Disney on a Budget: How to Experience the Magic on the Cheap

by Vincent King · 3 comments

disney on a budget

Just as you’re trying to enjoy a quiet evening at home, the kids see a Disney commercial boasting the tremendous fun they’ll have if Mom and Dad take them there on vacation. Lunacy erupts in your den. The kids are begging. Then your wife turns on you, too. They think of fun, while you think of dollars flying out of your wallet.

How can you manage to give them their dreams — without blowing your budget?

disney on a budget1. Be strategic with your timing.

Whether you have to fly or not, the time of year you visit the park can make a huge impact on the bill. Airfare will be cheaper during non-peak travel times, and so will the park prices. Try to travel from September to early November, or January through mid-March (before spring break!) — and you’ll not only save money, you’ll save time waiting in lines. (Not to mention you won’t swelter in the blazing Florida sun like the summer tourists!)

Even if you can’t get away during an off-peak season, try to go during the week. Weekend fares are always more expensive, both in the air and at the park.

2. Prepare your family for inexpensive lodging.

Disney has loads of resorts on the premises. You can pay as much as $2,000 a night for the ritzier stays! Thankfully, there are also the Disney Value Resorts. There are three levels of pricing for these on-property hotels. The Pop Century Resorts will save you the most, with prices as low as $69 per night in the off-season.

Outside resorts and motels are also an option. You just have to decide if you want to trade commute time for the money you’re going to save. If you drive down, parking off-resort is the cheapest option, and many places have free shuttles to get you to and from the park.

If you like camping, you could stay at the park for less than $50/night. With Florida’s balmy weather, it’s entirely possible to camp outdoors in the off-season. Plus, you’ll also have free access to transportation to the park.

3. Get savvy about eating with meal plans.

Believe it or not, park meal plans can save you up to 25% on eating around the park. And if you’re going in the off-season, you may be able to get it for free (or at least at a deep discount) at park resorts. You can also take water and snacks inside the park to save some additional cash.

Study your restaurant options online before heading into the park. You don’t want to blow your budget on meals at Cinderella’s Royal Table at $65 a pop, when you can eat at Akershus’ for the Princess Storybook Dinner and pay a lot less to eat with the same princess.

4. Take advantage of ways to get more for your buck.

Fastpasses help you get into rides quickly and waste less time in lines, but they’re first come, first served. You can get them outside the major attractions in the park. You could have one member of your group run around and collect Fastpasses, then meet back at a designated spot.

Disney’s now introduced FastPass+ for on-property reservations. You can book your rides before you leave home, so you don’t have to send scouts into the park to get your Fastpasses for you!

Skipping Fastpass? Look for attractions that are lesser known (like Tom Sawyer Island), where the lines are shorter.

You should also buy multi-day passes. These can save over $100/person/day, since a one-day pass is about $150/person, and the mutli-day works out to be about $40/person/day.

Saving up for all this fun and excitement can be frustrating. But Mickey’s a smart mouse: Disney’s developed My Disney Experience, which is an interactive space for you to plan your perfect vacation. It lets you make reservations, then make payments on them, allowing you to break your Disney vacation into manageable financial chunks.

Seeing Disney isn’t cheap, but with these tips, you can maximize your savings without blowing your budget. What are your best tips for visiting Disney on a budget?

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  • fredjohnson says:

    You can’t do a Disneyworld vacation for under $1000 for 4 people. Not if you live in another State and have to fly or even drive there. At least not a 4 day vacation to the Park. But you people commenting on staying home—–the story is about taking a vacation to Disneyworld, not about netflix or riding some local bus to local watering hole. Do that if you want, but if I want to go to Disneyland with my kids, I’ll do it and I’ll do it on a budget.

  • Kate says:

    Or you could do what my Dad would have done, and say, “We are not millionaires, so we can’t go. Save your money once you get a job, and you can go then.” There are many wonderful places that will not cost you $2,000 a day (counting air fare and other transportation), that the children will enjoy just as much or more. I took my friend’s child to Disneyland (back in the 1970s) for the day, and when we got home and her mother asked her what she had done, she said excitedly, “We rode on the bus!” The next weekend I took her to the beach on the bus for 25 cents, and she had just as much fun as she’d had at Disneyland — for 25 cents plus an ice cream cone.

  • KM says:

    We don’t have TV and my son only watches cartoons on Netflix (occasionally), so no commercials to entice him.

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