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How To Plan A Cheap Trip To Disney World


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Antonetta Mcmillan



Welcome to the magical world of Disney! Planning a trip to Disney World can be an exciting and unforgettable experience for both children and adults alike. However, it’s no secret that a Disney World vacation can come with a hefty price tag. From park tickets and accommodations to food and souvenirs, the expenses can quickly add up. But fear not! With some strategic planning and a little creativity, it’s possible to have a memorable and budget-friendly trip to the most magical place on earth.


In this article, we will guide you through the process of planning a cheap trip to Disney World without compromising on the fun and excitement. We’ll share valuable tips and tricks to help you save money on everything from accommodations and transportation to park tickets and dining. So, whether you’re a frugal traveler or simply looking to make the most of your budget, this guide will serve as your go-to resource for planning an affordable Disney World adventure.


It’s important to keep in mind that while we focus on ways to save money, Disney World is still a premium vacation destination. Therefore, some expenses are inevitable. However, by implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can significantly reduce your overall costs and make your Disney World dream a reality without breaking the bank.


So, let’s dive into the world of Disney, where dreams come true and budgets are respected. By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the tools and knowledge you need to plan a cheap trip to Disney World without sacrificing any of the magic!


Step 1: Choosing the Right Time to Visit

Choosing the right time to visit Disney World is crucial when it comes to saving money. The park’s crowd levels and ticket prices can vary significantly depending on the time of year. By planning your trip during off-peak seasons, you can take advantage of lower prices and shorter wait times.


One factor to consider when deciding on the best time to visit is the park’s calendar. Disney World typically categorizes its days into different tiers – value, regular, and peak. Value days are the least expensive, while peak days are the most expensive. By opting for value or regular days, you can save a significant amount on park tickets.


Another factor to consider is the season and holidays. For example, visiting during the weekdays in the offseason, such as January or September, can offer quieter park experiences and better deals on accommodations. Conversely, peak season times, like spring break or major holidays, tend to be more crowded and expensive.


Additionally, keep in mind that the weather in Florida can impact crowd levels. The summer months are typically hotter and more crowded, whereas the cooler months, like November and December, tend to be less crowded.


It’s worth mentioning that Disney World sometimes offers special promotions and discounted packages during certain times of the year. Keep an eye out for these deals and take advantage of the savings they offer.


Ultimately, when choosing the right time to visit, consider your budget, desired crowd levels, and any special events or promotions that may be happening. By strategically planning your trip based on these factors, you can save money and enjoy a less crowded Disney World experience.


Step 2: Booking Affordable Accommodations

When it comes to accommodations, there are various options to consider that can help you save money during your Disney World trip.


One cost-effective option is to stay at off-site hotels or vacation rentals. These accommodations are often more affordable than the on-site Disney World resorts and can provide additional amenities such as kitchenettes or full kitchens, allowing you to save money on meals by preparing some of your own food.


If you prefer to stay on-site, consider booking at one of Disney’s value or moderate resorts. While these may have fewer bells and whistles compared to the deluxe resorts, they can still offer comfortable and enjoyable stays at a lower price point.


Another option to explore is renting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points. DVC members who are unable to use their allocated points can rent them out to non-members for a lower cost than booking directly through Disney. This can be a fantastic way to experience the perks of staying on-site while saving money.


Be sure to compare prices across different booking platforms and websites to find the best deals. Sometimes, booking directly through Disney may offer perks and benefits such as complimentary transportation to and from the parks.


Consider the length of your stay as well. Many hotels and vacation rentals offer discounts for longer stays, so if your schedule allows, consider extending your trip to take advantage of these offers.


Lastly, keep an eye out for promotional offers and discounts provided by hotels or vacation rental agencies. These can often provide significant savings on your accommodations.


Remember, while it’s essential to find affordable accommodations, also consider the location and proximity to the parks. Factor in transportation costs and convenience when making your decision.


