A few days ago Tammy Whiting wrote a great article about Things You Shouldn’t Pay for on a Disney Cruise. Today I take that idea and apply it to Walt Disney World! Here are some purchases to avoid to save money at Disney.
Some of you might think, “Hey Claire, everything is expensive at the Disney parks! You just have to deal with it!” I agree with your statement, but there are always things that are just a little too ridiculous, or a little too much like a nickel-and-dime scheme, or WAY too expensive to warrant even being put on the shelf or promoted by the company!
So if you’re trying to afford that great Disney vacation and are thinking of ways to reduce the overall budget, here are some things you can definitely ignore:
Save Money at Disney – Don’t Fall for Preferred Parking
Walt Disney World’s parking is huge and sprawling. They have always accomodated the early riser and the late arriver by shuttling people with their tram system to roughly the spot where their vehicle is located. If you are close enough to the entrance, you can just hoof it to the security checkpoint.
Disney’s commuting guests have grown accustomed to this arrangement. However, one year ago Disney decided to provide an up charge by giving guests really, really great parking spaces for just $20 more!
I need to remind you that parking for a Disney park in Florida is already $20, so if you want the best spot in the Mouse House you have to double your parking payment. $40 paid for the day and you haven’t even made it to the entrance yet!
I have parked all over the lots at Disney and in all sort of podiatric conditions. The trams do a lot of the heavy work – use them if you have to! Don’t sacrifice a Mickey moment in the park because you spent that extra $20 outside the park.
Save Money at Disney – Buy Meals a la Carte
When you go up to the counter for the first time at a quick service dining location in the parks, you might deal with some sticker shock. After all, most of our national fast food chains aren’t quite to the point of charging $10 for a combo meal. (…Yet…) But that doesn’t stop Disney. The main meals at places like Casey’s Corner in Magic Kingdom park or Pizzafari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are $10 or more – and that doesn’t even include the drink!
This isn’t as huge of a cost-cutting measure as the parking, but remember that it will still save you a couple bucks, and it could help your belt a little, too.
There are two ways to enjoy the meals but at a lower price: order the kid’s menu version of the same meal, or order it a la carte. The kid’s price has a smaller portion, but it probably is the size that one would expect from one’s local fast food joint. (The regular menu portions are huge!)
Disney rarely posts that you can order just the burger or just the chicken nuggets, but you can, and the cast member will knock off some of the price at the register.
Save Money at Disney – Baby Clothes Are Tomorrow’s Garage Sale Items
I now have two nieces (with a third niece or nephew on the way) and I have declared them the best babies ever in the history of the whole world period. (Period!) So when I went to Walt Disney World last summer with my parents, we wanted to find some cute baby outfits.
We didn’t expect the baby outfits to be on par in price with youth and adult t-shirts! Here’s a child’s onesie set from the Disney Store:
Notice the price? I would bet the adult is going to get more use out of a shirt of the same price than the child. Children under the age of three grow at a rapid rate, and purchasing clothes for them is more like playing a game of roulette. Will the baby be that size when this weather is taking place? Or – more likely – how long will the baby be this size anyway?
Etsy has amazing Disney-themed baby clothes for a slightly more reasonable rate (plus it supports creative people), and Disney-themed clothes are all over budget-friendly stores like Wal-Mart and Target! The clothes can start the Disney conversation, and it’s completely up to you if you want to say where exactly you purchased that outfit.
Save Money at Disney – There Are Movies at Home
For long-term guests a movie might be a pleasant break from the Disney crazy. However, most guests are in Walt Disney World for a week or so. I have taken a break from the Disney crazy, but I didn’t need to spend $20+ to do something that I can do at home. Instead, I just turned on my television, which is conveniently included in the price of your hotel. Between sporting events, movies, and weather, I could take a breather and not spend more money.
Save Money at Disney – Refillable Mugs are not worth the Trouble
I did get sucked into the refillable mug craze back in 2010, but I didn’t get the most out of the money I spent. I rarely was at the resort to refill my mug, and all I wanted on those hot June days was water! I wised up last year and just brought a gigantic water bottle, and it was exactly what I needed.
When you think about how many times you’d need to use the mug, and also think that you would need to make a trip to the food court every time you wanted a refill, the idea of the refillable mug starts to not look very appealing – especially not at a $18 price tag. Moreover, do you really trust the “washing stations, which would more accurately be called “rinsing stations? At home, you don’t just rinse your dishes for a week instead of washing them. And sugary syrup probably isn’t a good thing to put in a body in need of hydration – just take a water bottle and get free ice water.
Save Money at Disney – Bring Your Own Glow Items
Before each of its nighttime spectaculars, Disney wheels out its magical light-up cart full of hats, crowns, twirly-ma-bobs, and swords to entice the kiddos in the crowd to sidle up to their parents and say, “Pleeeeeeeeease?” Disney hopes that the exhausted parent will purchase something to make the kids happy while they wait for Anna and Elsa to come down the street or Mickey Mouse to shoot fireworks from his fingers.
This stuff is all trap merchandise. Don’t let the fact that they wave this stuff in front of your children keep you from standing your ground. The best advice I ever heard on the subject was to purchase your own nighttime glow merchandise before you leave for Florida (or purchase it at a local Florida store). Hide it so the kids don’t see it, and then break it out when their eyes start to twinkle at the Disney twirly-ma-bob with its retail price of arm-and-leg. Chances are your unique glow merchandise will be the envy of the kids around you that all have identical light-up swords.
Save Money at Disney – Wishes Dessert Parties Are Good For Desserts, Not So Much For Viewing Fireworks
Disney dessert parties contain many varieties of desserts. From cheesecakes to fruit tarts to chocolate, every dessert lover’s desire is granted. (They even have milk!) If dessert is your goal, you can enjoy as much as you want and it’s pretty delicious.
However, if the goal of a dessert party is the show, then you might want to just camp out in advance at the best location, because it’s pretty likely that the dessert party viewing area isn’t going to be the greatest.
I did the Wishes dessert party a few years back at the Tomorrowland Terrace, and since I had booked it so early, my friend and I had seats right at the front. But those with tables in the back still had to get up and stand behind us to watch the show…just like they would have if they hadn’t been at the party.
This is a question of spending time vs. spending money. In my opinion, time wins out for that picture perfect view.
(Ed. – Illuminations dessert parties are an exception to this. Many of the private party locations and the Illuminations Sparkling Dessert Party are prime viewing locations that also remove you from being shoulder to shoulder with other guests.)
Save Money at Disney – Midway Games Are For Suckers
Specifically, I am talking about the games you would find at Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama, but you will find them a few other places too. These are games that are typically found in random theme parks across America as well as boardwalks, circuses, and fairs. People throw, squirt, or move something, and if they win they get a giant stuffed animal. Which you will then have to carry around the park. Possibly in the heat of summer.
The reason Disney even has this area in Animal Kingdom is because of the amazingly detailed theming of the area that makes it resemble an off-highway tourist trap. (Maybe too amazingly detailed?) That doesn’t mean you have to waste your money ($4 per game) to be immersed! Save (and make!) money by teaching your kids how to set up their own 3-Card Monte games out of sight of Disney security.
Do you have any other items or experiences to add to the Walt Disney World list? Disagree with anything I’ve mentioned above? Have you ever paid for something at WDW and regretted it later? Let us know in the comments below!