Disney World – 10 Tips and Tricks to Save Tons of $$$

Disney World Budget Tips

Planning a budget friendly trip to Disney World can be done with my top 10 money saving tips and tricks! I’m sharing my favorite ways for saving money at the most magical place on earth!

We just returned from a 5 day/night trip to Disney World. 🙂 We essentially were able to cut our vacation costs in half and I wanted to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for saving $ with you!


My number 1 tip is simple- go during the off season! Not only can you avoid super long lines, you can also enjoy mild weather. We went the first week in February and the weather was perfect. I took one long sleeved jacket for each family member and some leggings for me and the girls. That was all we needed. We wore the leggings or shorts and just removed the jackets mid-morning. While we were there the highs were in the 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. In other words – PERFECT! If you are able to go during the off season you can find better deals on airfare, hotel deals, prices of food, and even some special add-on incentives. I checked crowd calendars online and we planned the trip to take advantage of a 3/10 rating on the crowd calendars. No matter when you go, there will still be a lot of people, but the lines were much shorter than usual, which was really nice since we had a toddler and an infant. (I will write another blog post soon about travelling to Dinsey with 2 littles!)

Number 2 is to explore all of your available hotel options. Since my brother-in-law is in the military, we were able to stay at Shades of Green.

It is an on-site resort owned by the military and absolutely gorgeous! We stayed for only $149 a night and that included a huge and delicious buffet breakfast! I really loved the resort. I’ve read mixed reviews, but I can’t figure out why. We did stay in the renovated rooms. They are huge. (I’ve read they are the largest rooms on Disney property.) There are two beautiful pools, a splash park for kids, water slides, a playground for younger children, activities, and so much more. I loved that there was a store on-site for anything we might have forgotten at home. We didn’t need much but I spotted formula, tons of souvenirs, snacks, drinks, etc at really good prices. If you stay at Shades, you need to plan ahead to make sure you know how you will get to each park in the morning. You can use the buses which run every hour, drive your own vehicle, or walk across to the Polynesian resort and use their boat or monorail which run very frequently. We used the Polynesian system a lot and were very pleased with it. The Shades of Green bellmen will drive you in a golf cart to the edge of their property and are happy to pick you up again if you give them a call. Don’t forget to tip!

To save $, you can also stay at a value resort, Fort Wilderness or an off site resort. I’ve read a lot of good things about staying at nearby condos… so be sure to look into all of your options!

The 3rd tip is to take snacks and drinks into the parks.

We had a backpack which we filled with a couple of waters, Capri-Suns, Organic fruit pouches for the baby, snacks for the kids, and you could even make PB&J sandwiches if you wanted. The snacks go a long way in keeping your children occupied and happy, especially when you are waiting in lines. I also took a couple of containers of bubbles, chapstick, hand sanitizer, diapers, and wipes. (Try not to pack too much because you don’t want to be loaded down and there is a limit on how big of a cooler/backpack you can bring. More on this in another post.)

Number 4 is to check on discounted theme park tickets. Florida residents get a huge discount and military families also can. We had 5 day park hopper tickets for around $250 which is about half of the normal price.

The 5th tip is to decide if and where you will eat BEFORE you hit the parks. If you are starving and rushing from ride to ride it is extremely tempting to grab a table at the first place you come to. This is NOT the way to save $! Look into the quick service restaurants. They live up to their names but are still a nice place to sit down and enjoy a tasty and relatively inexpensive meal. We decided to splurge once and eat at Be Our Guest.

I had read online that you needed reservations 180 days in advance but we were able to just show up during the lunch hour. We were in and out within an hour and a half. My husband’s eyes were a bit wide after he ordered the croque monsieur and a drink and I ordered a vegan lunch with a drink and our bill was just over $40, but we both agreed that the atmosphere was worth it and the lunch was delicious. Did I mention that I also ordered a sorbet? The $40 didn’t sound like too much after all. Everything was yummy! (So much so that my sister went back a few days later and ate the exact same meal that she had already eaten just because it was so tasty!) Anyways, I recommend doing a character meal at least once or splurging at some point during your stay on at least one good meal. We typically ate dinner after we returned from the parks and the meals at Shades of Green weren’t too expensive.

Number 6 is to load up on souvenirs before you hit the park.

All of the Disney themed goodies above were at my local Dollar Tree. We referred to these as “Tinkerbell Gifts”. I told Aniston that Tinkerbell would leave her a gift each night if she was a good girl at the parks. (A little bribery never hurt anyone:)) Some of the things I found were “Magic Towels”, light-up wands and bracelets, coloring books, bubbles, dress-up dolls, water bottles, and sunglasses all with Disney characters on them. This kept Aniston from wanting every little toy she saw. We saved a ton of money this way.

In the parks, I did end up buying her a light up bubble machine, some sparkly Minnie Mouse ears, and a little striped tank top to remember her trip. They were around $20 a piece.

I bought Aniston an autograph book from Amazon for around $5 before we left. Many people love seeing how many characters you can get to autograph your book. Aniston was more interested in coloring in hers so we didn’t keep up with the characters too much with it. The characters will have pens or you can grab a cute one like the ones I pictured above at the Dollar Tree.

I bought the girls matching Minnie Mouse outfits with polka-dot pants online really inexpensively months before our trip. I can’t remember where they were from. It popped up when I was on Facebook. Anyways, if you know that you will be tempted to get a shirt, I recommend looking for some deals on Disney-inspired t-shirts on Jane.com. I saw a bunch of cute ones on there before we left.

The 7th tip is to look into your options if you are considering taking your child to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I’ve read that it can get very expensive and it definitely wasn’t worth it for me to take my 2 (almost 3) year old. We might consider it when she is older, but Shades of Green had a similar service which was much less expensive.

