Typically when we hear the word 'Disney', you think of how expensive it is. Magic Bands, Genie Plus, ticket prices, food etc. but it doesn't have to break the bank. You can build a vacation to fit your budget. Sydney has joined me on this edition and we go thru our top five tips for a budget friendly Walt Disney World vacation.
#1 Stay VALUE
If you plan to visit the parks each day of your trip and not spend a lot of time in your room, a
value resort can work for your family. Walt Disney World hotels are on property making them close to the theme parks. They still include ALL the major perks such as Disney's Bus Transportation and Skyliner Transportation. Plus early entry each day which is 30 minutes prior to the park opens to other guests. And they all have that Disney magic meaning even when you are not in the park you still get the same service and fun theming.
Disney Value Resorts include: Disney's Pop Century Resort, Disney's All Star Music, Disney's All Star Movies, Disney's All Star Sports and Disney's Art of Animation.
Let's go over the pros and cons of these resorts:
Disney's Pop Century and Disney's Art of Animation are each located on the Skyliner which means you have direct access to both Hollywood Studios and Epcot. They are also located centrally on property and include some great theming and food courts. The family suites at Art of Animation are a great option for families of 6. However, the walls can be thin and due to the number or rooms it can be loud and crowded.
Disney's All Star Resorts are closest to Animal Kingdom and the water parks. They are the lowest priced resorts on property and have some fun theming for kids. They also include family suites for larger families on a budget. However they rely entirely on bus transportation and there are a lot of rooms so be prepared for packed buses. The resorts are larger so if you don't pay for a preferred room you may have some additional walking to do when you get back from the parks.
#2 Don't buy water and all your meals in the parks
Did you know that you can go up to any of the quick service locations and ask for a cup of ice water? We bring our Yeti and we keep fresh ice water in those with Water Enhancers. That way we aren't paying $3.50 per bottle of water!
You are also allowed to bring in your favorite snacks and even lunch into the park. I love a good Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich with some goldfish! An average quick service lunch can cost $20 dollars a person. Going off of the same example above, the average saved is $320 dollars if you pack at least one meal a day! Use that savings to grab a Mickey Ice Cream Bar or popcorn for a afternoon snack!
Speaking of popcorn, buy a refillable popcorn bucket. The standard buckets cost $13 but you can refill them for only $2.25 as many times as you want!
A note if you are planning to pack your lunch; you are allowed to bring a small soft sided cooler into the parks as long as it meets their size requirements. The maximum size is 24" long x 15" wide x 18" high. And make sure you use reusable ice packs since loose or dry ice is not allowed.
#3 Skip Park Hopping
If you are trying to save money the best option is to do one park per day. You pay a premium to be able to access more than one park each day and that option must be added to each day of tickets you purchased, not just one.
In this example a 4 day park ticket starting 9/4/24 is $487.33 for the base ticket or $572.33 for the park hopper option. That's $85 more per ticket or for a family of four, $360 with tax.
#4 Visit off season and skip Genie Plus
I know this can be tough with kids school schedules and work but if you can take the kids out of school and travel when most people don't, you'll save not only money but time.
Disney knows when people want to travel; summer, spring break and between Christmas and New Years are the most popular and expensive times to visit. But pretty much any major holiday weekend you'll see a major increase in crowds and the cost of rooms and tickets. Even airfare is higher!
The cheapest time of the year to visit is September. Right after Labor Day kids all across the country are back in school and most parents don't want to take them out at the beginning of the year. It may be hot but if you pack accordingly it's a great time to go. January and February are other great options. Just avoid the holiday weekends like MLK Day, race weekends and President's Day.
If you plan right, you also won't need Genie Plus. This is where booking with an authorized vacation planner can really show it's benefits! It's important to not only choose the right time of year to visit but also choose what attractions to do and when! If you know what attractions are most popular you can hit those first before the crowds increase. Or head right for the Individual Lightning Lanes so you don't have to pay that extra $12-$20 per person! A travel advisor trained and experienced in Disney vacations can help you plan your day so you are still getting everything you wanted accomplished without maxing out your credit card.
#5 Buy Disney gift cards
You can purchase Disney gift cards at just about any major chain. These can be used to pay for virtually anything from your resort package to food and souvenirs. A few months before going I like to add a $25 dollar gift card to my grocery order every week and that way we have plenty saved up before we go.
Most of the warehouse stores like BJ's, Costco and Sam's Club offer discounted gift cards. For example you can get a $500 gift card for $479.99 at BJ's and around Black Friday you may see ever deeper discounts!
Book your trip with an authorized vacation planner and preferably one of the amazing agents at Coasters & Castles Travel. They will work with you to build a vacation that meets your families needs and budget. No two vacations are the same so make sure you have someone on your side to personally guide you along the way!
Sydney Burkhart is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel. She specializes in theme park destinations but she loves Disney the most! Her favorite attraction is Small World and food is Casey's Corner on Main Street.