10 Great Money Saving Tips – Walt Disney World

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Visiting WDW, although magical can set you back quite a few bucks! I know there are MANY posts out there about how to save money but here are my tips and the ones I gathered as the most helpful while researching over the last few years as well as the ones that I have “created” on my own or inherited from my mother.

1. Go off season! – This is a hard one, since many people usually only get vacations once or twice a year and they may fall within high season (Christmas, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, summer, etc.). However, if it’s possible go during “low season“. This won’t always assure short lines, I just recently went during the first week of January 2013 and we did encounter more lines & people than expected but it wasn’t quite as impossible as the week of the 24th – 31st of December.

2. Don’t stay at Disney hotels! – I know, it’s a tough one. But the reality is that you are charged a lot for Mickey Mouse sheets and riding on Disney’s Magical Express from MCO to your resort. There are many hotels within the WDW area, specially on International Drive, Downtown Disney area, etc. Sometimes you may find hotels for well under $70 a night (and if you venture out to Kissimmee you’ll, generally, find the absolute cheapest prices.) Rent a car, which you can find for around $300 a week during high season. Some of the benefits of renting a car are: cheaper breakfast off WDW grounds, transportation to supermarket/pharmacy to buy snacks, water, milk, etc., in case of emergency you don’t have to wait for a cab, if you park at the parks you don’t have to wait for a shuttle after an entire day of walking, dinner off grounds as well, you’re not limited to staying in WDW for the entire trip. Combine that with staying off grounds and you’re likely to save quite a few $$$. Specially buying snacks and water for the parks before hand, my number 1 tip!!, I’m sorry but almost $3 for a bottle of water? Heck no! Although, an extra tip is that anywhere inside WDW that serves fountain soft drinks you can ask for a cup of ice water at no charge. Also, don’t be afraid to look into one week apartment rentals, there are tons of sites like Air B&B that offer short term rentals (even weekends) for great prices – even compared to “cheap” hotels nearby.

3. BYO-Snacks/Water/Lunches – I cannot stress this enough, even if it’s a few bananas from the buffet (don’t look at me like that, it’s acceptable tourist on a budget behavior!), cereal boxes, water, etc. absolutely anything is helpful. What I’ve always done (a behavior inherited from my parents) is go to the supermarket on the first day and buy packs of water, snacks and even plastic bows, cereal and milk for a quick midnight snack or even breakfast. Technically you’re not supposed to bring food in to the parks but the nice cast members at the entry will look the other way – unless it’s in a cooler. That is a huge Disney no-no. A few snack bars, cookies and PBJ/Ham and cheese sandwiches will get you through the day and then you can go off-property for a calm family dinner to recover from park mayhem. There are many local and chain restaurants that won’t empty your wallet if you drive 10-15 minutes.

4. Buy your souvenirs off-ground! Whether it’s at Walgreens, WalMart, Publix or special discount souvenir stores (you’ll see them everywhere!) take advantage of them. If you want to take something home to your loved ones the important thing is the detail not the value of it. A key chain will cost you $11.95 at the Magic Kingdom yet can easily be found for $2.99 at Publix (true story).

5. Give kids their own money! I have yet to do this since I don’t have kids but my parents did it with me and I will one day do it with my own. If it’s a surprise trip give them a certain amount ($40 for a 4 day trip?…you figure it out) when you get there or if it’s planned let them earn it at home ($5 for cleaning their room?) and when you get to WDW anything they want to buy has to come out of their wallets. Of course, food and beverage are not included but souvenirs, plush toys, funny pens, etc are. Teach them not to buy anything until the last day if possible, that way they’ll be sure of what they want and not regret having bought that $10 book of stickers the first day.

6. Buy Disney apparel beforehand! Sometimes K-Mart and Target have Disney themed apparel at great prices. What’s the point of spending $25 on a t-shirt when you can get it for $10. Check online as well, you can even get the same one for the whole family if you want to match. Also, buy Minnie/Mickey ears beforehand online, they’ll set you back at least $20 p/p at the parks.