By exploring all these avenues and comparing prices, you can find affordable accommodations that suit your budget without compromising on comfort and convenience during your Disney World trip.


Step 3: Finding Cheap Flights or Alternative Transportation

Transportation costs can be a significant part of your overall budget when planning a trip to Disney World. However, with some careful planning and research, you can find affordable options for getting to the parks.


If you’re flying to Orlando, it’s best to be flexible with your travel dates and compare prices across different airlines and travel websites. Use flight comparison tools to find the best deals and consider booking your flight well in advance to secure lower fares. Additionally, consider flying into alternate airports near Disney World, as they may offer cheaper options.


Another money-saving option is to consider driving to Disney World. This can be especially beneficial for those traveling with a family or a group. Not only can driving save on flight costs, but it also provides the flexibility to bring along snacks, drinks, and other essentials, which can help cut down on expenses in the park.


Once you arrive in Orlando, consider using alternative transportation methods to get to Disney World. Many off-site hotels offer shuttle services to the parks, which can save you money on parking fees. Additionally, consider using rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft, which may be more affordable than renting a car.


If you do choose to rent a car, compare prices across different rental agencies, and book in advance to secure lower rates. Consider renting from off-site rental agencies that offer shuttle services to and from the airport, as they may have more competitive prices.


Another alternative transportation option is utilizing public transportation. Lynx, the public bus system in Orlando, offers routes that can take you to Disney World. While it may take longer than other modes of transportation, it can be a cost-effective option for budget-conscious travelers.


Lastly, don’t forget to check if your accommodation provides complimentary transportation to Disney World. Many hotels and resorts offer shuttle services, which can save you money on transportation within the parks.


By exploring different transportation options, comparing prices, and considering alternatives to traditional methods, you can find affordable ways to get to and around Disney World, ultimately saving money on your trip.


Step 4: Saving on Park Tickets

Park tickets can be one of the most significant expenses when planning a trip to Disney World, but there are several strategies you can use to save money on admission.


One option is to purchase multi-day tickets. Disney offers discounts for multi-day tickets, so the more days you plan to spend in the parks, the more money you can save per day. Additionally, purchasing park hopper tickets allows you to visit multiple parks in one day, which can be a cost-effective way to experience everything Disney World has to offer.


Another way to save on park tickets is by purchasing them from discount ticket retailers. These third-party providers often offer lower prices than buying directly from Disney. However, be sure to purchase from reputable sources to avoid scams or counterfeit tickets.


Keep an eye out for special promotions and discounts provided by Disney World. They occasionally offer deals such as “free extra day” or discounts for specific groups like military personnel or Florida residents. Taking advantage of these promotions can provide significant savings on park tickets.


If you’re planning to visit Disney World multiple times throughout the year, consider investing in an Annual Pass. While the upfront cost may seem high, if you plan to visit the parks more than once, an Annual Pass can save you money in the long run. It also comes with additional benefits like merchandise and dining discounts.


Lastly, consider visiting the parks during special events or festivals that offer discounted tickets. For example, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival or the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party often have reduced ticket prices compared to regular park admission.


By utilizing these strategies, you can save money on park tickets and make the most of your Disney World experience without breaking the bank.


Step 5: Eating on a Budget

Eating at Disney World doesn’t have to be a budget-buster. With some smart planning and strategic choices, you can enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank.


Consider bringing your own snacks and drinks into the parks. Disney World allows visitors to bring in outside food and non-alcoholic beverages, which can help you save money on snacks throughout the day. Pack some granola bars, fruit, or pre-packed sandwiches to keep hunger at bay without splurging on expensive theme park snacks.


Take advantage of quick-service dining options. These dining establishments offer more affordable and convenient meal options compared to full-service restaurants. Quick-service locations can be found throughout the parks and offer a range of menu items from burgers and sandwiches to salads and wraps.


If you prefer table-service dining, consider lunch instead of dinner. Lunch prices are often more affordable than dinner at many Disney World restaurants. Plus, you can still enjoy a great meal without the higher price tag.


