8 Major Ways to Save at Walt Disney World

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Welcome back, frugal friends. It only took me almost a year to get to part 2 of this 5 part series? (Is that right?? Holy cow, I suck!) Anywho…

Let’s get right down to business…to visit part 1 of this series, click here .


1. Save on Packages

Now, from our last post, we talked about the pros and cons of staying on/off property. If you decided to stay off property, skip to step 2. If you decided to stay at Disney, keep reading.

Disney runs tons of promotions a year. Some are exclusive, but most are public. Click HERE to view the latest promotions. Sometimes they run room only discounts (30%) and other times they run free dining promotions.

Military: I don’t know exactly how much military families pay, but I know they can save a significant amount on rooms and tickets.


2. Save on Tickets (Read Carefully and Be Cautious!)

Ticket Distributors: This one is EXTREMELY tricky. There are ONLY 2 certified Disney ticket sellers that aren’t from Disney themselves. They are: Undercover Tourist and The Official Ticket Center. Please be careful. There are many posts on pinterest telling you to check craigslist for half-used tickets. Not only is it illegal, but when entering the parks, your finger prints have to match the one who purchased them. Only buy from the two reputable sites above or DisneyWorld.Com.

Please note, always price packages on DisneyWorld.Com and these sites. Sometimes these sites have tickets $30-50 cheaper depending on which tickets you’re looking for. Other times, they are actually higher than gate prices. Just keep your eyes out. You can link these tickets to your fastpass wrist bands, just make sure you have them linked by your 60 days to make your fastpass selections.

AAA: Although I’ve heard most chapters give great discounts on tickets; I have heard they are not the best on planning Disney trips. Many resources say to plan ahead yourself and just use the discounts.

Youth Education Series:  I really don’t know much about the YES program. I orginially heard about it in a Homeschool Disney Group. Basically, it is an educational program at WDW and for being a part, you get discounted park tickets. There are a lot of rules, specifications, and requirements, but I think it’s worth looking into as far as opportunity goes.

Corporate Discounts: Some companies offer discounted tickets. I don’t really know any local companies that do here in Indiana, but it may be worth looking into.

Florida Resident Discounts: DW has Florida and part-time Florida residents discounts. Not from Florida? If you have family that will be traveling with you, you should be able to get the discount for everyone in your party, as long as they attend with you! View the discounts HERE.


3. Disney Credit Card

Disney has two credit card options through Chase. One is a primer that has a $49 annual fee. The other is free, but does not have as many perks. The only real difference is you get more 2% on certain items, while the other card only gets 1%. You can also get an airline credit anywhere up to $198 with the primer.

Although Dave Ramsey would never advise opening a line of credit, this can technically save money on a Disney vacation. For instance, as I write this, you can get a $100 statement credit after your first purchase on the premier. When I signed up for mine in 2012, I got a $200 Disney Gift card if I spent $500 the first 3 months. All I did was put my bills on there for one or two months, and paid them off in full each month. Then I got the gift card and also Disney Dream Reward Dollars. Once you hit a certain amount of points, you can get them on a card to use towards a Disney vacation, Disney store, etc.

We only just recently started putting gas on ours and paying it off to get some points to put towards our 2015 trip. We decided it’d be much cheaper to drive, so we cashed out the points and put them on a card to help pay for the trip. (To get the airline credit, you have to keep your points in your account.) Bottom line, your points can grow fairly quickly and it can be money towards your trip. You also get an exclusive meet and greet in Epcot (no line and Mickey & Pluto crawled on the floor with our 13-month-old) and discounts throughout parks, restaurants, and other Disney locations.


4. Annual Passes: I was a tad appalled at this one. I would be amazed if I could afford annual passes all at once. Basically, I kind of added up what our dream trip would be. Of course, these are just what gets you into the parks, so you’d still have to find some place to stay. Basically, if you had planned an October 2015 trip and then a September 2016 trip, it might be in your best interest to purchase an annual pass.

From what I gathered, you can get the more expensive annual pass and you can not only get into the parks, but also the water parks and other aspects of Downtown Disney that usually require a ticket.  Again, this would only be good if you planned multiple trips a year, or even two trips, eleven months apart. With the pass, you get free parking at the parks so you could stay-off property and actually save money.