7. BYO Poncho! – Florida weather is unpredictable, having lived there and gone to Disney four times before I still did not learn my lesson this January and left home without buying rain ponchos at Walgreens and had to spend $40 on 2 of them when it started raining on the 3rd day of our trip. Not worth it, trust me.

8. Share park treats! I usually only spend money on food on park treats that I can’t get at home (remember, I take my own snacks and have a filling breakfast and dinner off property!). Who can resist a Mickey premium? or a huge Mickey shaped pretzel with neon-orange cheese sauce? I know I can’t! But to save both money and calories split your treat with someone, they are generally pretty huge and you can ask for an extra plate (if necessary) at no extra charge. Limit treats to one per day, that way you won’t go overboard with calories, save money, and have something special every day. Also, lunches are pretty big so share one or order off of the kid’s meal for a good-sized lunch with healthy sides (usually apples or veggie sticks) that won’t break the budget.

9. BYO- Meds, lotions, shampoo, toothpaste, band aids, etc. – Your feet WILL hurt after a day at the parks even if you go at your own pace without kids (like we did) so take ibuprofen or acetaminophen, petroleum jelly (hey, I’m not here to judge, sometimes adults get diaper rash from walking in jeans all day, it’s okay..no need to be ashamed.), vapor rub, fever reducer, band aids for small cuts, sunscreen, aloe vera for sun burns, moisturizer for dry skin during the winter, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, diapers, etc. Anything you can bring from home to save you money from having to buy at the parks (or drive off property to do so) is a life saver, specially if you all of a sudden get a headache at 11p.m. before going to bead. Remember to follow TSA rules for traveling with liquids and the things that you absolutely cannot take. If you plan ahead of time you can even order plastic bottles online for a few dollars and fill at home with the products you already have and are used to.

10. Plan ahead as much as you can! No need to create a minute-by-minute plan. But at least a day by day on your cellphone, where to have breakfast, what snacks to take, what treat to buy, extras budget, etc. so you have as little surprise expenses at possible. They will happen, they are sort of a staple of any vacation but research menus online, prices of certain souvenirs you’re certain you’re going to want to bring home and such. Review it in the morning and keep it in mind. There are lots of free things to do at WDW grounds – which is the topic for an upcoming post (so please come back :)). Research, set a certain amount for an emergency (flight cancelled…have to spend 10 extra hours at the airport..you’re going to need cash!) better to be over prepared than to be faced with surprises unprepared. Overall, have fun, laugh, eat that funnel cake you’ve been thinking about since you got to EPCOT but don’t get caught up in the vacation craze and keep your head on the ground, remember that you’ll probably be paying for the hotel room for at least a few months, you don’t want added unnecessary expenses to the ones you’ll already have waiting for you at home.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All companies, websites, stores mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo is taken by and is property of Disney and Sparkle, feel free to use it but if you can, link back to us!. Have a sparkle-y day.

Any questions, comments, suggestions – disneyandsparkle@gmail.com

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15 thoughts on “10 Great Money Saving Tips – Walt Disney World

  1. Excellent tips! I’ve only gone to WDW once and I didn’t get to enjoy it much because my parents woke up late everyday and we always left the parks early, so I didn’t get to experience it like I wanted to. I definitely want to go back in the future and I will definitely keep some of your tips in mind. I can’t wait until I’m 25 so either Juan or me can rent a car without the excessive fees for being under 25.

    Can’t wait to read your next post!

    • Thank you so much, Nicole 🙂 your feedback means a lot! And yes, the fee is very annoying. We got an economy car and with the added fee we ended up paying around $50 a day as if it were a mid size. Thanks again for taking time to read and comment. Big hug!

  2. Great tips!

    I have a point to add on the bringing your own snacks. On several trips with friends,we stopped at a local grocery store to stock up for our week prior to heading on property. We were in our twenties and didn’t really think out the meal/snack/grocery list option. We each spent close to a hundred dollars on food, thinking that we would ultimately be saving money. We ended up wasting money and food. Now that I am older, I think that if I had put some thought into how I would spend my disney day and realistically what meals I would eat in the room (ie breakfast), I could have saved money/wasted less.

