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Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget: A Full Guide

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget: A Full Guide

You can have all that magical experience your heart yearns for at a lesser cost by simply planning a trip to Disney World on a budget! It is possible to get all you wish for, the fairytales, the thrills, the castles, your favorite animated stars come to life and even more and still not hurt your bank account so much.

There is really so much to look forward to in Disney world. The Disney world property expands over 47 square miles. Within the gates of Disney world, you’ll find four major theme parks: Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood studios, and the Animal Kingdom, more than twenty large resorts, four golf courses, four mini-golf courses, two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, many lakes offering water sports, fishing and boating, Disney Springs shopping and dining district, two dinner shows and a broad-walk entertainment district. 

The four major theme parks have so much to offer. The Magic Kingdom is the most popular one with the most rides—totaling over 20.

Entertainment in the Magic Kingdom includes a daily afternoon parade and an evening fireworks display. The park is separated into 6 themed lands that cater to both kids and adults.

Hollywood Studios is the smallest park in Disney World, however, it brings the magic of movies to life. It has 5 rides, 6 live shows, and 2 evening shows.

In Epcot, you get to explore the future and travel the world at the same time. The front portion of the park is called the Future World while the back portion is called the World Showcase.

The park has 9 rides, exhibitions, and live entertainment. You can also find the most diverse culinary dishes in this park.

And lastly, the Animal Kingdom celebrates nature, animals, and prehistoric giants. It has five themed lands.

For entertainment, it has 8 rides, 2 live stage shows, and various trails where you will discover an array of wide life.

A Disney World vacation can cost around $1,000 to $5,000.

The total amount will depend on how long you plan to stay, the type of parks pass you purchase, and how much you spend on accommodation, meals, and extras like ticketed events, character dinners, and souvenirs. 

There is no way to argue reasonably that a trip to Disney would be cheap, but when planning a trip to a Disney World on a budget, there are so many tips we can suggest to help you go on that trip without going into debt.

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

1. Select a Suitable Time to Go

One important decision to make while planning your visit is deciding when to go. It’s best not to go to Disneyland on holidays because of the presence of crowds.

Off-seasons are the perfect period to visit on a budget as prices of hotels, park tickets, and transportation are less costly; also, the parks will have fewer visitors.

If you can, don’t go at Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Spring Break, and just don’t go in the summer.

These times are peak times and single park admission prices begin at $117 pre-tax and up to $159 between Christmas and New Year’s.

Rates stabilize at $109 during the “Value” window. You can get the best deals if you visit mid-January through early March, May; up until Memorial Day weekend, late August through early October and Mid-November through Mid-December minus the holidays.

Also, it is way cheaper to visit during the week than on a weekend. Rates increase to $125 on Saturdays during the summer and $139 come fall.

2. Choose Your Preferred Means of Getting to Disney World

It is often hard to beat the cost savings of driving, however, you can still find discount airfare to Orlando, Florida.

The cost of the flight will depend on where you are coming from and what time of the year it is.

3. Take Young Children Along

It may never be more magical and less costly to go on that trip to Disney World than when your children are little.

Kids under age 3 get in free, kids aged 3 to 9 only pay a few dollars less than adults while kids over 10 years pay adult ticket prices.

If you can go sooner than later, you’ll save more.

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

4. Decide How Long Your Vacation Will Last

The number of days you decide to stay at Disney world will certainly affect your budget.

A shorter trip will cost less, but if you want to check out all that Disney has to offer, then you should consider a minimum of 5 days in the park.

You’ll get to visit all 4 parks and see the attractions that are at the top of your list within 5 days.

You may also want to extend your stay to spend some time at the Disney springs and the numerous resorts.

Again, this choice depends on your budget since extra days will mean extra expenses.

Disney tickets are priced strategically.

You get to save more by staying for a greater number of days. For instance, if you buy a 3-day park ticket, you will enjoy a savings of $35, while you may get extra days at the park free of charge if you buy tickets for more than 5 days.

5. Accommodation

While making your trip plans, you might wonder which option is better: to stay at one of Disney’s beautiful on-property resorts or to stay at a cheaper accommodation off Disney property?

