Proximity to Disney World greatly influenced our desire to move to Central Florida. My husband did the Disney College Program while we were still in college. He was instantly hooked on the area, the food, the culture, and, of course, Disney. So, it became important to us to figure out how to do Disney on a budget.

When he began working remotely in 2020, we started planning our move. One huge snowfall in the winter of 2021 pushed us over the metaphorical edge, and our house was packed up and on the market by spring. While the constant access to the mouse makes it tempting to blow through a ton of money, it is possible to do Disney on a budget as a local!

We are both Disney Vacation Club AND Annual Passholders, so I’d like to think that I am full of tips and tricks that you can use to enjoy the magic of Disney without spending your last pennies!

I am going to cover tickets, food, each park, Disney Springs, resorts, and Disney Cruise Line in this post!

So, let’s jump in…


Tickets to the parks are likely your biggest expense as a local. For us, being Disney Annual Passholders was a no-brainer. It is expensive upfront, especially if you want unlimited access to the parks.

BUT the cost per trip for us is much lower than what it would be if we were to buy tickets each day we went. All pass holder levels are open to you with a valid Florida ID. You can have an annual pass for about $400 (per person over three years old). This pass is limited to only weekdays and is blacked out during holidays and spring break.

Annual passes are tip #1 for an Orlando local to save money on your Disney trip. We feel less rushed when we go because we can always come back. We also don’t wait in long lines because another day that line will be shorter because who truly wants to stand in a long line in our hot, humid weather if you don’t HAVE to!?

Buying the annual pass at the lowest price means you pay it off in only four visits!

A single-day ticket could cost you over $100 depending on the day of the week and time of year you plan to go, so an annual pass pays for itself after the 4th trip.

However, if you are only going to go a handful of days in the year, Florida resident tickets will be your best budget-friendly option. Weekdays during a slow time of year will be the lowest price per ticket.

Let’s jump to the parks

Magic Kingdom

Once you are in Magic Kingdom, you can do A Pirate’s Adventure – Treasures of the Seven Seas for FREE! Head to the Crow’s Nest (by Pirates of the Caribbean) to start! Spend time ahead of your trip to plan what you MUST do when you are there. I have a sample itinerary for families with little kids to help give you an idea of how best to spend your full day in Magic Kingdom.


This park is hard for me to pass along budget-friendly tips. Why? The constant rotation of festivals at this park means there is ALWAYS new food and drink to try — which means cost.

However, if you plan what items you want to sample ahead of time, you can plan for that money. We also buy Disney gift cards to keep us on track. Buy them with extra cash or with a credit card from a store that will give you extra rewards points to maximize your money. Also, be sure to ask for your annual pass discount (if you’re a passholder), and watch out for any days that Disney announces EXTRA discounts on food and beverage for passholders. We always plan EPCOT days for those announced days.

EPCOT also has amazing entertainment beyond food, beverage, and rides. The festivals often have music, dancing, and other free performances at the park entrance. Kids can enjoy Kid-Cot, a self-guided adventure around World Showcase, where they learn about the countries from men and women who have lived there! It’s fun for adults, too. My girls also love to play DuckTales through the Play Disney app.

Animal Kingdom

My girls love to do Wilderness Explorers at Animal Kingdom. You get to explore the park while learning about the animals you see at the park and ideas for how you can help conserve the Earth. It is a fun and educational way to spend the day. You can do it over as many visits as you want or do it all in one day.

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios has Batuu Bounty Hunters Game in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. You do need a MagicBand+ (which can run you at least $40) to play, but the bands can be convenient for park entry! I have a sample itinerary of how to spend your day at Hollywood Studios best.

Disney Springs

There is so much to do and see at Disney Springs without spending much money! We love just to go and walk around. My youngest could sit for hours watching the volcano at Rainforest Cafe erupt.


This is a huge opportunity for cost savings for you as a local. With the exception of EPCOT, I think you can get away without spending ANY money on food. Bring food with you from home. Food is the #1 item I recommend you have in your park bag!

Disney puts no cap on the amount of food you can bring into the park. Shocking, I know! I always pack sandwiches, bars, apples, chips and pretzels. We have a Disney popcorn bucket that costs less than $3 to refill.

Annual passholders and DVC members can enjoy sit-down dining at a discount. Disney will have days of increased discounts a couple times a year, so take advantage of those, too (again, if you are a passholder).


If you are a local, you may not be interested in staying at the Disney resorts for a week-long vacation, but they make GREAT staycation options. We use our Disney Vacation Club membership to stay at the resorts. You can purchase DVC stays from members from resale shops (DVC Resale), and the cost is often times LESS than what it would cost you if you booked through Disney at a lower-tiered resort.

The bonus is that all the DVC resorts are deluxe-level, so the amenities and dining are all elevated here. These rooms are also larger and have full-sized kitchens. So bring food from home and enjoy being in a new, themed environment for the weekend.

I know this doesn’t matter to the kids, but there is something to be said about experiencing a fancier resort as an adult that just hits differently. The pools at these resorts are also amazing, so the kiddos can have a fun day at the pool and not even step foot into a theme park. Each resort also has free entertainment to enjoy from movies on the lawn to crafts to performances! There is plenty to enjoy at your resort to experience the Disney magic without paying for a ticket or annual pass.


We love to experience all of the seasonal decor of the Disney parks. And if you have a ticket to a Disney World park, you do not need to buy the additional ticket for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or the Christmas Party to enjoy the decor inside the park.

And if you do not want to pay to get into the parks, seeing the decor at Disney Springs or the resorts is FREE. Currently, you will need a dining reservation to park at the resorts. What’s great is that you can park at Disney Springs for free and then jump on a boat or bus from there to a resort to explore. Our family loves walking around and exploring new resorts.

Cruise Line

I wish I had some great tips for a cheap Disney cruise, but I truly do not. Disney Cruise Line is probably some of the most expensive cruises on the high seas. I will say this, though: the service and experience are EXCEPTIONAL. We have cruised on another cruise line (that often is said to be Disney’s closest competitor) for less money but missed the world-class dining, service, and hospitality of Disney Cruise Line.

My best suggestion would be to watch the website for any last-minute deals for Florida residents. The big downside to this is that most of the discounted cruises are soon. So you could book it and be on the trip within a couple of days. I would love to have the flexibility to drop everything and run on a cruise on short notice. With kids’ schedules and school, this may be hard to pull off… but a girl can dream!

The best bang for your buck and doing Disney on a budget is definitely the passholder option. You don’t need to go on the weekend — and trust me, you don’t want to — and you also don’t want to go on holidays. 

What are your Disney on a budget tips and tricks?

Let us know in the comments!


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