Make use of free condiments and water. Many dining establishments provide complimentary condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, which can save you from purchasing individual packets. Additionally, Disney World offers free cups of ice water at quick-service locations, so you don’t have to spend money on bottled water.


Another cost-saving tip is to share meals. Portions at Disney World are often generous, so splitting meals can be a great way to save money while still enjoying a satisfying meal. Alternatively, consider ordering kids’ meals, as they are typically cheaper and may still fill you up.


Book dining reservations in advance. By planning your meals ahead of time, you can research restaurants and find those that offer affordable options. Booking in advance also gives you the opportunity to secure reservations at popular dining locations, ensuring you don’t miss out on your desired dining experiences.


Lastly, consider eating outside of the parks. Disney Springs, the shopping and entertainment district, offers a variety of dining options at varying price points. Exploring restaurants and eateries outside of the parks can provide more affordable alternatives while still satisfying your taste buds.


By implementing these strategies and practicing mindful spending, you can enjoy delicious meals at Disney World without straining your budget.


Step 6: Maximizing Souvenir Expenses

Souvenirs are a great way to commemorate your Disney World trip, but they can also add up quickly. To make the most of your souvenir budget, consider these money-saving tips:


Set a budget for souvenirs and stick to it. Before your trip, determine how much you’re willing to spend on souvenirs, and factor that into your overall budget. This will help you prioritize and make more mindful choices when shopping.


Shop around and compare prices. Don’t feel compelled to buy the first souvenir you see. Browse different stores and shops within the parks to find the best prices and selection. Additionally, explore the Disney Springs area, where you can often find similar merchandise at slightly lower prices.


Consider shopping off-site. There are several nearby outlet stores that sell Disney merchandise at discounted prices. These stores offer a wide variety of items, from clothing to toys, and can save you money compared to purchasing similar items within the parks.


Choose practical and lasting souvenirs. Instead of buying trinkets that may end up collecting dust, opt for souvenirs that serve a practical purpose. Look for items like reusable water bottles, t-shirts, or hats that you can use long after your trip. These items not only make for great souvenirs but also provide ongoing value.


Buy souvenirs in advance. If you’re looking for specific Disney items, consider purchasing them online or in stores before your trip. This way, you can often find better deals, discounts, or sales compared to buying the same items within the parks.


Collect Disney trading pins. Disney World offers a popular pin trading program, where guests can trade Disney-themed pins with cast members and other visitors. You can start your collection with a few inexpensive pins and trade for new ones during your visit. This can be a fun and cost-effective way to enjoy the souvenir experience.


Take advantage of PhotoPass and Memory Maker. Instead of purchasing individual ride and character photos, consider investing in PhotoPass or Memory Maker packages. These services provide access to all the professional photographs taken by Disney’s photographers throughout your trip. Not only will you have access to high-quality photos, but you can also save money by getting unlimited digital downloads for a flat fee.


Remember, the memories you make during your Disney World trip are the most valuable souvenirs. Don’t feel pressured to buy expensive items if they don’t align with your budget. Focus on experiences and the joy of being in the magical atmosphere of Disney World.


By following these tips, you can maximize your souvenir expenses and bring home meaningful and budget-friendly mementos from your Disney World adventure.


Step 7: Making the Most of Free or Low-Cost Activities

Disney World offers a variety of free or low-cost activities that can enhance your experience without breaking the bank. By taking advantage of these options, you can enjoy additional entertainment and create lasting memories without spending a fortune.


One popular free activity is exploring the different themed lands within the parks. Each land offers unique sights, sounds, and experiences that can be enjoyed at no additional cost. Take your time to wander around, admire the architecture, and soak in the atmosphere of these intricately designed areas.


Another option is to catch the various parades and shows happening throughout the day. These live performances showcase talented performers and beloved Disney characters. Find a spot along the parade route or grab a seat in the show area to enjoy these free entertainment options.


