Category: Budget friendly

Budgeting for a Walt Disney World Vacation

I often talk about money, and saving money, on Walt Disney World vacations on this blog.  This is mainly due to the fact that the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation is often the stopping point for so many, because, let’s face it, Disney can be pricey.  Between the resort cost, ticket prices, add-ons like park hopper passes, food, entertainment and extras, it all adds up very quickly.

Let’s look a typical price breakdown for a family of four (2 adults, and 2 children) during the summer months.  If you’re looking for how to visit in the cheapest way possible, check out my post here.

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive, “Disney bubble”- type vacation, you’ll most likely be looking at renting a Walt Disney World resort.  Disney offers three types of resorts for all budgets, commonly known as “value”, “moderate” and “deluxe”.  For a 6 night, 7 day vacation in a value resort, you can expect to pay around $900.  For the same vacation in a moderate resort, you would see a price tag of $1,500.  Finally, you are looking at paying $3,600 for a deluxe resort (make sure to check out my post about renting a deluxe vacation for MUCH cheaper).  I get it, that’s a hefty price.  There are off-site options that are really nice, and significantly less expensive, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here.

Next up, tickets.  For this vacation, let’s say you want to be in the parks on 5 of the 7 days, leaving one for travel and another to enjoy your resort.  Magic Your Way Tickets (one park per day) will run around $1,320 for this family of four.  Park Hopper Tickets (same day admission to all four theme parks) will cost around $1,600.

Finally, food.  I used the Disney Dining Calculator to estimate how much it would cost this family of four to eat every meal in the parks, 2 quick services and 1 table service per person, per day.  In addition, I added in appetizer, desserts and snacks for each person.  The bill came to around $1,600.  Again, this can be done MUCH cheaper.  My family budgets around half of that for our week-long trips, but we eat light, split meals, and rarely get snacks.  Not that we deprive ourselves, we just prefer not to feel overly full while walking all day in the Florida heat.

So, let’s say that this hypothetical family chooses a moderate resort, park hopper tickets and will conservatively spend two-thirds of my estimate on dining.  They are looking at $4,300 dollars worth of a magical vacation.  I just have to insert here that it is KILLING me not to add in ways to make this significantly cheaper.  Paying full, retail price is painful.

Assuming this family is planning on a vacation sometime in the next year, we’ll give them 18 months to save up this money.  Saving an equal amount over an 18 month period, means putting back around $240 per month.  What are the best ways to do this?  Open your own savings account?  That’s probable the simplest and easiest way.  I like to collect Disney gift cards, especially from my local grocery store when they offer deals on gas/fuel perks.  Purchasing Disney gift cards at my local Sam’s Club can also save a little bit of money, as they run about 5% off.  I also would plug in the Disney Vacation Account.  This Disney-run plan will let you estimate your vacation cost, set up a monthly savings plan according to when you are vacationing and auto-draft from your checking account.  The money is there to pay for your vacation when you need it, or if things change, you can withdraw your money at any time.

Be sure to check out some of my other money-saving posts before considering, or booking, your Walt Disney World vacation.

How to save money on and for your Walt Disney World Trip

Everything you need to know about Renting Disney Vacation Club Points

Top 5 free (or cheap) souvenirs at Walt Disney World

Sharing Meals to save money


Meals you can share at Walt Disney World

In my never ending quest to save money on trips, my husband and I have started to actively look for meals that we can share as to offset the cost of theme park food.   Let’s face it, in ANY theme park, food is grossly over-priced and Disney is no different.  While some snack and meals are great deals for the price (a topic for a later post I’m sure), most meals are pretty dang expensive.  We started this a few trips back, starting at breakfast in our resort.  Most resort quick service locations have a sort of “bounty platter” for around $12.  We found that this platter, which typically included eggs, biscuit, bacon, sausage, maybe a mickey waffle, was more than sufficient for both of us to eat.  So, since then, we found that sharing this meal was both economically effective and helped us not to be miserable for lots of walking in the heat later.

