Do you worry about spending too much money at Disney? Do you want to find a balance between satisfying your child’s wants and your credit card bill?
Over the years, I have learned a few money-saving lessons from my times at Disney. These tried and true formulas work no matter if it’s Disney World or Disneyland. You can easily implement them, too and save some money next time you are visiting The Mouse.
Bring snacks from home
Food is notoriously expensive at Disney. Sure, every once in a while you can splurge and have that Mickey shaped ice cream while you are watching the parade, but for the rest of the time, you can snack on what you bring into the parks
If you are staying offsite and have a car, you can stop at a local store such as Walgreens, CVS or Publix grocery to pick up snacks and juice boxes. We even packed sandwiches one time. Most hotels have some type of refrigerator in the room. Disney allows you to bring food into the park, except for alcohol and glassware (excluding baby food). Use this to your advantage to save some money.
Flying Southwest? Each person is allowed two suitcases free of charge. Use one of these to pack only snack food. Pack one of these with granola bars, trail mix, crackers, goldfish, even tortillas with peanut butter and jelly.
This is our plan for an upcoming trip: eat breakfast before heading to the park, enjoy our snacks we bring ourselves and then eat lunch/dinner at a restaurant.
Enjoy free water cups
All counter service restaurants will give you either a cup of cold or hot water. Don’t worry about bringing your water bottle with you or spending $4 for a bottle. Save money and make use of this benefit.
Bring souvenirs from home
This may seem counter-intuitive, but yes, it is possible to buy the souvenirs at home. Let’s face it, kids are going to want trinkets. But, there’s nothing wrong with buying them ahead of time and giving it to them on your vacation.
These days, there are a bunch of stores that sell Disney licensed items, Walmart, Kohls, JCPenney and Five Below to name a few. You can also check for sale items at The Disney Store or DisneyParks.com (if you can snag free shipping, even better).
Put together a bunch of items such as coloring books, crayons, fun straws, water cups, and stickers. One year, we found these great small backpacks for $5 – perfect for a child. We stuffed it with all of the above plus Disney Kleenex, band-aids and antibacterial wipes. Talk about a great hit!
If you know ahead of time you will be going, you can pick up these small items when you see them. Little kids will absolutely love getting a bag full of Disney goodies.
Bring your own stroller
Sure, you can rent them at Disney, but at $15 or $31 per day for a single or double stroller, by the end of the week, you would be paying a small fortune. Airlines allow you to check or gate check a stroller for free. Take advantage of this in order to save money.
In the past, I have also gone to a Walgreens in Orlando and bought a cheap, $25 umbrella stroller just to use at Disney. I didn’t take it back home as we didn’t need it. But, this was a budget-friendly decision instead of paying the higher rates at the parks.
Stroller rental companies not affiliated with Disney will deliver a stroller to your hotel as well. I have never used one, but the weekly prices are less than the Disney gate prices.
Purchase Disney clothes ahead of time
If you know your child wants to wear something Disney related, again look at your local Walmart, JCPenney or Kohls. We picked up some adorable clothes at all of these places. Watch for sales or coupons and have the clothes washed, packed and ready to wear. Your child will adore getting his/her picture taken with the character they are dressed as.
Purchase Disney tickets from Undercover Tourist
I have bought all my Orlando Disney tickets online from Undercover Tourist. Often, you can save $15-25 per ticket compared to the prices charged at the gate. Undercover Tourist ships for free and also has downloadable tickets if you prefer.
Add these tickets to your My Disney Experience just like any other ticket. Plus, you want to get your tickets ahead of time in order to enable your Fastpasses.
Share a meal
Whether it’s two adults or one child and one adult, most on-site restaurants allow you to split an order. Buffet and family styled restaurants are the exceptions. You can share anything, but the bigger portions of chicken, ribs, pizza and restaurants with their own toppings bar (like Pecos Bill or Cosmic Ray’s) make this a standout option.
For an in-depth guide to food, check out the Disney Food Blog Guide to Walt Disney World Dining. It is 650 pages of everything Disney food related! Besides giving in-depth coverage of all restaurants and snacks, it lists hours, prices and recent new openings and closures. The book also lists the top snacks and ‘off menu’ options. There is also a section on the best restaurants for babies and toddlers.
I bought this book last year for our upcoming trip since we are staying onsite and will be purchasing all our meals. I am using it to determine where we can get the best value for our money while at the same time trying new places.
There you have it! Seven tips for saving money at an expensive vacation destination. Disney offers an unrivalled experience, in my opinion. Look for ways that you can save money without impacting the quality of your time away. These small tips can easily save a couple hundred of dollars to your bottom line. Plan, budget and have fun. The memories will last a lifetime.
For tips on getting a free hotel room in Orlando, check out the following post: How to stay for free at Disney World using SPG Points.
Do you have any money saving Disney tips? Please share in the comments!