We live in New England. We are annual passholders. And, we take trips to Disney 5-6 times per year. Every time we travel down to the happiest place on earth, we get asked “how do you afford it?” Well, we’re going to tell you fifteen of the tips we use every trip to get the best deals possible!
First things first, be sure to check out aRes travel for discounted tickets to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and almost any other experience you’re interested in! They’re an authorized Disney ticket seller and have the best deals on tickets that we’ve found.
Planning your trip
1. Consider purchasing an annual pass
- If you go on two trips per year, you should look into getting an annual pass. Let’s assume you take one 6 day trip, and one 4 day trip. This equals almost exactly the cost of the annual pass, and doesn’t include any of the discounts that come with being a passholder (like hotels, merchandise, dining, and parking).
2. Price out the difference between staying offsite versus at a value resort
We have more details about staying onsite versus offsite here. But, it’s worth looking into if you should stay onsite versus offsite (onsite means staying on Disney property, offsite means staying in a hotel not owned by Disney and not on the property).
There are three types of resorts at Walt Disney World: value, moderate, and deluxe. Value is the least expensive, deluxe is the most expensive. There are also “good neighbor” hotels that are on property but not owned by Disney. Read more about those here. The best part about staying onsite is you get access to extra magic hours, earlier fastpass booking, and you also have free transportation to and from the airport and parks. But, you’re limited to a smaller room unless you rent DVC points or own DVC, whereas offsite you can get a resort with a kitchen, multiple bedrooms, etc.
3. Build in non-park days
This is one of our best tips from our childhood trips. Full nonstop days at the parks can be exhausting, so book in at least one pool day. Not only will you save on your tickets, but it’ll be good to have a day to sleep in and relax. If you want to spend more time on property, consider exploring some of the resorts (you can see the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge, dine at any of the restaurants, or even watch the fireworks from the monorail resorts).
4. Purchase Disney gift cards to pay off a trip
Disney tickets are sold at Sam’s Club, Costco, and Target for a discounted price. Typically, you can get at least 5% off each gift card. This adds up quickly. If you use gift cards to pay off your hotel, meals, etc, you can save a good amount and get an extra meal or two for your family.
5. Purchase cheap (but legitimate) Disney pins before your trip
If you’re into pin trading, purchase your pins before your trip. But, be careful on Amazon and Ebay because many of those pins are fake. You can read more about that here. You’ll save a huge amount on pins if you don’t purchase them (for trading) in the parks. If you need to purchase them in the parks, look for the 7 for $35 packs. This is the best deal you’ll get on property. Or, pop over to the Character Warehouse at the outlets!
6. Find dates with free dining
Periodically, Disney opens an offer for free dining if you stay in specific resorts. Obviously, this is a HUGE way to save money, but we definitely recommend booking with a travel agent to help with this! Check out our friends Main Street and More travel if you’re looking for an agent!
Booking your trip
7. Use an authorized discount ticket supplier like aRES Travel
When you are looking to buy tickets, we recommend using an authorized discount ticket supplier like aRes travel. There are very few discounted ticket sellers authorized by Disney, so before purchasing from any other website do your research!
aRes has discounts on tickets to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Universal, Knotts Berry Farm, Sea World, and more. Currently, for Walt Disney World tickets and Disneyland tickets you can save $20-40 dollars per person on tickets. There’s also a deal for Universal tickets which includes 3 free days.
8. Use SkyScanner to get the best flight deals
One of our best tips is to use Skyscanner to find inexpensive flights. The website lets you input dates, airports, a range of times you want to depart and arrive, and other options like preferred airline, nonstop versus layover, and more.
Once you add your choices, it’ll pull up a huge list of flights from various websites including the airlines websites, Expedia, Kayak, Google flights, and more. Basically, it compares all flight options and shows you the cheapest options! Be advised: a discount airline like Spirit or Frontier might show up as the cheapest. Be sure to check into their bag cost to make sure this flight actually ends up being cheaper than the next price up.
Here’s a quick chart about carrying on bags.
9. Skip the dining plan
If you are staying onsite, consider skipping the dining plan. Although there is a wide range of dining plan options, it typically ends up being more expensive than if you had bought the meals yourself, and many people find themselves with extra snack credits at the end.
10. Pass on the park hopper
If you need a big way to cut costs, pass on the park hopper option. Although it’s nice to have the option to jump around the parks, this can take a lot of time. You have to exit the park, wait for a bus or drive to the next park, park your car, go through bag check again. With some planning, you won’t need to park hop.
And, if you decide you want it, you can always add it on once you are there!
11. Pay attention to discounts for military, passholders, and young kids
There are a variety of discounts available for specific groups. Members of the military can receive discounts on tickets, hotels, and more. Click here to find out about the 2019 discounts.
Passholders also can also receive discounts on hotel rooms and at times other deals. These should show up on MyDisneyExperience as a special rate for hotels!
And, young children can receive discounts. Children under the age of 3 get into the parks for free, while children ages 3-9 have a cheaper ticket. Kid meals are also available at most restaurants! (Fun fact: adults can get kids meals too at quick service restaurants. So, if you don’t have a big appetite this is a great way to save!)
During your trip
12. Grocery shop and bring lunch to the parks
If you are staying off site, this is a must-do. Assuming you rent a car, take a quick trip to the store to buy breakfast food, easy lunch food (sandwiches are our go-to), and some snacks. This way, you can enjoy a nice dinner at the parks and not worry about eating out constantly and spending a ton of money!
If you are staying onsite for a longer trip, consider getting some simple groceries delivered to you. Every room comes with a small mini fridge, and there is a microwave available in some rooms (moderate, deluxe) or in the food court at values. Get some easy breakfast food like cereal, granola bars, and fruit, and some supplies to make sandwiches. A quick service meal at Disney is typically between $10-$15, so you’ll save even with the food delivery!
Garden Grocer is highly recommended to order your groceries from.
13. Purchase ponchos before you’re at the parks
Don’t get caught off guard in the heat or the rain. Check the weather before you leave, and be prepared with ponchos, sunscreen, and a spare change of shoes!
If you’re looking for a fun and unique poncho, check out our six designs in our Etsy shop.
14. If you are staying on site, use Disney transportation. Don’t rely on Uber or Lyft
If you are staying onsite, Disney has a wide range of transportation options including boats, the monorail, buses, and soon the new Skyliner. Try not to rely on Ubers, Lyfts, or Minnie Vans (Disney’s version of Lyft). These will cost you, especially at peak hours!
Last trip, we completely forgot about a fastpass for Flight of Passage from 8-9 am. If we took the bus from the All Stars we wouldn’t have made it, so we had to take a Lyft. The price of the Lyft was $9, and the price of the Minnie van was $35! It’s definitely worth it to take the Lyft and do a little bit more walking to save that money.
15. Bring refillable water bottles
Bring refillable water bottles to the parks. Disney upcharges the cost of water bottles a crazy amount, it can cost $4 dollars for just one bottle! There are water fountains all across the parks, and quick service locations will give you a free cup of ice water. Don’t get caught into the trap of buying water!
16. Rent a stroller beforehand
Strollers are a must-have for parents with kids under the age of 5, and sometimes even older. We used strollers until we were 7 or 8, especially on hot days. Book your stroller beforehand from a company like Kingdom Strollers, and save the cost of booking daily in the parks!
Wrapping It Up
Did we miss your favorite money saving tip? Let us know in the comments!