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How to Save Money on a Disney World Vacation

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While a Disney World vacation is never going to be dirt cheap, the good news is that families can find promotions and can find other ways to economize. 

The bottom line is that Disney World vacations provide a top-quality experience, with many extras included in your theme park admission price: parades, fireworks displays, special seasonal events, Broadway-quality live performances, and more. It's a premium experience that comes at a price but you can chisel down the price by following some budget-minded tips.

Disney Vacation Deals and Special Offers

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Walt Disney Company

Disney World frequently offers deals on lodging and packages, and they can save you a bundle. This is a page to bookmark. Deals are updated frequently, so return often.

Least Expensive Times to Visit Disney World

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Garth Vaughan/Walt Disney World

Timing is perhaps the most important factor to consider if you want to plan an affordable trip to Disney World. Here's the lowdown on when prices are at their highest and lowest during the year.

Bargains on Theme Park Tickets?

Mickey on parade at Disney World. Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
This is actually the least likely way to save money on a Disney World vacation. Basically, ticket prices do not go on sale. There are a few ways to get discounts but these are limited to certain groups: Florida residents pay less, for example; AAA members can get some discounts; "Military Salute" special tickets may be offered... Check for these and other Disney World ticket discount opportunities, but keep in mind that in general discounts are limited.

There is some good news, however, in that the per-day price of theme park admission shrinks when multi-day passes are bought. As the slogan goes: the longer you play, the less you pay per day. Read more about buying Disney World theme park tickets.

Save Money on Disney World Resorts

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Disney World Resorts come in several categories, and each confers a great set of perks. These include: free airport shuttle, early or late hours in the theme parks every day, free Disney buses -- see Perks of Staying at a Disney World resort. Also, all the resorts -- from Value to Luxury-- are great places to stay, have a fun vibe and good theming, and guestrooms can sleep a family of four (at least.) Meanwhile the Value resorts have an excellent price point, and any family with an eye on the budget should check them out.

Families can also seek discounts at Value, Moderate and Luxury resorts during the less busy times of the year. For example, discounts of up to 30% have been offered during fall months from October through December 22 (excluding Thanksgiving Weekend.) And discounts of up to 35% have been offered for stays during January, after New Year's, through much of February. Mousesavers.com has good summaries of discounts at Disney World resorts.

Camp at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort.  Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Fort Wilderness is a terrific Disney World resort, with huge recreational grounds and many fun activities on-property: kayaking, free outdoor movies, the Hoop-de-Doo Revue dinner show, and much more. Guests can stay in cabins and they can also camp which brings down the costs of lodgings considerably, yet guests still enjoy all the perks of staying at a Disney World Resort. (It may even be possible to rent camping gear -- call and inquire.)

Save Money on Meals: Free Dining Plan

Disney World's Toy Story Pizza Planet restaurant. Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Guests who purchase a "Magic Your Way" package -- that includes theme park tickets plus a stay at a Disney World Resort -- can choose to purchase a Dining Option that includes daily meals and snacks. The Dining Option has generally been considered to be a good deal: guests can choose from over 100 Disney restaurants in the theme parks, at Disney World resorts, or in Downtown Disney, and for each day, guests get one quick-service meal, one snack, and one table-service meal. There is also a less expensive option, the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan. Even better for budget-minded visitors: for several years a special promotion, typically in the fall, has thrown in the Dining option for free. Read more about the Disney World Free Dining Plan.

Stay at Less Expensive Lodgings

Families can find numerous budget-friendly and family-friendly hotels in Orlando, and many of them are all-suites properties, providing the convenience of having an kitchen and multiple bedrooms. Use of a kitchen can really help with the money-saving: start the day with a quick cereal breakfast and you've not only saved money, but you've saved time -- which means a faster start on the day in the theme parks, making the most of those expensive admission tickets.

Many properties offer free shuttles to the Disney World theme parks, but be aware that departures and returns may be only once or twice a day. Families seeking inexpensive lodging should be sure to give the Value Resorts at Disney World a good look, as guests can take free buses to and from the theme parks all day long.

Save Money in the Theme Parks: Food and Drinks

  • Refill your water bottle. Buying sodas or water for a family of four can soak up a lot of money every day you're in the theme parks.
  • Bring along some snacks. Guests are permitted to bring snacks into the park.
  • Eat for value. Have a late Character Breakfast -- with all-you-can-eat buffet-- that can serve as lunch. Character Breakfasts are lots of fun, and though expensive, provide good value for the experience especially if your late breakfast carries you through the afternoon. (Or have a late lunch that carries you through the evening hours... Then perhaps eat a later, inexpensive meal at the end of the day, back at you all-suites hotel with kitchen.)

Dozens of Other Money-Saving Tips

Several websites are dedicated to saving money on Disney World vacations. For example, Mousesavers.com tracks discounts of all sorts. About.com's Guide for Florida has some money-saving tips including Family Fun on a Small Budget. Disney world's Moms Panel is a good source for all sorts of tips, and many questions and answers are about costs and saving money.

Get the Most from your Day in the Theme Parks

Fastpass - photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Fastpass - photo © Teresa Plowright.
Increase the value of your stay by getting the most from your time in the theme parks. For example, be sure to use Fastpass strategically. Also, pick your time of year with care. And plan ahead: perhaps it's best, with wee kids, to take an afternoon break or nap, then return later to the theme parks at night, so consider carefully where to stay.

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