13 smart ways to save money on your Disney vacation, according to experts

Walt Disney World prices can add up pretty quickly. We asked our travel consultants about the average cost for two adults and two children staying locally for 5 days and 6 nights at the parks. You can expect to pay anywhere from $2,800 to $6,600, and that doesn’t include your flights. Disney is not a cheap vacation. However, our experts found some unique ways to save a few bucks.

Meet the experts

  • Sarah Armbruster is an avid Disney World traveler and planner. Her family have annual passes that help her provide great information for your next trip.
  • Seana Beard is an events planner who has worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. She uses these skills to plan your next magical trip to Disney.
  • Chris Cook-Leitz has been planning Disney vacations for more than 15 years. She owns her own travel company and goes the extra mile to create the perfect trip to Disney.
  • Laura Liden uses her hospitality experience to create a unique experience at Disney. She has been creating memories for families for more than 10 years.

1. Pre-order photos

Photographers are everywhere in the Disney Parks and love to capture your special moments. Some of the attractions even have guest photos and videos. Cook-Leitz suggests pre-purchasing Disney’s Memory Maker, which gives you digital access to all the photos Disney takes while you’re at the parks. And the best part is that everyone in your family can be in the photo (says the mother, who is often not in photos). Memory Maker presale price is $30 less than purchasing during or after your vacation. With this digital access, you can download and print your photos at home for a fraction of the cost of printing at Disney.

PizzeRizzo fast food restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios

PizzeRizzo, the newest quick service restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Credit: Matt Stroshane / Walt Disney World News

2. Stretch quick service dining

Liden has been using this trick for years. She says quick meals can provide enough food for more than one person. For example, order a double burger and ask to buy an extra bun. You now have 2 sandwiches and can share the fries. Even if you buy an extra bun (usually only $1-2 more), you saved about $8-10 on a second meal. Another popular option is a meal at Capt. Cook’s. Liden says the Thai Coconut Meatballs are filling and delicious!

3. Benefit from refillable products

Refillable popcorn buckets

While the cost of the bucket may seem expensive at first ($10 to $28), you can purchase refills for $2 each throughout your stay. According to Liden, this will help with cravings and save you money considering a standard popcorn will cost around $5 and is non-refillable.

Refillable cups

All Disney resorts offer a refillable cup in their quick service restaurants. These are available at the resort and usually also have a refill station near the pools. They offer sodas, tea, powerade and even coffee. Liden says to keep in mind that the cups aren’t available for refills at the parks, but they’ll keep your drinks cool if you buy a drink at the park, or you can fill it with water from one of the water stations.

Bell services at Disney World Resort

Bell Services will be happy to take your grocery order.

Copyright: Seana Beard

4. Order groceries in advance

Another cost-saving tip is to order groceries from a local delivery service. According to Liden, you can save a lot by having snacks in your room for a quick breakfast or an evening snack. All resorts have mini fridges and villas even have full size fridges so you can keep small snacks and drinks cold.

Seana Beard agrees. She suggests ordering from Amazon, Wal-Mart, or one of her favorites, Magical Vacation Services. Usually she orders for delivery just before she arrives. Items will be dropped off at Bell Services and kept safe.

5. Buy gift cards in advance

Armbruster has this tip for customers: buy gift cards in advance. She says to go to Sam’s Club or Costco to buy gift cards. They are sold below face value, saving you money. They can be used to pay for your vacation package before you leave, or to buy souvenirs or snacks while you are in the parks.

Goods available in Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Goods available in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Credit: Steven Diaz / Walt Disney World News

6. Buy souvenirs before you go

Another tip: get the souvenirs before you go. Armbruster suggests checking the Shop Disney website or even other stores for Mickey ears or princess dresses for your grandkids before you go. Disney offers special offers throughout the year where you can purchase official Disney merchandise at a price that is sure to be lower than in the parks. You could pack them in your suitcase ahead of time and surprise the kids with them when you get there! It might curb souvenir shopping, and if you have girls shopping at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, you’re sure to save money if they have their dresses and shoes in advance.

Pro Tip: Once you arrive, head to Target, Wal-Mart, or even the grocery store to pick up your Disney shirts or your favorite stuffed animals for less than you would pay at the parks.

7. Order the children’s menu

Beard says adults can order from the children’s menu. This is a great tip and especially helpful on hot days when a large, heavy meal just doesn’t sit well. Sunshine Seasons at EPCOT has grilled salmon with two sides for about $8, and the portions are large enough to feed most adults.

Magical guest service extras

Magical extras can be picked up from Guest Services.

Copyright: Seana Beard

8. Magic Extras

Take advantage of the freebies! Beard says that when you book a package, tickets and resort stay, you get your “magic extras,” which include discount offers at select Disney Springs shops and restaurants. It also includes free rounds of mini golf. If that’s not your style, most resorts have plenty of free fun to try, like movies under the stars, campfires, and scavenger hunts. If you’re planning a day at the resort to unwind from the hustle and bustle of the parks, don’t forget to check out these options.

Disney gift shop essentials

Gift shops have the supplies you need, but definitely at a premium.

Copyright: Seana Beard

9. Buy essentials before you go

The general rule of thumb is if you buy it in the parks it will cost you a pretty penny. Cook-Lietz recommends thinking about what to buy at home and what to take with you before your trip to help limit your purchases at the park. Ponchos can be found in stores for as little as $1. When it starts raining at Disney, the $12 ponchos are your only option. Never forget to pack your own sunscreen. What might cost you $8 at home could cost you twice as much at the parks or at the resorts. Beard suggests packing the little extras too. She makes sure to pack essentials like band-aids and over-the-counter medication to save a few bucks.

Buy your family Disney shirts at home or make them yourself. The quality will probably be better and the cost will be much lower.

Pro Tip: Autograph books in the parks can be expensive, but you can make a pretty cool autograph book with supplies that you can get at your local craft store. And if you have a Cricut, you can make a really fancy autograph book.

10. Pack snacks

Pack a few small snacks that won’t take up much room in your carry-on. Armbruster says these could be a lifesaver for the picky eaters in your family. They can cost a few dollars and take up some space, but they could cost nearly double at the resorts.

11. Pack your lunch

This is an easy way to save money. Bart says you should pack your lunch! Walt Disney World allows you to bring food, snacks and drinks to the parks. This makes it ideal for filling a cooler or your backpack with sandwiches, tortilla wraps or lunchables. This is also a great option to save time! So you don’t have to stop at lunchtime to dine in a restaurant. You can grab a quick PB and J during a shady break, watch the Dapper Dans perform on a bench, or in a line that’s moving slower than it should. Bringing your own food into the parks saves you from this hanging also lunch breaks.

12. Bring your own water

Cook-Leitz and Liden suggest packing your own water bottle for your trip. The park is full of refill stations and you can usually ask for a free cup of ice cream at most quick service restaurants.

13. Bring your own stroller

If your grandchildren still ride in a stroller, Cook-Letiz recommends bringing your own rather than renting one. Most airlines allow strollers to fly free of charge and it also means you have a stroller for times when you are not in the parks. When your child falls asleep at the end of the day, it’s much easier to push them back onto the bus, car, monorail or boat than having to carry them after returning the stroller. With Disney rentals charging $15 per day for a single stroller and $31 per day for a double stroller, the costs can add up.

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