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Disney World: How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck. Part I.

World Disney park

We all know that Disney World is the stuff of dreams, but let’s face it – those dreams can come with a pretty hefty price tag. As parents, we’re all too familiar with the delicate art of balancing our kids’ desires with our bank account reality. But fear not! With a bit of planning and a sprinkle of pixie dust, read on to find out how to make your Disney World adventure affordable and unforgettable.

Plan and Budget

I know talking about money isn’t always the most thrilling topic, but trust me, this step is absolutely essential to make the trip unforgettable without breaking the bank.

Before you start dreaming of spinning teacups and flying elephants, take a moment to evaluate your family’s financial situation. We’re all about realistic expectations here. Consider your overall budget and how much you’re comfortable spending on this magical adventure. Remember, Disney World offers a range of experiences, from frugal to fancy, so you can tailor your trip to fit your financial comfort zone.

To get a grasp on the dollars and cents, start by listing out all the potential expenses. We’re talking about transportation, accommodations, park tickets, meals, souvenirs, and any additional activities or experiences you might be eyeing. Yes, it’s a bit like doing math homework, but don’t worry, you won’t be graded on this. Well, unless your kids start giving you a gold star for your budgeting skills!

Once you’ve laid out all the potential expenses, it’s time to prioritize. Determine what aspects of the Disney World experience are non-negotiable for your family. Is it meeting Mickey Mouse himself? Riding the iconic attractions? Or maybe indulging in some delectable Dole Whip? Identify your must-dos and allocate a portion of your budget accordingly.

Timing

One of the secrets to unlocking the best deals and avoiding the crowds at Disney World is, undoubtedly, timing. Just like waiting for the perfect moment to catch Tinker Bell’s pixie dust, choosing the right season can make all the difference in your quest for a budget-friendly Disney experience.

First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room – peak season. Ah, the allure of visiting during school breaks and holidays when the magic is in full swing. But guess what? So are the prices and the crowds! If you’re looking to save some serious moolah, consider planning your trip during off-peak times. That’s right, embrace the beauty of the “shoulder seasons” when the crowds dwindle and the savings skyrocket.

Flower Garden beauty and the best

Now you might be thinking. “But won’t I be missing out on all the special events and holiday magic?” Fear not, Disney World sprinkles its pixie dust generously throughout the year. From delightful festivals to enchanting seasonal decorations, there’s always a touch of magic in the air, regardless of when you visit.

But let’s not stop at just choosing the right season. We can take it a step further and play the “day of the week” game. Want to avoid those weekend crowds? Consider planning your park visits for weekdays. Not only will you have a better chance of scoring shorter lines, but you’ll also have more space to take those picture-perfect family photos without a sea of Mickey ears photobombing your shot.

Accommodations

Now on to accommodations. Let’s start with the classics – budget hotels. These little heroes of frugality often provide comfortable rooms, plenty of fun on the grounds, and shuttle services to the parks.

Look for hotels located within the Disney Springs area, as they tend to offer competitive rates and easy access to the parks. We recently found out that All-Star Music and All-Star Sports resorts offer rooms (during the off-season) that are priced better than regular hotel rooms off the resort! While the hotels aren’t fancy and you won’t find Mickey Mouse wondering around, they offer plenty of fun and exciting adventures like pools, roasting marshmallows by the fire, huge board games, and even a scavenger hunt!

all star music resort at Disney

If you wanted to go a step further and make your stay even more affordable, consider the campground at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The prices in the off season can be as low as $70/night! And in 2023, that is more affordable than at least half of all campgrounds off site. Of course, those book up fast, so if you’re thinking this is the way you want to go, make sure to book ahead. From my experience, majority of people staying at the campground are there for the parks, so wake-ups usually happen around 6am! But you will be one of the first to hit the parks in the morning, and those are always the best times for lines at your favorite rides!

