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Planning A Trip To Disney World On A Budget – 12 Tips To Know

Get our favorite tips for saving money at Disney World!

Yes, you can plan a trip to Disney World on a budget! We’ll show you how to save money and cut costs, without losing the magic!

Cinderella's Castle lit up at night with fireworks overhead. An overlay reads, "Ultimate Guide to a Disney Vacation on a Budget"

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Are you planning a Disney World trip but don’t know where to start?

While you may not yet know the resort you’d like to stay at or which rides you definitely want to check off your Disney bucket list, you know one thing for sure – it has to be on a budget.

While planning a Disney trip on a budget isn’t for the faint of heart, I promise you that it can be done!

In this article, I will talk you through how to plan a trip to the happiest place on earth without breaking the bank.

It’s important to note that no matter how many costs you cut, planning a trip to Disney will not be the cheapest trip you’ve ever taken.

But there are plenty of ways to keep your spending reasonable and ensure that you still have the most magical trip possible!

How Much Money Can I Expect to Spend on a Trip to Walt Disney World?

The cost of a Disney vacation will broadly vary based on several factors.

Not only will it depend on the number of people accompanying you on your trip, but several other choices will factor into staying within a reasonable budget.

When taking into consideration how much you will spend on your trip to Walt Disney World, the following will make the difference between making or breaking your budget:

  • Choice of accommodation
  • Airfare to Orlando
  • Renting a car or using transportation
  • Disney dining plan or food choices
  • Length of stay
  • Selection of theme park tickets

If you’re looking for a ballpark figure, you can expect to spend a minimum of $2,000 for a week’s stay at Disney on a budget.

Keep reading to find out how to score the best deals to make your dream Disney vacation a reality (at a reasonable price)!

How Can I Save For My Disney World Vacation?

Coming up with a strategy to save for your Disney vacation is essential, especially if you know you will be on a budget.

Disney lets you book your holiday up to 499 days in advance when booking a Walt Disney World resort, and you can even pay in installments, using the Disney payment plan.

This allows you to take as much time as you need when planning your vacation to ensure you can do it in a way you’re comfortable with.

An excellent place to start is by putting aside just $20 each week for your vacation, and you can set up an automatic withdrawal to ensure you never miss a payment.

Most of us will not miss $20 if we’re in a place to plan a vacation, and over a year, you will save nearly $1,000.

Multiply that by two if you’re planning on going with a friend or a partner, and you’ve already put away almost $2,000 without even trying!

Even when planning on a budget, letting yourself occasionally enjoy some splurges at Disney World is essential and should be factored in.

You can also use our Disney coupons for kids as a way to help you stick to your budget!

Taking a little extra time to save so you can afford the odd Disney-themed treat is important and can make your vacation that much more enjoyable!

After all, no one wants to constantly worry about money while you’re on vacation.

guests at Disney World's Magic Kingdom during the fall season

12 Tips to Know When Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

Want to know more about the best way to plan a trip to Disney on a budget?

I’ve put together my top 12 best tips to save money at Disney while enjoying all the park offers!

1.   Visit Disney World During the Off Season

There is a reason why this tip is number one on our list!

No matter where you choose to stay or whether you rent a car for the duration of your trip, visiting Disney World during the off-season will save you money.

In fact, we have a whole article about the cheapest times to visit Disney World, to help you avoid peak times!

Not only will any motels, hotels, AirBnBs, and Disney resorts be cheaper from September to May, but almost everything else will be cheaper too. From car rentals to theme park ticket prices to airfare, you will score the best deals if you choose to plan your vacation at this time.

If you’re not big on the sweltering Florida heat, visiting Orlando in the off-season is a perfect time.

You’re also missing the rainy season, so planning your trip during the off-season makes the most sense all around.

There are exceptions to the rule regarding the cheapest times to go to Disney, including holiday weekends, special events, and school startups.

If you’re looking for a specific breakdown of the most affordable times to visit Disney by month for 2022, I’ve got you covered:

  • Jan. 11 to 18, 25 to 31
  • Feb. 2 to 12
  • Mar. 1 to 5
  • Apr. 25 to May.1
  • May. 11 to 17
  • Aug. 10 to 31
  • September entirely
  • Oct 1 to 21
  • Nov. 16 to 21
  • Dec. 1 to 5, 6 to 12

2.   Book With a Disney Travel Agent

I know what you’re thinking – I’m trying to save money, so why would I hire a travel agent to help me book my trip?

