Disney on a Budget

For those that aren’t aware, a Walt Disney World vacation can cost a small fortune. Some people have referenced it being the same price as a trip to Tahiti or the Bahamas or Europe…you name it. Being the cheap person that I am, (so cheap that I went 10 years without buying trash bags) I have figured out some ways to make Disney cheaper. Here’s an insight into my cheap ways:

  • VALUE SEASON SPECIALS/DISNEY DINING PLAN: Fall is a calm time to visit Disney. Everybody is heading back to school after all their summer vacations are over, so there’s some good fall specials to be had out there. Other wonderful times to go are Jan-Feb, April-May, and Aug-Sept. They also offer the amazing dining plan that is THE reason most people choose the fall to go. It can save a family as much as 30% on food. Start researching in June because I believe that’s when they announce it and tickets go on sale in July. Some people who are seasoned Dining Plan Go’ers already plan their trip with the assumption of getting the dining plan. I’d recommend lots of research before doing this in case they change the dining plan from year to year. We stayed in one hotel that offered a free $15/per person  breakfast every morning as well as a discounted hotel price for their fall package. Completely worth it!!


  • DISNEY SWAG: I am a huge fan of bringing our own Disney swag. We bring glow sticks from the dollar store, bubbles, Disney lollipops, etc. I don’t think I could get away with bringing all of our souvenirs because my 5 year old would absolutely find the one item I didn’t buy ahead of time. So I can’t quite go that route now that he is older. However, we do bring our own Disney items and souvenirs from previous trips with us to play with on the current trip. We also have a rule that I highly recommend. “NO BUYING SOUVENIRS UNTIL THE LAST 2 DAYS.” This is wonderful! As we go through stores, we take pictures of what items we like and where they’re located. Then, on our last 2 days, he goes through the pictures and we determine what he wants and what he can afford using his own money. No fussing, he knows the rules ahead of time. Boom, done. Our first Disney trip we probably spent $100 between the three of us,  and this most recent trip my son spent about $20 and we didn’t spend a thing!


  • SHARE MEALS/SAY NO TO KIDS MEALS: We are a family of water drinkers, even more so at Disney where we’re walking 5-10 miles each day. With that said, we don’t EVER pay for any drinks at Disney. A glass of wine is the exception, of course! 😉 Kids meals can easily be $10 a pop and include some type of side and a drink, which we don’t necessarily need.  {Disney may hate me for this, but I totally have to throw this in. We were in a crunch one lunch and purchased a kids meal. We had our own veggies and didn’t eat the apples that came with the meal, so we totally forgot about them. We found them the next morning….they were NOT brown…in the least. They looked like they had JUST been cut. Which brought me to wonder, what exactly was on those apples…. } Okay, my gripe is over and I’m back on topic, I swear. Since we have one child, he shares an adult meal with me which keeps the cost down and keeps me from eating too much. Win win! If you have 2 or more kids, have them share an adult meal because they always get more food that way and less filler aka unhealthy sides and a dessert. Disney is GREAT at giving free ice waters, no matter how many you need. Believe me, we should know, we get 5 to refill our camelback.


  • STAY OFF PARK AND USE TRANSPORTATION: It’s most often cheaper to stay off Disney property, unless you go during the times I mentioned above, in which case may be cheaper to stay on the property. Use Disney transportation whenever you can! Parking is about $17/day for 1 vehicle, so that can add up really fast! If you stay off the park, make sure to choose somewhere with a shuttle. For smaller families, it’s much cheaper to pay $2 for a round trip shuttle than $17 to park your own car. Larger families may save more money parking their own vehicle. This also goes without saying, if you go with friends or family, carpool!! Big gas saver right there, plus you can split the cost of a condo or something off the property.


  • SHARE THE MEMORY MAKER: This is another pet peeve I have! The memory maker is wonderful, however really expensive in my opinion. They have some great photographers around Disney, but they also have some pretty bad ones. These people are not professionals, they’re just people who want to take pictures for other people. I really enjoy having the Memory Maker because we ALL get to be in the pictures, which is huge in my book! There is a way to get the Memory Maker without paying the full $159 or so.  With the gift of social media, you can more easily find out when  friends are vacationing at Disney. If you go less than 45 days of each other, you can share Memory Maker. It currently expires 45 days after the first park activation. We shared ours on 2 separate trips because we had friends who were at Disney while we were, so we were able to divide it among a few families to bring the price down.  That then, in my opinion, becomes absolutely worth it!


  • BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH:  This is probably the BEST advice I can give you and the most shocking that it’s so rare. During a 7 day Disney vacation, my family of 3 spends almost as much on food as we do on groceries for an entire month!!! Crazy, I know! With that said, here is what we do. We make our own lunches, snacks, and sometimes desserts. I can’t tell you how many times we would be sitting down for lunch with our sandwiches, veggies, chips, cookies, etc and have people walk by and comment to us on why they had never thought of it. We take a backpack to Disney, so we keep our food in there.




What is your favorite Disney budgeting advice? Comment below and share with us!


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