It’s no secret that a Walt Disney World vacation can be very expensive. Between the fun activities to participate in, tasty foods and drinks to enjoy, and cool merchandise to purchase, it can be difficult to stick to a strict Walt Disney World budget. Thankfully, there are also a lot of ways that you can save money at Disney World. We'll break down our top suggestions for how to make the most of your Disney visit without breaking the bank! Here are some Walt Disney World tips to save money during your trip.
In this article:
Order Kids Meals at Quick-Service Restaurants
There are a few main categories where you can save money throughout your Walt Disney World vacation: food and drinks, souvenirs and general purchases, lodging and transportation, and activities and planning. Starting off in the food and drinks category, there are many different ways to ensure you and your group do not go hungry or thirsty while also saving money.
The first is to bring your own meals and snacks throughout your trip. Disney food is not cheap, and eating breakfast in your room before heading out for the day, bringing treats to munch on during the day, and packing up sandwiches or another convenient pre-made meals for lunch can save you a lot of money.
One of the easiest ways to keep your lunches and dinners cheap is to order kids size meals. This isn’t always an option for adults at table-service restaurants, especially those that have a fixed price. In those instances, Disney will expect you to pay the adult meal price.
However, you can order a kids size meal at any quick-service restaurant, and no one will bat an eye. Since they typically come with a couple of sides in addition to the main entrée, they are almost always a reasonable portion size, even for an adult-size appetite. They are also several dollars cheaper than a full-size meal, so your savings will add up quickly if you go this route.
Eat One Large Meal and Fill Up on Snacks
Another one of my favorite ways to cut costs at Walt Disney World is to eat one large meal in the early afternoon and then spend the remainder of the day munching on snacks. I typically will start the day with breakfast that I packed myself, either in the hotel room before heading out for the day or in the park if I arrive there early for rope drop.
Then, I’ll plan my main meal of the day for between 2-3pm. That way, I’m only spending money on one main course instead of two, and it’s at a time of day where I will be sustained for much longer than if I were to eat lunch mid-day. If I do become hungry in the morning after breakfast or later in the evening, I can enjoy the snacks that I packed and will end up saving money I would have spent on a third meal.
Bring Your Own Meals and Snacks
When I go to the parks, I usually start out the day with a breakfast bar or small carton of cereal before leaving the room. Then, I bring snacks like cracker packs, mixed nuts, and string cheese to snack on through the day. These may not be as exciting as the hundreds of food options available to purchase, but they definitely keep my budget happy.
I know eating the same food on vacation that you eat at home every day may not be everyone’s cup of tea. So if you want to enjoy some of the delicious items the Disney theme parks offer, there are a few ways to do so and still keep the costs low!
Split an Adult-Size Meal
Whether you have a few kids to feed or you just don’t have a large appetite, ordering an adult-size entrée at the quick-service restaurants to split between a couple of people is another great way to save money.
Many of the adult entrée portions consist of a large amount of food that can easily be split between two people. Most options come with a side, whether that be chips, fries, or a vegetable, and when you pair that with a platter of chicken tenders or a 1/3 lb deluxe hamburger, you can comfortably feed an entire group with just a couple of meals.
Buy Souvenirs Ahead of Time
The next area of your Disney trip where you can focus on saving money is the purchases you make at the park, both for fun and out of necessity. If you have kiddos who you know will be asking for a plush toy or play set every time they see one, stock up on souvenirs before your trip and bring them with you.
You can find a lot of great Disney merchandise at Target, on Amazon, and even on the ShopDisney site, where they often have items available on sale or clearance. Then, surprise your little ones with a few different souvenirs throughout your tip—they won’t even think twice about all the exciting things on the shelves.
Take Advantage of Free Activities in the Parks
Another area of your Walt Disney World vacation where you can save money is the activities that you take advantage of while on your trip. Of course, you will need to pay the hefty price of tickets if you are planning to visit the theme parks during your stay, but there are still plenty of cheap or free activities you can take part in.