I am limiting my list to quick service meals only.  Table service would be a whole other post!

All this got me thinking, what other quick service meals are large enough for two adults to share?  Let’s take a look.

Magic Kingdom

Casey’s – Footlong Chili Cheese Hotdog, served with Fries or apple slices.  $12.29. There are other versions of this hotdog as well, including a plain footlong hotdog and a seasonal hotdog, currently a barbecue slaw dog.

Columbia Harbour House – Baked Chicken and Shrimp, served with Couscous and Steamed Vegetables.  $12.49


Gaston’s Tavern – Cinnamon Roll.  $4.49

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe – Fajita Platter, Barbacoa Beef and Savory Seasoned Chicken with Tortillas topped with Sauteed Onions, Green Peppers and served with sides of Cilantro Rice, Beans, and Tortillas.  $14.49

Sleepy Hollow – Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich with hazelnut spread.  $7.49.  Full disclosure, this is so good, you won’t want to share!  In truth, probably not quite large enough for two adults, but I’ve shared this with my children before and felt plenty full.

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe – Chicken Nuggets and Fries.  $9.99.  Another entry not really for adults, however I often let my kids split this one.  It comes with 8 chicken nuggets and plenty of fries.  It’s more than enough for the two of them and cheaper than buying two kid meals.

Animal Kingdom

Flame Tree Barbecue – Ribs, Chicken and Pulled Pork Sampler.  Smoked Ribs, Chicken and Pulled Pork with a helping of our House-made Baked Beans, refreshing Coleslaw and delicious Jalapeño Cornbread.  $19.99

Courtesy of Disney Food Blog

Flame Tree Barbecue – Ribs and Chicken Combo, served with Home-made Baked Beans, Coleslaw and delicious Jalapeño Cornbread.  $16.49.  


La Cantina de San Angel (Mexico) – Nachos, Tortilla Chips topped with Ground Beef, Nacho Cheese, Tomatoes, Jalapeños, Beans, and Sour Cream.  $10.95.

Tangierine Cafe (Morocco) – Any of the Shawarma platters, the choices are chicken, lamb, vegetarian and a chicken/lamb combo, served with a side of Hummus, Tabouleh, and Tangierine Couscous Salad with fresh Moroccan Bread.  $10.99-$14.99

Yorkshire County Fish Shop (UK) – Fish and chips, two strips of Fish served with Chips.  $10.99.  I remember thinking this serving was HUGE, but it was also on the tail end of my “eat around the world” challenge, so take that with a grain of salt!

Hollywood Studios

ABC Commissary – Chicken and Ribs Combo Platter.  Barbecued Chicken and Ribs served with Steak Fries and Coleslaw.  $17.19.

And that’s my list!  Do you have a meal to add?  Let me know in the comments!

Everything you need to know about Renting Disney Vacation Club Points

I mentioned in previous posts about the cost benefits of renting Disney Vacation Club points.  Before you go in and rent for yourself, I want to explain all that goes along with it, because it is a VERY different experience from making resort reservations through Disney.  I have only rented through a company that brokers the deal between you (the renter) and the DVC member, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on in this post.  It is possible to rent individual to individual, but I will admit I don’t have any experience with that type of transaction.

 First, for those unaware of the Disney Vacation Club, it’s Disney’s version of a timeshare.  You buy a certain number of points, and then are able to use them at any DVC resort in Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Aulani, Hilton Head in South Carolina and Vero Beach.  The current DVC resorts are:

In Walt Disney World-

  • Bay Lake Tower At Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  • The Villas At Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows

In Disneyland Resort –

  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

In Hawaii –

  • Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa

In South Carolina –

  • Hilton Head Island

In Florida, off property –

  • Vero Beach

The amount of points need will vary by resort, room type and time of year.  Using a cost & points calculator like the one found at can be a very helpful tool when planning for your vacation.

