A trip to Disney World is a bucket list item for almost every child and let’s face it, plenty of adults. That’s because the park is packed with thrilling rides, amazing experiences, and tasty foods both sweet and savory.
Of course, that’s why everyone wants to go to Disney World, leading to huge crowds and long waits. So how can you have the best possible time at the happiest place on earth without breaking the bank or missing out on any fun?
Go to Disney when school is in session
One great way to beat the crowds is to plan your trip to Disney World during the school year. The reasoning is obvious here, as many families take their vacations when school is out during the summer months.
An added bonus is that Florida is the most hot and humid during these summer months, so you’ll get cooler weather and fewer showers.
Stay at a hotel inside the park
While these hotels may be more expensive than other options outside of the park, we think this is an expense worth incurring upfront. For one, you’re closer to all of the fun and inside of the “Disney bubble,” which will give you the most magical experience.
You also have the best access to transportation, such as the monorail, buses, boats, and more. That’s helpful in a big place like Disney World.
Use the laundry facilities
Most if not all of the hotels inside of Disney World have laundry facilities – some even have a washer and dryer right in your suite – which you should take advantage of. Doing so means that you can pack less clothing for your trip, which may save you both hassle and money on baggage fees at the airport.
You don’t have to worry about bringing laundry detergent or dryer sheets either, as the facilities keep them in stock.
Arrive early in the morning and plan a break
Fun is not an endurance sport, which any Disney employee will tell you. So plan to take a break in the middle of the day, which comes with several advantages in addition to resting. Mainly, the crowds are the biggest in the middle of the day, the perfect time to catch a nap.
You also should arrive early in the morning before the park opens so you’re the first to get in before everyone arrives.
Take advantage of discount gift cards
If you know you’re going to be spending a lot of money at Disney World (let’s face it, you are), then you can save a chunk of change by buying discount Disney gift cards at a big box store like BJ’s Wholesale or Sam’s Club. With a 4% or 5% discount, that can add up the more you spend.
Just be sure to research what you can purchase with gift cards at the park.
Order off of the children's menu
Another way to save a bit of cash at Disney World is to order your food off of the children’s menu. The portions are pretty decent, as you get an entree and a pair of side dishes along with a drink. This also cuts back on food waste if you don’t have a huge appetite.
This also allows you to enjoy more meals at Disney World as you won’t be stuffed after one big splurge.
Don't spring for the park hopper
If you have four or more days to spend at Disney World, don’t spring for the park hopper option, which allows you to visit multiple parks in one day. Instead, spend one full day at each of the four parks, thoroughly exploring all of the attractions and rides. This has the potential to save you a lot of cash.
Pro-tip: coordinate your restaurant reservations accordingly.
Make meal reservations ahead of your trip
Speaking of meal reservations, you can make them 60 days in advance of your trip to Disney World. So, definitely take advantage of this, as any Disney employee would recommend. That way you are sure to dine at your favorite spots precisely when you want to.
If for some reason you weren’t able to snag a specific spot, check for last-minute cancellations. They do open up at times.
Skip the photo package
Of course you want to remember your vacation to Disney World, which is why you may be tempted to spring for the photopass option. Yes, it’s nice to have a pro take the pictures and include everyone in the frame, but the package is not cheap.
After all, the camera in your phone can snap some seriously high-quality images. Plus you can opt for a one time professional session for any super important moments.
Be prepared for the weather
Orlando is hot and muggy in the summer months and afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence. It’s also sunny year-round with a high UV index. So make sure you’re prepared for the weather with rain gear, sunblock, and an extra layer of clothing for the cooler months.
You can buy sunblock and ponchos at Disney World if you forget, but save money by being prepared in advance.
Bring your Yeti
You can purchase bottled water at Disney World and are entitled to complimentary glasses at restaurants so you won’t get dehydrated – especially important in Florida. But did you know you can bring your own reusable water bottle into the park and refill it at hydration stations?
If you happen to have an insulated bottle like a Yeti, that will keep your beverage cooler for longer, too.
Bring a picnic lunch into the park
The endless array of delicious food you can buy at Disney World is dizzying, but costs can add up if you dine out for every meal. So if your hotel has the space for it, prepare one picnic lunch for every day you hit the parks. You can still enjoy dinner and snacks at the park.
Bonus points if your hotel has a complimentary breakfast. That’s another surefire way to save money.
Wear a celebration button
Want to get a little extra attention from the cast members at Disney World? Ask guest services (or your hotel if applicable) for a celebration button. Wearing one indicates that you’re at Disney World for a special occasion such as a birthday, or if it’s your first trip to the park.
An added bonus? Celebration buttons double as free souvenirs once you’re back home after your trip.
Don’t buy souvenirs on site
Speaking of souvenirs, do yourself a favor and don’t shell out for them at Disney World. Yes, there are tons of cute options that can help you remember your magical time at the happiest place on earth. We get it.
However, Disney employees will tell you to purchase souvenirs online instead, which will save you money. If you have kids coming with you, buy them on the sly and surprise them during your trip.
Get on the rides during the fireworks
The fireworks display at Cinderella Castle is one of the most iconic Disney World experiences you can have. However, if you have seen them once, we think that’s enough. Instead, take advantage of that time and hop on the most popular rides.
Since most people are watching the fireworks, this is the time you’ll wait the least for the busiest attractions.
Use a Disney travel agent
While a trip to Disney World is a dream come true for many, the park is huge and there are tons of things to see, do, eat, drink, and experience. That’s why you can benefit from letting an authorized Disney travel agent handle all of the booking and planning.
That means you will have the best possible experience at the happiest place on earth without the headache or the FOMO.
Going on a trip to Disney World is a must-do at least once in your life. However, there are ways you can enhance the magic of your vacation while saving money and maximizing your time.
Just remember there is more to consider than money on a trip that’s so monumental, so don’t scrimp and save for everything. Instead, be open to the magic and practice moderation in moderation.