If you are like some of us, it takes a lot of extra planning to make our pilgrimage to the Orlando area for our vacation. There are multiple flights, stopovers, bus rides, and thousands of dollars in air travel involved in just getting there. And, as much as we would all love to bring our families to Disney World each year, it’s simply not a viable option due to economic constraints. So when we do arrive, we like to make our time there count a little extra: By staying on property for 2 or more weeks!
While this allows us to make the most of the Disney magic while we are visiting, the cost of our stay also increases greatly. So, what can a person do to both maximize their time at Disney World, while trying to reduce costs? And how can we do it in a way that is easy, relaxing, and doesn’t take away from what we want to do or buy?
1-Plan and book early
As we have all seen, prices increase with each passing year. This goes for not only entry into the parks, but most anything else, including character breakfasts and other paid tours, events or interactions. While the Disney fine print states that they can technically tack on an extra charge to your bill later if prices go up after you order, generally speaking this is not the case. If you make your bookings and confirm in advance, you may avoid yearly price increases. This is especially helpful when you plan your vacation a year or more in advance (at Disney: up to 499 days in advance), before yearly price increases are announced. While this might not sound like a lot for a single booking, it can definitely add up with multiple family members and multiple reservations. Make sure to start looking at booking your tickets at least 6+ months before your vacation to maximize your savings, while protecting against price increases.
2- Take advantage of possible regional rebates
We all like to think of life as fair and equal. But as mamma always told us, “Sometimes life ain’t fair”. And sometimes, this applies to select Disney discounts as well.
While most US residents (outside of Florida) never think about regional discounts at WDW, residents of specific countries routinely receive special regional discounts to encourage them to frequent Disney World. No matter where you are from (especially if you are travelling from outside the country—Canada and the UK come to mind, specifically), do some research to find out if Disney offers your region special discount codes or packages. Europe has several of these. If you book your travel through a travel expert, such as those at Dreams Unlimited Travel, they keep on top of all these deals and discounts on a daily basis. This can either save you money by offering freebies or discounts on nights on your resort stay, park tickets, meal plans, gift cards, and/or other goodies.
3- Use credit card reward programs to your advantage…before, during, and after your trip
Whether before, on, or after your vacation, there are many special credit card offers which have great programs that can either give you cashback or discounts on all your purchases. Many major financial institutions, airlines, and even Disney itself, amongst others, offer a long list of credit cards with programs that can help you save a lot of money over time. Even better: many of these have no yearly fees. If you use your card a little more in your daily spending habits, and do a little homework ahead of time, you will have a little more cash you can use on your vacation.
4- Order supplies, Ship to directly to your resort
Let’s face it: Disney isn’t cheap. This becomes increasingly apparent when you add up food costs over your stay on property. Eating out for each meal, and then adding in a few snacks can be a costly venture for any family. Add in a few expensive Disney souvenirs that you buy in the parks last minute for your little one, and your wallet can quickly feel a lot lighter.
One easy way to dramatically cut costs is to think ahead, and order certain things you know you are going to purchase before you go, such as: Groceries, souvenirs, and other supplies.
There are many websites where you can order groceries ahead of time. For example, many people are used to eating a light breakfast on the go, and are eager to get to the park. For these people, grabbing a quick bowl of cereal or sandwich made in your room is a great option to both save time and money. Add in factors of multiple people and multiple meals, and savings can really add up. If you have small children and like to come back to your resort for an afternoon rest, having a selection of small snacks and drinks back at your room can provide familiar foods at a great price. You can even pack a snack or lunch for the parks. If that can even save your family a few dollars here or there, this can really add up over the course of a vacation. Not only can you save a lot of money here on food in the long run, you get just what you want for a good price, plus the flexibility of still being able to eat at the resort or parks when something strikes your fancy. Just order from a major online retailer, or any number of Orlando area grocers, and have your food delivered to your resort. Just remember to provide your name and time of stay, so the resort doesn’t misplace your order. In addition, most resorts sell small grocery items such as milk, juice, and cheese, which can be a big help to keep fresh items stocked in your personal room fridge (included free in all resort rooms on Disney property).
But ordering ahead isn’t just for groceries. You can also take advantage of the Disney store website. The US store has sales quite frequently, and if you are lucky you might even find free shipping (again: order directly to your resort). You can get a discount on official Disney items such things as apparel (shirts, hats, princess dresses/pirate costumes, for example), autograph books, or other Disney themed toys or stuffed animals. And the best part is, most of these are the exact same items that you would buy in the park (or even some other discounted sale items going out of stock). This is especially helpful if you have been to Disney World before, and know what souvenirs you will definitely be purchasing on your trip anyway. The best part is: You aren’t missing a thing! Except gaining a discount on items you would be buying anyhow, and bypassing potential long lines in the park stores. Plus, you can bring them out at any time to give to your loved ones. (As long as they got it there on vacation with you, is it really important that they saw what store you bought it in?)
Finally, there may be a few other things that you want purchase and have on your trip. Many people like to order a myriad of different items, such as glow sticks for fun in the parks after dark, cheap ponchos (to avoid getting wet on rainy days or water rides), or personal fans to keep cool during hot days. Major online retailers have a great selection of a wide range of items you may need (or want) at a range of different prices and options. Overall, taking some time to think about what you need on your trip, and ordering some of these inevitable items ahead of time may save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
5-Make time for some arrival R & R
While it would be fun to jump right into the Magic Kingdom as soon as you arrive at Disney, it is not always the best idea for many families traveling large distances…especially if you have young or elderly people in your group. Many find themselves traveling for 15+ hours straight, over multiple forms of transportation and destinations. To adjust your internal clock, and make sure the family is rested and ready to enjoy the parks, it may be smart to book a few extra days at the hotel beforehand where you can have a flexible schedule that doesn’t include a park visit. You can rest in your room, go swimming, go resort hopping, or visit Disney Springs, among other things. After a day or two of finding your bearings and getting some rest, you and your family will be fully rested and ready to fully enjoy all the fun and magic the parks have to offer. Plus, you will have saved on each person’s park admission for that day.
6- Take a mid-week break now and then
After a few days at the parks, the hot weather, crowds, and potential over-stimulation can pose a problem for some. It may be wise to schedule a day or two in between park visits where you can rest and recharge, sightseeing on one of the many Disney properties for free. This again provides an opportunity to save on park admission for a day, and allows you to slow down and maintain a more flexible schedule, where you can rest up for very enjoyable (yet sometimes intense) experiences in the parks. There are so many things to see and do on Disney property: Why not do all those types of things on a day you aren’t going to the park, and save some money at the same time?
All in all, there are many ways that a person can save on their Disney World vacation without a lot of extra stress, or making them feel like they are cutting corners. Travelling to Disney World doesn’t mean you have to break the bank, or give up your favorite things or activities…especially if you are travelling a long distance to get to the United States. Taking the time to plan a little ahead of your vacation can save you a lot of money, while allowing you to fully experience the Disney magic!
Jonathan is a Disney and Star Wars aficionado who currently resides in Europe with his beautiful (and out of his league) wife and awesome kids. When not planning his next WDW vacation, he has been known to write here and there about various topics in his spare time....