Along with the included attractions in the parks, there are often a lot of special events and entertainment offerings that cost additional money to enjoy. Many of these extra activities do not offer a great deal more than what is already covered by the cost of your park ticket, so they are usually a pass. Instead, you can spend time participating in some of the great free activities Disney offers, and most of them can typically be done while you’re traveling throughout the park from ride to ride.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a unique experience where players complete challenges throughout the park in an attempt to stop the villains from taking over. Everyone who signs up for the game is given a complimentary pack of character cards that interact with different props scattered around the lands. This is a great game for those who enjoy trading card games, and while it can be played in increments as you visit each area of the park, it is so immersive that you may find yourself skipping attractions to complete your quests!
Another awesome free activity is the Kidcot Fun Stops around Epcot’s World Showcase. Each of the 11 country pavilions offers keepsake cards that include interesting facts, arts and crafts, and games and puzzles focused on that country’s culture. In addition to the Kidcot Fun Stops being a great money saver, they are also a great “edutainment,” or educational entertainment, tool.
Look for Cheap Souvenirs in the Parks
If you are trying to keep your costs low but would still like to bring home a little bit of the magic from your Walt Disney World trip, seek out small, inexpensive trinkets and memorabilia to take back with you. There are many different things you can find throughout the parks that can become fun little souvenirs to remember your trip by.
One of the cheapest merchandise items you can find are the pressed Disney pennies. There are several machines scattered around each of the parks and resorts, and each one has unique designs to choose from. These only cost $1, and the pressed artwork can only be found in Walt Disney World, so they are a great way to get a special item without breaking the bank.
If you get creative enough, you can even turn free items into souvenirs. In addition to the maps that can be found in the parks and Disney Springs, there are often pamphlets advertising the entertainment for the day and “passports” for the countries around Epcot’s World Showcase if you are visiting during a festival. All these paper items can be brought home and put into a scrapbook or binder to look back on and enjoy, and they won’t cost you a thing!
Disney pins are another great souvenir option that are relatively inexpensive. Check out our 2023 Disney Pin Trading Guide for tips on finding unique pins at a low cost!
Ask for Free Cups of Water
Did you know that you can get free cups of water at many locations throughout the Disney parks? Any quick-service location that has a soda fountain will be able to provide you with as much ice-cold water as you’d like. There are bottled waters available for purchase, but just like the other beverages available, they are quite pricey.
Because of where the theme parks are located, just about every day of the year will have high temperatures. Combine that with running around from one attraction to the next in the hot sun and you will definitely need to ensure you are properly hydrated. Buying several bottles of water during the day to quench your thirst can add up quickly in price.
There are a couple places where you will not be able to find free cups of water, and those are the food locations that do not have a soda fountain. This includes all the outdoor stands and the windows that only have a couple items listed on the menu. Thankfully, there are still plenty of options throughout the park, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a location that has them available.
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Another option that is both cheap and environmentally friendly is to bring your own refillable water bottle to the parks. All the Disney theme parks have water bottle refill stations, and loading up your bottles there will be much quicker than waiting in line at a quick-service restaurant for a cup from the soda fountain.
The water from the refill stations is typically room temperature, so if you prefer your water icy cold like me, you can still go to a quick-service location and request a cup of ice to add to your bottle. You can bring your own drink packets or flavor drops to ensure your free water tastes exactly how you like!
Purchase a Refillable Resort Mug
If you are staying at a Disney resort hotel and plan to spend any amount of time there, a great way to cut costs is to buy a refillable resort mug. The mugs can typically be purchased for a little over $20 a piece, but even getting just one for your family will save you a considerable amount of money.
Once your mug is activated, it can be used for unlimited refills at your resort during the entire length of your stay. This includes soda, coffee, and tea, and stations can be found in your resort’s main quick-service location, and for some resorts, out by the pools as well.
The refillable mugs are especially beneficial if you’re planning to spend a day off from the parks at your resort, or if you decide to eat a few meals there. Even if you’re only at your hotel to sleep, you can still use the mug to fill up a few water bottles before you head out to the parks, eliminating at least one drink purchase during your day.
