First, the free Magical Express service ended, then the free MagicBands, then the free FastPass offering.
Disney Park Guests have seen a lot of changes come to the theme park experience at Walt Disney World, with costs increasing and the price of a Disney vacation rising.
And with budgets getting tighter, Guests are looking for ways to save money at the Walt Disney World Resort. So, let’s look into the sneaky tricks that Disney has in place to get you to spend more at the theme parks.
Water is free
A day at Walt Disney World can prove quite costly after paying for parking, the Resort Hotel, tickets, and then all of your food and drinks. Disney knows that in the Florida heat, you’ll need to stay hydrated and sells water all other the theme parks. We’re here to say, bring your own water bottles!
There are plenty of water fountains throughout Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Parks, giving you multiple opportunities to refill your water bottle. Furthermore, many quick-service dining locations offer free cups of iced water, even without purchasing a meal. Places like Backlot Express, Pinocchio’s Village Haus, and Pecos Bill’s also have fountain drink dispensers, allowing you to get some free water for your big theme park day.
Sure, you could buy bottled water in the Disney Parks, but that will add up quickly. Bringing your own bottle is much more environmentally friendly anyway!
The Park-Hopping promotion
The Walt Disney World Resort is very good at pushing those Park Hopper tickets. While individual Disney Park tickets allow only one Park per day, the Park Hopper Pass allows Guests to visit as many Parks as they wish, for around $70 more per day.
What’s sneaky is that though Disney World pushes the flexibility and “value” of the Park Hoppers, many families actually never Park-Hop. Guests purchase the additional option thinking they’ll hop on over to another Park later in the day, when in reality, once kids and parents are tired, or the weather changes or the pool sounds like a good option, well, plans change.
Disney uses the weather
Orlando, Florida is known for its sudden thunderstorms and afternoon rain.
So when at Walt Disney World, seasoned Guests and Annual Passholders expect that afternoon rain shower, perhaps bringing ponchos, umbrellas, or just stick it out for shorter wait times at attractions.
But many Disney Park Guests will want to run for cover, and Disney knows how to utilize that to its advantage. When it’s raining, Cast Members open the door of gift shops for quick access to dodge the rain, which can therefore lead to unplanned purchases and merchandise hauls.
The forgetfulness charge
Often, our biggest tip for snagging a table at popular Disney dining places like Chef Mickey’s, Be Our Guest, Space 220, or Cinderella’s Royal Table is to look at the last minute. Many Walt Disney World Guests cancel a Disney dining reservation the day before their Disney vacation slot. 2 hours prior (previously 24 hours) to reservation time is the cancellation policy to avoid any costly fees, and usually, this is $10 per person.
So if you forget to cancel a reservation and you’re a no-show, Disney will charge you that “forgetful fee”. Always remember to keep an eye on your My Disney Experience app to keep track of those dining reservations and hidden charges.
This last-minute cancellation process, however, can work to your advantage. The day before your desired reservation date, go into the My Disney Experience app and search for dining reservations. Keep refreshing, as you will certainly see multiple reservations pop up!
Disney knows how to get you to part with your hard-earned money! One of the biggest tricks Guests fall for is the preferred parking push.
If you’ve driven a car to the Walt Disney World Parks, a Cast Member has most likely asked if you’d like to park in the standard parking lot ($25 a day) or the preferred parking lot ($45-50 per day).
You may think that preferred parking will beat the crowds, save some walking, and save some time. But it’s usually not the case. Many times, we’ve arrived early to the theme parks and got a space right next to the preferred parking lot! The extra $20-25 will typically save an extra five minutes of walking and the beloved parking trams will get you to the front pretty efficiently.
The smell of money
This one’s a well-known Disney trick: most Guests know the “secret” that Disney Parks artificially pumps the smell of freshly baked cookies onto Main Street U.S.A.. Yep, those wonderful aromas that bring nostalgia, and potentially the need to buy a snack? Well, Disney uses technology to pump evocative smells throughout the Parks and Disney Resort Hotels that may have you spending more dollars!
While having your photo taken using the Disney PhotoPass service is free of charge, downloading or keeping photos comes at an additional cost, which can dramatically add up.
Walt Disney World offers photo packages, including Disney Memory Maker, that can be added to your vacation, but remember, Disney PhotoPass Cast Members can use your own phone or camera to photograph you! When it comes to whether you splash out on the costly PhotoPass photos, think about the significance of your Disney trip, the quality of the photos vs your own camera, and how long ago you got professional photos taken.
Photo downloads are typically about $18.95 for a set of two 4 x 6 prints or one 5 x 7 print, or $20.95 for one 8 x 10 print, while Memory Make can cost up to a pricey $199.
Exit through the gift shop
And finally, of course, is the big one – the famous “exit through the gift shop” trick. Many tourist destinations, such as museums, zoos, and yes, Universal Studios, use this sneaky way to sell more merchandise, but Disney Parks has this trick nailed.
To exit almost any Disney ride or attraction, Guests have to walk through an appropriately themed gift shop. Think Tower Hotel Gifts after the Tower of Terror, or the expensive Anna and Elsa dresses in The Fjording in Norway. Disney knows that – particularly for children – just riding the ride is not enough, so a souvenir to remember their emotions or the characters on the attraction needs to be readily available.
Strangely, newer rides like Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance do not exit through a gift shop, but perhaps the Individual Lightning Lane purchases (at $15 per person) and costly Disney Genie make up for that.
So, there you have it. Have you fallen for any of these sneaky Disney tricks that have you spending even more money on your Disney vacation?
Next time you’re in Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs, look out for these and many more ways that Disney helps you part with your cash. Keep note of them as you try to stick to your Disney vacation budget!