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Disney World on a Budget: 5 Tips You May Not Have Considered

Taking a Walt Disney World vacation is expensive, and that’s just a simple fact. I mean, what do we expect? It’s not just any theme Park; it’s the most magical place on Earth! There are ways to visit Walt Disney World and do it BIG, but then there are also ways to be mindful of a budget. All while still having the best time with your party. With so many Disney World tips, tricks, and hacks floating around the internet, you may think you’ve seen them all. However, we have a few for you that you may not have considered.

This probably goes without saying, but if you’re looking to tackle your Disney vacation on a budget, you’ll want to consider avoiding things like Park Hopper passes, the Disney Dining Plan, and Disney Genie add-ons.

Walt Disney World Sign

Credit: Disney Tips

First, many of the typical Disney vacation budget hacks are great – we don’t want to downplay the popular ones! For example:

  • Picking up Walt Disney World gift cards at common retail stores to help you slowly build up some Disney World cash over time.
  • Bringing a reusable water bottle to fill up at water fountains. You can get free cups of ice water at each Disney Park, but you can’t exactly put a paper cup in your backpack, so don’t forget your water bottle!
  • Spending

So what are some of the ones you may not have considered? Let’s take a look at five tips to tackle Walt Disney World on a budget.

1. Don’t just pack snacks; pack Disney vacation snacks!

It’s always a great idea to pack your own snacks that will save you a lot of money. But with all of the Mickey Mouse treats around, it’s so tempting to splurge, and kids aren’t used to all the special Disney World treats. If you plan ahead, you can bring in your own Mickey-shaped snacks. For example, you can find Mickey-shaped Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks shaped as various beloved Disney characters, Mickey-shaped snack packs with peeled apples, cheese cubes, and Mickey crackers at the grocery store. And, of course, you can make your own baked goods ahead of time in any shape you want!

Planning ahead and bringing your own fun Disney treats will save you a lot of money while still giving your party their Mickey-shaped snack fix. Instead of spending $5 or more per snack, spend $5 ahead of time; that gives the whole party a snack. Sure, it might not be as easy or convenient, but your wallet will thank you.

mickey-shaped-snacks

Credit: D23

2. Pack a picnic lunch

If you’re looking to do Disney on a budget, the Disney Dining Plan probably isn’t for you. While it’s a good deal, it’s still pretty pricey, and there are much better ways to save.

The price of meals adds up, especially if you’re doing the Parks with a larger party. Pack bread or wraps, peanut butter and jelly, lunch meats, etc to make your own sandwiches. Planning and purchasing groceries ahead of time will almost make it feel like you’re getting free dining!

Get family-sized bags of chips, pretzels, or whatever else your party enjoys with their picnic lunch. If you want to be extra frugal, you can pack two meals for everyone. You might be wondering about carrying all this food around or how you will keep it cool.

You have a couple of options. First, if each member of your party carries their own bag, everyone can carry their own picnic lunch. You can order individual insulated sandwich bags before your trip to keep sandwiches or fruits and veggies cool. If having every person carry their own lunch isn’t an option, you can rent a locker to store your cooler until lunchtime. Finally, if your party has a stroller, the bottom basket is a great spot for your cooler.

Disney picnic

Credit: Amanda Kepshire

3. Do the math when deciding on lodging

Seriously! There are pros and cons to staying on property in a Walt Disney World Resort or off property, and everyone has their opinion on which option is better. But do the math! If you’re looking to stay on Disney property on a budget, we definitely recommend booking at a Disney Value Resort like Disney’s Pop Century Resort or Disney’s All-Star Movies as opposed to a Deluxe Resort like Animal Kingdom Lodge or the Contemporary Resort. But sit down and add up how much it would cost to stay in a Value Resort versus somewhere off-property. You may be surprised!

It’s not all just about how much a place costs to stay per night. If you’re considering staying off property, you’ll need to factor in the cost to Park each day, gas to and from the Parks, whether or not you will have access to a refrigerator to store your picnic lunch items, and the extra time it will take to commute. Time is money when it comes to your Disney vacation, so you want to make sure you’re not wasting too much of your day dealing with driving distance, International Drive traffic, and giant parking lots.

Disney's All-Star Resorts

Credit: Disney Tips

4. Pack extra essential items

No one wants to spend $10 on a 3 oz. bottle of sunscreen, $12 on a single poncho, or $65 on a pair of Mickey Mouse shoes – so plan ahead and pack extra critical items. You might not want to lug extra things with you, especially if you’re flying into the Orlando airport, but it will save you money in the long run if you end up needing them. And if you don’t, that’s okay because they’re things you either already had or will still use once you get back home.

For example, Guests walk a lot while venturing through the Disney Parks. So it’s not uncommon for a shoe to break (or get soaked in a Florida rain storm). Instead of spending a chunk of your budget on Disney-branded shoes that you may not be interested in wearing after your trip, you’ll have an extra pair (or two) ready to go.

As you’re making lists and packing for your Disney trip, take special note of items that are crucial to have back-ups for. It not only can save you money but offer peace of mind as you pull out of the driveway, knowing you have everything you need.

Disney Travel Supplies

Credit: Disney Tips

5. Get creative with souvenirs

Who doesn’t love a new Disney souvenir? But $20 for a small plush, $25+ for Mickey ears, or $75 for a spirit jersey is a little bit steep. There are many options for getting your hands on Disney paraphernalia; it just depends on whether or not you care if it’s the official brand. First, nearly every grocery, retail, or convenience store in Orlando has a section dedicated to Disney items for a fraction of the price. Make a pit stop on the day you’re arriving, or pop over on a day you’re taking a break from the Parks to snag some great stuff.

Etsy is another great option for purchasing Disney-related items. From t-shirts to Mickey ears, there are so many options – and sometimes you can catch sweet sales!

Mickey and Minnie Plushes

Credit: Disney Tips

So there you have it, some additional tips for Walt Disney World on a budget. Of course, the best tip is to plan ahead and create a physical budget, so you know how much you have to spend each day. If you want to treat the whole family to Mickey ice cream bars, do it! Just make sure it’s a part of your plan. You don’t want to be surprised by the amount of money you spent once you get back home. Enjoy your trip, and happy spending!

About Amanda Kepshire

Amanda has always had a love for Disney and wishes living in Atlanta didn’t mean being so far from the most magical place on earth. She’s a Disney College Program Alumni (2012) and a former Annual Passholder (living in Florida had its perks), so she’s been to Disney World more times than she could ever count. Amanda enjoys sharing tips with fellow Disney lovers while counting down the days until her next visit!