How to actually SAVE money when you go to Disney, like for realz

Wait, what?!! Is it seriously possible to go to Disney and spend LESS money than you thought you would spend? If you asked me this two weeks ago, I would have said bwhahahahaha, no. But then at the end of our trip to Disney World, this is what happened. I was checking out of our hotel and I asked my hubby…

ME: How much do you think we spent?

HUBBY: Hmm, $150 maybe??

ME: WTF are you smoking?

HUBBY: More?

ME: Yes more. It’s not the early 1900’s.

Anyways, I was guessing the bill would be around $1000. I mean throughout the trip we had these amazing wristbands that you can charge everything on. Yayyyy, we’re not spending any money!! Oh wait, you have to pay it back later??? So when it came time to check out of our hotel, I carefully planted my feet firmly on the floor and gripped the front desk so I wouldn’t keel over when she passed me the final bill (FYI, this does not include the amount for our room and park tickets because they make you pay that ahead of time so you can’t be like WTF was I thinking and try to bail).

So the front desk person slid me the bill and I looked.

Wait, this is so low. There has to be a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I did NOT say this out loud just in case it was a mistake. And then I hightailed it out of there before she could realize.

HUBBY: How much was it?

ME: I’ll tell you once we’re in the car.

HUBBY: That bad?

ME: That GOOD.

Yup, our bill for five days at Disney, food and drinks and Mommy drinks and lots of other stuff came to $350. I shit you not. For a family of four. And yes, I know money is relative and some people are gonna call me an a-hole for thinking that’s cheap, but seriously people, it’s Disney, it’s gonna cost you an arm and a leg. But maybe just an arm if you listen to some of these suggestions. So here goes, eight easy tips on how to save some serious money when you go to Disney:

1. Bring your own food to the parks

And nope, you don’t have to sneak it in. It is totally allowed. And I know it might seem like a pain in the ass, but it has MANY advantages. Like for example, when everyone else is starving to death at noon and standing in long lines waiting to order their food, you can break out your packed lunch and be like ha haaaa. I mean not out loud, but in your head. And yeah Disney has some healthy choices but I know myself and I’m sure I’d just order a burger and fries and other crap, which tastes delicious but makes you feel like poop afterwards. Oh yeah, and bringing lunch saves over $50. Cha-ching!!

2. Order Amazon Prime Now shipped to your room ahead of time

So here’s how you do it. You get the Amazon Prime Now app, you place a grocery order the day BEFORE you go on vacation, and badabing badaboom, it’s at your hotel waiting for you when you arrive (they held it in their fridge until we got there!!). $70 got us all our breakfasts AND lunches for the week. Granola bars, bread, PB&J, turkey and cheese, apples, bananas, pretzels, AND water. LOTS of water.

 

3. Speaking of water

You know how theme parks charge you like a bazillion dollars for water? Well, Disney doesn’t. I mean they do if you buy bottles which a lot of people do– succcccckers– but you can literally walk up to any quick service restaurant and ask for cups of ice water. FOR FREE!!!!! And then you can do what we did. We brought our insulated water bottles to the park and filled them with the ice water. So guess how much I spent on water at the park? $0.

4. Get a FREE travel agent

Okay, so at first I tried to plan my trip by myself. Holy crap was I in over my head. But hell if I was gonna waste precious money on a travel agent. Wha-WHAT, they’re free?!!!! Who knew? Well, probably everyone but I’m always the last to know important stuff. Anyways, I’m sure there are tons of awesome travel agents (if you’re one, feel free to leave your info in the comments!), but I LOVED the one I used. Perfect Story Travel and I had Stacy Coker, and she totally kicked ass. She booked all of our fast passes and actually got us one for Avatar’s Flight of Passage which is like impossible. These are the four most important words you will read in this post: GET A TRAVEL AGENT. And the seven most important ones are: GET A COTTONTINI AT THE T-REX CAFÉ. It’ll make your teeth feel like they’re wearing a fur coat… in a good way. 

