Our family’s love for Walt Disney World began early on. As a child, my husband’s family created magical memories together using their Annual Passes, and he always longed to raise a Disney-loving family to relive those favorite childhood memories. While planning our very first trip as a family, we quickly realized visiting Disney came at a large cost but we didn’t let that fact detour us from sharing the magic with our little ones, and neither should you. After many years of visiting the theme parks and taking week-long stay-cations, I’m here to share How to do Disney on a Budget using these tried and true tips!
How to do Disney on a Budget
Experience Gifts > Toys
Each year, we ask family and friends for Disney gift cards for birthday, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas gifts for our children. We are big believers in the idea of experience gifts over toys and the true joy they provide. While toys are fun to open, gifts cards for experiences provide a lasting memory, more connection, and less clutter. We started this tradition when our son was a toddler, and we dreamed of celebrating his second birthday with Mickey. At that time, we were on a strict budget and weren’t able to afford the trip we dreamed of gifting him. Thankfully, our family agreed Disney Gift Cards would go a long way, and we were able to celebrate “Cohban’s Two-dles” with his favorite guy: Mickey Mouse!
Cohban will be turning 10 this year, and I promise you, Disney gift cards are the BEST way to do Disney on a budget! We haven’t traveled to Disney without gift cards in hand, and we go every year!
Disney Discounts for the Win
My husband might cringe each time I ask for a discount, but I can assure you, he thanks me after realizing how much money I save us in the long run.
We are Florida Residents and a Military family, and Disney offers discounts for each of these categories. Do not ever feel ashamed in asking for a better deal or discount on tickets, rooms, and dining. They offer these special rates for a reason, as a THANK YOU, and it would be silly to let those go without researching or at least asking about your options.
Save Money by Staying at a Value Resort without losing Premium Hospitality
The biggest hidden secret in doing Disney on a budget is reserving a room at a Value Resort. Disney Value Resorts are designed with families in mind. These resorts offer value rates on rooms, dining plans, exciting displays and activities for young children, and a great space to rest your head at night after a joy-packed day at the parks or themed pools.
We typically plan a week-long stay-cation each time we visit Walt Disney World. The best tip I can provide about doing Disney on a budget is to visit the parks one day and enjoy the resort the others. The resorts provide a schedule of activities when you check in. Take note of the activities your children will enjoy, and write them down! After a full day of riding rides and walking all the parks, imagine the pure joy your family will feel relaxing poolside, playing games, and taking in all the resort has to offer.
The Children’s Menu, Packed Lunches, Pizza, and Water Bottles Go A Long Way
While traveling to Walt Disney World is magical, the cost of that magic can add up quickly. Over the years, I’ve tried to find ways to save money and found the best way to save on the overall cost was to budget our meals. My husband is one of those guests who travels for the food alone. There’s magic found within a good meal provided by Disney and its’ staff, but boy does it add up quickly – especially for a family of five!
These tips have proven to save us hundreds of dollars each visit while still enjoying the yummy food we crave year after year!
- Order from the Children’s Menu or Share a Meal– Most adult meals ordered at Walt Disney World and their resorts are portioned to feed more than one person. I promise you! They’re HUGE. After ordering from the Children’s Menu from most of the restaurants, I found I was full and spending half the cost! If there is a adult menu item you’d really like to try, share a meal with someone from your family.
- Pack Lunch & Freeze Water Bottles- We always eat a packed lunch at the theme parks. A few of our favorite things to pack are Uncrustables (thawed by lunch time), raw vegetables and ranch, crackers and peanut butter, protein bars, apples, fruit snacks, and frozen water bottles. You can find water fountains to easily refill your bottles located at the first aid stations and near restrooms, saving you at least $3 a bottle.
- Drink WATER vs. Soda- Hear me out. There’s nothing better than an ice cold Sprite to “quench” your thirst, but truth be told, water is exactly what your body needs while visiting Disney. The resorts require their guests to purchase a plastic reusable cup at a cost per day to use their soda machines. If you pack a water bottle, you’re able to fill your water bottle up for FREE AND use it at the parks! Their reusable cups are not allowed to be used at the theme parks. Save money while fueling your body for more fun!
- Order a WHOLE Pizza- One of our best kept secrets in doing Disney on budget is to order a whole pizza from the menu vs. individual meals. A whole pizza is less than $20 and feeds the whole family. We like to order ours early and schedule a pick up. Then, we enjoy hot fresh pizza poolside while watching the kids swim and watch the resort’s outdoor movie.
Find the Magic in the Special Moments
All in all, the best way to do Disney on a budget is to find the magic in the special moments. Maybe your budget doesn’t allow for Character Dining but you’ll always remember the look on their faces when they meet their favorite character at the park. Magic can be found in a homemade picnic near Cinderella’s Castle, in your child’s eyes as they ride Space Mountain for the first time, or their smile as a princess waves in their direction. Magic isn’t found in all the lavish souvenirs, it’s found the special little moments with your loved ones by your side.