10 Tips on Saving Money at Disney

{Meeting Daisy Duck at the Tusker House Restaurant at Animal Kingdom}

Our family of three spent four days at Walt Disney World last month, and we are already ready to go back!  It was a spontaneous add-on to our already booked beach vacation, so we didn't get to plan as much as we could have if we had booked six months out.  But we had so much fun!  And that made all of the last minute effort of finding another hotel and planning ahead for four days at Disney parks totally worth it!  We've known a lot of friends who have gone for a full week to Disney, but for us, four days felt just right.   And the good news is since we didn't break the bank we hope to go back soon!  

Here are 10 tips on how to save money on your next Disney trip:

1.) Consider driving rather than flying.  Flying these days is such a hassle that we prefer to drive instead.  It makes our trip less stressful because we can go with the flow instead of worrying about a plane to catch.  Then when you arrive at your destination you have transportation!  Plus, the money  saved on airfare can go toward park admission tickets.

2.) Stay off property.  The allure of staying on Disney property is appealing until you see the price tag.  The prices of Disney hotels are higher than other comparable hotels.  While we were there we checked a couple of Disney properties out and for the price we chose to stay off property.  It was really nice to go back to our hotel in the afternoon to swim or relax and get away from the big crowds for a little while.  I would recommend staying within 10-15 minutes of the parks so that your commute isn't too long each day.  

3.) Go for four days instead of seven.  We purchased 4 Day Park passes and felt like that was a good amount of days for our first trip with a toddler.  We went to Magic Kingdom two days, Animal Kingdom for one day and Hollywood Studios on our last day.  

4.) Take a rest day at the hotel.  It was so nice to take a rest day after three days spent at the parks.  There's only so much a toddle can take in so having a day to decompress and relax by the pool was just the buffer we needed before our last day at the parks.  The key to a fun day at the hotel is making sure you have a nice pool area when you book your hotel.  Since you are paying for a hotel anyway, it's nice to enjoy the amenities while you are there and helps with your vacation budget!

5.) Explore other parts of Orlando.  We enjoyed other parts of the city besides Disney on our rest day.  We went shopping, ate at local restaurants and even drove around some gorgeous neighborhoods.  

6.) Bring your own stroller.  You will definitely want to make your toddler ride as much as possible instead of walking the park.  You can rent strollers at the parks, but you will save by bringing your own.

7.) Split meals and bring your own snacks.  The days at the parks are long and tiring so we preferred to eat smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day to keep everyone happy.  At the table service restaurants, my husband and I split an entree and ordered a kid's meal for our toddler.  The lunch portions were pretty generous so it was plenty to hold us over until our afternoon treat (which was ice cream most days).  Disney lets you bring in your own snacks and drinks which was a big help.  We brought in three large waters every day plus snacks for our toddler which helped with the waiting for rides.  This strategy cut the cost of eating out each day.  

8.) Splurge on one character breakfast.  Since it's Disney, we thought it was totally worth it to dine at a character buffet where we could meet Disney characters.  We ate breakfast at the Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom and lunch at Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios.  Our favorite by far was Tusker House - the Jungle juice was amazing!  I would highly recommend budgeting for a character breakfast on your next trip, especially since the price of an adult breakfast buffet is cheaper than lunch and dinner options.  Having a special dining reservation to look forward to was a great incentive for keeping the food budget reasonable on other days.  Plus, it really made our trip!

9.) Use your fast passes to see characters.  Instead of feeling obligated to set up expensive lunches and dinners to see characters, use your fast passes each day to see your toddler's favorite characters.  At Magic Kingdom, we saw Tinkerbell, Cinderella and Rapunzel.  Then we saw the classic characters at our Tusker House breakfast: Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.  We did see the Disney Jr. characters (Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and Handy Manny) at our Hollywood & Vine lunch, but on our way out we saw them outside at accessible spots with short lines.  Since Hollywood Studios is a much smaller park, next time we would just wait in line a few minutes to see Sofia instead of paying for the pricey character lunch.

10.) Bring your own princess dresses/ character costumes.  Since our daughter was under three, we didn't make an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  We brought our own princess dresses with us which made her meet and greet experiences more magical.  She wore a Cinderella dress when she met Cinderella at her castle, and I had a few shirts monogrammed for her to wear each day to the parks.  I let her pick out one dress on our last day at Hollywood Studios.  I used the Disney Shop Parks app on my iPhone the night before to pick out a couple of clothing options that I thought she would like that were in our budget.  This app is great because it shows what items are in stock at each gift shop!  The next day I was able to go straight to the options I had picked out which helped us not waste time shopping and kept my toddler focused on the task at hand.  After holding up a couple choices, she enthusiastically chose an Elsa and Anna tulle dress to wear to the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.  It was less than what I would have spent at the boutique, but still made her feel special because she got to pick something out at Disney World!

Have you been to Disney lately?  What tips can you share on how to save money?


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