Well, this one’s on Disney, as they’re the ones who pay travel agencies to help you book and plan your Disney vacation.

There are several great reasons to book with a Disney travel agent, but most of all, they will make your budget their priority.

They will even rebook your vacation for you if a better deal comes up after you’ve already booked. Just make sure that you’re booking with a reputable, no-fee travel agency.

Disney also lets you pay in installments, with your final payment due 30 days before your trip and your first payment made as early as 499 days before your vacation.

Ask your Disney travel planner to help you set up a payment plan!

3.   Bring Your Own Food

Did you know you can bring your own food to the Disney World theme parks? It’s one of our favorite things on our list of what to bring to Disney World!

I’m not saying not to splurge on the occasional Dole Whip, Mickey Mouse waffles, or other iconic Disney snacks, but preparing the majority of your food ahead of time will cut your daily expenses down dramatically.

There is no limit on the amount of food you can bring into the park, but there are a few basic rules.

Disney requests that you do not bring in glass containers, that your food does not require temperature control, heating of any kind, or processing, and that your food doesn’t have any pungent odors attached to it. Fair enough!

Stop by a local grocery store and stock-up on essentials for easy lunches, snacks, or dinners.

If you still want to eat on a budget but do not want to worry about preparing your own food ahead of time, then Disney has some cheaper options available.

The most affordable food at Disney World will be available at quick-service restaurants where you pick up your food from the counter.

Not only will table service restaurants be significantly more expensive, but you will also be expected to tip an average of 18-20%.


4.   Take Advantage of Disney’s Free Transportation

Let me start by saying that Disney’s complimentary transportation is only available to you if you stay at a Disney resort.

This applies to whether you’re staying at Disney value resort or a deluxe resort.

If you choose to go without a car for the duration of your trip, then you can genuinely save a significant amount of money on Disney parking, and you never have to worry about transportation from your Walt Disney World Hotel to your favorite Disney park.

If you choose to use your own car or rent a vehicle, you will have to pay $25 per day to park at any of the major Disney theme parks (in addition to rental car fees!).

The one upside to this is if you’re staying at Disney resort, you can park for free at your theme park of choice – but you still have to pay the $10-$25 per day parking fee at your Disney accommodation.

Another option is to stay in a budget hotel close by and take taxis/Ubers to your destinations.

While allotting $40-$50 per day for transportation may seem pricey, it is still far cheaper than the price of renting a car and paying for gas, not to mention parking!

The Disney monorail traveling through Epcot

5.   Visit One Park Per Day (Skip the Park Hopper)

A Park Hopper ticket can be great value if you’re only planning on visiting Disney theme parks for a couple of days out of your Disney vacation.

But if you’re looking to spend most of your time enjoying the magic of the Disney theme parks, consider enjoying them one at a time.

Disney’s Park Hopper option is currently $169, with the Park Hopper Plus Option being $194 per ticket.

A standard theme park ticket gets you entrance to one theme park daily and will cost you $109 per person.

Again, park hopping can be of incredible value if you do not plan to spend all of your time at Disney’s theme parks. But purchasing it for several days will add hundreds of dollars to your Disney budget.

Plus, if you choose to visit one park per day and buy a 3-day or longer ticket, you will save $20 or more per person!

I like to purchase tickets from Undercover Tourist, as they usually offer discounts. Also, since they’re coded as travel purchases, I can often apply credit card rewards to the purchase.

6.   Ask PhotoPass Photographers to Take Your Picture – With Your Own Camera!

If you’ve heard of Disney’s Memory Maker service, then you know that Disney has stationed their photographers all over the park to take professional photos of you!

While this service can be an excellent addition to your Disney experience, your travel budget isn’t going to thank you.

At $199 just to access your photos, it’s important to consider whether Disney Memory Maker is worth the extra cost.

You can ask Disney photographers to take your photo with your camera phone for free.

Of course, they will ask if you would like to take a picture with their camera, but you are under no obligation to purchase any photos that the PhotoPass photographers take.

This way, you get the same photo ops as those who shell out $200 for the photo service! Score!

a Disney guest uses their phone camera to take a photo of Cinderella's Castle

7.   Bring a Refillable Water Bottle

Purchasing plastic water bottles all day at Disney World is not only bad for your wallet but bad for the environment.

There are several water stations around the Disney parks where you can fill up your water bottle, and any quick-service restaurant will give you a cup of water for free.

Pour it into your refillable water bottle for easy transport around the park!

