Tips for doing Disney on a budget

A dream trip to Walt Disney World is within your reach, and your budget! Begin your research here then let the magic take you.
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Sandra, October 10, 2013 4:49:48 PM

We just got back from our first ever trip to Walt Disney World in Florida (or Disney anywhere) and all I’m thinking about is when we can go back. The grown-ups loved it, the kids loved it, and I got to hear those magic words, “It really is a dream come true.” No lie. Heart=melted.

What no one told me before I embarked on this trip was how many ways there are to save money and still have a magical and immersive Disney experience. If I had known a week ago what I know now, we would have stayed longer (preferably forever, but y’know, school, work, all that jazz.)

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins

Now, consider this is advice from a newbie, but if you want to go to Walt Disney World (and you do! You do!) here are a few tips:

Fort Wilderness-
We stayed here and it was magic. Step outside your door and what do you see? Oh, only five deer having a casual breakfast in your backyard. We stayed in the beautiful cabins (sleeps 6, you get your own kitchen!) but we made a discovery as we were out looking for Bambi. You can camp! With full amenities! And full access to all Disney resources! Starting at $55 a night! I know what we’re doing next time.

Make your own food-
Not an option for everyone, but if you find yourself with a kitchen, or a campsite at the magical Fort Wilderness, you just need to head to the next fully stocked trading post to fill your cupboards. Hey Canadians, you’re going to be happy with those American prices. Many a pleased glance and nod was exchanged as we picked up surprisingly affordable bread, butter, milk, and other essentials (yes, there was wine too). And the Disney Parks don’t bat an eye at food and snacks from home (or hotel!) being brought on the premises, but be sure to set aside a couple of bucks for the Mickey ice creams. Grocery delivery is also an option, so you can shop online and have your essentials delivered. FoodStore2Go and Garden Grocer are two options for grocery delivery.

Be Our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom

Meal plans-
There are any number of flexible meal plans you can choose from that will offer significant savings; from 10 to 30%. Kids under 9 are even more affordable and kids under three are welcome to share from an adult plate at no charge, or eat from the menu. Most of my family is vegetarian and I can tell you, it’s easy to find something to suit everyone’s taste in the Disney restaurants.

Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Forget about parking costs, buses, taxis, car rentals, getting lost (my personal bugaboo) forever. If you’re staying on a Disney property, Disney’s transit system is the best you’re ever going to encounter. Disney buses are everywhere, from the airport, to inside your resort. and between parks. Prompt, clean, and cool with the nicest, most helpful bus drivers you’ll ever meet. The monorail between EPCOT and Magic Kingdom (and various resorts) might as well be a ride. My kids even made up a monorail song. Last and possibly best: Boat rides. Our daily boat ride from Fort Wilderness to Magic Kingdom was an excursion unto itself. Beautiful, with the same clean, prompt friendly service we came to expect from all things Disney. And they’re all free if you’re staying at a Disney resort. Walk on, walk off. Ahhhh.

Buy more, pay less –
This is the big one. If you spend ten days as opposed to one at the Disney theme parks you can save almost two thirds of the cost of a daily base pass. That’s $95 to $33.90 per day (with incremental decreases between days 1 through 10). I’m not kidding. That’s a good deal. Look into this one stat.

Extra Magic Hours – Another super bonus for the time and money conscious (that’s all of us, yes?). “Each day, one of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to 2 hours after regular closing time. Additionally, Disney Water Parks offer Extra Magic Hours during select times of year.” This bonus is available for anyone staying at a Disney property. We did this. The kids felt special ‘cause we had the park “all to ourselves” and we made the most of our extra hours.

Disney resort mug -
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. If your family is anything like mine, you can all share one or two of these unlimited refill mugs (you’ll end up carrying it anyway) and never be thirsty again. And like your park passes, the more days you buy, the cheaper it gets. Trust me friends, it’s hot. You’re having the time of your lives. Get a mug.

Expedition Everest, Animal Kingdom

Fastpass! –
Ok, I had to throw this in here.  This one isn’t so much about saving money, but it’s FREE and it will certainly save you time. Say you want to ride Expedition Everest  (and you do!), well so does everyone else. A Fastpass is your ticket out of standing in line. You get a scheduled return time and bam, you’re being chased by a Yeti! It’s a lifesaver. Unless you get caught by a Yeti.

Sandra Kingsley is’s Family & Parenting editor…

All images courtesy Disney Parks & Resorts or the author

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