We are very blessed to go to Walt Disney World rather regularly, despite living in the mitten state of Michigan. It’s something that has been a priority for our family because we know how limited our time is when our kiddos are younger.
Therefore, while trying not to spoil them (although, I’m not sure if I care about spoiling them with Disney trips. Ha!), we try to make it down to Walt Disney World at least once a year or at least every other year.
All those trips come with a lot of costs and we have to get creative with some cost-cutting at Disney strategies.
The cost of hotels, airfare, tickets, food and souvenirs can still add up.
Throughout the years we have found many cost-cutting at Disney strategies, that don’t feel like they are taking away from the magic and fun of Walt Disney World.
We have found that many of the cost-cutting strategies have actually helped add time and magic to our trip. Mainly because we aren’t spending our time, or money, on things that aren’t necessary.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at 8 cost-cutting strategies at Disney World. There are tons of tricks, but these are a few that we do every single trip. Bonus, these 8 cost-cutting strategies never feel like they are depriving us from the magic of Walt Disney World.
1. Drink Water
At home, water is our beverage of choice, so this isn’t a huge sacrifice for us. A cup of water is free at all quick service restaurants and the kiosks that serve water.
Plus, we usually bring along a water bottle so help keep us hydrated for when a cup of water isn’t close.
To ‘spice’ things up a little, we will often bring along Nuun or something to flavor the water. I use Nuun for running, so it usually makes the journey to Walt Disney World so I can stay hydrated during my runs.
If, we want to splurge it will be on a specialty drink that is unique to Walt Disney World. We usually go for something in a collectors mug or glass so we can take home a little souvenir as well!
If water isn’t your jam, and you are a huge soft beverage drinker, think about buying a refillable mug. The mugs are useful at your resort quick service location and allow you to have soft drinks, coffee and teas. Plus, they end up being a really decent deal!
2. Non-Park Hopper Tickets
The ability to come and go between the four different parks is really nice. I have had park hopper tickets in the past and it’s really neat to be able to rope drop the Magic Kingdom and then have dinner at some exotic location in the World Showcase.
That being said, I don’t think park hopper tickets are worth it when you have young kids. Buying non-park hopper tickets is one of our favorite cost-cutting strategies we use at Disney.
Kids add a lot of extra time to your day, especially those in the 5 and under category.
We’ve found that if we make it through part of a park in the morning, we usually need a midday break before we head back to explore the rest of the park at night. While we could pack up and head to a different park in the same amount of time it would take to return to your morning park, we have found it best just to return to the same park.
Usually when we leave for our midday break, we are convincing our kids to head back to the hotel room with hope that we will return to the same park.
You see, there is always something our kids want to do at the park we are leaving when we return. They aren’t really interested in heading to a new park with new possibilities. So, if we can skip the park hopper ticket, we end up putting a little extra cash in our pockets with this cost-cutting at Disney strategy.
3. Breakfast in Your Hotel
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we can all agree on that. Yet, despite its importance, it’s actually a great way to cut out some costs at Walt Disney World. I don’t mean skipping it all together. No, don’t do that. Unless you really like having a bunch of crabby family members by 9 in the morning.
If you do a little planning ahead, whether by bringing food with you on your vacation or ordering food from an outside service like Amazon’s Prime Now, you can save yourself both time and money. We like to have a collection of simple breakfast items such as bagels, granola bars, oranges, and apples we keep with us in our hotel room.
Sundries at Resorts
Additionally, many of the Walt Disney World resorts have stores near their front desk, or lobby area, that house several sundries options for you to take back to your hotel room. Plus, all resorts have a mini fridge if you want to pick up some milk for cereal or a few yogurts. If you want to have the option to warm up food such as instant oatmeal, and won’t have a microwave, be sure to request a room close to the resort’s quick service dinning area. Almost all Disney resorts have a microwave at their quick service food area. If you don’t end up super close to it, you can always stick to food items that don’t need to be warmed or give them a quick warm-up when you hit pass by the area on the way to the buses.
Now, we don’t do every single breakfast in our room, but most days we do. If we aren’t doing breakfast in our room, we usually do a buffet at one of the parks. We look for a specific reservation time and use it to amplify our park time. Take a look at suggestion number 8 for more information.