Once you know when you are going on your trip, you can submit an on-line reservation form.  At time of reservation, you will be asked for a down payment of around $100.  This is not a reservation fee, but will be applied toward your rental once it’s all sorted.  If the reservation falls through, the money will be refunded to you.

Now, here’s the first con.  You don’t really get to choose your resort.  You choose your top three options (or less if you’re determined to stay in a certain resort) and the company will reach out to DVC owners in their system and broker a deal for you in one of the resorts you selected.  In my last transaction, I didn’t get my top choice (non-Savannah view room at AKL) but was given my second choice (Savannah view room).

Once the reservation is secured, you must then pay the balance in full.  To me, this is truly the only downside to renting points.  You aren’t able to be on a payment plan, the balance is due in full within 48 hours of booking or you lose your room.

Once everything is booked, you will have the option of adding the Disney Dining Plan.  These, too, must be paid in full at the time of reservation.  Note, that renting DVC points does not allow you to participate in Free Dining promotions, as Disney requires you to book a complete vacation package through them to be eligible.

You are also given the option of adding Magical Express services to your DVC rental so long as you do so within 30 days of your check-in date.

As with all other Disney packages, you are eligible to begin choosing your Fastpass+ reservations at the 60 day mark (as opposed to 30 days) since you are vacationing on Disney property.  And, of course, you are able to book Advanced Dining Reservations up to 180 days in advance.

Because this is not a package, you are adding all parts of your Disney vacation a la cart, meaning you will be adding tickets, dining plan, and resort stay separately to the same vacation.  It can be a little tricky, but a message to me, or a call to Disney can fix it right up.  I have not had difficulty adding tickets to my reservation in My Disney Experience, but that app can be touchy at times.

A couple of other things to note about staying in DVC property.  You are not eligible for daily room cleaning, but you can request extra towels, linens, etc as needed.  On the plus side, the rooms are slightly larger AND you get a minifridge, microwave and toaster in room!

I thoroughly enjoyed this process myself.  Because of the amount of trips we have taken lately, and how my husband constantly reminds me that “Dave [Ramsey] would not approve”, I am always looking for great deals for Disney.  I know that I would never have been able to afford a Deluxe resort at regular Disney prices, so renting DVC just made sense for me.  Does it sound like it would for you?


How to get a Deluxe Disney Vacation for the price of a Value

Disney vacations can be very expensive.  While Disney offers resorts in a variety of price ranges, if you want to stay Deluxe, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s going to cost you.  Or is it?  Let’s break down some strategies to get the most bang, for the smallest buck.


Tickets, unfortunately, can’t really be found ultra-discounted (trust me, I’ve looked).  You can look at all my research on tickets in this post from last year.

I am on the cusp of recommending an Annual Pass, however.  I’m working out some Disney Math, but in some situations, it may make sense and actually save you money in the long run.


After tickets, your resort is going to be your biggest expense.  On my most recent trip, I rented Disney Vacation Club points to pay for my stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Animal Kingdom Lodge has a section in the resort built as a DVC resort.  The rooms are very similar, but there are a few differences.  For example, you won’t get daily cleaning service in a DVC room, but can request towels/toiletries when needed, of course.  So what’s the price difference in renting DVC points v. booking through Disney?  A value studio room through Disney at Animal Kingdom Lodge during peak summer prices for 5 nights would cost you $1951.90, renting points for the same room costs only $826.  That saves you a whopping $1125!  Staying in the Art of Animation at the same time for 5 nights will set you back $1095.  Imagine, staying in a Deluxe resort for LESS than a value resort!


The next most expensive part of a Disney vacation is food.  On my most recent trip, I didn’t pay out of pocket for a single morsel of food.  I mentioned before in this post, that we use the Disney Rewards Chase Visa.  Used responsibly, it can be a great money saver for upcoming trips.  By using the card for every day expenses (and paying off in full at the end of the month), we were able to earn around $650 in Disney rewards in about 6 months.  Easily transferred to the Disney Rewards card, and we used it for everything we ate in the parks for 4 days.  With money leftover, we picked up a few souvenirs for the kids and family.