Here is what you get for the option you choose.

For Disney’s beautiful, on-property resort, it’s true that this choice is costlier, however, it goes with several perks you won’t get outside.

Here are a few of them:

  • If you go for a package, you can cut costs on tickets and transportation.
  • Access to additional hours which can be spent either by entering the parks before other visitors or staying for a longer time after other visitors have left.
  • A paid, return bus ticket to your resort from the Orlando International Airport.
  • You won’t have to incur extra charges by paying for car parking space or car rent as you would have access to free rides from your resort to the park, and back to your resort.
  • Ability to select your Fastpasses 60 days ahead of your arrival, which allows you to skip the queue for rides.
  • The choice of booking reservations in restaurants 180 days prior to checking in; this extends to 10 days during your trip.
  • A magic band which can be used to charge all things to your room.
  • Delivery of packages bought in park stores to your resort.

If your decision is to stay on Disney property, the Disney Value Resorts is among the budget-friendly options.

You can also get a fully equipped campsite starting at around $50 per night at Fort Wilderness.

Alternatively, the off-site hotels are relatively cheap.

If you are looking to save as much money as possible, then you might want to check off-property resorts with amenities similar to a Value or Moderate resort in Disney’s property for as low as $40 a night.

However, the problem here is that you won’t have access to all the free transportation and all the extra advantages enjoyed by on-property guests.

You may need a rental car or go in taxis or ubers to the park. If you choose to rent a car (which you don’t necessarily need), you’ll have to pay for parking spaces and that’s some extra expenses.

You can also find hotels that provide free rides to the parks at limited hours.

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

6. Buy Tickets Upfront

The cost of Disney park tickets depends on how many days you intend to spend in the park. Every extra day you spend in a Disney park cuts some dollars off your park admission as a whole.

For a single day ticket, regular admission rates start at $109 per person.

The price will drop to $104 if you are staying for three days, $101 for a four days stay and $83 if you’ll spend up to five days in the park. 

Also, it pays to plan ahead. If you are making plans to visit Disney by next year, don’t wait till then to buy your tickets as the prices top up every year.

If you plan ahead, you invest before the prices increase.

7. Plan Out Each Day

It’s best to plan your schedule and decide when to visit each park. Though this may seem like a headache,  being organized will help you avoid queues and save your time.

Get an idea of which days are busiest in each park, and use the information to decide when to visit.

If you are staying on Disney’s property, choose days when there are extra magic hours to visit each park.

Also, find out when the parks open and note fireworks show and parade times. That way, you won’t go to the Magic Kingdom when it closes at 6 pm if you want to see the fireworks.

Decide when to hit the most popular rides to better avoid wait times.

Also, decide if you will be eating at any table service restaurant so that you can secure those reservations in time and not start thinking about what to have at lunchtime.

You’ll end up spending extra money since the only restaurant with last-minute space available is the priciest in the park.

8. Know What to Pack for Your Trip

You’ll need to pack the things you need for your vacation. Packing the right items is important.

There are essential items to bring along and extra items you may need also to ensure you don’t spend extra money getting them at Disney World.

For clothes and accessories, you need your shirts, shorts, pants, socks, comfortable shoes, sandals, swimsuits, underwear, bras, hats or sun visors, and mouse ears hat. 

You’ll also need your toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, razor, shaving cream, tweezers, shampoo, hair conditioner, deodorant, sunscreen, lip balm, nail file, hairbrush or comb, and makeup.

Travel items to pack are a camera, camera batteries and charger, laptop computer, umbrella, backpack, large Ziploc bags, ponchos, hand sanitizer, pens, books or magazines, mp3 player and neck pillow.

Every day you go to the park, carry along your theme park tickets, cash/credit card, driver’s license or ID, water bottle, camera, extra camera battery, sunglasses, cell phone, snacks, autograph book, sharpie or marker, poncho, band-aid, sunscreen, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes.

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

9. Visit One Park Per Day

You need to be realistic about how much you can do and how much you want to check out each day.

