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How to Visit Disney World on a Budget

Walt Disney World can be one of the most memorable family trips you can go on. There is so much to do in the parks, even if you just restrict yourself to the Magic Kingdom. While not everything in the park costs additional money, the price of tickets, souvenirs and food can quickly add up.

28/05/2013 by Michael Garza

Walt Disney World can be one of the most memorable family trips you can go on. There is so much to do in the parks, even if you just restrict yourself to the Magic Kingdom. While not everything in the park costs additional money, the price of tickets, souvenirs and food can quickly add up.

There are several ways a large family can visit Walt Disney World and get the full park experience without breaking their wallets. By choosing the right discounts, staying in the right places and going during the off-season, you can have the enjoyable vacation of your dreams.

Saving money can take time, research and effort. The tips listed below are flexible ways to save money. You will experience the most savings if you:

  • Travel in late January or another off-season time
  • Book a hotel in Kissimmee
  • Dine outside of the Disney World Theme Parks
  • Use a Disney Rewards Credit Card
  • Bundle services together

The Time to Travel

Traveling to Walt Disney World on a budget starts with choosing the proper time of year. The most crowded times in the park are during spring, summer and holiday breaks. This is because children have the time off of school and the weather is ideal. Prices will always be higher when flocks of people enter the park, even if the cost of admittance stays the same. Vacation packages and hotel room costs are always the highest during these times.

While it’s not always possible to pull the kids out of school for a week to go to the park, the cheapest time to go to the park is when class is in session. Because spring break is not always held on the same week from school to school, it can be an excellent opportunity to go to the park. If your child’s Spring Break is in May, for example, you may be able to jump ahead of the summer crowd.

Other off-season times include January, when the park is winding down from its holiday festivities. Many people go to the park during the week of Christmas, so hotel rooms and vacation packages tend to be priced higher. In January, kids are back in school and the weather is colder, which defers many people from the park. All of the rides are still open though, despite the low temperatures.

If you still want to get a glimpse of the holiday décor in the park, try visiting the week before Thanksgiving. There will still be a bit of a crowd, but the lines will be shorter and the prices will be slightly cheaper than staying the week of Thanksgiving.

Cheap Hotels that Keep You in the Disney Spirit

Your hotel stay is going to be a huge chunk of the budget for your Disney trip. Because Orlando is packed with tourists year-round, hotels in the area are never cheap. Some families find that staying in Kissimmee hotels and taking a cab or hotel transportation to the parks is significantly cheaper than staying on Disney property. Even some Orlando hotels are cheaper than those around the parks and offer many children’s activities and incentives to stay at them.

For those who have their hearts set on Disney property, try one of Disney’s All-Star Resorts. Aside from the campgrounds, these are the cheapest hotels on Disney property. If you are traveling during the off season, you may be able to get rooms for well-under $100 a night. Booking in advance can also help to further decrease the cost of the room.

Maximize Rewards to Save Money in the Park

Disney offers a credit card specifically designed to help guests save money in the park. The Disney Premier Rewards card by Chase often offers additional incentives for signing up. Many promotions involve a gift card that can be used at Disney locations after you charge a certain amount. The card also gives you 2% back in rewards dollars on nearly any purchase you make. These rewards can be used towards your vacation without any black-out dates.

Another benefit of the card is additional savings while you are in Walt Disney World. This can help you save 10% on in-park dining options and on larger merchandise purchases. Special vacation financing programs are also available through the card to help you get to the park at your convenience.

What Vacation Packages Do

One common struggle of Disney tourists is whether or not to buy a vacation package. While savings can be had without one, a package is convenient and ensures that you have everything you need to enjoy the park. Those who are already staying in Walt Disney World hotels can easily add on their park tickets and a dining plan to create a vacation package that caters to their needs and saves them a bit of money. Booking through Disney’s website or a travel agent can help you create one of these packages.

For those who are taking the more unofficial booking route, try booking through Hotwire or TripAdvisor. These companies will occasionally be able to combine a rental car, hotel and flights together and may offer additional savings when booked together. When booking, keep in mind that the Kissimmee area is much cheaper than Orlando, and only a short drive away.

If you can get a vacation package or bundle your accommodations together, you should. Doing so almost always results in saving time and money in the long run.

Try Looking into a Timeshare

Some timeshare presenters will occasionally give away tickets to the park or hotel rooms in exchange for a few hours of your time. This can actually be an excellent way to save money on your vacation and is worth looking into. While the thought of a half-day long presentation can sound unbearable, many families have had success and have seen significant savings on their trip because of timeshares.

In Park Dining Savings

Dining in any of the Walt Disney World parks or in Downtown Disney is far from cheap. Even fast food selections from McDonalds will average about $10 a person per meal. A dining plan can help defer some of these costs and give you a wider variety in food choices.

Like any other place, some restaurants have much higher prices than others. For those wanting a fancier family meal filled with sophisticated Disney class, restaurants such as Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom, Bongos Cuban Café in Downtown Disney, Chefs de France in Epcot or Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Hollywood Studios offer many meals for under $30 a plate. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café is another hidden dining treasure in Tomorrowland, offering burgers, salads and chicken nuggets in a unique park environment at a slightly lower cost.

The easiest way to save money of course is to not eat in the park. There are several restaurants around the outskirts of the park, such as Golden Corral, that offer inexpensive prices. Nearby the park, you will also find two grocery stores and a Wal-Mart, along with several convenience stores. While you can’t take your cooler into the park, you can leave it in the car. With an all day pass, you can easily go out to your vehicle and enjoy a sandwich or snacks and then come back into the park.

How to Save on Park Admission

There are several ways to get cheap Walt Disney World tickets. Bundling the tickets with your hotel room will usually help you to save a few dollars.

One tip to save money is to actually buy your tickets the day of. While you will be waiting in line to buy the tickets in the morning, you can save a bit on admission if you don’t get a Hopper pass. If you know you and your family are only going to stay in one of Disney’s parks for the day, you can save some money by getting a single park pass. This is only true if you are visiting the park for one or two days.These can also be purchased in advance. If you are good at planning each day of your vacation, you can easily arrange your schedule to visit one park per day of your trip.

On the other hand, if you know you are going to be jumping from park to park frequently for a set number of days, buy your tickets at once. A weekly ticket or season pass may be cheaper than buying individual park tickets for the day.

One thing to avoid is the cheap stands in Orlando that offer tickets at extreme discounts. Some authorized retailers will get tickets slightly cheaper, but Disney themselves rarely offer large discounts. If you purchase used or unused tickets that don’t have your name on them, you risk them being confiscated at the gate. This can lead to a very unpleasant holiday!

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