We all know that Walt Disney World is expensive. But, despite the rising costs, my family still likes to go and enjoy the Parks. However, we have one condition: we must spend our money wisely.
Of course, I also want a travel for as cheap as possible. So, I cut things where I see fit. But, I also want to have a great experience while I’m there.
So, that’s why my goal is simple…spend my money wisely. This means that I’m willing to spend a little more on certain things (without blowing the budget). This enables us to have the lasting memories that make us want to keep going back to Walt Disney World over and over again.
Reduce Your Number Of Park Days
For many, the number attractions a person was able to get on is how they judge a “good” vs a “bad” trip to Walt Disney World trip. And I admit, I love going home and telling friends and family about all the attractions I experienced.
But, there are so many other activities to do outside of the Parks that people don’t think about because they’re so focused on what goes on inside of the Parks.
To many, going to Walt Disney World and NOT going to the Parks sounds counterintuitive. But, reducing your number of Park days can be especially helpful for a few reasons.
It allows those on a tighter budget to still be able to travel to Walt Disney World. But, it’s also a way for Guests who can only travel during Peak Season to get away from the crowds and enjoy something else that you wouldn’t have time to do otherwise.
“The more you play, the less you pay”
The mentality that the more days you go, the less you pay per day is what drives many Guests to get as many Park days as possible. But, your overall price ends up being more than just the cost of tickets.
Even if the ticket price difference is marginal, think of how much you’re spending at the hotel to accommodate those extra Park days. And more days in the Parks likely means you’ll spend more on food and merchandise, as well. And that’s what Disney counts on.
At first glance, $99 per day for 5 Park days looks more appealing than $121 per day for 3 Park days. But, if you have a family of 4, that’s over a $500 difference. Sure, you’ll get 2 less days in the Parks. But, you can find other ways to entertain your entire family at Walt Disney World for less money. And you can still have a magical time.
Once we made the choice to not go into the Parks every day, we had 2 choices: save it all or reallocate some of the funds to do things we never get to do.
We are travel on the free Dining Plan or bring food into the Parks type of people. We don’t normally book dining reservations while on vacation. They’re so expensive. But, by not spending the money on an extra day in the Parks, we decided to use that money to actually eat out.
We have a late breakfast reservation at Boma, at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We’ve heard great things about it. But, we’ve never eaten there. So, I’m really looking forward to our breakfast there. It’s a splurge for us, but it’s still cheaper than getting additional Park Tickets. So, in the end, we still save money.
The day will be filled with free activities like learning about the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge, admiring the Geyser at the beautiful Wilderness Lodge, going on Hidden Mickey hunts, or riding around on the Skyliner. There are so many things to see and learn without spending a single penny.
Reallocating your money towards something new and exciting is a good way to spend your money wisely because you’re not spending more than you already were planning to spend.
Forget Park Hoppers
One of my top tips to spend your money wisely at Walt Disney World is to not get Park Hoppers.
It’s true. I have upgraded my tickets on more than one occasion. But, it’s not something I do every trip. And they’re one of those things that I rarely recommend to my clients.
And the reason is simple…If you’re not using them every day, you’re just throwing away your money.
This is why I usually advise against upgrading to Park Hoppers if:
- It’s your first trip to Walt Disney World
- You’re traveling with small children
- You’ll be at Walt Disney World long enough to visit each Park separately
- You’re unfamiliar with Disney transportation (and you won’t have a vehicle)
- You are on a very tight budget
Not Good For The Budget
Because Park Hoppers must be added to each Park Ticket, you’ll be paying for the ability to Park Hop, even on the days you don’t.
I know many Guests upgrade their tickets “just in case” they want to hop. But, if you want to spend your money wisely, really think about it before purchasing them.
Most often, Guests get them because they’ll be at another Park during the day, but they want to see Magic Kingdom’s fireworks at night.
Save your money. You can see the fireworks from many places outside of Magic Kingdom. Set up camp on one of the nearby beaches and watch the fireworks from there. Many even have the music piped in, so it’s even more magical.
If you want to make it a special occasion, book a late dinner at a restaurant with a fireworks view outside of the Parks. Again, they have the music piped in, so you get more of the full experience.
Disney transportation make it easy to get around Walt Disney World without needing to rent a car.
And thanks to the Ferries, Monorail, and Skyliner, you can travel between 3 of the Parks without ever waiting for a bus. Animal Kingdom is the only Park that relies solely on bus transportation to get there.
But, easy is not always fast.
All of these options require you to stop or transfer somewhere along the way. These stops take up a lot of time. And it’s also confusing for first time Guests who thought it would be a straight trip to the other Park.
There are rumors that the restrictions will soon be coming to an end.
But, for now, you’re unable to Park Hop until after 2pm. This means, you may not get to spend as much time in other Parks as you’d like to. This is especially true if you’re planning an afternoon trip to Animal Kingdom, which often closes earlier than the other Parks.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but my family is absolutely using Disney Genie+ for our next trip.
Since we won’t be in the Parks every day, I want to maximize what I am able to do during the few days that I am in the Parks.
Even if I’m spending an additional $15 per person, per day, I’m still saving money in the long run because we didn’t purchase Park tickets for every day of our trip.
But, in order to spend your money wisely, there are a few things you need to understand about Disney Genie before purchasing it.
Know how the Disney Genie works
There is a learning curve to Disney Genie. And unless you know how it works, and actually use it, it really can be a waste of money.
If you do your homework, and don’t mind spending the extra money, then you should absolutely consider purchasing Genie+.
But, if you don’t plan on getting up early to start booking, you don’t like being glued to your phone, or you don’t have time to do your homework, save your money. There are no refunds if you purchase it and then you don’t use it.
Stay Off Property
For the very first time ever, we stayed off property. And we didn’t just book an off-site hotel, we rented a condo at a really great price.
Because we traveled with our 8-month-old baby, we thought that the extra sleeping space would make everyone’s life easier. And we were right in making that decision. Have you ever tried to sneak into a room when a baby is napping?
I absolutely missed waking up in a Disney Resort. But, even with my Travel Agent discounts, the money it would cost us to get a separate sleeping space for the baby didn’t make sense. After all, we also spent half of our trip at Universal Studios Orlando. So, we wanted to spend our money wisely and enjoy ourselves without worrying that we spent too much on a hotel room we were barely in.
The Positives and the Negatives
Of course, every decision comes with positives and negatives. But, overall, I’m happy with our decision. (Update: The review of our stay at the Reunion Resort is up. Check it out if you’re considering a stay there!)
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that the price was absolutely worth considering a place away from the Theme Parks.
We had originally planned on staying in a 2-Bedroom Suite at Endless Summer Resorts, at Universal Studios Orlando. When it comes to Theme Park hotels, you really can’t beat the price.
But, even with my discount, the price we paid for an entire condo beats any of the on-site Resort prices. (And yes, I do book off-site accommodations for clients, as well.)
Our older boys had their own (themed) room and bathroom. And our youngest had a place to sleep where he didn’t get disturbed. The unit also came with a complimentary high chair and a pack and play. If you want an actual crib, one can be rented through the company.
The biggest con was location. In the grand scheme of things, the drive wasn’t bad. We were about 30 minutes from Universal Studios and 15 minutes from Disney.
But, when you’re used to being in the “Disney bubble,” I already knew the experience isn’t going to be the same. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, we were used to getting up and hopping on a Disney bus.
The next biggest con is we didn’t have any of the Perks we normally get for staying on property, at Disney or Universal.
I’m ok with missing out on free package delivery to our Resort. And although we’re pretty bummed we didn’t have the extra time in the morning, it’s not a necessity for us.
But, losing the opportunity to choose Individual Lightning Lanes, at 7am, made me wish I stayed at a Disney Resort. Honestly, that one stung…big time.
Eating At Theme Parks
There’s a reason we loved the Free Dining Plan. Sure, we had to pay full price for our room. But, food at Walt Disney World is expensive. And when you’re traveling with as many kids as I do, the cost can be out of control.
Since it’s not likely the Free Dining Plan promotion, or the Dining Plan, will be back any time soon, we have to be smart with how we eat at the Theme Parks.
Bring Food With You
You’re surrounded by wonderful food. Why on earth would you bring food with you? Because it’s so much faster and cheaper to do so.
And despite everything, Disney (and Universal) does allow you to bring whatever food and drink into the Parks with you. Just note that glass containers and alcohol are not allowed..
Because we had the condo (and a car) this time, we did a little shopping as soon as we got off the plane. We stocked up on easy-to-prepare meals and food we could bring into the Parks for those days we didn’t have any Dining Reservations.
Won’t have a car on your trip? Have groceries delivered to your Resort. As a member of Amazon Prime, we always have water, snacks, and quick breakfast items shipped to our Resort on our arrival day via Amazon Prime Now. Most rooms only have a mini-fridge. So, keep that in mind when purchasing groceries.
When you’re ready to order, just be sure to add GUEST next to your name, as well as your arrival day on the address label. This helps Cast Members decide where your package should go and when it’s likely to be picked up.
Unless you booked a buffet or family-style meal, where you must pay per person, sharing is a good cost saver.
Plates can easily be shared all around the Parks. Quick Service is where this is easiest. But, many Table Service Restaurants allow this, as well.
And you don’t even need to be sneaky about it. You can even ask a Cast Member for an extra plate or cup, so you can divide up the food.
Eat Kids Meals
Whether you’re looking to spend your money wisely or find the adult portions are too large, ordering a kids meal is absolutely allowed. The signs often say that kids meals are for children ages (3-9). But, they aren’t going to give you a hard time about it.
The only thing to watch out for is at Table Service Restaurants. My brother is an extremely picky eater. So, when we went, he asked for something off of the kids menu. Knowing it was for him, they asked if he wanted an adult portion of the kids menu item. By saying yes, they charged him the adult price. It makes sense. He ate more than the kids portion. But, it’s something to be aware of.
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