Moving from park to park can be exhausting and time-consuming. The Park Hopper ticket that gets you access to all four Disney World parks in a day may seem like a good deal to buy for $169, however, if you are staying for multiple days, you can stretch your budget further if you leave off park-hopping for a day or two and visit only one park per day.

You get to save $60 per person per day by buying a single-park ticket for $109 instead of the park hopper pass. 

10. Plan Off-Park Days

You don’t have to spend every day of your trip in the themed parks. Try breaking up the week with one day at the park and the other at your hotel pool.

The Disney hotel pools are themed and huge, so you’ll still feel like you are at the park.

You can still go to other places on your off-park days. Walt Disney World is a small universe on its own, and there is just so much to be explored beyond the parks. Take advantage of the free activities.

You can take a stroll down Disney Springs or get on a free boat ride that sails guests from one side of the Broad-walk to the other. You can also let the kids engage in finding hidden Mickeys throughout the resort.

There are also campfire sing-alongs with Chip ‘n’ Dale (S’mores included) as well as an outdoor screening of a Disney movie every night at Fort Wilderness.

You are free to walk around Animal Kingdom Lodge even if you are a non-hotel guest. Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the more luxurious places at Disney World.

You can walk around the property and see if you can spot a resident giraffe, zebra, gazelle, and flamingo.

You still don’t know what to do with your off-park day? I doubt it!

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

11. Food and Drink

Costs can really vary when it comes to food. You can either spend a lot or save a lot and this depends on the choices you make.

Disney World has a variety of restaurants from which you can choose. There’s the Counter service that offers fast food for approximately $10 to $15 per person.

Eating at a Sit-down restaurant will cost $20 to $50 per person while Character meals offer chances to dine with your favorite Disney stars, and of course, you’ll pay more.

There’s also the Disney dining plan. The dining plan gives Disney resort guests access to credits that can be used at different types of restaurants all through their stay.

It’s a way to prepay for meals on Disney property, but it is not the best option for people who want to save.

It’s best to leave out the credit card option and just pay with cash when you need to buy food.

This will help you do some on-site calculations before spending on food. Skip the dining plan unless your sole aim of visiting Disney World is to eat.

You should also have a healthy appetite to justify the cost.

Another option is to order from the kid’s menu. The portion sizes are smaller, but the prices are also smaller.

They generally include fresh fruit and vegetable options. Guests of any age can order meals from the kid’s menu.

The best option that allows you to save so much on food in Disney World is packing your own meals.

You can find several grocery stores in the area where you can pick up supplies to pack your meals.

There are also grocery services that will deliver groceries direct to your hotel if you don’t have a car.

You can pack a nice lunch with sandwiches, fruit, cookies, water bottles, anything your family enjoys. Just be careful with perishable foods.

Coolers are not allowed, so limit what you pack to food that doesn’t require to be kept ice cold.

Do not buy water bottles in the park. You can get a free cup of water and ice at a quick-service restaurant.

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

12. Be at the Park Before It Opens

If you arrive at the park before it opens, you have better chances to book your favorite ride early without having to wait much or waste a Fastpass.

This is a huge timesaver because lines get long later in the day.

13. Have Your Pictures Taken with Your Phone or Camera

Disney Photopass photographers will take photos of you all over the park for $199. After your trip, you get to access the pictures online, but it will cost you.

If you want to save some money on pictures, you can actually ask these photographers to take pictures of you with your phone or your own camera with characters.

They’ll still take professional photos with their camera, but you don’t have to buy them. That way, you’ll save money and still have your pictures instantly.

14. Souvenirs

Disney World has a wonderful selection of high-quality souvenirs that you won’t get outside the park, but of course, they are not cheap.

If you are traveling with children, avoid extra costs by not going to the souvenir shop at Disney.

Children won’t understand your budget and would definitely ask for all the stuff other kids have. They’ll even throw tantrums or pout all day if you don’t get them the Disney souvenir they want.

However, there are numerous items of Disney gear you can buy outside for less.

Keep them for the inevitable time when your kids start lusting after the trinkets that every other kid seems to have.

