Are you thinking about taking the family on vacation this summer? You are definitely not alone. Demand for air travel is up in 2023 according to KAYAK, with domestic and international prices up 52% and 29% respectively compared to last year. This jump in airfare has caused the overall price of travel to outpace the already exorbitant rate of inflation over the past year, at 9% versus 5% inflation according to a Nerdwallet study. And it is not just airline tickets: Prices for travel are up across the board, from rental cars to hotel stays are also up compared to last year respectively according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So if your summer travel plans happen to involve a trip to a Disney theme park, then you can likely imagine how things might shake out in terms of cost. The ever-rising cost of a Disney vacation is not a new phenomenon, and seasoned travelers are likely familiar with watching their budget stretch higher year over year. However, with record inflation and a looming recession, a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth seems more financially insurmountable than ever.
But some careful digging will reveal that it is in fact still possible to take that dream Disney World or Disneyland vacation. Though still a significant financial investment, there are numerous ways to save on your next trip, from your hotel accommodations to what you actually spend in the parks.
In this article:
Think Outside the Box to Save on Hotel Accommodations
One of the biggest line items in any Disney vacation budget will be hotel accommodations. Many families will choose to stay on Disney property for the proximity to the parks, not to mention living inside that Disney “bubble” for the duration of their stay. But if you are not careful, this cost can balloon quite quickly, leaving little wiggle room for other expenses, such as dining.
Choosing the lowest-price resort option will of course help to afford much more ‘vacation,’ but do not be afraid to think outside the box as well.
For example, did you know you can still splurge on top-tier accommodations without paying full price? Eduardo Silva, Disney Vacation Club expert at MickeyVisit.com, offers this piece of advice: “One of the best ways to save money on a high-end hotel at Walt Disney World and Disneyland is by renting Disney Vacation Club points. Travelers can rent a set amount of Disney timeshare points and then use those points to book a Deluxe hotel room at what is typically a discounted rate.”
There are savings to be had at the Disneyland Resort as well. Disney’s three on-property hotels in Anaheim carry a high sticker price, but there are dozens of other options as well.
Gavin Doyle, founder at MickeyVisit.com, shares “Unlike Walt Disney World, many hotels near Disneyland are just across the street from the theme park entrance. In certain situations, guests staying off-property may actually be staying in a room closer to the theme park entrance than those staying on Disney property. Don’t be afraid to book an off-property hotel. There are a number of great options.”
Discounts on Park Tickets Exist, If You Know Where To Look
Buying your theme park tickets is an exciting part of the Disney vacation planning process, but it is also a pricey one. And with the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation going up year after year, it adds even more pressure to have a perfect trip once you arrive. If you do not know where to look, finding a deal on park tickets might seem impossible. However, it is important to know that you can indeed save on admission.
Doyle notes, “Make sure you are finding the best prices on tickets. There are always discounts on multi-day Disneyland and Walt Disney World tickets from Disney ticket resale partners.” Doyle also made sure to mention a warning about discount Disneyland tickets. “Disney does not sell single-day discount Disneyland tickets anywhere to the general public. If you see discounted one-day tickets these are either for a specialized group or a scam. Buyer beware.” Mickey Visit has an exclusive deal with one of Disney’s travel partners to secure additional discounts on Disneyland tickets for their readers.
Strategize Your Dining Budget
After your trip is paid for and you are actually in the Disney theme parks, the largest expense you’ll encounter will likely be dining. Meals aside, the cost of those tasty snacks will add up fast – but the good news is that there are many ways to save on dining in the parks. In the past, families traveling to Disney World relied on the Disney Dining Plan to determine a set budget prior to travel. But since the Dining Plan has yet to return, more mindful budgeting is required so your spending does not go out of hand.
Megan duBois, a travel journalist who specializes in The Walt Disney Company, notes “Try to plan out what you really want to do each day and stick to a budget. Most of the time your family won’t need to do three big table service meals every day, which can be costly. Think about trying one table service restaurant or character meal every day, then snacking around the parks or bringing in your own treats to munch on as you explore the parks.”
Chris Provost, Creator of Provost Park Pass, adds “Disney allows you to bring food into the park. You cannot bring in glass bottles or alcohol, but other than that feel free to bring in food to feed your family. We often like to pack easy-to-eat breakfast bars so we can prioritize enjoying the parks in the morning.”
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Genie+
Prior to 2020, access to a ride’s expedited queue was included in the price of park admission for all guests. This system, known previously as FastPass+, was replaced in 2021 by Genie+, Disney’s new paid method of skipping the line at your favorite attraction. Genie+ works largely the same as FastPass+ with the one major difference of you having to pay in order to use it. The cost of Genie+ fluctuates depending on how busy the parks are estimated to be, but expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $25 or more per person, per day at both Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort.
Genie+ is not mandatory to experience your favorite rides, and duBois points out how you can better strategize to save money: “Consider if you really need Disney Genie+ for your family. If you’re willing to get to the parks early or stay after the fireworks, you can get onto many attractions without Genie+, which can cost $20 or more per person, per day at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. You can also try for a boarding group for attractions like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, at Disneyland and EPCOT, respectively, which are free with park admission, though entrance to the attractions isn’t guaranteed this way.”
Note too that because Genie+ can only be purchased on a per-day basis, you can pick and choose what days you truly need the service. Perhaps you decide to buy it on your day in the Magic Kingdom, but you choose to save on your EPCOT day. Little strategies like this can add up to big savings over time, giving you more flexibility in your vacation budget, or the ability to start putting money away toward your next Disney vacation.