Bring Your Own Ponchos
Unless you come in the very small window between January and March when it’s fairly dry, it is almost impossible to make it through your entire Walt Disney World trip without experiencing at least one Florida downpour or all-day drizzle. Rainstorms can pop up within a few minutes, and you will want to ensure you’re prepared to take them on.
One of the best ways to handle rain during your day at the parks is by bringing your own ponchos. You can buy them for only a couple dollars before you leave for your vacation, and when the afternoon monsoon appears, you won’t have to worry about running into a merchandise shop and paying far more for the same thing.
An added benefit of being ready with your own ponchos when you visit Walt Disney World is that if it appears that the rain won’t end for a long time, a lot of people decide to leave the theme parks. When you’re prepared with your ponchos, you can trek from attraction to attraction comfortably and enjoy the lower crowds and shorter wait times. You’ll end up saving both money and time!
Consider Staying Outside of Walt Disney World
One of the ways you can end up spending a lot of money on your Disney trip is by staying somewhere that is too expensive. There are many different lodging options available both in and outside of Walt Disney World property, and we’ll look at the pros and cons of a few of them.
The first option is to book a hotel or vacation rental near the parks. For the most part, these will be cheaper than staying in one of the Disney resorts. A condo or townhome rented through Airbnb or another similar site will have a lot more space than a regular-sized hotel room and a full kitchen and laundry room if you want to save additional money by preparing your own meals and packing less clothing.
A major downside to staying at an offsite location is that you will have to find your own transportation to and from the theme parks. Using Uber or renting a car can be costly and will require some additional planning on your part. However, the price of the transportation may be offset money saved on your lodging, and if you’re able to cut costs elsewhere, that will help as well. Make sure to take a look at all the current Disney World discounts before deciding that staying offsite is for you because staying at the Value Resorts is often a better deal.
Stay at a Value Resort
If you’d like to be wrapped up in the Disney bubble for your entire vacation, consider staying at a Value Resort. While the higher-tiered resorts like the Moderate and Deluxe levels can be quite expensive, especially depending on the time of year you’re visiting, the Value Resorts are usually fairly cheap if you are not picky about the location or design of your room.
They have the incredible Disney theming that all Walt Disney World resort hotels do, and you will benefit from some of the perks available to those staying on property. Free transportation to and from all the parks, water parks, and Disney Springs offers a major way to save money, and not having to worry about navigating unfamiliar roads to get to the parks quickly will allow you to just relax and enjoy your vacation.
For the best Disney World budget hotels, be sure to read our guide to the cheapest resorts and learn more about prices, theming, and features!
Participate in Free Resort Activities
If you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, there are also many recreation offerings available every day that are free to guests. There are typically enough events happening that you can spend a whole day participating in them, saving you a considerable amount of money ultimately.
Each hotel has slightly different activities running throughout the year, so you’ll want to pick up a recreation calendar when you check into your resort to know what’s going on while you’re visiting. In general, almost all the resorts provide free poolside games and challenges that guests of any age can participate in.
There is usually a Disney movie playing outdoors on a big inflatable screen in the evenings, and some of the resorts offer a campfire where you can roast free, unlimited marshmallows or pay a few dollars for a kit to make s’mores. Additionally, some of the hotels host unique activities like Disney trivia challenges, karaoke, nighttime glow parties, and arts and crafts, and all these options are generally fairly inexpensive or completely complimentary.
Spend a Day Resort Hopping
One final way to save money on your Walt Disney World vacation is to spend some time visiting the resort hotels around property. Every Disney resort has entirely unique theming, and there are a lot of hidden gems that can be found if you spend some time looking around.
There are a few ways that you can visit several hotels without driving from one to the next. Take the monorail around the Magic Kingdom resort loop, and you can stop at the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Village Resort, and the Grand Floridian Resort. You can also use the Skyliner to travel to Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, the Riviera Resort, and even the Boardwalk Inn and Yacht and Beach Clubs via the International Gateway stop. There are so many beautiful resorts to explore that an entire day can easily be spent walking around and taking in all the décor, and you can again save money on a day away from the parks.
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