Don’t forget about the character meet and greets! Meeting your favorite Disney characters is a staple of any Disney World trip, and it’s totally free! Check the park schedules for character appearance times and locations so you can get autographs and photos with your favorite characters without spending a dime.


Take advantage of Disney’s entertainment offerings beyond the rides. Enjoy street performances, live music, and interactive experiences scattered throughout the parks. These activities provide entertainment and are often included in your park ticket.


Disney World also offers firework shows and nighttime spectaculars that are included with park admission. Find a good viewing spot and prepare to be amazed by the magical displays lighting up the sky. They are truly a sight to behold and add a touch of enchantment to your Disney experience.


If you’re staying at a Disney resort, take advantage of the free recreational activities provided. Many resorts offer swimming pools, playgrounds, and outdoor movie screenings. These activities can provide hours of entertainment and relaxation without additional costs.


Don’t forget to explore Disney Springs, the shopping and entertainment district. Disney Springs offers a plethora of free activities, such as live performances, street shows, and even a nightly dance party. Enjoy walking around, window shopping, and taking in the vibrant ambiance of this bustling area.


By making the most of these free or low-cost activities, you can add extra layers of fun and enjoyment to your Disney World trip without straining your budget. Take the time to fully immerse yourself in these experiences and create unforgettable memories without spending a fortune.


Step 8: Budgeting for Transportation within the Park

Transportation within Disney World can be convenient and efficient, but it’s essential to budget wisely to avoid unnecessary expenses. Here are some tips to help you manage your transportation costs:


Utilize Disney’s complimentary transportation options. Disney World provides complimentary transportation throughout the parks and resorts, including buses, boats, and the iconic monorail. Take advantage of these services to get from one location to another without spending a dime.


If you’re staying at a Disney resort, take advantage of the Magical Express service. This complimentary transport service shuttles guests to and from Orlando International Airport. By using this service, you can save on transportation costs between the airport and your resort.


Consider walking between certain destinations. Disney World consists of parks, hotels, and other attractions in close proximity to each other. Instead of relying solely on transportation, opt to walk whenever feasible. Not only will it save you money, but it also provides an opportunity to enjoy the immersive environment and discover hidden gems along the way.


Plan your park visits strategically to minimize transportation needs. If you’re hopping between multiple parks in one day, make sure to plan your itinerary in a way that minimizes transportation time and costs. Visit parks that are close to each other first before heading to a more distant location.


Think about renting a stroller or bringing your own. While Disney World provides stroller rentals within the parks, they can add up over multiple days. If you’re traveling with young children, it may be more cost-effective to bring your stroller or consider renting one from an off-site company.


Consider the use of personal transportation methods. If you have access to a car or are renting one for your trip, you may choose to drive to the parks instead of relying solely on Disney’s transportation. Keep in mind that parking fees apply for cars brought into the parks, so factor that into your budget.


Another transportation option to consider is rideshare services like Uber or Lyft. While they come with extra costs, they can be convenient and potentially save time compared to other transportation methods, especially for larger groups.


By budgeting for transportation within the parks, you can control your expenses and allocate your funds towards the experiences that matter most to you. Keep in mind the various options available and choose the ones that align with your budget and priorities.


Step 9: Tips for Saving on Disney World Merchandise

It’s hard to resist the allure of Disney World merchandise, but it’s essential to find ways to save on your purchases. Here are some tips to help you stretch your merchandise budget:


Shop around and compare prices. Don’t settle for the first store you see; explore different shops within the parks and compare prices for the same or similar items. Keep in mind that certain stores may offer discounts or promotions, so look for those opportunities to save.


Consider purchasing merchandise outside of the parks. Disney Springs, the shopping and entertainment district, offers several stores that sell Disney merchandise at varying price points. You might find similar items at lower prices compared to buying within the parks.


