A trip to Disney is no simple vacation, with the prices to match. One of the most frequently asked questions that I get as a travel agent is “How much does a trip cost on average?”. And here’s the thing … when it comes to Disney – there is no average. But what if you’re trying to plan a trip to Disney on a budget? How do you begin?
The beauty of Disney is that you can truly form a trip for almost every budget. From the campgrounds to The Polynesian Bungalows, there’s a wide variety of price differences. Some people spend just around $1,000 for their entire hotel stay, and some spend more than $1,000 a night! (For a full look at the Disney World hotels, check out this blog post.)
And hotel is just the beginning! There are 5 pillars to a Disney vacation, and in this guide, I’ll be walking you through doing all of the above on a budget, so that you can make your money stretch the farthest for your trip, with a few bonus tips. And, to get a further look at what those 5 pillars are, be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to a Disney World Vacation post!
The first pillar of a Disney vacation is where you’ll stay. Now if you’re wanting to go all-in on getting the absolute most bang for your buck, I’d recommend getting an AirBnb in the nearby area. Even better, if you can travel with a group and split the cost.
However, if you’re the kind of person that just is dying to stay within the Disney bubble – the absolute cheapest option on site are the campgrounds. The tent sites are about half the cost per night of the cheapest hotel on property.
But, if you’re not interested in sleeping on the hard ground after walking about a million steps around the parks all day (who could blame you?), the next cheapest options are going to be the All-Star Resorts. These rooms are small, and they’re definitely value resorts, but they also did just renovate All-Star Movies and Music (Sports should be happening soon!). The square footage might be small, but there’s PLENTY of storage space in these newly renovated rooms.
And if there’s any wiggle room in this area of your budget, I’d recommend trying to get a room at Pop Century. It’s still a value resort, so within the same tier as the All-Star Resorts, but it’s on Skyliner line, which is incredibly convenient and thus just a tad bit more per night.
Quick Tip: Throughout the year, Disney often offers resort discounts. Be sure to check for these when you book – particularly if you’re a Florida resident or Annual Passholder, as they get special discounts occasionally. Even after you book, I’d encourage you to check back every so often, because discounts can be retroactively applied to a trip. (Or, better yet, hire a travel agent and let them stay on top of that for you!)
For a deeper dive into Disney World Hotels, check out this blog post!
The number one way to save money on your Disney tickets are to not park hop. The park hopping option adds up very quickly, and it’s easy enough to have a great trip without utilizing that option.
If you’re on a budget, but looking to do a longer trip, you can also consider not going into the parks each day. There are so many different things that you can do outside of the parks to fill your time – and you might just walk away from your vacation feeling even more relaxed than anticipated! Here are just a few:
- Spend some time in Disney Springs
- Check out the Boardwalk area – particularly in the evening when there’s fun entertainment
- Spend the day at your resort pool
- Go resort hopping
- Head over to Universal’s CityWalk area
- Go mini-golfing, or check out any of the other fun Orlando attractions
Quick Tip: Avoid the parks on the weekends. Disney ticket prices vary each day, and you’ll find cheaper ticketing options during the week. The same goes for hotel stays! If you can go during the week, you’ll avoid those weekend price hikes!
For a full look at Disney World ticketing options, check out this blog post!
If you’re on a budget, skip the sit-down restaurants. Personally, I’d pick one to splurge on – especially if you have young kids (character meals are extra magical), and then let that be the big hoorah meal for the trip.
Either pack, or order Instacart, to get breakfast foods and snacks delivered to your room. That way you can eat breakfast in your room, and you’ll have snacks in the park for the hangrys. Alternatively, a popcorn bucket is a great snack to grab in the parks because refills are much cheaper than any other snack. Buy one bucket and snack all week with it!
You can also bring small coolers into the parks as well, if you’re really wanting to avoid paying for food in the parks. As long as it’s less than 24” long x 15” wide x 18” high, you’re good to go!
Quick Tip: Many people love the Disney dining plan, but it doesn’t actually save you any money if you do the math. It’s great for those that prefer to just prepare for everything ahead of time, so that they aren’t worried about budget and cost while they’re on vacation, but if you’re on a tight budget – skip this option.
For a full look at Disney World dining, check out this blog post!
I really despise this phrase but … when it comes to getting to and around Disney, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
If you fly into Orlando, you might decide to get a rental car, or you might decide to pay for MEARS transportation to get you to your hotel, or you might decide to just snag an uber.
Or, you could drive in and have your own car there with you.
Here are a few things to know:
If you’re staying on-site parking a car at your resort, there’s a fee per night but you get “free” parking at the parks.
If you’re staying off-site, it will cost you to park each day.
If you’re staying on-site, you’re eligible to use Disney transportation to get you around.
If you’re flying in, and want to save the most money, I’d recommend either getting MEARS transportation or an Uber and just use Disney transportation on your trip.
If you’re driving in, either way you’re paying to park and it is what it is.
For a full look at Disney World transportation, check out this blog post.
There are plenty of magical extras that you can invest in for your Disney vacation, but frankly, you don’t need any of those to have a good time.
If you know your kids will want souvenirs, buy some ahead of time from places other than Disney (I love to shop from other small businesses on Etsy – there are so many creative Disney inspired items out there!).
If you think your child will want to get dressed up as a princess at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, buy her a princess dress ahead of time.
If you want family pictures, skip the memory maker and just ask the cast members to take an extra one with your phone.
And if you want to skip the travel agent (although I’d obviously recommend that be one of your splurges 😉), grab this free sample itinerary. It’ll give you a starting place for planning out your trip!
I’ve got one final tip for you if you’re looking to save as much money as possible for your Disney vacation. Buy Disney giftcards ahead of time and use them for everything — hotel, dining, souvenirs, food.
How does this actually save you money, you might wonder? Well, if you have a Sam’s Club membership, or a Costco membership, you can save money on those giftcards. At the time of writing this blog post, you can buy a $500 Disney giftcard for $484 at Sam’s Club. That’s 15 dollars saved, and when you buy enough to cover hotel, tickets, dining, and more … it’s fairly easy to save at least $100-$200 if not more.
And if you have a Target RED Card, you can actually save 5% on your Disney giftcard purchases … on a $500 giftcard, that’s $25 saved!
And there you have it! Everything you need to know to if you’re planning a trip to Disney on a budget! If you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll help you out. And if you’re gearing up to plan your next magical escape, be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Disney Vacation blog post!