It’s true that a Walt Disney World Vacation isn’t cheap. It’s one of the complaints you hear the most and is a big hurdle for families and individuals eager to experience the magic but must keep to a budget. But a Disney World Vacation may not be as out of reach as some might think! The price tag attached to the ultimate vacation destination can be significantly less if you know a few tips and tricks and money-saving strategies. So read on to learn how to make a Disney World Vacation affordable for you and your family.
Make Your Disney Visa Work For You
I applied for a Disney Rewards Visa Card from Chase several years ago, and I love it! It was free to apply, there’s no annual fee, and if you accept another cardholder’s recommendation, they get a Disney gift card and so do you. Cardholders also earn 1% in reward dollars and enjoy discounts and perks at a Disney Store, DisneyStore.com, and at the Disney Parks.
A Disney Rewards Visa Card can help you pay for your vacation if you can make the card work for you. For instance, I use my card to pay for the majority of my daily purchases, but immediately pay off what I charge to avoid accumulating debt or interest. Then, throughout the year, I allow my reward dollars to accumulate to apply towards the cost of my resort, tickets, or Annual Pass. It’s great knowing that each tank of gas or bag of groceries is helping to trim down my vacation costs; and of course, the card’s discounts help with those costs too.
Visit During the Off-Season
One of the best ways to save on a Disney World Vacation is to visit during the off-season. When the crowd levels drop, so do the rates for airfare, the resorts, and even park tickets due to Disney World’s new tiered ticket system. Seriously, a Disney World Vacation in the off-season may be half the price of the same vacation in July. But how do you know just when the off-season is? A good rule is to avoid the summer months and holidays; but for the rest of the time, the best source is the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar.
Book Through Orbitz
Of all the travel sites out there these days, I prefer Orbitz. Along with offering Walt Disney World Resorts, there are two huge reasons for why I use Orbitz. The first is the ability to use Orbucks, or reward dollars, users gain from booking with Orbitz. Just like with my Disney Visa, I let them accumulate and then apply them to reduce my resort costs. In fact, I recently used my stockpile of Orbucks and only paid $141.00 for a long weekend stay at the Pop Century Resort while gaining new Orbucks in the process!
Another reason for why I prefer Orbitz is the ability to stack deals, just like you would stack coupons at your local grocery store. If Disney is offering a promotion to the public, that discounted price is typically reflected in Orbitz prices. But Orbitz then allows you to apply their discount codes to further lower the cost!
There is one downside of booking through Orbtiz that I must mention. While Disney World will recognize an Orbitz reservation, just as they would if you booked through them, the confirmation and itinerary number Orbtiz sends guests is not compatible with MyDisneyExperience. If you need to book a Magical Express, personalize or obtain your MagicBand in advance, and complete online check-in, you will need the Disney confirmation number.
What I recommend is to call Orbitz and explain your need for the Disney confirmation number. Sometimes the representative knows exactly what you need; but others may not which may require an extra phone call or two. Yes, it’s a hassle, but the savings are often worth it!
Get an Annual Pass
This tip may not apply to everyone, but for those who visit Walt Disney World more than once a year and prefer the Park Hopper Ticket Option, an Annual Pass can be an economical choice. For example, if an individual visits Walt Disney World twice and purchases a 4-day ticket with the Park Hopper option, the price tag with tax will be around $840.00 But if that individual were to purchase a Platinum Annual Pass, the cost with tax include is just under $800.00! The Platinum Annual Pass includes no blockout dates, free parking, special offers, and a discount on dining, tours, and merchandise. The luxury of being able to visit the four Walt Disney World parks anytime you please is awesome too!
Also, for Walt Disney World’s 45th Anniversary, Annual Passholders are gaining a new batch of benefits such as 20% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at 45 select restaurants and at a number of Disney-owned-and-operated merchandise locations. It’s the best time to become an Annual Passholder too as guests purchasing passes between October 2, 2016 and January 3, 2017 gain an extra month for free! Read all about the current Annual Passholder perks here.
