-site perks.
I also watch for Disney promotions that usually start about 3-6 months before you travel. You can book your trip and then change if there is a promotion.
Disney World has three tiers of accommodations: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Each level offers different amenities and price points. We have stayed at all three and it really depends on what your needs are. The values offer less frills but they work if you are trying to stay on a budget.
Best Way to Save on Accommodations: List the different cost options available. Factor in renting a car vs. not renting a car, on-site vs. off-site, and where to book , and staying at a value resort. Also be sure to consider what your needs are as a family.
Related Posts About Accommodations at Disney World: On-Site and Off-Site
- Why Staying On-Site at Walt Disney World is Magical
- Disney On-Site Resorts for Large Families
- Encore Resort: A Great Off-Site Resort for Families Visiting Disney World
Tickets are where it is the most difficult to save and can be very pricey. Usually the best place to purchase tickets is the official Walt Disney World website. I have also purchased through Undercover Tourist but it is not always the best price. Mousesavers.com has one of the best lists of ticket deals and I check often to see if I can find a deal.
Walt Disney World tickets are based on the day you are visiting and how many days you visit. If it is a high season, like during Christmas break, the daily price of the ticket will be higher than a low season day. Also the more days you visit the less per day you pay.
The picture below shows what the pricing is like as of May 2019. If you purchased a 6 day ticket your total price would be $420. If you purchased a 2 day ticket the price would be $214. The more days you purchase the less per day you pay.
If you are trying to do Disney on a budget it is best to stay on-site and only visit the Disney parks because your dollar will go further. If you break up your trip with a visit to Disney and another Orlando theme park the cost will be more.
Best Way to Save on Tickets: Check prices from different places. Stay longer and visit the parks multiple times during your trip to pay less per day, or stay less time to spend less.
Food is typically where you can go way over budget or stay on budget. This is where we usually try to save the most money on our vacations.
If you are planning on splurging on character meals you may want to make room in your budget in different categories. If you want to do Disney on a budget you can meet characters during your time in the parks and dine at the quick service options.
Quick service is the counter service options at the Walt Disney World parks and resorts. These are where you walk up to order and find your seat. One of my best Disney tips is to use Mobile Ordering to save time waiting for your food. Read More: How Mobile Ordering Saves Us Time and Stress at Walt Disney World.
We save money on food at Disney World by bringing our own snacks. Food and drink are allowed inside the park. We bring goldfish, fruit, granola bars, and anything that helps us between meals. We rarely bring water because you can ask for a cup of water at any food service place in the parks.
Carrying around 5 water bottles is heavy and unnecessary. We also never order drinks besides a cup of water and that saves us at least $10.00 a meal. At some of the restaurants the meals are large and we share them. This might not work for everyone but it is an easy way to save a bit of money during your trip.
Best Way to Save on Food: Order water instead of drinks and share larger meals. Bring snacks and food into the park.
This one is simple for us-we don’t shop very often at the parks. We are usually busy experiencing the attractions that we don’t have time to stop in the stores. Sometimes we will purchase a small ornament as a group gift.
If you want to purchase things consider stopping at Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store before you go to the parks. We have purchased shirts, water bottles, and glo-sticks to bring with us to the parks. They are less expensive then at the parks.
If you really want to purchase something from the parks consider setting a budget for your kids before you leave or have them bring their own money.
There are not many extra costs when you visit Walt Disney World after the ones I shared about above. All the shows, rides, attractions inside the park are included with your admission ticket.
There are Photo Pass photographers around the parks and this is an added fee to purchase. You can purchase pictures but we always have them use our camera and the pictures come out amazing. Learn more about Disney Photo Pass here.
Best Way to Save on Souvenirs: Avoid the shops and stick to the rides and shows. Have the Photo Pass photographer use your phone or camera to take a picture for you.
These Disney on a Budget tips can help you plan your next Disney vacation. We use them to plan our visit and it helps keep us returning year after year.
More Walt Disney World Tips:
- Best Rides at Animal Kingdom for Families
- 6 Tips for Your First Disney World Vacation
- 12 Things to Do at Disney World on a Non-Park Day (7 ARE FREE!)