The Ultimate Disney Vacation Guide on a budget

It seems like every year the theme parks increase their rates. As soon as one does it then the others usually follow. As if the mouse doesn’t get enough of our money already, right? They hit you up for a $22 parking fee before you even get through the gates. Not to mention ticket prices. There are so many variances in pricing I could write an entire post on just that alone. Single day, multiple day, park hopper, park hopper plus, water park option, no expiration option,¬†Florida resident pricing, UK resident pricing. Then there are the annual passes, Disney platinum pass, gold pass, silver pass, weekday select pass, Epcot after 4 annual pass, Florida resident annual pass, pass on the whole trip and stay home…I’m getting dizzy. Don’t forget the discounts available. AAA/CAA, Disney Vacation Club, convention goers, Disney corporate sponsors, Florida residents, Military, DOD, Civil Service, Disney Youth education series, and other special passes not mentioned. I will leave the tickets for you to figure out. The purpose of this post is to help you save money on the rest of your trip.

As a Florida resident living in the Tampa Bay area we don’t have to worry about air travel. It is about a 90-minute car trip to Disney from my house. When we do travel by plane I prefer to use Southwest whenever we can. I don’t want to be charged for my checked in baggage and I don’t need pre-assigned seating. For those that plan on traveling by air, book your flights mid-week. Most airlines put their specials up Tuesday and Wednesday.

When picking a place to stay, like anything else in Orlando, there are tons of options. When my son was young, we preferred to stay on Disney property. It made it a lot easier getting to and from the hotel and the parks with all of our stuff. So, if you have kids or just like the convenience of staying on a Disney property and a shorter commute then this will be a good option for you. Not the cheapest places to stay but if you go during the off season you can certainly get a fair price plus you get free transportation to and from the airport and the parks and extended Disney Park hours before and after the park opens to the public.

Staying off-site has a lot of pluses that Disney hotels can’t offer. If you are staying more than a couple of days, then renting a Vacation Rental can be a real money saver. Almost all units have full sized kitchens or kitchenettes, so you can prepare your own meals and avoid expensive restaurant food and their long lines that come with them (because every restaurant in the area has a wait no matter when you go). Vacation rentals are also great for families. A lot of the units have bedrooms with multiple beds so there is plenty of room for larger groups of family or friends. You will also find washers and dryers in many of the units which is great when little Johnnie decides he’s going to wear his lunch on his shirt or little Susie insists on wearing her favorite outfit every day of the trip. All parents can relate, right? These can all be huge money savers as well as saving valuable time that you could be enjoying your vacation.

If you are flexible with your travel dates you can save a bunch of cash by traveling on off-peak times. The busiest times of the year are Spring Break: Feb-March, Summer vacation: June-August and Christmas and Thanksgiving weeks. If you still want to take advantage of the summer season, then your best bet is mid-May to mid-June or mid-August to the end of September. For the lowest rates aim on traveling in January, April-May and September-October.

Make sure you visit Disney’s Special Offers page. There is always a few deals to be found there. The deals can range from statement credits on Disney Visa cards to free dining plans to discounts on multi-day resort stays.

Taking advantage of the multi-day park passes will save you quite a bit of money. If you buy a 5-day ticket package you can save more than $30 per person per day. That’s a $600 savings for a family of 4 for a 5-day park pass.

Don’t fall for the Disney Meal Plan. Unless you plan on eating 3 meals a day there it’s not worth the money. Eat breakfast in your Vacation Rental and pack a lunch to take into the park. We have brought packed food and brought bottled water into the park many times and it has never been an issue.

Here are a few other helpful ideas:

But the souvenirs at any of the discounted souvenir shops before you go in.

Bring rain poncho’s – It’s Florida and rain storms can pop up frequently in the summer.

Bring the grandparents – No grandmother can refuse to buy her grandson the big stuffed Pluto character when she sees that look on his face (speaking from experience)

Try camping – Fort Wilderness Resort is by far the cheapest Disney Resort and you get to sing along at the nightly campfire with Chip n’ Dale and roast marshmallow’s.

Don’t be a sucker for all the extra’s – It’s easy to get sucked into all the Magical experiences Disney offers but they’re not necessary to have a great time.

Buy a refillable mug – We saved a bundle purchasing one drink mug with free refills and shared it among the 3 of us.

Use Amazon Fresh – You can order 2 days prior to your arrival and have it delivered to where you are staying.

Take your own pictures – There is no excuse now days to pay someone to take your picture. Everyone has a cell phone that takes good pictures…period.

Go to the Character Warehouse – Disney doesn’t have clearance sections in the gift shops so they send the excess merchandise off to two different Orlando outlets called Disney Character Warehouse. You can get items up to 90% off in some cases.


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