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Whether you are planning your first trip to Walt Disney World or you’ve been going for years, there are some easy ways to save money on a Disney trip. Of course, there are ways to save money on hotels and airfare, but I’m going to focus on how to save money at Disney.
With a little planning ahead you can save hundreds of dollars while on your trip. Use that cash savings to stay an extra day, buy the giant Mickey Mouse your kid has been eyeing, or put it away for the next vacation.
Save money on a Disney trip with these 11 Disney money saving hacks
1. Buy discounted Disney gift cards before you go
There are many ways you can get Disney gift cards at a discount. The simplest one is to purchase them at Target by using your Target Redcard. This entitles you to 5% savings. So you will get every $50 card for $47.50. Other options are to purchase them on Raise.com, Giftcardgranny, or cardkangaroo. If they are out of stock on these websites, they will let you set up an alert that will notify you when they are back in stock. I have purchased gift cards from all of the above locations and had zero trouble.
If you are staying at a Disney resort, your magic band will be used to charge all of your purchases. Then you go to the front desk of your resort and pay off your balance. You can also give the resort your gift cards at the start of your trip, and the amount will be reflected on your account.
2. Bring your ponchos
It’s Florida, and it rains almost every day especially in the summer. It may not rain a lot, but it will likely rain at least a little bit. A poncho is great because it folds up nice and small into your backpack, unlike a rain jacket. Also, a poncho, along with clothespins can make a great stroller cover while the child is sitting in it or while the stroller is waiting outside of an attraction for you to return.
If you don’t bring your poncho, don’t worry Disney has you covered. However, the Disney ponchos will cost you $9/each. If you have a family of 4 that means you will be shelling out $36 for a clear poncho with Mickey on it that hundreds of other people will be wearing as well. It’s not the Disney souvenir I want to bring home. With a little planning, you can pick up a good quality poncho back at home for a fraction of the cost. Be sure to watch the weekly Menards ad because they typically offer them free with the rebate a couple of times throughout the year. They may not be the best quality, but if you purchase a few extras, you will be fine.
On one of our trips, my poncho ripped at the base of the neck. It was about halfway through our trip, and it happened to be a rainy week while we were there. Literally, water was pooling on the ground in the parks. Brian tried to convince me we could buy a new poncho for me at Disney, but I refused. I did not want to give Disney money for a poncho and boy was I stubborn about it. Some may call this cheap, I call it being frugal in Disney World.
3. Buy pins for pin trading on eBay before you go
Disney encourages pin trading among guests and cast members. Every cast member will have either a lanyard or a satchel that they have pins to trade. Cast members have to trade with any guest who asks them (they may have some designated to only trade with children). An easy way to save money on a Disney trip if you plan to pint trade is to purchase a large number of pins on eBay for a fraction of the cost. It doesn’t matter if you like them all or not because you will be trading your way through the parks. Just make sure they are official Disney pins with the Disney Pin Traders logo on the back. Otherwise, you can’t trade with cast members.
A lanyard with a zippered pouch works well if your child or husband wants to play the Keys to the Kingdom game throughout the Magic Kingdom.
I am not into pin trading, but both my husband and oldest daughter are. However, every year we go to Disney World we do get two pins that we save as souvenirs: a pin with the year we went and a pin of the resort we stayed at.
4. Bring your stroller
You can rent a stroller through several companies in the Orlando area (Kingdom Strollers $70 for 4-7 nights), and the stroller will be waiting for you at your resort. I prefer to bring my stroller, so I don’t have to pay anyone any money for the use of a stroller. The umbrella stroller we purchased from Amazon (The First Years Jet stroller- not currently available). served us well for two trips to Disney World. We also use the stroller at home too. An umbrella stroller is nice because it doesn’t take up much room and is easy to fold and unfold when you are getting on and off Disney transportation.
If you think you don’t need a stroller because you’re kids are too old, think again. There is a LOT of walking while you are at Disney and your child is going to get tired. And if your kids are anything like mine when they get tired, they get whiny and eventually shut down. We took our umbrella stroller when Cassidy was almost 5, and it was the best decision. In fact, for our last trip, Cassidy was 8 and Amelia 3, we purchased a used sit and stand stroller. The girls both rode or stood throughout the parks and it definitely prevented many breakdowns from tired kids. When we returned from Disney we sold the sit and stand stroller on Varage Sale for the same amount we bought it for.
You do not want to get caught having to rent a stroller at Disney. My first choice is bringing your stroller from home; the second choice is renting a stroller form a stroller company down there. The last resort would be renting from Disney ($15/day) at the park entrance.
5. Bring your autograph book
If your child is going to want to get autographs, you should plan and bring an autograph book. It can be simple or elaborate, that is completely up to you. One time we went we purchased a quality spiral bound book at Michaels (40% off, of course) and took it with us. Cassidy had each character sign on a different page, and then when we got back, we attached a picture of her and the character to the back of each page. When she looks at the book now, she can see the picture of her with the character and their signature right below.
Not only will you save money by purchasing an autograph book in advance you will also have more choices for how to use it (i.e., just autographs, pictures, and autographs, etc.)
6. Bring your souvenirs, glow bracelets, etc.
Pick up glow bracelets, wands, rings, necklaces and the like at your local dollar store before heading to Disney World. You can pay $1 each before you go or you can pay a lot more for the convenience of buying at Disney World. Again, you will also have more options if you purchase ahead of time. Glow bracelets are great for late nights in the park, especially during fireworks.
Check out Disney items at local stores before you leave as well. You can buy most Disney products online or in stores before you leave and pack them away in your suitcase. These can be great souvenirs that you present to your children throughout your stay. Seriously, one of the best Disney World savings secrets we found. For my kids, we have had great luck with little figurines. The girls love to play with them, and they entertain them while waiting for Disney transportation to and from our resort.
