Last Updated on June 3, 2022 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers
I know it may seem impossible to visit any Disney park on a budget. But believe it or not, there is a way to cut down on the costs.
I don’t want to mislead anyone… Disney vacations are expensive. And the tips below can involve a little work and persistence. But for those of you who want to save where you can or if you are on a strict budget but still want to experience the magic, I hope to help you save even $1… Because any savings is a savings!
Money Saving Tips for Disney Vacations
Lets talk $$
The easiest way to SAVE money in the parks is by either bringing in your own snacks and drinks or sharing meals. Most people are completely unaware that you can do both of those things when visiting a Disney Park.
If you are staying off property and driving, it is super easy to stop at the store and grab your family’s favorite snacks, case of water bottles, or sandwich Fixin’s. But if you’re staying on property and still want to be able to bring in those items to help cut down on the unnecessary spending you can totally do so. Most people have groceries delivered by Garden Grocer, Amazon Prime, Instacart, Publix, etc. A great local company Vacation Grocery Delivery is run by former Disney Cast Members, who will pick up your shopping list and deliver it right to your resort with NO MARKUPS or MINIMUMS! Grocery deliveries will then be delivered to your Resort. If staying at a Disney Resort, your order will be delivered to Bell Services. Please note that Disney Resorts may charge you a $6 fee for receiving your order and bringing it to your room.
**Deliveries should be sent to: YOUR NAME ARRIVAL DATE, HOTEL NAME & ADDRESS (unless otherwise specified)
The other option to save money while you’re IN the parks is to share food. Most of the portion sizes are HUGE. If you’re traveling with multiple little ones who don’t really eat that much, it might be cheaper to buy an adult chicken tender meal than it is to buy 2 kids’ chicken tenders. Or as an adult, if you’re not that hungry, instead of buying an adult cheeseburger order a kids cheeseburger. No one is going to ask how old you are. The only time it matters is if you’re eating at a Family Style or Buffet table service restaurant. Then there is no sharing or ordering off of the kids menu as an adult.
And remember! Disney offers FREE cups of ice water inside all of the quick service restaurants. So don’t spend $5 on a bottle of water unless you absolutely need to. There are also water refilling stations. So bring those reusable water bottles if you want to be able to store your water but not pay every single time.
Buy in advance
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A great way to save money for your Disney vacation is to buy items before you arrive. Occasionally shopDisney will have online sales. There you can buy merchandise in advance, when it’s on sale and save yourself a decent amount of money. Especially if you have a little one that will want to dress up to meet their favorite characters. Or if you’re attending a Halloween party at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you can save up to 30% on your kid’s costumes.
Another way to take advance of sales on shopDisney, is if your family is interested in Pin Trading. Buying discounted pins versus paying full price in the parks can save you 30, 40, even upwards of 80% off of the original price. Then when you arrive, you have pins to trade and didn’t spend a small fortune. You can also buy discounted clothing, hats, plushies, toys, and other items you know your kids are going to want. Why pay full price when you can buy it in advance at a cheaper price.
Saving Money Before Your Trip
One of my favorite Disney budgeting tips is using apps that give you rewards.
iBotta is probably my favorite money saving app. This app gives you CASH back for every day items purchased in store and online. You can then transfer that cash to your bank account, PayPal account or redeem your cash for a gift card at a certain retailer. There are always mid-week, weekend and several other bonuses so your bank can grow rather quickly.
Depending on how often you use the app and how many months prior to your trip you start earning money, your bank can be significantly large. I like to use my iBotta bank for my kid’s spending money. On our last trip, I had $120 in my bank (that only took me a month to accrue) so both of my kids got $60 to spend in the parks. If I had started several months before my trip, I could have easily saved up $300-500 if I was consistent with using it.
Another app I like to use is Shopkick. Unlike iBotta, you don’t have to make any purchases to earn rewards. You can earn points for simply walking in to a store and scanning items. It does take a little longer to accrue points to redeem anything worthwhile, but one of the rewards is a Disney eGiftcard which you can use inside the parks.
