I know that some people prefer to really save up and then let loose on vacation. However, not everyone has that ability and not everyone chooses to do so. My personal philosophy is that I would rather take more vacations and have more experiences than take less trips, but spend more on each one of them. If that’s not really your forte, you might not like these ideas as much. If you’re trying to figure out if you can afford a Disney trip or just want to make one more economical, these are certainly for you!
*This post contains affiliate links. If you chose to purchase something from that link, I receive a small amount of money for that. I ONLY link to items I actually use!
- Pack lunches for the park
Disney days are long! You will obviously need to eat. I know many people prefer the food packages, but I can’t say if those save you money or not because I haven’t tried them. We always packed sandwiches (lunchmeat, chicken salad, tuna, peanut butter and jelly, etc.), crackers, granola bars, chips, fruit snacks, cookies, and plenty of drinks! We had kids with us so we were able to keep everything in the bottom of strollers, but my one aunt and cousin took an umbrella stroller some days just for their food. Whatever works! This saves you so much money AND time!! We didn’t have to wait in any lines and it was always easy to eat on the go. If we did feel like taking a longer break, there were always places to sit. We also put money aside in case we wanted a special treat in the park like an ice cream cone or a slushy.
- Carpool to the park
Parking is $20 a day per car!!! That really adds up! A lot of people go to Disney with some extended family. Try to fit more people per car (even if it means splitting up your immediate family) and then splitting the cost of parking. My brother and sister in law had a mini-van and my sister had a seven seater so even though we were with 4 other families, we were able to pile into those two cars and only pay half the price in parking! Win-win!
- Leave the park for a midday break
This is the best if you have small kids with you. Sometimes, a few of the adults would push through and stay all day, but to be honest even they were tired for the next morning. If you come home in the middle of the day, you can eat an early dinner before heading back to the park for the evening/night. We usually aimed to leave the park around 2:00 or 3:00 and then were back around 5:00 or 6:00. This gave the littles time to nap and the adults time to cool off in the pool and get an early dinner ready – or you know, nap too! I really feel like this saved us a lot of money because we were able to eat a bigger meal back at home and everyone got cooled off in the hottest part of the day so there was not begging for drinks or cold treats at the park. It also meant saved us from whining kids and frustrated adults!
- Be okay with drinking water (and eating ice)
If you know that the special part of your trip is actually being in Walt Disney World, this becomes a bit easier. It’s similar to the mindset of number one because whatever expectations you put in place, your kids will certainly adapt to them. At every single park they offer water and ice for free. Most food stands or restaurants are happy to give you a cup of water or to fill up your water bottle for you. All you have to do is be willing to ask! We always had Capri Suns and Gatorade with us too so we would often mix the drinks for the kids to get them to drink more water. The Florida heat is no joke! For my littlest man who was really only nursing at that point, we got a mesh baby food feeder (affiliate link) and let him crunch away. He loved it!
- Shop around if you’re going to get souvenirs
Not all the parks or shops have the same prices on souvenirs. Who would’ve thought? I wouldn’t have! So take your time and really choose the item that you want. One thing that helped us too, was that we set aside specific times for shopping so that it wasn’t looming over anyone’s heads. One thing I wouldn’t recommend, is waiting until the very last day of your trip to buy them though, because on that day, you just want to live in the magic. There’s also plenty of souvenir shops outside of the parks that have many of the same items so decide which ones you want from Disney World, and which ones you’re happy to have gotten during your trip. All of this also helps with the fact that kids can be fickle. One day they absolutely love that Minnie Mouse jewelry box and the next they can’t live without the Elsa doll that they’ve wanted forever. However, if you see them pick out the same item at several locations you’ll know they truly love it.
- Partake in the water activities
This one may seem silly, but really helped us save money while we were there. When you are hot, anything cool looks incredibly delicious! There were so many times that I was tempted to buy a frozen lemonade or splurge for that Disney themed Popsicle. However, all I really needed, was to be cooled off. At Magic Kingdom, there are surprisingly not many places to get wet. Splash Mountain will cool you off a bit, but there are two other hidden gems around too. One that we loved was Gaston’s fountain. You can’t go in it, but the little ones can sit on the edge and splash their feet a bit while the adults can use the water to splash their necks and faces. My husband even put our 7 month in up to his diaper and then dipped his hat in the water before putting it back on him. The baby loved it! The other one is in the circus area. It was a great splash zone that even us adults ran through with the kids! EPCOT has tons of water features so that’s just a matter of going into them – do it! Wild Kingdom has some misters throughout the park, that are helpful and the Khali River Rapids is a great one to cool off, even though only half of the boat gets wet. Side note to that ride…fast pass it! The line was incredibly long and I don’t think we would have done it without a fast pass, but it is completely worth it! We were at Hollywood Studios the least amount of time, but most of their attractions are inside so you are in the air conditioning a lot. You do get a bit wet at The Rockin’ Roller Coaster and there are also misters around the park and in a lot of the lines that are outside.
- Bring your own stroller (or strollers)
I read a lot about people recommending for others to just rent strollers when they get to the park so I know this one depends on your priorities. Strollers at Disney are $15 a day for a single and $31 a day for a double. Even if you are only going for five days, that’s $75 for a single stroller! That could be money for your Photo Pass or that fun money for inside the park! The stroller of your own doesn’t have to be fancy, but I do recommend having the bin at the bottom (to store food and drinks, obviously). If you’re flying to Orlando, this might change a bit, but still you would be better off renting from an outside company if you can’t bring your stroller for free.
- Make a budget and stick to it!
This might seem like an odd way to save money, but when you budget your money, you don’t end up spending it in ways that you didn’t intend. There is also so much freedom in this. Probably the easiest way to keep track of your budget is to get cash out before you go and separate it into envelopes for each way that you will be spending money. For example, we had the following envelopes: Travel (to and from Florida and around Orlando), Parking, Fun in the Park, Groceries, Eating out, Souvenirs, and Bonus. We had paid for our Disney World tickets and our portion of the house months prior and we had also given ourselves a bit of money to spend on clothing or shoes prior to the trip. This way you know that everything you spend, you are comfortable with spending and you’ve already taken your drive home into consideration and won’t go over budget in order to get home.
As a side note… We found that on days off we enjoyed going out to eat at a sit down restaurant to relax a little. It was a great break from the hustle and bustle of the park. CiCi’s for the win! There’s one about 10 minutes from Disney and it’s an under $7 buffet!
It’s also great to get Disney shirts on Amazon or EBay prior to going to Disney World, that way you already have them and don’t need to buy them in the park.
Have a magical day!