How to Save Money at Disney World

A cast member blows up balloons in Magic Kingdom. Photo by: Craig Adderley

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that we may receive a commission when you click on our links and make a purchase. This, however, has no bearing on our reviews and comparisons. For more information click here.

In our family, the frantic finalizations for our Disney World trip have begun! We’re still a few months out, but for my family of 5, plus two grandparents, getting ourselves together is a bit like herding squirrels. Or cats. Make that wolverines. While our resort has been booked since the fall, there are plane tickets, dining reservations, and lots of packing still to do before taking off.

Before our 2022 trip, I was a Disney virgin. The most Disney I had ever been immersed in were the movies and the store. Thankfully, I’m resourceful, and spent months researching everything I thought I needed to know. Having now been to the most expensive magical place on earth, I can confidently say that planning, combined with experience, has given me insight into some amazing ways to save money when planning a Disney vacation. If you’re looking for ways to keep the damage to your bank account to a minimum, you’ve come to the right place.

Park Tickets

One of the easiest, and most significant ways to save money at Disney World is to book your park tickets through Undercover Tourist. This is a tip I learned compliments of TouringPlans and their Unofficial Guide to Disney World. For passes of 3 or more days, booking with Undercover Tourist consistently saves about $30-40/ticket. For a family of 5, this results in $150+ of savings, which is essentially enough to cover a meal at a decent Disney restaurant.

A graph comparing ticket costs by seller. Copyright: The Invisible Trendsetter

Undercover Tourist makes booking extremely simple. You literally pick the tickets you want to buy, then purchase them. They send you a confirmation e-mail with your ticket numbers, and you link them to your My Disney Experience account. Additionally, the ticket is refundable if unused, and the people at Undercover Tourist are delightful to work with.

Link tickets with My Disney Experience. Photo by: The Invisible Trendsetter

Take Advantage of Disney World’s Park Hopper Pass

If you’ve read any of my previous Disney World posts, you’ll know that our first trip was a steep learning curve. One regret I had from our previous trip (and will not be making again) is foregoing the park hopper. What a waste of my time, patience, and money. I read so many articles and books about taking a midday rest. Yes. Absolutely do that. Something I didn’t consider was the amount of energy it takes to prepare for and execute even a single-day excursion with three little humans. At the time of our last Disney adventure, my little people were 10 months, 2.5, and 5. Once we returned to the resort for our afternoon siesta, there was literally zero percent chance I was taking my kids back out in a vehicle, but we also didn’t have enough time to fully enjoy the pool, either.

The solution to this issue (for us) is the park hopper. If you’re staying on the monorail or within walking distance of Epcot, this is a phenomenal option and can save money by touring one day less, but getting back full touring days. This only seems to work; however, if you’re touring for three days, which is the case for my family. We can really only handle three days of Disney chaos before we’re all a grumpy mess.

Graph comparing different Disney World ticket options. Copyright: The Invisible Trensetter

Pack Lunch

I love treats as much as the next person. I do not love the way I feel after eating restaurant meals and said treats for a solid week. By the time I get home, I’m bloated, grumpy, and craving nutritious food. I’m also an introvert. So combine feeling gross with being overwhelmed and hot for a week and I become an absolute ogre. Thoughts and prayers for the first jerk that gives me judgy side-eye on the plane ride home or makes a stupid comment about my baby needing to be fed/napped or having gas (true story). To avoid altercations with other passengers (or an air marshall), the solution I’ve created for this is:

  1. Eat breakfast at the park (thereby getting through security and into the park before the masses descend).
  2. Graze on *fun* snacks during the morning.
  3. Carry a packed (fresh) lunch using a backpack cooler and Bento boxes.
  4. Take a midday siesta in the room (and have a nutritious snack to balance out the morning sugar binge).
  5. Go to Epcot for dinner and more touring. (We prefer to stay at Beach Club so this is walkable for us)

Picnics are my absolute jam. If you’re with me, check out this post about great Disney picnic locations.

Trendsetter Pick
TOURIT Cooler Backpack
  • 30 Cans, or 3-5 bento boxes
  • Leakproof
  • Lightweight
  • Insualted
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
11/28/2023 04:07 pm GMT
Trendsetter Pick
Bentgo® Kids
  • BPA Free
  • Dishwasher Safe
  • Leak-Proof
  • Ideal for Ages 3 to 7
  • 2-Year Warranty
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
11/28/2023 02:39 pm GMT

Bring Snacks

There are so many things I was hoping would continue after COVID. The big one was people staying home when they were sick. While that clearly didn’t stick, online grocery shopping did! Whether you rent a Villa through Dave’s, or you’re in a standard room, placing a grocery order and picking it up on your way into Orlando saves a significant amount of money (and traveling space). Luckily, Whole Foods, Target and Walmart are all within a short drive of Walt Disney World Resort.