We really don’t buy souvenirs, typically.  This trip was an exception since we were traveling without our kids.  And they certainly aren’t needed for a deluxe vacation!  Got a camera, or a camera phone?  Take pictures, pictures, pictures and re-live your memories for years to come!

To recap, look into renting Disney Vacation Club points.  I was wary at first, but I have become a believer for sure.  It’s the best way to feel like you’re living the high life in Disney!


Dining at Disney: Tables in Wonderland

I’ll be honest, and just to show you how you can always learn something new about Disney World, I didn’t know that Tables in Wonderland existed until about 6 months ago.   So what is it?  It’s a discount card that Disney offers to Florida residents, Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders.  Benefits include:


  • A 20% discount offered on food and beverage, including alcohol, at over 100 participating restaurants at the Walt Disney World® Resort (discount is valid for a party of up to 10 Guests including the member).
  • Complimentary Resort Valet and Theme Park parking for dining purposes
Keep reading!

Top 5 free (or cheap) souvenirs at Walt Disney World

I mentioned in a post here that my family doesn’t really do souvenirs at Disney World.  They take up a lot of space at home, cost too much money, and I don’t like the idea of coming home with tremendously more than I packed originally.  Call me a Scrooge, but that’s just how I am.  Not that I don’t have a thousand or so stuffed Mickeys around my house mind you.

I’ve compiled the perfect list (for me) of free/cheap souvenirs that also have the benefit of being small, easy to store, and also allow for a great memento of our trip.

Keep Reading!

Art of Animation Resort Review

The Art of Animation resort is the newest resort at Walt Disney World.  It is unique in that, while it is categorized as a Value Resort, it offers much more than a typical resort in that category.  The Art of Animation offers unique dining, family suites and it’s own non-shared bus system.

Originally, the Art of Animation was supposed to be an extension of Pop Century, and is actually connected to that resort via a bridge.

My daughter checking out Pop Century from our room in the Cars suites.


All of the Value Resorts are themed, but Art of Animation is truly exceptional.  This resort was designed to tell the story of how the concept of animation and the flow from concept to animated feature.

Concept art drawings…
to beautiful scenes from the completed movies.
The check in area is lovely
The amazing chandelier, some of the drawings are signed by Imagineers!

Throughout the entire resort, you will find fantastically themed areas.  There are four different movies represented here.  They include Cars, The Lion King, Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid.  Cars, The Lion King and Finding Nemo areas house the family suites, while The Little Mermaid rooms are traditional, standard hotel rooms.


During our stay, we chose the Cars suite.

Each of the family suites includes a separate bedroom, two bathrooms,  a pull-out couch and a Murphy bed.  They comfortably sleep up to 6 adults.

We loved this set up.  When we visited, it was myself, my husband, our two children (age 5 and 2) and my sister.  There was enough space to not feel completely closed in and the two full bathrooms made getting ready in the mornings a lot less hectic.

The Little Mermaid rooms, while also fantastically themed, are smaller, more traditional hotel rooms.  It should also be noted, that the Little Mermaid rooms are never included in promotions, including Free Dining.

Dining Options

The Art of Animation is home to the Landscape of Flavors, a food court.

Again, beautifully themed, this food court is unique in several ways.  First, it is the only Food Court to utilize real plates and silverware, in an attempt to be more eco-friendly.  The food offerings are also set up in “pods” where different items are offered in different sections of the food court.  The food was good, but not special.  The pod system was very frustrating to our family.  When you’re wrangling a toddler and another small child, trying to figure out what everyone wants, and where those items are offered, piling it all on one tray, holding it in one hand and a 2 year old (who will dash away as quick as a wink) in the other it was very difficult to manage.  I appreciate the pod system as a concept, and I’m sure it will be easier to manage as my children grow older, but for this point in my life, it was difficult and more than a little frustrating.


