One of the first questions I get from most people thinking about planning a Disney vacation is “How much does it cost to go to Disney World?”. If it is your first visit, then there are a lot of unknowns and a Disney vacation may seem out of reach. With many trips under my belt, I have learned a lot of tricks about how to plan a cheap Disney vacation. Putting these tricks in to practice is how I can afford to return every year (sometimes more than once a year). I am going to share with you my top tips on how to plan a cheap Disney vacation so that you can make your dream vacation a reality!
Shop for Cheap Flights
Your travelling cost can be a big chunk of your vacation budget, so if you can trim that down, then you’ll be ahead of the game! There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for flights. In order to find a great deal, you will have to be flexible.
You will want to aim to travel during non-peak times and flying mid-week will offer the best deals. For time of year, these are the months you may want to look at:
- mid-January to mid-February
- September to November
I have always found the best priced flights when looking to fly on either Tuesday or Wednesday. The closer you get to the weekend, the higher the price will be.
Use a flight search tool website. These sites will scan multiple airlines and give you a list of options. Here are the top sites I would recommend using:
Watch for Specials Offers from Disney
Disney is always releasing offers for stays at their hotels. These offers range from room discounts up to 30% off, or deals that include a package with tickets and meals. Some offers are more popular than others, but the amount of rooms allocated to each offer is limited. That means that you will want to keep an eye out for when they are first released and book it as early as you can.
If you are unsure of your plans, Disney has a very flexible cancellation policy. You will only have to put down the cost of one night’s stay OR $200 on a package to initially book. If you decide to cancel down the line, you can get all of your money back. So, best to book early to secure the deal so that you do not lose out on those savings.
How will you know when Disney releases those specials? You can check their Special Offers page daily to see when they release something new, but that could become quite the task. If you would like to follow my Mickey Chatter Facebook page, I always post when new specials are released.
Consider Staying Off-Site
If you are not able to find any special deals at a Disney hotel that fit in your budget, then consider staying at a hotel that is off-site, but still nearby. The Lake Buena Vista area of Orlando is a MAJOR tourist area, so the selection of hotels is high. That means that there are always deals to be found! I have stayed at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort many times and it is a great property (pictured below)
You may also want to consider renting a larger property (condo or house) if you will be travelling with more than one family. Splitting the cost of accommodations is often a great way to cut down your lodging costs. Whenever I have traveled with others and split lodging, those have been some of my cheapest trips. Here are some sites I recommend for off-site lodging:
Rent Disney Vacation Club Points
If staying at a Disney deluxe resort is a must for you, but you want to pay as little as possible, then renting vacation club points will be your best option. Members that do not use their vacation points for the year will sometimes rent them out and do so through third-party websites. The most reputable website out there to rent Disney vacation club points is David’s Vacation Club Rentals. The overall price you will pay by renting points is a lot less than if you book direct through Disney, and the accommodations are exactly the same!
The only caveat is that you need to plan very far in advance. These points sell out fast, so you will want to look to book through David’s Vacation Club Rentals at least 10 months before you plan to travel.
Again, if you can get a villa that will accommodate more than one family, then you can split this cost with others 🙂
Save on Park Tickets
If you are purchasing park tickets for 3 days or more, then there are ways to shave a few dollars off the cost of your tickets. UndercoverTourist is one of the top sites for discounted park tickets. I have ordered from them personally several times and I highly recommend them. Also, you get free shipping on your tickets!
Best of Orlando is another well known site that sells Disney World tickets. Their prices are also slightly below what you would pay if you were to buy them direct from Disney. If you are purchasing tickets for a family of five, then those savings can really add up!
Finally, skip the park hopper option when it comes to buying your tickets. It’s nice to be able to visit more than one park per day, but that can sometimes become very overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. Adding the park hopper option can cost you up to an extra $75 USD per ticket. Avoiding that will help to reduce the overall cost of your vacation.
Order Groceries for Your Room
Whether you are staying at a Disney hotel, or a full condo/home, I always recommend ordering some groceries. We often order enough so that we can eat breakfast in our room and have snacks/water to bring with us to the parks.
Dining at Disney World can get very expensive, so anything you can do to cut down on those costs will be a HUGE money saver! If you have the drive to pack your meals to bring with you to the parks, then go for it! A standard adult quick service meal at the parks can cost anywhere from $10-$25 USD per person. If you don’t mind making and packing sandwiches, salads and snacks to bring along, then you will probably cut your food budget in half.