    On a recent trip to Legoland Windsor, we brought food and saved a lot of money. However, we planned it out prior.

    Bottom line- Planning ahead is the biggest key to saving money!

    • Thank you Karen. It’s true what you say, planning ahead is key. On my most recent trip we knew we would be having breakfast and dinner off grounds so in order to save on lunch we bought individual peanut butter cups, crackers and fruit that would keep us filled until dinner time.

      We all learn as we go and of course realize and plan for what is best for each individual and their travel style.

      How was the trip to Legoland?

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Hope you come back and check out the upcoming posts.

      • You can definitely save a lot by eating off property and making lunches.

        Legoland was fantastic. We took my boyfriend’s two young children (3 &5) who were visiting us in the UK from Sweden. My boyfriend’s parents went to Waitrose grocery store and packed sandwiches, fruit and chips. Honestly, it was better food than we could have bought in the park. We were there on the opening day of the season and it was raining with many of the food venues closed.
        We live in California and I’ve never been to Legoland here. But I have a very good impression of the park in England. It’s perfect for young children, nothing scary at all. I used to frequently go to Disneyland with my friend and her toddler. We all had annual passes. Having never been with a child, I was surprised by how many things at Disney are scary for young kids, especially with regard to noise and dark places. Legoland is a much better first theme park experience for little ones. I am a mega Disney fan, but Legoland won me over!

      • That’s great! Glad to hear (or well, read about) your trip and tips. I feel the same way, not only do you save money but you eat healthier too and it’s great that you’re setting an example for the small children. I have yet to visit Legoland although I do share your sentiment about loving Disney World but being won over by anther park, that for me was Universal Orland and Islands of Adventures.

        In regards to the scary rides I’m 100% with you on that one. Although I was never a child to be afraid of dark rides and have yet to return with small children this past trip the buggies at the Haunted Mansion got stuck for well over 15 minutes and you could hear small children crying – poor things.

        Thank you for the recommendation of Legoland as a first time theme park for children. Will definitely keep in mind for the future. Come back tomorrow for the new post, it is already ready — hint hint, it’s great post for traveling with kids.

        Thanks again – oh and I’m jealous you got to go to England, it’s on my bucket list.

      • I love IOA and Universal. I actually am a former theme park employee at Universal out here in California. I started on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, but spent most of my fifteen years with the park in an office. I love theme parks!!!!

        England was a bucket list place for me too. I happened to have fallen in love with an Englishman a few years ago, so the travel was made possible. My first trip to Europe was ten days last March, but we leave for a six week Uk trip at the end of August. This time I get to see London! We are also going to try to go to Scotland and Wales. I am very excited! We will have the kids for 2 1/2 weeks, which will include two days at Legoland. They loved it so much in March that we splurged on a Pirate themed room and a two night stay. Last time was a day trip.

        I am looking forward to your next post!

      • That is great! I hope you, the boyfriend and kids enjoy the trip. I bet they’ll go crazy for the pirate themed room. 🙂

        Thanks so much, it’ll be up tomorrow, it’s already done.

  3. Another idea for food….instead of shopping for snacks and drinks when you get to Florida, ship a box of snacks to yourself ahead of time. The hotel will hold it for you and hand it to you at the time of check in. I sent a box of cereal bars individual nuts, pretzels, chips etc….for about 8 dollars and it was well worth it. Saved so much money as well as aggravation. When my five yr old was hot and hungry in line for the Pooh ride I just reached into my bag for a bar and he was happy! Also if you shop at Staples or some other sites you can get free shipping if you spend a certain dollar amount and they will ship cases of bottled water for free. So you can have an entire case of water waiting for you at check in without having to pay for shipping at all. Drugstore.com is also good for snacks and free shipping as well as hand wipes and other park necessities like sunscreen.

    • Another amazing tip ! I’ll be sure to keep it in mind [and give you credit] when I update this post eventually. Thanks so much for stopping by, reading and taking your time to comment. Have a sparkle-y day.

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