8.   Buy Your Mickey Mouse Ears Before You Get to the Park

What’s a trip to Disney without a pair of Mickey Mouse ears?

With Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse ears being a Disney World staple, it’s no surprise that they can be found for purchase at several stores around Disney – but they won’t come cheap!

The average pair of Mickey or Minnie Mouse ears at Disney cost $29.99.

While some don’t mind paying the price to be able to say they got their Mickey Mouse ears from Disney World, others would much rather save their money.

Luckily, you can get fantastic Mickey Mouse ears online before you go.

Amazon sells several different mouse ears in multipacks, so you can affordably grab one for everyone in your crew.

Plus, you can find both Yoda Mickey Mouse ears and Maleficent Mickey Mouse ears on Amazon, which would easily cost you twice as much at any Disney World store.

9.   Buy Discount Disney Gift Cards

Did you know that you can pay with Disney gift cards at virtually anywhere Disney?

Disney gift cards can be used towards ticket admission, merchandise, dining, your resort stay, and more.

And the best part is that you can find Disney gift cards at a discount before you head off for your trip (if you know where to look).

Those who are a member of Sam’s Club can score nearly 4% off on Disney Gift Cards, and Target offers Red Card members 5%.

You can also sometimes purchase Disney gift cards at Gift Card Deal online for significant discounts, although you will need to spend a minimum of $500 to save 11%.

They don’t always have them in stock, but if they do, you can get a great discount.

10.   Enjoy Leisurely Days Away From the Parks

While you may want to spend each day jamming in as much Disney theme park action as possible, taking a day or two off park hopping is sometimes necessary.

It is an excellent way to save money and gives you some much-needed relaxation time.

Most of Disney resort hotels have really cool pool areas (especially the deluxe resorts!), so skip the water parks and enjoy your hotel’s amenities.

Even if you chose one of the Disney value resorts for its lowest price, or one of the moderate resorts, there’s plenty of fun theming and activities to enjoy at your Disney hotel.

Take a day to just lounge around your resort’s pool, read a book, lounge in your hotel room, or spend the day at a beach within driving distance of Orlando.

Even two standard Walt Disney World tickets will cost you over $200 to visit a theme park for a day, and that’s without parking, food, or transportation.

Budget or not, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a day of pure relaxation on your Disney vacation!

11.   Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

If you want to save money, do not forget your sunscreen at home.

While you can buy sunscreen on Disney property, you’ll be paying 30% to 40% more than the average retail price. You can bet anywhere in the surrounding area will be capitalizing on this essential purchase.

If you can remember to, buy your sunscreen at home and bring it with you in your luggage – your wallet will thank you!

12.   Purchase Your Souvenirs Outside of Disney World

While you may be wondering what kind of souvenirs you can purchase outside of Disney World, there are plenty of locations around Disney where you can buy fantastic souvenirs on a budget – even Disney Springs!

Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, is still more affordable than buying your Disney souvenir at any of the major Disney theme parks like Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

Disney Springs is the perfect place to spend the day when you’re not park hopping, as it’s free to enter.

You can enjoy excellent dining, entertainment, and of course, shopping! If you wish to drive to Disney Springs, self parking is free.

In addition to souvenirs, it’s also helpful to buy some of your essentials ahead of time, such as ponchos for Disney World and misting fans to stay cool.

Lilo & Stitch souvenirs for sale in the Polynesian resort at Disney World

13. Consider Staying Off Property

You can save quite a bit of money by staying at a hotel that’s off-property.

Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels are a fabulous option, as they offer many perks (including free breakfast!), have standard rooms and suites, and often are much less expensive than Disney resorts.

Can You Really Go to Disney World on a Budget?

Enjoying a Walt Disney World vacation on a budget can be challenging, as you will be tempted to spend outside your budget everywhere you look.

The good news is that with a little determination, it absolutely can be done!

To help you as you’re planning, we have a free printable guide to Disney World on a budget! It includes ways to save money, things to do that are free, and planning space for you!

Download the free printable here or by clicking the image below.

mockup of free printable guide to Disney World on a budget

Experiencing Disney magic doesn’t have to break the bank, and you can still have a fabulous experience.

No matter what your budget is, we hope you enjoy your visit to the most magical place on earth!

Be sure to save this article for later by adding it to your Disney board on Pinterest!

collage image featuring three photos of Disney World, including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney's Hollywood Studios. An overlay reads, "How to do Disney World on a Budget"