We decided to get Baby Heidi’s first haircut at the Barber Shop in Magic Kingdom (for $25) and they sprinkled both girls with “Pixie Dust” for free!

Aniston was thrilled!

I also packed a couple of dress-up costumes from home in case Aniston asked to dress like a princess one day.

We ended up dressing her up like Minnie Mouse one day and she was cute as could be.

***If you are interested in getting your baby’s first haircut at Disney World – click here to learn all about our experience!***
Baby’s First Haircut at Disney


Number 8 is to make sure you explore transportation options. I found round-trip airfare from Nashville to Orlando for $100 including all taxes and fees! I was thrilled to find this and noticed that any of the winter months seemed to have the same good deals on airfare.

I was very careful to read about luggage charges and noticed that Frontier charged for every single bag whether it was checked or carry-on. (Each person could have a personal item that fit under the seat in front of them for free.) It’s actually more expensive to carry-on a small suitcase than it is if you checked the bag so be sure to read about potential hidden costs if you snag some cheap airfare. I was bound and determined to only pay $50 for our family of 4 to take one suitcase. Yes- you read that right. I brought along our largest suitcase and paid the $25 each way beforehand. That’s Aniston in the picture above sitting on our big suitcase and poor Baby Heidi looking exhausted in our stroller after we arrived. :)We took two backpacks and that was it. It actually wasn’t too hard. I laid out the outfits beforehand and since my girls are still so young, their clothes didn’t take up too much room. My sister got a kick out of the fact that even though I only had one suitcase, I managed to bring along bubbles. 🙂 I also realized that it would cost us around $90 round-trip to take a taxi from the airport to Shades of Green so I talked my sister into picking us up since she was driving her van to meet us at Shades of Green anyways. (I believe that all of the Disney resorts have a free bus system from the airport and to the parks, but be sure to check on that. Shades of Green was not included.)

You may not be able to find a killer deal on airfare so think about driving. Be sure to plan for how you will get to the parks each day and if you will have to pay for parking.

Number 9 is don’t be scared to take young children. I was hesitant at first about whether it would be worth taking my two young daughters, but…. I’m so glad I did. Children can go to Disney World for FREE until their third birthday. That means I only had to buy theme park tickets for me and Dustin. You don’t have to buy a plane ticket for any children under the age of 2 which gives you even better savings. It was truly magical to see Disney through the eyes of my toddler and Baby Heidi was easy-peasy! Babies can ride along on any of the toddler rides and they are so fascinated by all of the people and lights that they are extra easy to take care of. (More on that in an upcoming blog post.)

I STRONGLY recommend bringing a stroller from home. It will help you immensely in the airport, you can check it at the gate for free, and then your child will feel so comfortable in it at the parks. Plus… you don’t have to pay to rent one! More savings!!! (Even if your child hasn’t used a stroller in a long time – they are likely to need one to make it through several days at the parks!)

Finally…. number 10 I saved $60 easily with this little tip. Sometime in the weeks leading up to Christmas Target does a promotion for 10% off of Target Gift Cards. (With a red card you can get 5% off anytime during the year.) There is a cap of $300 per transaction. I ordered 2 of these using mine and Dustin’s email addresses… so I essentially got $600 in Target gift cards for $540. A few weeks later I went to Target and bought 12 $50 Disney gift cards.

I didn’t see them, but you may find $100 cards which would make things a little simpler.

*** You can no longer do this online. I had no problem doing this in store, but if you do I’ve read that you can head to a self checkout and it should go through.***

One night while I was watching TV, I transferred the gift cards to just 1 card so I didn’t have so many cards to keep up with. I wouldn’t recommend buying too many just in case this doesn’t work for you, but I had no problems whatsoever. Plus, I knew that I would eventually use $600 at Target if something did go wrong. All this goes to say that if you knew you would spend $2000 on your Disney resort, Memory Maker, etc, you could essentially save yourself $200 with this trick! One of those “the more you buy, the more you save” kind of deals.

One More Tip– I didn’t want to include it in the 10 because if you won’t be there long, it may not be worth the purchase. However, if you will be there for more than a day or 2, I strongly recommend purchasing Memory Maker. It is $149 if you purchase it at least 3 days prior to your trip. You can SPLIT THE COST with other families travelling with you or even with neighbors if you link up the accounts. There are professional photographers all over the parks who will take unlimited pictures that will automatically be uploaded to your “My Disney Experience” account. The system can also recognize your magic band if you are on a ride and send the photo straight to your Photo Pass. Later when you get home, you can simply download the ones that you wish to keep. It was priceless for us to have professional pictures taken of our entire family in the parks and meeting the characters. Sometimes you will find characters in the photos like the Tinkerbell flying in front of Epcot below.

7 Dwarfs Mine Train

Splash Mountain

And last but definitely not least… Be kind! Really! It can save you $$$! I had a restaurant manager tell me that my entire Vegan meal was on the house. This was at least a $15 savings. Cast members will sometimes throw in extras if you simply chat with them. You can get FREE ice water at any restaurant if you just ask politely. Look carefully and there will be at least one cast member handing out free buttons.

My sister grabbed two free “1st Visit” buttons for my girls to remember their trip. We had various cast members give the girls stickers and other fun little items.

Want to know more about our trip? Go here to learn about our baby’s first haircut

Baby’s First Haircut at Disney

Author: hilarystatum

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  1. Found your post via Hip2Save, thanks for sharing! I am going to WDW this fall and was hesitant on the Memory Maker, but we are going in a large group and splitting the cost makes total sense! Thanks for all the tips!

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