I’m not really sure how fastpass+ or the dining plan factor in to this, but it could save you a significant amount if you planned more than one trip a year. Click HERE to learn more.


5. Dining

Dining Plans: We discussed the dining plan in the last post. There are 3 types: Quick Service, Table Service, and Deluxe Table Service. If you plan to do a lot of character dining, I believe that the Table Service is worth it. We had the Quick Service when we went in 2013. For our 2015 trip, we planned to do Table Service and do lots of character dining. Probably best if you have been or plan to go several times, as it can take a lot away from the trip as far as time goes.

In the past, Disney has offered a FREE dining plan for fall dates. This would be the absolute best time to get it.

Packing Lunches: We have decided, that since our trip has been moved from September to May (for personal circumstance) that we will be packing our lunch and sharing meals. What is the difference? Dining plans are great for the all-inclusive meal, but as far as prices, it nearly made our trip $1000 more for all 3 of us. That’s awesome if you plan to do a lot of character dining or sit-down restaurants, but we decided we can wait until next trip for that.

How to Save the Most on Food:

Breakfast: Bring Breakfast from home; use grocery delivery service; visit supermarket near hotel

We did a variety of these last time. We brought some stuff from home and had Garden Grocer deliver food to our hotel. They are great! There is a $40 limit for delivery and a slight fee. They just drop the food off at your Disney resort and the resort keeps it cold until you check in!! Then it gets delivered right to your room with your bags!!

On our 2015 trip, we will be driving, so we can buy it when we get there. There is a walmart super close by.

Every Disney resort room now has a mini fridge. You can pick up or have delivered milk, juice, fruit, bread, etc. This way you can at least do breakfast everyday in your room or while waiting in line for open/bus. Now you won’t have to waste snack or meal credits and you can get that Dole Whip or Mickey Bar instead with the ones you saved!!

Good ideas: cold cereal, fruit, cereal bars, bagels/toast (Hubs walked every morning to the resort restaurant and toasted our bagel. This time he decided we’d bring one from home! =D)



Packing Lunch/Dinner: Did you know Disney allows you to bring coolers in? There are certain restrictions and regulations, but you can do it! Visit DW.Com for the latest specifications. This helps immensely when trying to save on food! If you don’t have a stroller with large compartments, you can purchase a locker to keep it in. Again, be sure to look into locker size and cooler size to make sure they’re compatible.

You can also get glasses of ice water for free at every quick-service restaurant. This way, you don’t have to carry or pack water bottles.

Good ideas: PB&J Sandwiches, crackers, granola bars, bottled water, juice boxes (no straws allowed at animal kingdom though).

Buying Lunch/Dinner: Want to buy at least one (or more) meals in the park without the dining plan? DW portions are pretty large. Some restaurants have portions large than others.  Consider this:

Share a portion: You and other members of your party can share a meal at a quick-service location. Most are around $8-12. This was, each person is eating for around $4-6 instead. You can also implement snacks to keep full, or indulge on some of the yummy treats DW has to offer!

Eat outside of Disney: I was super shocked to see a McDonald’s on route from our resort to the parks. If you use google maps, you can see other various restaurants, grocery stores, etc in close proximity to the DW Resort. This could be a good alternative if you’re getting tired of the food at Disney (it does happen if eating at only the QS restaurants).

Snacks: Snacks are super easy at DW. Maybe it’s a little simpler because we have a stroller and a 2-year-old that can get pretty grumpy if he doesn’t get a snack. Some things you could bring are: crackers, nuts, fruit, string cheese, fruit snacks, pretzels, etc. You can buy a large box from Sam’s Club or Cotsco and divide it into baggies for each member of the group for each day. If you are using a dining plan, now you can put your snack credits towards something else that might be more expensive or decadent.

Drinks: As I said, a cup of ice water is free. However; if staying on site, you can purchase a refillable mug. These can only be filled at your resort. They are the best investment if you are a big soda or tea person.


6. Driving vs Flying

Yes, the dreaded question. When we went on our honeymoon in 2011, I vowed to never drive to Florida again. Now that our family of 3 has to pay $800 for plane tickets, I decided to go back to the drawing board.  All you have to do is make a decision: save money or save time/convenience?