4. Disney Snacks as Meals
To be honest we don’t like eating at a lot of sit down restaurants each day we are at Walt Disney World, its sooo much food. Now don’t get me wrong, having a large portions is certainly welcomed when you head to a restaurant. However, if you eat two, or even three, huge meals a day, you might be rather uncomfortable as you are walk around in hot and humid Florida.
Instead, what we do is eat one large meal a day. The meal is usually a late breakfast or an early dinner (normally resulting in shorter wait times!). Then we either split a few things at a quick service restaurant for our second meal or we might even get a few snacks and make those into meals.
There are some super filling snacks at Walt Disney World. Some of our favorite snacks to get include the fried rice at Yak and Yeti’s Quick Service Location at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The portion is actually pretty big for something that is considered a ‘snack’ or side item. Add in an egg roll and you’ve got yourself a decently sized meal! Or grab some sushi at the Japanese pavilion at Epcot in the World Showcase!
5. Brings Snacks into the Park
Piggybacking on the previous suggestion, if you don’t want to do a lot of sit down meals or even a lot of meals while you’re in Walt Disney World, it might benefit you to bring along a lot of snacks. There is something about the heat combined with the variety of food options available around every corner at Walt Disney World that makes you want to buy all the snacks!!
I’m all for indulging a little, you are on vacation after all, but if you’re trying to stick to a budget, bringing along a few snacks might help keep the costs down. The best snacks are those that will help you to feel satisfied. I’m thinking of something that is healthy and has some protein. For example, you could bring a few Lara bars. Or a banana and a peanut butter packet. It’s always an award-winning combo. Plus, you can splurge on a Mickey Ice Cream Bar right afterwards. I mean, peanut butter and chocolate belong together, so it would be a crime to not!
Oh, and just a heads up, make sure you don’t bring any glass containers into the park. They aren’t allowed. Hard sided coolers aren’t either. Soft ones are welcomed! If you want to stay on theme, check out these cute ones. Also, can someone buy me the first one? It’s too cute!!
6. Bring Souvenirs to Disney
Disney merchandise can be irresistible. Trust me, I know this from experience. I have made my fair share of ‘impulse’ purchases in the parks. (I’m looking at you super cute Mickey bubble wand…). If you know you’re, or your family, are going to have a hard time resisting all the different Disney gifts, do a little prep work before your trip. Head to a local Disney store or shop online to purchase a few items prior to your trip. The Disney store often has sales a few times a year and you can get some authentic park merchandise at a fraction of the price you will find in the parks.
If you want to make your pre-park purchases extra special, you can turn them into Tinkerbell gifts! While you and your family are at the parks, Tinkerbell can pay a little visit to your hotel room, leaving behind a special (pre-purchased) gift or two. When you and your family return to the room, the gifts are waiting for your little ones to enjoy! Knowing that Tinkerbell might pay your room a visit can help squelch the constant need to buy all the things. Possibly… ‘Cause there is some super cute stuff out there. I mean, just take a look at these cute things from Amazon! (Click on each picture to learn more.)
If you’re looking to save even more money on Disney gifts, you might want to look into the Disney Visa. We are recent Disney Visa converts. While I normally wouldn’t recommend signing up for a credit card based on just a few perks, I’ve found for the Disney park goer the Disney Visa is actually worth while. It took us a while to sign up, but now that I’ve got the shiny card with Sleeping Beauty’s castle plaster on the front, I’m glad we made the leap.
While the Disney Visa could be it’s own cost-cutting strategy in my list of 8 cost-cutting strategies, I really like how it helps us save money on all things Disney. With the Disney Visa we earn 1% back on all purchases and the points are converted into Disney rewards dollars. The reward money can be used on pretty much anything in the parks, we like putting it towards food or souvenirs. It’s nice to check the account after using the card for everyday items and realizing we have enough money to pay for a meal at Tusker House!
We also enjoy how card members are able to save money off of items at the parks and select restaurants in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. My absolute favorite thing are the card member exclusive character meeting spots. They are located in various spots at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. It’s basically a free Fastpass to meet some of the coolest characters. Plus, you get the photos from the meet-and-greet, even if you haven’t purchased Photopass for your trip!
