How to Visit Disney World on a Budget.
It CAN be done:
And I’m here to tell you that – YES, it can be done. It can definitely be done. My family has had a fun and adventurous journey along the way for the past seven years on our ever-evolving annual winter trip to Florida in January or early February. Every year we learn something new. And then we put whatever we learned into practice the following year, and then learn more new and good things. It’s cumulative too! We only gain more experience and more wisdom, and FUN.
There is a balance:
Ultimately we are all about adventure and fun, but we’re all about budget as well. Travel can be expensive. Family travel can be expensive. Disney World travel can be expensive. Put that all together and it can break the bank. Why do we value our travel budget? It’s because we want to do so much there, and all the things during all the days, and we simply cannot. We’re a family on a budget, and I love how our trip has evolved into more fun for less cost. There are many other non-travel-related areas of life that need our budgeting. It also helps the kids to learn the value of money if we’re using care even during our most adventurous and fun times together.
We’ve now gone to Walt Disney World resort seven years in a row – ever since my son was a one-year-old. For the first year, we had our entire trip covered because we stayed with my aunt, so we saved on lodging, food, and car. She worked for the theme parks so they were free or discounted. She used money from my grandfather’s will for plane tickets. It was amazing! For the second year, we stayed half with her and half with our in-laws in St. Augustine, Florida. The next several years changed with the times – our times. As the kids grew and shed daycare bills, and we grew from a one income family to a two income family, our trips grew too. We gained more possibility, and through several years of that, we gained some budget smarts too. We are in that sweet spot right now. Or.. we were. We have added a new baby to the family, and another one is due in April, so budgeting will be more important again!
Here are our best tips for visiting Walt Disney World Resort on a budget:
We always go in January because it’s a wonderful trip to look forward to after the holidays, and it’s crucial to escape a New England winter to somewhere warm – at least once! If you go after the new year, and before February vacation in mid-February, you’ll find better deals on flights and lodging, and you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with the crowds as well. Bonus! Another good time to go to Disney World is in September after school has started.
Find the best deals online:
Do you know Ebooking? They give you access to more than 3,000,000 accommodations – hotels, apartments, vacation homes, villas. You can book without any prepayment, without any surcharges or hidden costs, and there are no cancellation fees with ebooking.com. I love looking at all of the accommodations they have, both in the resort, and right near it. FUN!
Get tickets in advance.
Not only that, but you can search for discounts in person as well. Certain wholesale clubs have discounts on Disney gift cards, which can then be used on tickets or merchandise in the parks. You may also qualify for press discounts, military discounts, or AAA discounts. I am eligible for AAA discounts, as well as press passes.
Use a Disney Travel Agent.
If you use a certified Disney Travel Agent, you’ll be able to get the best bang for your bucket, and the agents are free! They are paid by Disney and are a wonderful service to use. They know how to best find you the best deals and magic hours, and can also help you with flights, food, lodging, and more!
Stay at a budget Disney World hotel or stay offsite.
We’ve had good luck with both, but some of the budget-friendly hotels – like Art of Animation Resort for one – have wonderful deals, as well as all of the excitement you could need for your stay! We like to stay in themed rooms, swim in themed pools, visit the gift shops, arcades, dining rooms, and more. They work for you and can work with your budget.
Bring at least some of your own food.
Make sure to bring your own lunches or protein snacks you can eat all day – like protein bars, nuts, string cheese, and more. Remember that water is free in the parks.
Research dining options before you go.
The Disney dining plans CAN make sense for your family, so if you’re staying at a resort and planning to eat all meals at the parks or hotels, this may be a viable option for you. We have used dining plans some years, and we have not other years. Sometimes the number crunching shows that it helps. Other times, we’re doing too many other activities and are mostly bringing snacks to graze on. We also choose to split meals. If you’re an adult wanting a light meal, order a kids’ meal at a fraction of the cost. To avoid inevitable food waste, have your kids split meals. This will inspire more motivation to finish their plates. And hey, if it leaves them wanting more food, you can always just order two next time. Lesson learned.
Be souvenir smart.
There are a few things you can do. You can skip souvenirs altogether. Alternatively, you can go to one special shop and let each kid pick out just one special item. This will make them choose with care. You can also go on Amazon or to a dollar store and get a bunch of fun items to break out during a meltdown, like glow items, bubbles, Disney figures, etc. The big box stores near in Orlando carry Disney merchandise at a fraction of the cost and this is a great option for little ones!
Enjoy free activities and adventures.
Did you know there are a bunch of free activities you can enjoy just by staying at or visiting the resorts? There are sing-a-longs, story hours, movies, fireworks, boardwalks, and more. We had an extra two days in Disney World one January and explored new resorts. What fun!
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