There are three pools at the Art of Animation.  The Finding Nemo pool is the main pool.  It’s quite large, gorgeous, and you can even hear music when you go under the water.

The Cars pool offers Cone cabanas, which are completely adorable.  They are first come, first serve so be on the lookout if you want to grab one!

Finally, the Little Mermaid pool is another, smaller pool located in the Little Mermaid section.  You will feel as tiny as Flounder staring up at the giant icons of Ariel, Ursula and King Triton as you swim.



The Art of Animation also offers Movies Under the Stars.  Watch some of your favorite Disney films outside in the fresh evening air—located on the grassy area found between The Lion King building and Finding Nemo building.

Final Impression

Overall, we loved this resort.  We will definitely stay here again.  In fact, my daughter is begging to stay in the Lion King section – though she calls it the Lion Guard section, thanks to the new TV series.  Though the suites are pricier than most value resorts, the extra room was definitely worth it. 

Disney on the Cheap: How much does it REALLY cost to visit Walt Disney World?

If I had a dime for every time someone told me they couldn’t go to Disney because it was too expensive…I’d have enough dimes for a first class Disney trip!  While it is true that a vacation to Walt Disney World is going to be more costly than say, a camping trip, or a visit to a local tourist location, I firmly believe that you do not have to spend a ghastly amount to enjoy yourself*.

So I’ve decided to do an experiment, using 2016 numbers and the assumption of a family of four, two adults and two children (we’ll say 5 and 8 so that neither are “free” or are considered Disney-adults), I want to see just how little I could spend on a week long vacation to Disney.


Being from the South, and only two states away from Florida, we always drive, so I will admit that I don’t know a whole lot about flight prices, renting a car, etc.  We can make the trip in 10 hours in an SUV, which gets about 27-28 MPG.  I always utilize my local grocery store’s fuel perks to save for a free 20 gallons of gas.   This method usually costs us around $150 for a drive down to Florida, driving from the hotel to the parks, and back to South Carolina.



When visiting Disney on the cheap, off-site is really the only way to go.  It will cost you a little extra in gas and parking, but the cheap, local hotels will more than make up for it.  I’ve used websites like Groupon and Living Social to find cheap hotels in the Orlando area.  Currently, for a 7 nights in February in the International Palms Resort & Conference Center Orlando, your cost before tax is $438.  This is for a standard 2 full bed hotel room.  Again, we’re visiting on the cheap.  We’ve stayed in the Bahama Bay resort in a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo.  While a bit pricier ($623 for the same dates), still much cheaper than a 2 bedroom Disney-owned resort.  Since we’re challenging ourselves for the cheapest possible vacation, we’re going to stick with the standard hotel room for this trip.

Because you will have to pay for on-site parking when visiting the parks, since you’re in an off-site hotel, I’ll add that expense here as well.  Parking per day is $17, with a total of 7 days in the parks, equals $119



I’ve said this before, but tickets are the hardest part of the Disney trip to skimp on.  For this experiment, we’re going to assume we need 6 day theme park tickets.  For the absolute cheapest option, we will not be choosing the Park Hopper option if buying from Disney.

Disney’s price for a 7 day ticket without Park Hopper for this hypothetical family of 4 is $1,385.  Military discounts are significantly cheaper, but as that is not an option for all readers, we won’t factor that in.  Now, if you have access to corporate discounts, or know someone who does, these same tickets WITH the Park Hopper option is $1442.  A difference of less than $60.  Again, just for this scenario, we’re going with the absolute cheapest option we have available and sticking with the base tickets.