If sleeping in a tent or bringing your RV isn’t your thing. There are plenty of hotels and resorts located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Disney World that offer competitive rates, complimentary shuttles, and a magical experience without the hefty price tag. Don’t be afraid to venture beyond the Disney bubble and discover these hidden treasures. For example Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suits offers rooms as low as $79/night! The price is for the off-season, as we all know, during the summer months prices on entertainment always go up, and this unfortunately includes the hotel rooms.

Food

First things first, let’s address the myth that Disney dining has to be synonymous with pricey character breakfasts and gourmet feasts. While those options certainly exist, there are plenty of wallet-friendly alternatives that will keep your taste buds happy and your bank account smiling.

One of the simplest ways to save some dough is by packing snacks and meals. Disney allows you to bring a bottomless bag of goodies to enjoy throughout the day. Granola bars, fruit, and other portable treats can keep hunger at bay and prevent those impulsive snack purchases that add up quickly. Make sure you grab water to stay hydrated! Almost every food kiosk will give you water free of charge if you ask, plus there are numerous drinking fountains throughout the parks. From experience, its tremendously important to bring a refillable water bottle to stay well hydrated in the Florida heat.

Each park has an array of quick-service options and they really are a hidden treasure trove of affordable eats. From mouthwatering burgers to scrumptious salads, there’s a diverse offering of reasonably priced dishes available. And let’s not forget the quintessential Mickey-shaped pretzel – a budget-friendly snack that’s practically a rite of passage!

mickey house pretzel at disney world

Choosing exactly where to go can be overwhelming, especially on your first visit, and even more so if you’re already hungry. To help check out free list of all the quick-service budget (under $15 per person) meal and snack locations. If having a drink or two while you wait for the rides in your jam, the list will show you where to get those as well. You can find the list by clicking here.

Now, I know you may be tempted to dine with the characters, and I don’t blame you – who wouldn’t want to share a meal with Mickey and friends? But if meeting the characters comes with a hefty price tag, consider alternative ways to get up close and personal. Character meet-and-greets throughout the park offer the perfect opportunity for magical encounters without the added cost of a meal.

If you’re looking for a table-service dining experience without breaking the bank, consider exploring options outside the park. Disney Springs is a foodie paradise, offering a wide range of affordable and delectable dining options. From food trucks to themed restaurants, you’ll find something to satisfy every palate.

Tickets

It’s now time to talk about the golden tickets to Disney World – park tickets themselves. While they may seem like the key to unlocking the magic, they can also be a significant chunk of your budget. From single-day tickets to multi-day passes, you can find an option that works for your family’s itinerary. Take some time to consider how many days you want to spend in the parks and which ones you’d like to visit.

Here’s where the magic of planning ahead comes into play. Disney often offers discounts for purchasing tickets in advance. So, be sure to check the official Disney World website for any ongoing promotions or special offers. Keep your eyes peeled for bundle deals that include accommodations and tickets – they can often provide some significant savings.

Another tip for maximizing your budget is to be flexible with your park visit days. Disney operates on a tiered pricing system, where ticket prices vary based on the anticipated crowd levels. By choosing to visit during lower-demand days, you can score tickets at a lower price. So, if your schedule allows, consider visiting on weekdays or during off-peak seasons to get the most bang for your buck.

Here’s a little secret for those seeking a longer Disney World getaway – the more days you play, the cheaper it gets per day. So, if you’re able to extend your stay, consider investing in a multi-day ticket to take advantage of the cost savings. Plus, it gives you more time to immerse yourself in the enchantment of Disney World and experience all those must-see attractions.

Lastly, keep an eye out for any special discounts or promotions that might be available through reputable third-party sellers. Just remember to do your research and ensure that you’re purchasing from a trusted source to avoid any disappointments or scams.

Check out Disney World: How to get the most bang for your buck Park II here. Here we will cover entertainment, souvenirs, and some practical money-saving tips and tricks.

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