5. Let your kids pay for their own damn crap

So before we went, one of you awesome people told me the best idea. Give your kids Disney gift cards before you go.

 

 

That way when they ask you for nine million things (can I have Mickey ears, can I have a stuffed animal, can I have a light up wand, can I, can I, can I?!!!), you can tell them, “Yes you can. Use your gift card!!” And they won’t go over the budget. P.S. a little birdie told me you can even buy the gift cards at Target and save 5% with your red card.

 

6. Wake up at the butt-crack of dawn every day

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What kind of vacation is that?! Ummm, the kind of vacation you’re paying thousands of dollars for, and the earlier you get to the park, the more rides you get on. I mean technically this doesn’t save you any money, but I’m the kind of cheapskate who divides the cost of the ticket by the number of rides we do to see if we got our money’s worth. And if you get to the park a little before it opens every day, you pretty much walk onto most of the rides for the first hour or so. Like Peter Pan had a 5-minute wait time. And then later when you see people waiting 90 minutes for Peter Pan, you can stand at the entrance and announce, “I’m so glad we didn’t wait an hour and a half for a ride that lasts 3 minutes!!” You know, if you’re a jerkwad. And then hopefully if your travel agent was smart, your fast passes start around 10:30 when the lines start getting totally cuckoo for cocopuffs.

7. If you are debating, RENT A STROLLER

This is NOT where you want to save money otherwise your kid will do THIS and your day will suck. 

FYI, this was NOT taken at Disney. Wanna know why? Because we RENTED A STROLLER.

My kids are 6.75 and 9, and they haven’t ridden in a stroller for four years, but we still rented one. A double. We used the heck out of it.

In fact, my hubby and I fought over whether or not to rent one for weeks, and in the end I won (duh, I don’t know why he even tries), and after the first day he literally turned to me and said, “You were right.” At that point I looked out the window to see if pigs were flying but all I saw were gorgeous fireworks.

8. Skip the memory maker package

In case you don’t know what that is, that’s where you pay $169 and there are all these places around the park where professional photographers will take your picture. I mean some people say it’s totally worth it, but here’s what would happen if I did it. I’d constantly be telling my kids to pose for pictures and they’d constantly be pitching a fit for making them stop to take pictures all day long. Plus, did you know that there are FREE photographers everywhere you go at Disney?!! They’re called regular people who will be happy to take your family’s picture if you just kindly ask them and offer to take theirs in return. See?

So there you go. Feel free to share your favorite Disney secrets in the comments– like ways to save money or other helpful stuff!!

And if you liked this, please don’t forget to like and share it. Thank you!!!!! And have a magical day!!




There are 15 comments for this article
  1. Kerin at 10:39 am

    We saved by getting tickets and hotels on http://www.undercovertourist.com and they also have a free wait time app that saved sooo much time waiting in line. When you search in the app store, look for a frog image because it doesn’t actually say Undercover Tourist for some reason. Hope this helps!

  2. Susan Schulken at 11:03 am

    I will add that if you stay at a Disney hotel and plan to go early in the morning, the bus line is staggering. Even in the “off” season, which is when we went. We got there an hour before the park opened and then stood on line for about an hour. And then there is the 30 minute line at the park to get your bag checked. Unless you can jam it in your pocket somehow. So when we tried to leave early for Animal Kingdom and got there 1/2 hour late (8:30). the line for Avatar was 3 1/2 hours. Yep, that’s 3 1/2 hours. At 8:30am. And all the Fast Passes were already taken. I can’t think of anything on earth that would get me to stand in line for that long, and I definitely won’t do it for a ride no matter how awesome (and it was awesome–we got on another way). So leave way more time than you think you need if you are heading to any park early.