It is no secret that food can be very costly at Disney World.  Staying off-site means that you are not eligible for the Disney Dining Plan, so we will leave it out of this discussion.  Our family has historically budgeted $100 for each day in the park, but this can be cut down even more with some planning and consideration of your family’s needs.  Can you pick up muffins, pastries, or granola bars for breakfast?  Are you willing to take sandwiches and chips into the parks for lunch (this is completely allowed by Disney, by the way)?  Quick service and counter service restaurants average $10 per person, can you split plates?  The servings at most locations are quite large, and sharing is possible.  Still, I think $100 is reasonable, and eating super cheap one or two days means you can splurge on another day for a nice table service restaurant – maybe even with characters!



What’s the best thing about Disney?  Free souvenirs!  Our family buys very little when we visit, just because, who has the space to store all the stuffed animals, mugs and various other Disney logo’d merchandise?  Not us!  We always ask for a Celebration button (for birthdays, anniversaries, special events, whatever we may be celebrating) and once we return home I sharpie the date and special event on the back.  They’re small, simple, and a great way to remember your trip.

You can also collect the Park maps, children’s coloring pages from restaurants, and of course pictures from your own camera and autographs from any character meet and greets you participate in!



So what’s the grand total?  $2,792!  Not nearly as much as you were expecting, huh?  Over the course of a year, you would need to save less than $225 per month to pay for this trip.  Using some of the tips from my previous post How to Save Money On and During your Disney World trip can cut the costs down even more.

What do you think about this plan?  Doable or not?

*I want to add that I understand that a “ghastly amount” of money is relative to all people and all situations.

How to save money on and for your Walt Disney World Trip

The thing I am asked most about, hands down, is how we afford to travel to Disney World.  I always reply, when properly motivated, it’s pretty easy to find the money!  But there are several, specific things that I do to be able to finance one (or more) trips per year.

Saving FOR the Disney Trip

1 – The Disney Chase Visa

We are a Dave Ramsey family, so we do our best to carry no debt.  However, against all of Dave’s principles, we do use this credit card.  While there are other credit cards that may give you better cash back options, we prefer this one for the ease of use in financing our vacations.  There are two versions of this credit card, a no-fee card which earns 1% on all purchases and a $49 per year fee card which earns 2% on groceries, gas, dining and all Disney purchases, and 1% on all other purchases.  Both of these can be redeemed for Disney Dream Reward Dollars which can be used toward resort costs, park tickets and a variety of Disney merchandise.

We use our card to pay for basically everything in our day-to-day lives and pay it off in full each month (actually twice a month due to how our paychecks run).  We have never accrued interest, and have earned approximately $800 per year.  As with all credit cards though, I must emphasize caution and restraint.  There is no point in earning the rewards, when you are paying the same amount in interest.

2 – Disney Vacation Account

Many people are unaware that Disney offers this service.  The Disney Vacation Account is a savings account serviced by Disney where you can estimate the cost of your upcoming trip, and Disney will calculate how much you need to save per month in order to reach that goal.  You can then set up monthly contributions, or do one-time contributions when you have extra cash.

This works two fold for me.  Again, because we utilize the Dave Ramsey plan for our finances, we have a zero-based budget each month.  As an incentive to come in under budget on things like groceries, gas and dining out, whenever we do come in under budget I am able to deposit the extra into our Disney Vacation Savings account.  I spend less money, and get to add the extra savings towards the next Disney trip!

3 – Coin saving

Lots of people save their spare change, and we are no exception.  I bought cheap containers at Dollar Tree, decorated them with my Silhouette and we throw all of our spare change in there.  When the time comes, we roll it up and add it to our vacation fund!

Saving ON your Disney trip

1 – Resort savings

Until recently, we almost never stayed on property.  I would search and search to find the best deals on nearby hotels and we would stay there.  A fair amount of times, we utilized daily savings sites (Groupon, Living Social, etc) to find discounted hotels in Orlando.  I will say, we have never been disappointed and often found really great deals on condos and suites, especially in the off season.