Since there is no annual fee for the card, we have found it worth it for our family. We like how it helps us save more money inside and outside of the parks (at the Disney store and shopdisney.com). Ultimately, it helps us save money overall! If you’re interested in apply, click here, and I can be rewarded for the referral. As with any credit card though, make sure it’s a good fit for you and your lifestyle!
7. Kids Before Three (or Two!)
Are you are thinking about a Disney trip, but aren’t sure if your little is going to have a good time? Guess what? If you go before your little turns three, they won’t have to pay for park tickets. Even better? They will be free at buffet meals! That’s right! You can get them into the parks for free and they can have a free meal to boot! Plus, if you are flying down, specifically with Delta at this time, your kiddos under the age of two can fly for free as well!
In summary, you really only have to pay for the clothes on their backs (and possibly a diaper or two) on your Disney trip! I call that a win and proof that it’s never too early to bring your kiddos to Disney. Seriously, though, if you’re worried if your kid will have a good time, odds are they will. They might not have the best memories of the trip, but you know you will take tons of pictures and they will love to look back on the pictures.
8. Eat Breakfast at Buffets (a sneaky cost-cutting at Disney strategy!)
Are you worried that the buffet character meal might take away from your time in the parks? Or that the meals are too expensive? First, don’t worry, it’s such a fun thing to do, I find that it really adds to your time in the parks! Second, if you schedule a breakfast meal, it can actually be a perfect break or introduction to your day. Third, I am not going to deny that the buffets are expensive, but of the three daily meals, breakfast is the cheapest and it is so worth it!
Add to Your Day
What exactly do I mean? Well, some of the buffets offer a reservation time before the park actually opens. Crystal Palace, for example normally starts offering reservations at 8am. Depending on the day the park may open at 9am. This allows guests to enter a, basically, empty park and head over to the restaurant. A separate entrance is provided for guests with early advance dinning reservations. If you give yourself a few extra minutes, you’ll be able to snap a few empty park photos in front of the castle. Plus, as soon as you are done eating you can get ready to ‘rope drop’ a ride!
***Edit: At the Magic Kingdom, ALL guests are allowed to enter Main Street, USA before the park opens now. The other areas of the park are all roped off until the official park opening. Guests can catch the opening show before the park opens. You might not get the empty Main Street, USA you envisioned, but you can still make extra magical memories!
Alternatively, you could plan to ‘rope drop’ the park and then make your dinning reservation for 10:30am. This gives you enough time to head into the park, hop on a few rides quickly and head over to breakfast. Plus, if you have a late breakfast you might be able to enjoy some of the lunch food too. Closer to lunch time, lunch foods start entering the line up of food options!
Truth be told, having a buffet breakfast at 10:30am might be my favorite time to have breakfast. I am not a huge breakfast person (I know, I know. It’s like a crime against Mickey waffles everywhere.), but I LOVE lunch and dinner. Especially at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Tusker House. They have a really good breakfast, which my family loves (and I don’t mind, actually!). Bonus, as we are finishing up breakfast, they usually bring out the lunch menu. Which I LOVE! We are usually too full to stick around for long, but I can grab a few things from the lunch buffet before we head back to the park. It’s a win-win in my book. My kids get their Mickey waffles and I get to pick from about 5,000 salads!
As I touched on above, yes, buffet meals tend to be pretty expensive at the parks. It’s so totally worth it though. Not only do you get a great meal, but you also get great character interactions. Plus, guess what? At most buffets, the characters are the same at breakfast and lunch! Yet, you are paying much less at breakfast than you are at lunch! Plus, if you see the characters while dining, you can skip waiting in line to meet one later. You can knock two must-do Disney things off your list at once!
Conclusion for 8 Cost-Cutting at Disney Strategies
There ya go! Just 8 cost-cutting Walt Disney World strategies for your upcoming trip.
There are times we don’t follow every suggestion on the list above. Honestly, when we do, we don’t feel like we are missing out on much magic.
What types of cost-cutting strategies have you put in place at Disney? Leave a comment and let me know!
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