7. Buy your dress-up clothes ahead of time.
If your children are going to want to dress up, and who doesn’t. Plan ahead. Any time of year, check out garage sales, Varage Sale, or eBay. Right after Halloween is the PERFECT time to pick up a brand-new costume at a steep discount in the stores. Before our last trip, I stopped at Target and got a beautiful Elsa and Belle costume for each of my daughters. This was nine months before our trip, but I could predict what size we would need. The grandparents were taking the girls to Bibbidi, Bobbidi Boutique to celebrate their birthdays in the Magic Kingdom so I knew the dresses would be perfect for that day.
This little frugal Disney World trick alone will save you hundreds of dollars compared to purchasing in the stores at Disney World. There is no limit to the number of costumes your child can wear. If they want to dress like a different character each day they can because you purchased the costumes for a fraction of the cost. Then when you get home, these costumes will be great additions to their dress-up wardrobe.
8. Have groceries delivered to your resort
You can have groceries delivered to your resort (including refrigerated items). Several local stores, as well as Amazon Fresh, will deliver to the resorts. Our last trip we used Safeway and it worked out well. You go online and pick out what you want and set your delivery day/time. If you haven’t checked in yet, your Disney resort will hold the groceries, with perishables in the refrigerator, until you check in.
By doing this, it allowed us to have several more options for snacks and breakfast available to us. We always pack snacks for the park so that we can save money on buying snacks throughout the day. My girls are not very old, but they have never ending stomachs it seems. They are constantly hungry.
After our first trip with Cassidy, she was two at the time; we learned to be flexible when it came to food. It was so frustrating to order meal after meal that she picked at or didn’t eat. Unless it is going to be a sit-down restaurant we make peanut butter and jelly for the kids along with applesauce, carrots or the like and then supplement as needed. The kids are happy, the parents aren’t frustrated, and we save money. Win-win.
9. Eat breakfast in your resort room
Another trick that we use almost anytime we travel, but especially to Disney, is to eat breakfast at our resort. Unless we have a reservation for breakfast, which is usually one time during our trip, we eat breakfast before heading to the parks. This allows everyone to have a more leisurely start to the day. Everyone can eat as they want as they wake up. The television usually has cartoons on as we take turns getting ready and showering.
This is not only a Disney money saving tip but also a sanity-saving tip.
By the time we open our door at the resort we are clean, stomachs full and ready to tackle a day at the parks. This saves us a lot of money and headache in the morning. Before grocery delivery, we would pack cereal, bagels, peanut butter, paper bowls, plastic spoons and knives in our luggage. Then we would pick up milk at the resort gift shop. Now that we can get grocery delivery our breakfast options have expanded. Now we get yogurt, fruit, cereal, bread, peanut butter and pack the paper products and plasticware in our suitcase. (If you are worried about luggage space, we pack very well using our space savers ***(link) and the items we use up while there allow a little extra room in our luggage for souvenirs.)
Be sure to have a portable luggage scale so you are sure your bags weigh under the limit for the airplane. Trust me you don’t want to be moving things from one suitcase to the other in front of the ticket agent. (A lesson learned the hard way on our honeymoon).
10. Carry waters bottles or camel packs for water
I have never bought water in Disney World! Unless it’s come with my buffet meal, I have never bought a beverage in Disney World. Granted I love water, and it is primarily the only beverage I drink, so this is not hard for me, but Disney sells a whole lot of water bottles every single day.
We sometimes carry water bottles, but more often than not we have Camelpacks (link). These are water packs that go inside of a backpack. Even if you go in the middle of the summer (which is when we usually go) the water will be cold all day.
Here’s the trick: Take the water reservoir out and fill it with ice from the ice maker in your resort. Once it is full of ice, then fill with water. Use a resort hand towel to dry off the water reservoir and wrap around it. Then place it in the backpack. The towel will prevent your back from getting wet as the ice melts. But even if a little ice melts on you, in the hot Florida sun, it will feel nice. The ice will also help to mask the bad tasting Florida water unless of course, you like that taste. Our Midwestern taste buds did not like it.
You will have cold water until you return to the hotel and dump what’s out and start again. We both carry a camel pack and share with the girls. If this is not your style take water bottles and refill them at water fountains. Disney does have something that’s free – water! This will save you money every single day. Plus there is no time for dehydration in Disney World. To stay hydrated in the hot Florida sun, you need to consume a lot of water.
Every counter service restaurant will give you free ice water if you walk up and ask. You don’t even have to be buying anything there. Now that’s an easy way to save money on a Disney trip that doesn’t even require packing or carrying anything extra.
11. Eat sit down restaurants for lunch and counter service for dinner
I do enjoy to eat my way through vacation, so I don’t want to pack every meal. We could order enough groceries to pack all of our meals or go back to the resort to eat, but part of a vacation for me is eating out. To eat out and save money we choose when we eat where. Table service restaurants are more expensive for dinner, so we try to schedule those for lunch and then do counter service restaurants for dinner. Usually, the food is similar if not the same, but a much better price earlier in the day. The same goes for character meals at lunch versus dinner.
Depending on how big your lunch is you may opt to only have a snack or two for dinner as well. As an ice cream connoisseur, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that the best ice cream in Disney World is at Artisan de Glace in France at Epcot. The vanilla is REAL vanilla and amazing! However, the best waffle cone is at Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.
Now you are ready to save some serious money on your first (or next) trip to Disney. If you have other frugal Disney World tips, please comment below so others can learn from your expertise.