    • Jen at 11:51 am

      It depends on which Disney property you are staying at, so check with your travel agent or do some digging for the website (I’m not thinking of it right now…maybe allears?) that give you shuttle info about your hotel. Some of the hotels feature more than just busses to get you over to the parks (think boats, monorails, back entrances you can walk over on…) Additionally, if you are a hotel guest you can park at any of the parks for free! Also be sure to book your FAST PASSES as soon as they open!! For Disney hotel guests that’s 90 days before hand!!

  3. Michele at 11:07 am

    My family is going in September and we do have a wonderful travel agent BUT I’m a control freak and I’ve planned nearly every detail of the trip. We did splurge on the dining plan and also the memory maker (my pocket digital camera is from 2006 so either I buy a new one or pay the $169). I love your tips and I’ll be checking out amazon to setup a delivery.

  4. Sara at 11:43 am

    I am an authorized Disney travel agent with an earmarked agency, the highest rating you can get with Disney! Feel free to message me to receive a free quote and a Disney decal! [email protected]

    I would love to add that Disney’s photopass photographers will also take pictures using your cell phone so you can get those awesome shots on Main Street or in front of the Tree of Life on your phone!!!

  5. Brittany at 12:15 pm

    We just got back from Disney two weeks ago, and our biggest regret was not purchasing the Memory Maker beforehand. Some of the character photographers would not take pictures using our camera. So we did end up purchasing it after we saw our pictures once we were home. Also, it saves you money to rent a stroller from a third party company. We have small children so a stroller was a must. We used Orlando Stroller rental and we got a nice stroller for 4 days for $50. Plus it was delivered to our resort and picked up.

  6. Asma at 1:31 pm

    My family went with my best friend’s family to Disney World and we booked a resort to stay at together and it was awesome (aside from the fact that the kids clogged 2 of the bathrooms)- you save on hotel rooms and get to pool together the snacks and meals you each brought along. Anyways, it was a fun trip and a great bonding experience for us, I really recommend booking a resort!

  7. Meredith at 4:41 pm

    We rented a house instead of staying on property, which allowed us to be much more comfortable (and if you share a house with friends it’s most likely cheaper than even the cheapest hotel rooms) and have our own pool, as well as do nearly all our meals there. Breakfast was obviously easy, we packed lunches, and most days I put something in the crockpot so that it was ready when we got home if we weren’t going to be terribly late. We drove, so we took the crockpot with us. If you fly, that’s probably not an option. I know it’s not quite the same experience, but we are more frugal than we are Disney crazy. ?

  8. Isolde Schroder at 6:42 pm

    YASS….bring your own food and cooler. Freeze your water bottles the night before and your tetra-pack of chardonnay.

    Use the Disney app to locate all your needs…and buy your tickets. BUUUUT…make sure to take a screen shot of your ticket barcodes because you will need them when the app goes down (which it does) and then you aren’t the dumb dumb standing in line to get new tickets issues. Which will ruin the rest of your day.

    Also, we rented a modest airBnB on Huntington beach in between park days. Spent our day recovering, ocean splashing, and fueled by the Trader Joe’s nearby.

  9. Kez at 4:34 pm

    We live in Orlando and ALWAYS bring our own food to the theme parks! A publix sub, some granola bars, and free water go a long way! Then we spend money on fun things like dole whip with a shot a rum or the starbucks coffee which always tastes just that more magical at Disney!!

    • Sharmi at 4:33 pm

      Make your own! Buy a notebook you like then go to the scrapbook section of a craft store. Slap on some Disney stickers! So easy and much cheaper than buying a Disney autograph book. I then put in photos from the trip on the extra pages for the kids after the trip. Instant scrapbook!

  10. Jamie Clemens at 2:07 pm

    I love this post! All great ideas! Saving $ on site is a niche of mine and I LOVE LOVE to help people save in the areas that best fit their family while still giving them fantastic magical memories.

    I am a Disney Travel Specialist for Magical Vacation Planner; we are an Earmarked Gold Level agency, the highest rating you can get with Disney! Feel free to message me to receive a free quote! [email protected]

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