A Budget-Friendly Walt Disney World Vacation: How to Make it Happen

Planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort on a budget may seem like an impressive feat, but it’s actually totally doable once you break down some areas where it’s easy to save. Keep reading to get our picks for ways to plan the best budget-friendly Disney vacation for your family:


1. Start saving early

It’s no secret that a Disney vacation is expensive, so it never hurts to start saving for your next trip early. You don’t need to have your dates secured or anything booked to start saving, and it is definitely helpful to have money set aside and ready to go for when you do decide to book. (Plus, the earlier you save, the more you’ll end up saving, so you may be able to either splurge more on your vacation or possibly even come home with some money!)

2. Use Disney Gift Cards

One of the easiest ways to put money aside for a Disney trip is to use Disney gift cards. You can occasionally find deals on them with a small percentage of savings at stores like Target, so if you go that route to pay for most of your trip you’ll end up saving some money. Disney gift cards are also just a good way to keep money aside for the trip since you won’t really be able to spend it on anything else, and you can easily add to your balance monthly.

3. Find the greater value between Disney resorts and staying off-site

In general, we consider Disney resorts to be the greater value because of all the benefits they provide only to their resort guests: Extra Magic Hours (so more time in the parks), early FastPass booking, early access to dining reservations, complimentary transportation around the parks and also to/from Orlando International Airport, complimentary package pick-up, etc… However, there are some instances where staying offsite makes more sense: If you’re planning a larger family trip with lots of kids who may not be awake for Extra Magic Hours anyway, or if you have your own car, you may find a better deal renting a larger unit for less money off-site, but it really depends on what you consider to be the greater value. 


4. Pack snacks and share meals

The Disney Dining Plan is a great value, but it really depends on where you’re dining and how much you typically like to eat. Do some math out to see if the plan makes sense for you, keeping in mind things like “Would you order x, y, or z if it wasn’t included?” if not, it may not be giving you the greatest savings. Without the dining plan, pack snacks for breakfast at your resort or to munch on in the parks, and share meals. Portion sizes in Walt Disney World are plentiful and in many cases two adults can easily share a meal (and that will cut the cost of your dining almost in half!).

5. Skip the bottled water

You should never find yourself paying $3+ for bottled water at Walt Disney World because there is always a free alternative: Simply head to the counter of any quick service restaurant and ask for a cup of water. Cast Members usually have them all ready to go, especially in the summer months.The cost of bottled water for your whole family can add up over the course of your trip, and why spend the extra money when you can just as easily get some water for free?

6. Skip the Park Hoppers

Park Hopper tickets are great because they give you the flexibility to visit more than one theme park in the same day. They do come at a higher price point however, and many families (especially with young kids) overestimate how much they think they’ll be able to do in a single day. Instead of purchasing more expensive tickets up front, go with Magic Your Way Base tickets (which are valid for one park per day). If it turns out you would like to park hop, you can always head to Guest Services to upgrade your tickets that way you know you’re only paying those extra costs if you’re actually going to use the service. 

7. Save souvenir shopping for after your trip

Since Disney debuted the ShopDisney mobile app, shopping after your trip has become so much easier! Many of the items you’ll see available in the parks are also on the app (and the app also has the occasional sale or markdown). If you’re worried about overspending on shopping, when you see something you like in the parks, do a quick search to see if it’s available on the app. If it’s not, get it while you’re in the park to be safe, but if it is, hold that thought and see if you’re still thinking about it a week or so after your trip. If you are, great! Order it (and maybe even enjoy free shipping depending on the order), and if not, you just saved some money!

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."