Fly Economy Airlines
If you can’t drive to Walt Disney World, the cost of airfare can be a devastating blow to your vacation budget. This is why I prefer to fly with economy airlines. I personally have flown with Frontier Airlines multiple times, as they fly into the Orlando area, and their cheap rates have played a huge role for how I make my Disney World Vacations affordable. Yes, there are extra fees that can quickly drive up the costs; but if you are willing to forfeit a few comforts, have a flexible schedule, and can travel light, oftentimes the rate is still significantly cheaper than major airlines.
If you can’t fly with an economy airlines, I would suggest Southwest Airlines. I’ve flown with Southwest for years and I’m a fan. Their rates are often cheaper than other major airlines and they are no bag fees! TouringPlans writer, Liz Mangan, recently wrote about Booking and Flying Southwest Airlines. It’s a fantastic read for those flying to Walt Disney World and looking to save.
Pay Out of Pocket For Dining
Through the years I’ve both paid out of pocket and used the Disney Dining Plans; and while every family and vacation is different, I’ve found that paying out of pocket is cheaper. It can be even more so if you choose to split meals, eat off property, or bring drinks and snacks with you.
Mix and Match Airfare
To make airfare more affordable, compare the cost of a round trip flight to the cost of a flight to your destination with one airline and the cost of your return flight with another. Sometimes an airline offers a great flight to Walt Disney World, but not so much for the flight home. Shop around and mix and match to get the best possible rate to make your trip more affordable.
Pack a Carry-On Strategically
Travel fees can be like a hole in the pocket of your vacation budget, especially if you are flying to Walt Disney World. A number of airlines charge fees for baggage; and while there are ways of avoiding such costs, the simplest is to pack light and forgo a checked bag. On economy airlines, customers are allowed a free personal item which is typically a bag that fits under the seat in the front of them; and other airlines allow free carry-ons plus a personal item. A carry-on can contain all you need, with some room to spare, if you pack strategically. Also, thanks to the famous Florida temperatures, shorts and t-shirts don’t take up much space.
Rent Disney Vacation Club Points
This is one of my favorite money-saving secrets! Even if you’re not a Disney Vacation Club member, you can still rent “points” to stay at a Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort. Yes, this is the way to stay at a Disney World Deluxe Resort on the cheap, sometimes for the same price as a Moderate Resort or even a Value Resort! Staying at a DVC Villa with a kitchen can also cut down on dining costs as well. The Disney Vacation Club and the renting process can be intimidating; but there are a number of reliable sites that facilitate the renting process, such as David’s Vacation Club Rentals, The DVC Rental Store, and DVC-Rental. To learn more about renting, check out Tips for Renting Disney Vacation Club Points.
Take Advantage of Magical Express
If you plan to spend your vacation on Disney property, forego renting a car and take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express! This free service transports guests and their luggage from the Orlando International Airport to any Walt Disney World Resort for free! Walt Disney World also offers free transportation throughout the resort in the forms of buses, monorails, and boats.
Renting a car can sound like a great way to save cash, but it’s not always. Be sure to take into account the cost of gasoline, parking, and extra fees. For instance, I once planned on staying off-property and renting a car for a cheap weekend trip to Walt Disney World. However, the costs of renting the car made my trip the same price as if I stayed on property, not counting the cost for parking and gasoline, or the hassle of having to return it before my flight. The moral of the story is to fully compare your options, not just gravitate towards what sounds economical.
Split a Meal
Yes, the Disney Parks are notorious for expensive menu items, but there are ways to reduce those costs to make your Disney World Vacation affordable. One of my go-to methods is to split a quick service or table service meal with someone in your group, especially since Disney is typically generous with their portions. Another way to save cash at mealtime is to order a kid’s meal, especially if you intend to sample a snack or treat later on. Another tip is to only order what you want, especially at quick service restaurants. If you aren’t interested in a side, let the Cast Member know and oftentimes you won’t be charged for it.
If a trip to Disney has always seemed out of reach financially, know that a few tricks and some money-saving strategies are how to make a Disney World Vacation affordable. Do you have any budgeting tips or ways to save at Walt Disney World? Share them in a comment below!