Disney World on a Budget
Anyone who knows us knows that my husband and I are two of the most frugal people on the planet. A lot of people assume that the words "frugal" and "Disney" can never go together, but that's not necessarily the case! Walt Disney World is one of our favorite places to travel as a family, so we've come up with a system for making those priceless Disney memories on a budget.
Tip #1: Be on the lookout for discounts and promotions.
Disney does go "on sale" pretty regularly. Disney releases several promotions throughout the year for either discounted rooms, free park days, or free dining plans. There are also military, annual passholder, and Florida resident discounts. If you booked your trip yourself online, you'll need to check Disney's website pretty regularly and call the Reservation Center in order to apply any applicable promotions that become available after you've made your reservation. If you're working with a travel agent (like me!), your travel agent will notify you when a new promotion is released and apply it for you. I actively monitor for discounts for my clients and wake up bright and early the morning a new promotion is scheduled to drop so I can secure them the best price possible.
Tip #2: Bring your own food into the parks.
A lot of people don't realize that you actually are allowed to bring your own food into Disney World. Our family doesn't like to have to spend time or money getting snacks in the parks every time one of us is hungry, so we bring crackers, fruit snacks, and water bottles to carry with us. It keeps everybody happy and keeps a little extra money in my wallet! Plus, Disney will provide you with complimentary cups of water at the quick service locations. If you bring a reusable water bottle in with you, you can keep it filled with cool, refreshing water all day long!
Tip #3: Bring your own souvenirs.
This may seem like a contradiction in terms: isn't a souvenir something you buy while you're on a trip and then bring home with you? In most cases, yes. There are certain items that our family likes to pick up in the parks as a memory of our trip. However, there are also little things sold in the parks that catch my children's eyes, but aren't the type of item that they will get a lot of use out of at home (the glowing souvenirs sold in the evenings are a good example of this). So, I bring those types of souvenirs along with me. Before we left for our most recent Disney trip, I went to the dollar store and picked up a pack of glow-in-the-dark bracelets for my kids to wear around the parks at night. When the day was over, we threw the bracelets away and that was one less thing I had to pack in my suitcase for the trip home!
Tip #4: Visit the Disney outlet stores.
There are two amazing Disney outlet stores in Orlando that sell some of the same items that are in the parks, but at much lower prices. For instance, I collect a particular style of Disney princess coffee mug. On a recent trip to Disney World, I bought one mug at Disney Springs at full price. I went to the outlet store the next day and found the same style mug in perfect condition for 70% off. There is some great merchandise to be found at the outlets and, if you visit the outlets before your first day in the parks, you can stock up on t-shirts and other great items to wear during your trip!
Tip #5: Use your park time wisely.
This tip may not seem like it belongs in a list of ways to save money at Disney World, but as the old saying goes: time is money. I feel that I'm getting the most value out of my Disney vacation if I'm maximizing the time that I'm spending in the parks. That means walking in with a plan for each day. I've learned through experience that if I don't map out a plan in advance, we don't get to do a lot of the things that we want to do in Disney World. A good plan and a thorough knowledge of how things work at Disney World can give you more quality time in the parks. A qualified travel agent (like me!) can help you plan your Disney vacation in such a way that you make the most of the time and money that you're spending at Disney World.