1) Travel during value seasons
Value seasons are the slower times of year when resort room rates are at their lowest, and there are typically discounts available on the website to entice more guests to visit during the off season. Of course, traveling during the off season may not always be possible due to school or work obligations, but if you are able to go then, you would be saving some money off the cost of the hotel room, and most likely your airfare as well.
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2) Stay at a value resort
To save the most money off the cost of your hotel room, I would suggest staying at a value resort. In terms of value resorts, the All Stars are the least expensive, and in comparison to the next cheapest alternative (staying off Disney property) they’re really a great deal because of all the perks that come with staying at a Disney resort. Keep in mind that while all Disney resort guests receive complimentary transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport, and around the theme parks, guests are responsible for overnight parking charges. They can also participate in Extra Magic Hours, which allows them to enjoy some more time in theme parks either before they open or after they close to day-guests on select days.
3) Purchase Magic Your Way base tickets (or annual passes)
With regards to ticket options, Magic Your Way base tickets are the cheapest way to go, unless you visit the parks enough to make an annual pass worth the cost. While I do prefer to have park hopper tickets, as it allows you to be the most flexible in that you are not limited to one park per day, the Magic Your Way base tickets are the way to go if you’re really sticking to a tight budget. Even without the flexibility of park hopping, a little extra planning can go a long way, and you’ll still be able to do everything you want to do by using base tickets instead.
4) Use rewards points
If the thought of using any more credit cards isn’t quite comforting to you, you might want to skip this point, but if you feel financially savvy enough to use credit cards that offer rewards points towards vacations, this can be a great way to save some money off your trip. I recommend the Disney Visa card from Chase, because you can earn rewards points from using the card, but you’re also entitled to other Disney discounts and special offers. Another way to use a credit card to save some money would be to use an airline rewards card, that will help make your airfare to Orlando more affordable.
5) Budget for dining
Decide whether or not you will be purchasing the dining plan by doing a little research to see if it will be worth it for you and your family. Review restaurant menus and do some math to see if it would be cheaper to pay for meals out of pocket or to purchase the plan. If you decide to purchase the dining plan, the bulk of your dining costs will be lumped with the total cost of the vacation package, however you will still need to budget for gratuities or any extra food and alcoholic beverages. Without the dining plan, you can still figure out how much money to devote to dining by reading restaurant menus prior to your trip and estimating how much each meal will cost.
6) Bring certain items with you to the parks and your resort
To cut down on snack spending, especially if you have kids, bringing snacks into the parks with you can be really helpful. In addition, bringing things like umbrellas and ponchos will also save you money if you don’t have to buy them in the park during your trip. If you do wear rain ponchos, I would recommend buying them from Disney and bringing them back with you to reuse for each trip. Most dollar stores sell ponchos, but Disney’s (although more expensive) are of a much higher quality and should last you for a few years.
7) Pack the necessities
In addition to the items you’ll need to get you through a day at the parks, it’s important to make sure your hotel room has everything you need as well. Stopping to buy things like shampoo, medications, razors, and other necessities will eat up your time and money that could definitely be better spent while on vacation. Other items that can be expensive to replace if you forget them include sunscreen, and sunglasses. But still make sure to buy these items if you do end up forgetting them at home because it’s very important to protect yourself against the strong Florida sun.
8) Skip the soda and alcohol
While soda might not seem expensive, it can really add up over the course of a week and for multiple family members. Alcohol can be factored into a budget if need be, and I would recommend trying different drinks that you cannot find at home, as paying so much for something like a Bud Light is really not a good value. If you must drink soda, order it at table service (or select quick service) locations where you would get free refills.
9) Never pay for water
At $3+/bottle, paying for water can really add up over the course of a vacation. Thankfully, you can ask for a cup of water at any quick service dining location for free. Some guests worry about the taste of Florida tap water, but the water you’d be getting comes out of a filtered soda machine so it should taste fine.
10) Research the resort, make a budget, and stick to it
The best way to save money during any vacation is to make a budget and stick to it. You can’t possibly so this without knowing exactly what you’ll be spending money on, so it’s important to make research the focus of your trip planning. Having a set budget is helpful so you have an idea of how much money you should have saved ahead of time. And saving extra spending money really helps take away any extra financial burdens you might feel about going on vacation.