By packing some healthy lunches or snacks into your day, you’ll be able to mitigate the sugar crash and still feel comfortable in your pants by the end of your vacation. If you’re wondering what types of snacks are both nutritious and take up minimal to no real-estate in a hotel fridge, don’t panic – I wouldn’t leave you hanging. Whether you have a small mini-fridge or an apartment-sized fridge, these options can help you stay on track and keep your mood even.

Opt for Takeout

My Disney World plans always include at least a couple of intentional pool days. Most of the deluxe resorts have some sort of poolside food option, but that’s expensive and often isn’t very filling or healthy. If you’re having a pool day, skip dinner at a Disney restaurant and order takeout from Flippers or 4Rivers Smokehouse. Also not healthy, but definitely not as expensive. You can’t win them all.

A hamburger. Photo by: Engin Akyurt

Book Your Disney World Vacation Through Dave’s

Dave’s Vacation Club Rentals matches Disney Vacation Club members with prospective vacationers. Depending on the number of people you’re traveling with, or if you’d like to cook meals and save on restaurants, this could make a lot of sense for you. For my family of 7, we have the option of booking two separate rooms or booking one larger villa. I prefer to keep everyone together as it makes my life infinitely easier. My parents are night owls and I have lived three lives before they have even opened their peepers. Staying together ensures I can get us all out the door on time and there are no Silver Alerts issued during our time in Orlando.

Booking a two-bedroom villa through Dave’s saves us about $4500+ USD for a week (compared to booking two separate rooms or a villa directly through Disney). That isn’t insignificant, but there is a catch. With Disney, you place a $250 deposit that is fully refundable up to 30 days before departure. With Dave’s, you pay in full when they find you a match and it is non-refundable. For any reason. You can purchase travel insurance through a third party, but read the fine print – it often excludes reasons you would normally cancel and is an additional expense. Another consideration is they are located in Canada, which means you will want to use a card that covers foreign transaction fees.

Plan Ahead and Visit Disney World During the “Off Season”

A crowd calendar is useful in a few different ways. For starters, a crowd calendar can help you determine when to vacation. Lower traffic equals lower prices on everything from rooms to park tickets. For example, the week we are vacationing is not a school vacation week. By traveling in the “off-season,” we are able to save a few thousand dollars on our villa and a few hundred dollars on park tickets. I’m a homeschool mom, so we are extremely flexible in when we are able to travel; but after spending my own childhood in rigorous academic programs, I am very pro-take-the-kids-out-of-school-for-vacation. My mom (a retired third-grade teacher) is also camp-take-them-out. Whether you decide to take them out or wait until school vacation weeks, a crowd Calendar can help you determine which parks to tour on each day to minimize waiting.

Disney World Popcorn Buckets

Each year, Disney offers a new refillable popcorn bucket. The bucket ranges in price from $10-28, depending on the bucket design and the park where they’re purchased. Refills are $2/bucket. My educated guess is they’ll be cheaper anywhere other than Magic Kingdom. If your family loves popcorn, snacking, or both, this could be a great option, as a regular-sized popcorn is typically $5. For a list of popcorn carts, check out this post by The Park Prodigy.

A popcorn cart next adjacent to a picnic area. Photo by: Şü

Disney World Refillable Mugs

We used (and loved!) the Disney World Refillable Mugs in 2022. They’re back for 2023, and for $21.99 plus tax, you get unlimited refills (and an adorable cup) for 14 days. The catch we learned the hard way is the mugs are only refillable at the resorts. And there’s a 2-3 minute waiting time between each refill so you won’t be able to discreetly fill up a bigger container before touring. If you’ve got long hair and don’t care, rock on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it resulted in some sort of uncomfortable conversation with a cast member.

I’m a little bit of a health nut, and my drink of choice is always room-temperature water, but we found drink options available that weren’t entirely terrible (Vitamin water). If you’re planning on 4-5+ fountain drinks over the course of your stay, this might be an option for you. If you’re unsure, go over to the fountain drink area (usually in the Quick Stop areas of the deluxe resorts or the food courts of the Moderate/Value resorts) and see if there’s anything that tickles your fancy. In the parks, Disney cast members will give you ice water at any of the restaurants or quick-stop locations in their parks, you just have to ask. This gives you something more substantial (and lidded) to carry with you. Another unintended perk of the refillable mug is not losing your fancy Yeti at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Just sayin’.

The Most Magical Savings on Earth!

Using any of these nine tips has the ability to drastically decrease the size of the grenade you are tossing in the direction of your bank account. Combining all nine? You’re looking at serious savings of nearly $6000, depending on family size and usual vacationing habits. While the cost of a Disney vacation is still bound to sting. I’m hopeful you’re able to utilize any or all of these tips to help you fully enjoy the fireworks!

%d bloggers like this: