Saving money at Disney World is somewhat of an oxymoron, but there are ways to reduce the damage. With the cost of consumer goods escalating, we all need to save a buck on family vacations. At the place where dreams are made and age is but a number, follow these simple tips to maximize your budget!
First, if the cost if flying the whole family down and then renting a car is prohibitive, consider renting a van in your hometown and driving to Orlando. Watch flight specials offered online and through travel agents. Fanfare deals can be an alternative way to fly if the airline needs to fill available seats. If you’re driving to Orlando and not arriving until afternoon or evening, don’t reserve your on-site room until the second day of your visit. It’s silly to pay for a whole day of Grand Floridian amenities if you’ll be checking in at 10 P.M. Instead, stop your first night at a budget hotel, rise early and check out the next morning, and then go straight to your on-site hotel, rise early and check out the next morning, and then go straight to your on-site hotel. They’ll let you unload your bags, pick-up your tickets and resort ID, and go on to the theme park. The All-Star Resorts, Caribbean Beach Resort, Port Orléans, Coronado Springs, Pop Century, and Fort Wilderness Campgrounds offer your most economical on-site lodging. Off site, there are several Comfort Inns and Days Inns along I-4 and International Drive.
Second, Eat as many meals as possible outside the parks. This is no joke! A typical 20 ounce coke will cost you $1.50 at a convenient store but expect to pay at least $5.00 for it inside the theme park. If you have a suite, fixing simple meals there is clearly your most economical option! Many Orlando hotels offer free breakfasts to guests, and there are many fast-food and family chain restaurants along International Drive and the I-4 exits. Also, pack granola or high fiber snacks in your purse or bag, small 8-12 oz. bottles of water will carry you a long way in the Florida heat! If you’d like to try some of the nicer Epcot restaurants, book them for lunch, when prices are considerably lower than at dinner. And remember that restaurant prices are huge, even with kiddie meals so keep this in mind. Consider letting two family members share an entrée. Kids sometimes eat free at certain establishments; signs are prominently posted announcing the restaurants that offer this deal.
Third, buy film, blank videotapes, diapers, sunscreen, ball caps, beach towels, etc. at home before you leave. These things are all for sale in the parks, but you’ll pay dearly for the convenience. If you move from park to park in your car, save your parking receipt so you’ll have to pay the $7 fee only once. (There’s no parking charge for on-site visitors.) Likewise, be sure to save stroller receipts. If you plan to try any of the minor parks such as Typhoon lagoon, Blizzard Beach, or Pleasure Island, buy a park Hopper Plus pass. Without it, you’ll pay separately for each minor park, which can add up very fast.
Fourth, employees of many companies with exhibits inside Disney World are entitled to benefits so if your employer sponsors an exhibit inside Disney World, contact your employee benefits office well before you leave home and see if you are eligible for a discount on park admissions or on-site lodging. Buy your tickets when you make your hotel reservations, and you’ll be protected in case Disney decides it’s time for another price increase.
Fifth and lastly, On-site hotels offer a deal where you buy a souvenir beverage mug the first day of your trip and get free refills at the resort for the rest of your stay. Because drinks at Disney World are very expensive, this little perk can save you at least $25. Except for maybe an autograph book and a T-shirt, hold off on souvenir purchases until the last day. By then the kids will really know what they want and you won’t waste money on impulse buys.