*One note that I want to include. Do not purchase items that you will not use. That in essence, doesn’t “save” you anything. What I try to do is look at the app before a shopping trip and see what offers are available. If there is $0.25 for shredded Kraft cheese and $1 for Perdue chicken, I would make chicken tacos or maybe chicken parmesan. That way I’m earning money and I’m not buying things that would just go to waste.
How can I save money that isn’t so much work?
If you are want to try and save where you can that doesn’t require so much legwork. One popular way is by purchasing Disney gift cards at wholesale stores.
If you have a membership to stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, or Bj’s Wholesale Club they often sell Disney gift cards for 3-5% off. So if you buy a $100 gift card, it would only cost you $95. This may not seem like much but if you buy a $500 gift card, it would cost you $475. Remember, any savings is a savings 😉 AND keep in mind that you can use multiple Disney gift cards to pay for your Disney resort balance. If your resort is going to cost you $1,500 and you purchase Disney gift cards at a wholesale store, you could save $75! If you are staying longer or at a more expensive resort, you can figure $50 savings for every $1,000. You’re going to spend the money, why not save yourself a little along the way and end up saving yourself hundreds!
Another way people can save 5% on Disney gift cards is by using your Target Red Card. If you already have a Red Card this is an easy and simple way to save a little for Disney. Maybe buy a gift card once a month during your normal shopping trips. Again, you can use these gift cards for almost everything at Disney (resort, food, and merchandise) and that little bit of savings will really add up.
If you REALLY want to maximize your savings, is to rack up as much cash as you can in your iBotta account, cash out and then take that cash to a wholesale club to purchase a Disney gift card. This is basically getting Disney cash FOR FREE and then stretching that even further.
If you plan it out right, you could even be able to take advantage of some great Black Friday deals like the one above. 6% off the face value of Disney gift cards at Bj’s Wholesale Club. So say you saved up $100 in your iBotta bank, you take that money to Bj’s Wholesale Club and you get a $100 gift card for only $94… which to me, is like FREE Disney money!
Bonus Tip: Using gift cards is also a great way to stay on budget. Whether you give a gift card to your kids so they know how much they have to spend. Or for yourself. This way you will know how much you have spent or how much you have left to spend. I like using the gift card wristlets for the Epcot World Showcase.
Walking around the World Showcase and purchasing several items from different food booths adds up quickly. Wearing one of these handy wristlets is a great way to keep track of how much money you have left to spend.
Use those Points!
If you are a member to a hotel chain loyalty program, don’t forget to check and see if there are any resorts on or near Disney property. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin are apart of the Marriot Bonvoy member program and are located ON Disney property. Same thing with Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, they are apart of the Hilton Honors program.
Both of these are examples of non-Disney owned resorts that still give you *most of the perks of being on Disney property and you can use loyalty points to lower the cost of your resort total or at least get a little bit of discount.
For those of you who don’t know what “DVC” means. It is the Disney Vacation Club. This is a timeshare for Disney resorts all over the world. Renting DVC points is a way for Non-DVC members to stay at DVC resorts at the DVC member’s price. Members who aren’t planning on using their points “sell” their points to rental companies and you, the renter, get the savings. Renting DVC points can save you a significant amount of money and you would be staying at a Deluxe resort. One major selling point to a DVC unit is that you can rent units with full kitchens, laundry rooms, and a private bedroom. This could also help you save on your food purchases by making meals in your room or being able to store perishable food items in a full size fridge.
*Renting points are subject to availability so you may need to reserve them far out in advance or be flexible with your travel dates.
So there you have it.
Hopefully this post was helpful to you in some sort of way. If none of these seem like viable options, remember to always check the special offers page on the Disney website to see if Disney is running any promotions during your travel dates. And like I’ve said before, if there isn’t a promotion at that time, book your room anyway and check back to see if a promotion becomes available at a later point in time. Then you would call Disney and have them apply the discount to your reservation.
Spreading magic one post at a timeKristin