There are several grocery delivery services in the Lake Buena Vista area that you can use to have groceries delivered to your hotel:
If you are staying at a Disney hotel and thinking about getting the Disney dining plan, I would advise that you don’t if saving money is your main priority. Yes, the convenience of the dining plan is really nice, but you will spend less money on food if you pay out of pocket and/or pack your own meals. By eating at only quick-service locations and packing food to go, it will be more economical. Every time I have taken the dining plan, I find it is more food than I would of normally purchased if I were paying out of pocket. The only instance in which I recommend the dining plan is if you do plan to eat at sit-down restaurants every day. In that case, then it may be in your favor to opt for the dining plan.
Buy Some Disney Items Before Your Vacation
When you are at the Disney parks, you will come across many stores to shop in. They tend to be a bit on the pricey side. If there are certain items that you think you may want, consider purchasing them beforehand. There are similar items that you can get from other sources at a much better price. For example, you can find some autograph books on Amazon and Etsy. I also found a lot of cheaper options for Mickey Ears on Amazon as well. You can also find customized Mickey ears on Etsy, but they may not necessarily be cheaper than in the parks.
If you would like to get some Disney clothing, consider shopping at Target ahead of time. They have a great selection of Disney clothing and the prices will be much cheaper than what you will pay in the parks.
If Lularoe is your thing, then make sure to stock up on some items from their Disney collection! You’ll see a lot of people wearing them in the parks, plus they are super comfortable. If you do not know a rep, you can get in touch with one at Lularoe Linda May.
Travel Before Your Child Turns 3
If you can, travel before you child turns 3 years old. Children under 3 do not have to pay for park entry, nor will they be charged if you decide to eat at a buffet restaurant (ie. character meals). If you are staying at a Disney hotel and are celebrating your child’s 3rd birthday, then just make sure your check-in date is while they are still 2 years old. No one ages at Disney, so they will be able to take advantage of being 2 the entire trip, even if their birthday falls within your trip dates.
Take Advantage of Points/Rewards Cards
There are a few points/rewards cards that you can use towards your Disney vacation. If you are in the US, then you could apply for a Chase Disney Visa card. They have two cards available that will give you Disney Dream Reward Dollars on your purchases. The Premier card gives you 2% back, while the Rewards card gives you 1%. You can accumulate those Disney dollars and then apply them towards your vacation. They can be used for park tickets, hotels…. anything Disney!
In Canada, you can save on your park tickets through the Air Miles program. If you collect Air Miles, you can redeem your Miles for park tickets. They offer both 5 day and 7 day tickets. If you pay attention to all of the bonus reward miles programs that they offer throughout the year, you can easily collect enough miles for at least one or even two park tickets. That will cut down your vacation cost by A LOT!
Finally… Use a Disney Earmarked Travel Agency
If everything I mentioned above sounds overwhelming or a lot of work, then use a Disney Earmarked Travel Agency. A travel agent that specializes in Disney will know the best ways to help you save money. They will keep an eye out for the best deals for you and the best part is that using a travel agent doesn’t cost you anything! ClickTheMouse‘s travel agents specialize in Disney vacation planning and they will help make the planning as smooth as possible for you while keeping it within a budget you are comfortable with. Along with making your hotel booking, they will also assist you with Fastpass + planning and dining reservations as well. The service you will get is impeccable!
**Extra Tip! We love getting popcorn in the parks as a snack and they have an option that is quite economical. If you know you want to snack on a lot of popcorn, then purchase a refillable bucket at the beginning of your trip, it will cost you $10. Then for the rest of your trip, you can get refills for $1.50. It’s a yummy treat and then you will get to bring the popcorn bucket home as a souvenir 🙂
I hope the tips mentioned above will help you bring down the cost of your Disney vacation. Planning a cheap Disney vacation IS possible, you just need to know the ins and outs! Do you have any other secrets on how to do a cheap Disney vacation that are not mentioned above? If so, leave me your tips in the comments!
Laura is a mom of one adorable girl with a love of all things Disney. She traveled to Disney World with her family in 2010 and was hooked. They have since been a total of 9 times. With all her knowledge of planning Disney trips, she has now become a travel agent so that she can help other families plan magical vacations. She’ll not only help complete your booking, but she will also help with booking Fastpasses, making dining reservations, booking special experiences…. she helps with all aspects of your trip! You can request a no obligation quote from her today 🙂