15. Bring Rain Ponchos from Home

While going on your trip, pack along rain ponchos from home, and stay in the park when it rains. When it rains, many guests leave the park.

You can take advantage of this opportunity to put on a poncho and head to your favorite ride. Thanks to the rain, the queue will surely decrease.

You may have to pay plenty for Disney rain ponchos if you don’t get one from home.  

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

16. Bring a Stroller or Wheelchair If You Need One

It’s best to bring a stroller or a wheelchair along with you if you need it. The strollers and wheelchairs available for rent at Disney world go for a high price.

They are also offered on a first come first served basis.

17. Make Use of Fastpass

One of the numerous ways to make the best of your time in the Disney parks is by taking advantage of your Fastpass chances.

You get to skip the never-ending queues to reserve a spot for Disney World theme park rides, Character greetings, and experiences with your Fastpass.

Fastpass is included in your Disney World admission, so you can start making your selections.

For on-resort guests, they can start making their selections 60 days prior to their stay while those staying off-Disney property can make their selections 30 days prior to their visit.

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

18. Buy Disney Gift Cards at Discounted Prices

If you are a member of Sam’s or Costco Club, you can purchase Disney gift cards at 5% off.

You can use these gift cards to pay for your Disney hotels, park tickets, food on property, and more.

19. Check Extra Purchases

It’s best to be prepared when visiting Disney World. Cut down unnecessary or sudden expenses by bringing along a backpack to the park with everything you’ll need. 

20. Avoid Extra Costs and Upsells 

Walt Disney World Resort goes all out to make sure that guests have the magical experience they came for.

To achieve this magic, there are different add-ons you can include in your trip such as extra celebrations, photo pass, and more.

However, your vacation would still have all the magic if you avoid these extra celebrations and focus on transportation, accommodation, tickets, and food expenses.

Make the most of your vacation to Walt Disney World. Parks don’t shut down when the sun goes down.

You can spend an extra hour or two enjoying the IllumiNation light show at Epcot, fireworks at Magic Kingdom as well as extended park hours.

There’s no extra cost, it’s free with your park admission, and it’s worth staying up for.

Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

Bonus Tips to Help You Save

So you see that it will cost you to get the magical experience you want if you are not financially ready.

You don’t want to incur debt after your trip. If you are not financially ready, what you need to do is to keep your Walt Disney World trip in your bucket list, watch your favorite Disney movie while applying these tips to help you save up, and go on that trip when you can.

Start a Disney World Vacation Savings Account

It’s best to save with a goal in mind. That way, you get motivated to work towards achieving the goal.

Open a savings account just for your Disney trip expenses. Consider automating the transfer of a certain amount into the account every month.

Do not be tempted to use the funds for anything else. Watch your money grow slowly until you have enough money for your trip.

Collect All Your Loose Change

You can also start collecting all your loose change in a jar to raise funds for your Disney trip.

What you do is to throw in all your loose change from the store in the jar until you have enough to start making your plans with.

You can encourage your kids to join in these savings until you have enough money to start making plans to bring the one thing on your wish list to reality.

Take up Saving Challenges with the Family

One way to add spice to saving which ordinarily isn’t so much fun is to embark on it as a challenge with friends or family.

As a form of motivation, you can decide that whoever saves the most in a particular month or week will get a certain prize.

The motivation to save for a Disney vacation plus the need to get the prize for the best saver of the week or month will motivate participants to save more. 

Ship Items Ahead of Your Trip to Your Disney Resort

You can actually ship an array of items to your Disney World resort and pick them up when you get there.

You don’t need to carry all of your items with you when you are going.

You can send them over first and they’ll wait for you at your Disney World resort! Many Disneyland regulars use Amazon to reduce costs and ship everything to their hotel.


The tips provided here will help you plan your trip to Disney on a budget.

You already know that the amount of money you can save on your vacation depends on the choices you make.

No matter the choices you make regarding accommodation, meals, tickets, transportation, and everything else, your vacation in Walt Disney World will still be magical.

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Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget A Full Guide

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