If you’re a Disney resort guest, take advantage of merchandise delivery service. Instead of carrying your purchases around the parks, Disney offers a complimentary service that delivers your merchandise directly to your resort, saving you from the hassle of carrying bags all day.


Plan your merchandise purchases wisely. Rather than making impulse buys, create a list of items you truly want or need. This way, you can focus your spending on those specific items and avoid impulsive purchases that may not be as meaningful.


Consider buying Disney merchandise in advance. Many online retailers and local stores outside of Disney World sell Disney-branded items at lower prices. Purchasing merchandise ahead of time allows you to have it ready for your trip and potentially save money compared to buying it within the parks.


Utilize discounts and promotions. Disney occasionally offers discounts or promotions on merchandise, such as buy one, get one free deals or percentage-off discounts. Keep an eye out for these opportunities and take advantage of them when available.


Look for unique and budget-friendly souvenir alternatives. Instead of focusing solely on traditional merchandise like clothing or toys, explore other options like pins, keychains, or postcards. These items are often more affordable and can still provide a meaningful keepsake of your trip.


Consider setting a merchandise budget. Determine how much you’re willing to spend on merchandise and stick to that budget. This helps you prioritize your purchases and prevents overspending on items that may not be essential.


Don’t be afraid to negotiate or ask for discounts. Some shops or cast members may be willing to provide discounts or special offers, especially if you’re purchasing multiple items or if it’s near closing time.


Remember, souvenirs are a way to commemorate your trip, but the memories and experiences you create are the most valuable. Focus on enjoying your time at Disney World and choose merchandise that truly enhances those memories without overextending your budget.


By following these tips, you can save on Disney World merchandise and still bring home special mementos of your magical adventure.


Step 10: Final Thoughts and Recap

Congratulations! You’ve reached the final step in planning a cheap trip to Disney World. Before we conclude, let’s recap the key points discussed throughout this guide:


1. Choose the right time to visit: Consider visiting during off-peak times to take advantage of lower prices and shorter wait times.


2. Book affordable accommodations: Explore off-site hotels or vacation rentals, consider Disney’s value or moderate resorts, or rent Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points for more affordable options.


3. Find cheap flights or alternative transportation: Compare prices, consider flying into alternate airports, utilize rideshare services, or even consider driving to save on transportation costs.


4. Save on park tickets: Opt for multi-day tickets, purchase from discount ticket retailers, look for special promotions, or consider investing in an Annual Pass if you plan to visit multiple times.


5. Eat on a budget: Bring your own snacks and drinks, enjoy quick-service dining options, consider sharing meals or ordering kids’ meals, and take advantage of free condiments and water.


6. Maximize souvenir expenses: Set a budget, shop around for the best prices, consider practical souvenirs, buy in advance, and make use of free or low-cost souvenir options.


7. Make the most of free or low-cost activities: Enjoy themed lands, catch parades and shows, meet Disney characters, explore entertainment options beyond rides, and take advantage of free recreational activities.


8. Budget for transportation within the park: Utilize Disney’s complimentary transportation options, consider walking when possible, plan park visits strategically, and think about renting a stroller or using personal transportation methods.


9. Tips for saving on Disney World merchandise: Shop around, consider purchasing merchandise off-site, utilize merchandise delivery services, plan purchases wisely, take advantage of discounts and promotions, and consider unique and budget-friendly souvenir alternatives.


10. Final Thoughts: Remember that budgeting for a trip to Disney World is about finding a balance between cost-saving strategies and enjoying a magical experience. Prioritize what matters most to you, whether it’s meeting characters, enjoying the shows and parades, or experiencing the attractions.


As you plan your trip, keep in mind that the memories you create and the experiences you have with your loved ones are the most valuable aspects of a Disney World vacation. With careful planning and these money-saving tips, you can create a memorable and budget-friendly adventure filled with magic and excitement.


Now it’s time to bring your Disney World dream to life. Start putting these tips into action, customize your itinerary, and get ready for an unforgettable trip to the most magical place on earth!