For us, our Peanut boy does awesome in the car. We also don’t mind either taking turns driving while the other naps or stopping along the way. To us, the significant amount we save makes up for it. We went to Southwest and priced 3 round-trip, non-stop tickets to Orlando for our May trip. We do it periodcally. Sometimes its barely more than $700 and others its just less than $800. We type in our vehicle specs in this calculator. When gas was around $2.50 it was only $300 there and back in our Honda Odyssey. To us, that $500 is worth the hassle, even if we stop to snooze. Also figure in the extra time you would need off work to drive there.

Make sure to pack your own snacks/meals for the road. That way, you don’t have to keep hitting up fast-food joints along the way. Also, if you decide you need to stop along the way, make sure to grab a coupon book from a rest area for local hotels. Also, try bartering prices to get the best deal. (Be firm, not aggressive!)

Maybe there are just two of you or you have little ones who don’t do well in the car or their car seats. Then flying might be worth the extra money. Maybe you have some Disney Dream Dollars you don’t mind putting towards it or other airline credit. Then, be my guest!! I know I would LOVE to fly, but I would also love to spend an extra day or two there than have to leave early to afford the plane tickets!!

For tips on saving on flying, make sure to keep checking back on prices. Be sure to sign up for various airline newsletters to see when they have deals. Tuesday at 3pm 5-6 weeks ahead of your trip will be the absolute cheapest time to buy. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s are also the cheapest days to fly!!


7. Gift Cards

People don’t even ask us what we want for holidays/birthdays anymore. They know we want Disney gift cards! These are awesome because you can put them towards room packages, tickets, dining, shopping, etc. Just for this Christmas we got $150 in gift cards. That’s not including my birthday that comes before the trip this year.

Planning on flying? Consider asking for airline gift cards! Most companies have them and most can be purchased at chain stores as well! (Maybe I should have asked for those instead?? ;])

Planning on driving? Ask for gas cards!! The possibilities are endless!! =D

Discounted Gift Cards: This may not be for everyone, BUT, if you have a Target debit card, you get 5% off each total purchase, including gift cards. If you purchase a $50 Disney gift card with your Target card, that’s a savings of $2.50. Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but think about it: if your trip costs $1000 and you pay for it all with gift cards purchased from Target, that means you save $50 on your total trip. (Most people’s trips cost WAY more, so total it up). All I’m saying is, you’re spending that money anyways and this actually saves you from money you will already be spending. Just pick one up here and now when you go, they’re in the check out lines!!

Disney Movie Rewards: I think it’s safe to assume most Disney World go-ers buy lots of Disney movies. If not, at least one every now and then. Ever seen the code inside their DVD or Blu-Ray’s? That is for the Disney Movie Rewards. Once you collect enough points, they sometimes offer $10 Disney gift cards. We have gotten these a couple of times. We don’t buy too many movies unless they are favorites and you need quite a bit of points, but if we have the points, they’re nice to pick up towards our trip! The program is free.


8. Souvenirs

This is mostly good if you’re off-property or have your own car while at Disney, but the Wal-mart I mentioned earlier has TONS of Disney souvenirs at drastically lower prices!! I’ve heard you can find pretty much everything there that you can in the parks. From t-shirts, to cups, stuffed animals, magnets, etc. I plan to check it out for myself when we purchase our groceries for the week!!

You can also purchase several items from Dollar Tree ahead of time to pack on your trip. Some things like bubbles, coloring book/crayons, small toys, etc can be used as rewards, car/plane toys, etc on your trip. One less thing you need to purchase on your trip!!

So there you have it frugal friends!! 8 Major Ways to Save at Disney World!!! Do you have any other ideas or tips to share? Feel free to comment!

Stay tuned for Part 3: Packing for Disney!!
Follow Kelsey Routson’s board Disney World 2015 on Pinterest.

Advisory: These opinions are strictly my own. I am in no way affiliated with any business featured in this article nor am I being compensated. Please do your own thorough research before buying or making arrangements. These are strictly ideas/advice to get you started. 



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