Saving Money at Disney World

When I told people we were headed to Disney World, lots of people wanted to know how it went when we got home.  Instead of telling the same things many times when I will probably forget something each time, I’m just going to tell you all here.  If you don’t care, sorry…

One of the reasons we decided to go to Disney this summer is that Parker is 2 1/2.  Children under 3 are free at Disney.  He was able to share food with us on our dining plan, eat at the buffets we ate for free, and get free admission to the park.  That positive stuff outweighed the fact that he didn’t want to ride in the stroller and we had to carry him a lot of the time.  He enjoyed all of the rides and met all of the characters.  I’m looking forward to taking him when he is older (with no stroller) but it was definitely worth taking him now too.

Disclaimer:  I am in no way an expert on anything Disney.  This was my first trip but I did my research (I’m a librarian, I have to research) and tried to get the most for our money.

The LowDown

If you are going to Disney World, it’s going to be expensive.  There’s no way around that, but it doesn’t have to be crazy expensive.  There are many ways that you can be plan ahead and it will save you tons of money.

The first way to save some money is to watch for deals.  I teach with an expert on everything Disney and she was able to let me know when some great deals were happening.  We were able so score a deal that included hotel, park admission, and dining plans.

Lodging

There are tons of places to stay at Disney World.  You can stay at a Disney resort or somewhere else.  We decided early on that this was going to be a vacation all about Disney so we were going to take advantage of their transportation, lodging and everything else Disney so we decided to stay at a Disney resort.  This is still quite a decision.  Some of those resorts are crazy expensive!  They are beautiful too, so if that’s where you want to spend your money, go for it, but we really just wanted someplace clean to sleep.

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We chose to stay at Disney’s All Star Movie Resort.  Disney considers this a value hotel.  We had bus rides to all the parks whenever we wanted.  There was a great food bar where we could eat on our dining plan.  The rooms were clean.  The pools were super cool.  There were super cool themes like Toy Story and 101 Dalmatians that had gigantic characters and cool things to look at (Watch for my trip blog for pictures of this).  The rooms were clean.  The rooms were nothing extra special, but they were clean and the people who were worked there were helpful and nice.  Our room was quiet.  With all the crazy kids at that resort, I never heard anyone in another room.  I hope no one heard my kids either…

Food

We chose to do a quick-service dining plan.  This meant that we each got 2 meals and 1 snack per day for no additional cost.  We could eat at the food court at our hotel or anywhere we went that had the quick-service plan available.  We all know food at amusement parks is high so it was very fulfilling when the kids starting getting restless, I could just go get some popcorn, count it as one snack for the day and not pay a penny.

In addition to our dining plan, we also did a couple character meals.  I chose not to do some of the most expensive ones but we still had a great time.  We had breakfast one morning with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter.  We also had supper one night with Cinderella, the stepsisters and stepmother and Prince Charming.  I’m really glad we paid the extra to do these because the food was wonderful and the kids really loved the experience.

Even with Parker sharing food, we felt like we ate a ton.  We even had so many snacks leftover on the last day, we just went and picked out a bunch of snacks to take on the plane and bring home.  I definitely would do the dining plan again.

Other Money Saving Things

I bought “autograph books” from the $1 bins at Target that were Disney themed.  You can buy an autograph book at a Disney gift shop but I’m sure they won’t be $1 each.

I bought 89 cent ponchos at Walmart and kept them in our backpack wherever we went.  It never rained but if it had rained, I didn’t have to buy super expensive rain gear.  I was prepared.

I brought breakfast food/snacks so we could have some snacks in our room and not waste our dining plan meals on breakfast.  This must have worked because we didn’t bring any of these home.

Bring water bottles that you can refill for each day in the parks.  You can bring snacks and drinks into the park so pack a backpack to keep everyone happy.

Paige got a princess makeover at the Bippity Boppity Boutique.  This is not a cheap thing but I saved a ton by bringing Paige’s own princess dress up outfit instead of buying a princess gown there for $70!  Yes their dresses are pretty but Paige enjoyed having a little bit different outfit than everyone else walking around.  Seeing her face and how much she enjoyed the rest of that day was definitely worth it.

We brought a plethora of medicines and bandages just in case.

Our kids had been saving money for months for this trip.  I told them (Paige especially) that if they wanted to buy souvenirs, they could save for it.  We definitely bought them things too but it helped teach how much things cost and if it was worth it.  Paige wanted to get character pictures painted of both of them. It was going to cost $70 for both of our kids to get a painting done.  When I explained to Paige just exactly how many trips to the movie theater that would be, she understood that it was kind of outrageous and she would save her money for something better.  I overhead one lady tell the child with her that they could pick out something from the gift shop each day.  I thought, Holy Moly!  That would get expensive!

My lovely librarian at the public library, thought to show me the Unofficial Guide to Disney World.  I checked it out and took it with us.  It had tons of great information in it that helped me with a lot of these tips.

There’s a free app called “Undercover Tourist” that tells you which parks are busy and how long the waits are on the more popular rides.  I would pull it up while we were riding the bus to the park to see which ride we wanted to head to first.

Our daily schedule was:  Get up early and get to a park.  It was amazing how short the lines were early and it was much cooler.  We would head back to the hotel for lunch and rest/swim time.  Then later in the afternoon/evening we headed back.  The lines once again weren’t that bad and it was much cooler.

What would I do different?

I would arrive later in the day on the first day and leave earlier in the day the last day.  We wasted some time on travel and would have rather had full days to spend on fun.

I would rent a stroller from one of the companies in Orlando that does that.  The strollers I saw that had been rented looked nice.  I got a deal on a double stroller on CraigsList but the rented strollers were a lot nicer and seemed to work a little better.

I hope there was something here that you found helpful if you are thinking of taking a trip to Disney. If you are still wondering about something, please ask and I will be happy to give my opinion, if you want it.  I’m a librarian.  It just comes natural to me that we should all pool our resources to help each other.

Coming Soon:  Our family takes on Disney!

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