Staying in an on-site resort can be affordable as well.  During the off season, Disney will offer 20-30% discounts in their resorts, which can amount to significant savings.  There are always certain exceptions, the Little Mermaid rooms at the Art of Animation Resort for example, but it never hurts to do the Disney Math when researching your next trip.

Another option for resort savings can be to rent DVC member points.  The Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare.  When members are unable to use all of their points, they often offer to rent them.  A reputable DVC rental site can help you to determine how many points you would need for a specific resort and broker the transaction for you.  I will say that I have not personally done this, but it is on my to-do list when we visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge on an upcoming trip.

2 – Food savings

When we vacation on a budget, I am very careful about where we eat.  I will often grab bagels, cereal bars and whatever else we feel like eating for breakfast to keep in the hotel and keep park food costs down.  We will splurge on a couple of great, and more costly, meals during our stay, but mostly stick to quick service restaurants to save money.

Disney also offers Free Dining at certain points throughout the year, typically in the fall.  It is usually a great way to save money on your vacation, but it is always a good idea to do the Disney Math, especially if they are offering a room only discount at the same time.  Depending on how your family eats, you may come out better with other options.

Another perk of the Disney Visa, is 10% savings on dining in many of the table service restaurants in the moderate and deluxe resorts.  You must use your credit card or Disney Dream Rewards card to purchase when asking for this discount and gratuity and alcohol are not included.

3 – Ticket savings

There really aren’t a whole lot of ways to save on tickets, unfortunately.  We have been fortunate enough to find deals through work place discounts, but even then it is not significant (5-10% on average).  Disney really has the lockdown on ticket prices.

The one exception would be military discounts.  If a family member traveling with you is active or retired military, they are eligible for significant discounts on tickets.  Currently, a 4 day base park ticket with park hopper will cost you $369 (plus tax), where a military price for 2016 is $196 (plus tax).  The eligible member may purchase up to 6 tickets, provided one is used by the purchasing member.  Proper military identification is required.

Other tips and tricks

1 – Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is really the key to saving for anything.  We will plan our trips a significant amount of time prior to going, divide the total cost by the number of months before we leave and put that much money back per month for the trip.  ($4,000 trip/12 months = approximately $335 per month to save).  Seeing it in smaller chunks helps it to not feel so over whelming.

2 – Budget

Budget, budget, budget.  Budget for everything.  Look below at the budget I made for a multi-family trip a few years ago.  We were staying off site, and adding Universal and Sea World to our plan.  This simple spreadsheet allowed me to see everything we might spend money on, exactly how much each family would need in total (note: these prices are no longer valid), and how much my specific group would need to save.

3 – Visit with a Toddler

Okay, okay, here me out.  Did you know toddlers (under 3) are FREE?  That’s right, free park admission, free food (meaning you are not required to buy a Dining Plan for them, and it is encouraged that they share from your plate), free everything.  We’ve taken children under 3 several times, and while it may take a bit more preparation, and you may not be able to ride everything (unless you are willing to ride by yourself while another adult watches the kid), it is definitely worth it for the savings.  Many will argue that there is no point in taking a child who won’t remember it, I have to disagree.  My children may not remember everything we did on those trips, but I will never forget the pure joy on their faces meeting Mickey or Cinderella for the first time, or riding Dumbo, or any of the other magical experiences.

4 – Souvenirs

You’ll notice in the budget that we have a category for “spending” per day.  This is not specifically set aside for souvenirs, but could be.  We actually, rarely purchase souvenirs (I prefer the free buttons to commemorate our visit), but when you travel with kids, the occasional stuffed animal is inevitable.  It’s easy to go a little spending crazy when you’re in Disney World (feeling carefree is a side effect of being there!), but I always ask myself, “where am I going to put this when I get home?” and that helps me put things back on the shelf!

I hope you have found a few ways to save a few bucks on your next Disney World trip.  Believe it or not, I feel that Disney can be affordable for everyone with the proper planning and budgeting!