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Pro Tips: Low and No Cost Ways to Improve Your Disney Vacation

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t_logoLast time, I brought you quick tips. This time, we’re talking pro tips. Maybe you’ve been to Walt Disney World a few times now and are ready to plus your experience. Presumably, you’re already subscribed to and are saving time and money by using tools like our mobile app, Crowd Calendar, and customizable touring plans. If not, why not? Anyway, read on for some ideas to start with for enhance other areas of your vacation. Here are some of our Walt Disney World tips:

Note: Any product we recommend is one we have used and purchased with our own money. We haven’t received compensation of any kind (no money, no freebies) for mentions in this article. 

Pro Tip 1 – Enhance Your Accommodations

This doesn’t mean bring your scented candle and special blanky with you. One, candles in a hotel room are a fire hazard. And two, bag fees are high enough without bringing extra stuff with you. No, what I mean is get the same or better accommodations for less. You could sleep four to a room at Pop Century. Or you could get more space by either renting a house off site from a company like All Star Vacation Homes or renting onsite from a Disney Vacation Club broker such as David’s Vacation Club rentals. If you really want to go pro, consider an Owner’s Locker (though you probably won’t keep a laser printer in yours like we do for our TouringPlans mobile office).

Pro Tip 2 – Eat Fewer, Better Table Service Meals

It could be that you skip three or four regular table service meals for one blow out dinner at Victoria & Albert’s. Or two buffets for a dinner at signature restaurant. Either way, you’re getting away from the frankly homogenous offerings of most the Disney restaurants and having a meal that’s a bit more special. If you really need a character to visit you overly mashed potatoes, bring a plush and perform a guignol for your kids from behind a chair – it’s cheaper.

Consider Diagon Alley instead of Main St. USA. ©Universal

Pro Tip 3 – Visit Universal

OK, you can breathe now. I’m not saying skip Disney. But if Derek Burgan‘s and Seth Kubersky‘s articles and tweets don’t have you excited about what’s going on across town at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, you’re not paying attention. Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley are eons ahead of what Disney did with New Fantasyland. And Universal’s hotels and food are far less expensive than similar Mouse offerings.

Pro Tip 4 – Explore the Resorts

Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge have fantastic free and low-cost tours available in the afternoons. And Fort Wilderness during Halloween and Christmas is a sight to behold. In fact, Fort Wilderness any time of year (except in the deepest heat of summer) is worth a visit to check out the Tri Circle D Ranch and the Settlement area. Take a boat over from Magic Kingdom and stay for lunch or dinner at Trail’s End.

Pro Tip 5 – Visit a Water Park or Play Mini Golf

If you have been to Walt Disney World a few times now, but haven’t visited Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Winter Summerland, or Fantasia Gardens, try to make time for it next trip. These are super fun and have the great theming you’re used to seeing at the parks. Use our ticket calculator to find the best admission prices for your trip.

Lightning McQueen was not a Chevy Aveo. ©Disney

Pro Tip 6 – Rent a Car

There are car rentals available in Orlando for less than the cost to rent a double stroller in the theme parks, and driving around Walt Disney World isn’t difficult (just follow the purple signs). We totally get that this may not be in the budget for everyone. But if you’re staying at a resort with multiple bus stops or one main stop that resembles a cattle chute, once you get a feel for the freedom that not always depending on Disney transportation gets you, you may not go back. (As an aside, we always recommend taking Disney transit to Magic Kingdom and any time you’ll be drinking.) Check for the latest car rental deals.

Pro Tip 7 – Consider Adding on a Cruise

How about instead of a week at Walt Disney World, you split your week with a 3- or 4- night cruise out of Port Canaveral? Cruises for two adults in an inside cabin can be very reasonable (for Disney), and why not take advantage of splitting the transportation costs since you’re already in Central Florida? The good thing about the cruise is that once your fare is paid, your meals and most of your entertainment is already included. If you look at what you’d be paying for your hotel, meals, and park admission, you may be surprised to see that cruising doesn’t seem like a bad deal.

Pro Tip 8 – Visit at a Different Time of Year

If you always visit Walt Disney World in the summer, you’re missing out on special events and lower crowds. If you’re a fan of visiting at Christmas, have you considered Halloween? Disney is masterful at scheduling events throughout the year to keep attendance up. If you haven’t checked out the Flower & Garden Festival or Food & Wine, give it a shot.

Pro Tip 9 – Travel with Someone New – Or No One at All

If you always travel with your family, plan a girls’ (or boys’) trip and enjoy all the fun for adults Walt Disney World offers. Or meet your new best (Disney) friend by using our Lines Chat to find who’s traveling at the save time you are. Finally, don’t underestimate solo travel. There’s a lot to be said for not having to answer to anyone’s whims but your own on a trip. A bonus is that splitting the costs may allow you to improve your hotel experience (see tip one).

After Race
It’s like trying to make the Frozen Meet and Greet at rope drop, but with medals.

Pro Tip 10 – Run for It! Or Book a Tour

This is a tough one. runDisney race fees go up every year, so it’s not what I’d call a low-cost option. But if you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your vacation, get or stay in shape, and meet a whole community of fellow fans, there’s not a much better option than to sign up for a race. Another thing to try is one of the huge variety of tours offered at Walt Disney World – they run from the very reasonably priced Behind the Seeds to the all-day Backstage Magic.

So what do you think? How do you plus up your trips to Walt Disney World? Talk about it in the comments.

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Laurel Stewart

Laurel is a former software engineer and current student. She likes pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and Big Thunder Mountain.

9 thoughts on “Pro Tips: Low and No Cost Ways to Improve Your Disney Vacation

  • Thanks for the great tips. How far out do you need to book a DVC room through a broker like the one you mention?

    • At 7 to 11 months for high demand villas like Grand Villas or during Epcot resorts Food & Wine weekends. Sometimes you can get last minute specials for travel within a month (sign up for David’s newsletter for those). Otherwise they just match availability with what’s out there.

  • Regarding #6 (Renting a car), is parking at the parks at WDW free? Or included if you stay on-site? If it is not I can see that really driving up the cost of renting a car, especially if you park hop.

    • Parking is free for onsite guests (including the Swan and Dolphin – a resort that would be my tip 11) and annual pass holders. Otherwise it’s $17/day but you only have to pay once per day even if you hop.

      • Thanks, that is good to know!! When you check-in (on-site) do you request some kind of parking pass that they give you for the duration of the trip?

      • They scan your Magic Band at the parking entrance now as far as I know. They may still be giving the paper passes as well.

  • You really cannot under estimate how interesting a solo trip can be. In May, I was returning from a dive vacation in Bonaire, heading home, when work decided they wanted me to swing into Orlando on the way back for a conference. I arrived on the Saturday and stayed with Disney. Armed with a rental car and a DVC member’s knowledge of the parks, I experienced everything I wanted to during a star wars weekend and still had plenty of time to bounce around the parks, trade pins and even make my first visit to the outlet store. It was a good time.

  • Collect pressed pennies using all of the helpful tips here. It’s an inexpensive and interactive way to take home nice souvenirs.

    • RE: Pressed pennies.

      If you have a drimmel tool drill a hole in the top for Christmas Tree Decorations.


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