Last Updated on April 7, 2023 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers
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5 Disney hacks to stay on budget
Heading to Disney for a family vacation and you are trying to stick to a budget? Maybe you’re just looking for ways to cut down on overspending in the parks. This guide has 5 Disney hacks on how to stay on budget during your vacation.
Money-Saving hacks for any Disney Vacation
An extremely important pre-planning tip for any Disney vacation is coming up with a budget that works for your family. Knowing how much everything is going to cost and how much you can realistically spend is going to impact your entire trip. From how many nights you can stay, how many park days you plan to do, and how much food costs in the parks and/or at your resort.
Whether you’re saving up for your spending money in the parks or you’re planning on using a credit card and will pay it off later, you should know roughly how much you will be spending each day. Always price everything out, compare different resorts (check for special offers!) and check out restaurant menus!
1. Budget for Food
When budgeting for food – budget for at least 1 Table Service meal and/or 1 Character Dine for your entire trip. (If your budget allows for more, fantastic!) Not only are there some amazing sit-down restaurants at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but eating at a Table Service restaurant allows you to cool down, rest your legs and get a chance to see characters up close.
And again, look over the different restaurant menus. Not all Quick Service restaurants are priced the same. It’s good to get an idea of how much an average meal would cost your family. The other reason to look over menus prior to your trip is so you know where your family would want to eat. All of the restaurants are themed, so the cuisine will be similar to the theming. So if you have picky eaters, maybe make a note of places your family wouldn’t want to eat.
And remember, you CAN share meals. If you are trying to plan a Disney trip that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, know that sharing meals at Quick Service and Table Service restaurants is totally ok!
Portion sizes at Disney are typically VERY big and can easily be split between two children, or even an adult and a small child. And! Adults can order from the kid’s menu. No one is going to ask who’s eating what meal at a Quick Service restaurant. At Table Service restaurants, adults can still order from the kids’ menu just know that if you are dining at a family-style or buffet-style restaurant, adults will be charged the adult price (and no sharing at those locations).
Another great example of sharing is during one of the Festivals at EPCOT or Disney California Adventure. The portions are a pretty decent size and priced fairly cheap (for Disney). You can sample a couple different dishes from the outdoor kitchens/food booths. After a few booths and several dishes, you will be plenty full. And will have stayed within a reasonable budget.
2. Order Groceries
One of the best ways to stay within your budget on a Disney vacation is by ordering groceries and having them delivered to your hotel. Things like bottles of water, individual bags of chips, and fruit are insanely overpriced. Most people are shocked when they find out that you can bring outside food and drinks (no alcohol) into the parks. You can order groceries and have them delivered to your resort through grocery delivery services like Amazon Prime, Instacart, and Publix. A great Orlando local delivery service is Vacation Grocery Delivery. Vacation Grocery Delivery also has $5 stroller rentals and gift baskets.
Order the things you know your family will eat or drink so you don’t have to buy those things in the parks. Also, consider buying quick and easy breakfast items that you or your kids can eat on the go. It will add up quickly if your family of 4 is eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Disney restaurants, even if you solely ate at Quick Service locations your entire trip. The average “hot breakfast” for a family of 4 is roughly around $30, multiply that by 5 days and it’s $150. The same goes for waters. Do not buy bottled water in the parks or in the resorts. A bottle of water at Disney costs almost $4. A case of water costs about a dollar more than that and you can get 24!
**You can also get free water at any Quick Service location.
3. Buy in Advance
Another great way to cut down on overspending in the parks is by buying things ahead of time when they’re on sale. Multiple times a year, shopDisney will have sales. Sometimes the sales will only be on certain items. Other times there will be a sitewide promo that you can use for a discount towards almost everything on shopDisney.
During these sales is when you should buy things you know your kids are going to want. If you know your kids are going to want a Bubble Wand, buy it ahead of time, save yourself some money and bring it with you. Need those new pair of Minnie Mouse Ears? Buy them when they’re on sale! $5 here and $5 there can really add up… especially in the parks!
Amazon is also a great place to pre-buy items in order to save money on your Disney vacation or to help minimize your stress while you’re in the parks. There is also an Official Disney Store on Amazon where you can find all your Disney t-shirts, toys and accessories. These items are generally cheaper than what you will find in the parks. Buy them ahead of time to save money and bring them with you.
Something else to consider buying ahead of time is gift cards. Gift cards are a great way to not only save and add to your Disney travel funds, but they also help keep you within your budget. Having already spent the money, there is no way to overspend… or at least you’ll know how much you have left to spend. It’s also great for older children as well. With a gift card, they know exactly how much they have to spend and know how much they have left after each purchase.
BONUS TIP: If you have a membership to a whole store like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s Wholesale, you can buy discounted gift cards for up to 3-5% off! You can also save 5% on gift cards from Target if you have a Target RedCard. 5% may not seem like much of a savings but if you’re staying at a Disney Resort, they can be pretty pricey. If you’re staying at a Moderate Resort at $250/night for 4 nights, that’s $1,000 – 5% of that is $50! $50 can buy a family of 4 a meal at a Quick Service restaurant. So keep that in mind in the months leading up to your trip. You CAN use a Disney gift card to pay off the balance of your Disney Resort; as well as just about everything in the parks.
4. Rack Up Those Rewards
One hack you may or may not want to use is completely up to you. But I always tell people when planning their trip several months in advance (if not longer). Is to make sure you’re using a credit that is going to benefit you.
The Disney Visa Card is a fantastic card to have for any Disney vacation. Not only will you earn reward points on everyday purchases, but you will earn 2% at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and at most Disney locations. You will also earn 5% on your entertainment subscription payments for DisneyPlus, Hulu, and ESPNPlus. So if you already subscribe to those streaming services you can be racking up 5% on those payments every month!
The other benefit to having a Disney Visa is the discount! At most restaurants and shops in the parks or at the resorts, you can get a 10% (sometimes more depending on where) off of your food and/or merchandise purchases. If you’re not an Annual Passholder or Disney Vacation Club member, you will be paying full price for everything in the parks. But with a Disney Visa, you can be saving money on your bill AND be paying for it with the rewards you’ve already received from all the purchases you’ve been making leading up to your trip. Double Win!
5. Re-Think Your Park Tickets
This might seem like an odd suggestion because why would you want to do fewer park days or forego the Park Hopper ticket option. But if you are looking to still do all the things you want but stay on budget. Skipping the Park Hopper option or doing fewer days in the parks is a great money-saving strategy.
|# of Days||Park Hopper Price||1 Park Per Day Price|
When comparing ticket options, the price difference between a base ticket and a hopper ticket can be pretty costly, especially with more people in your party. So if you are set on the number of park days you want, consider not buying the park hopper option. It can save you at least a couple hundred dollars for a family of four (and even more if you’re buying more tickets). Another reason to consider a base ticket over a hopper ticket is that you can actually save money by purchasing more park days. If you were thinking of purchasing a 4-Day Park Hopper ticket, you could save money by purchasing a 5 Day 1 Park Per Day base ticket.
And alternatively, if you are flexible with how many park days you want to do. You could choose to buy a 4-Day Park Hopper instead of a 5 Day (hopper or base). Doing fewer days would mean you wouldn’t need to stay as many nights. OR simply choose to do fewer park days, save yourself some money and opt to do a break day and enjoy some activities at the resort.
I hope you found these hacks useful and will use at least one for your upcoming Disneyland or Walt Disney World vacation.
Spreading magic one post at a timeKristin