Walt Disney World may be the most magical place on Earth, but it’s also among the most expensive. Here, we show you how to visit Florida’s House of the Mouse without sacrificing your life savings. (Here’s a hint: It’s not as difficult as you think.)
1. Choose your travel dates wisely.
In other words, don’t go during the summer months. Though it’s easy to wrangle the family together for a June, July or August jaunt, the prices are astronomical and the crowds unbearable. Similarly, December, March and April see a spike in hotel costs thanks to school holidays and spring breaks. Choose a date in September or October for the perfect combination of great weather, low prices and barely there crowds. Labor Day is often a surprisingly quiet — and shockingly inexpensive — time to visit.
2. Stay at an on-site resort.
This may go against conventional wisdom, but staying at a Disney-owned property actually saves you loads of dough in the long run. You’ll get access to incredible entertainment, unbeatable seasonal deals and free transportation to and from the parks and airport. Plus, you’ll be able to take part in Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, a program that lets resort guests visit the parks before opening or after closing. Use AmEx Travel to find a value option like Pop Century, or spend a little extra cash on a deluxe resort like the Polynesian; the time you’ll save with the on-site monorail service might just make up for the extra expense.
3. Consider skipping the water parks.
We know: Disney-themed water parks are fun as all get out. Unless you’re planning a weeks-long stay, however, you’ll likely have a tough time squeezing them into your schedule. Choose a base ticket without the water park option, and you’ll be able to save a fairly hefty sum of money on the entire package. Just don’t forgo the park-hopping feature unless it completely stretches your funds; jumping from park to park is one of the best things about the Disney experience, and you don’t want to feel pressured to stick to a strict itinerary. Where’s the magic in that?
4. Be mindful of your food budget (and skip the Disney Dining Plan).
It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon snacking on mouse-eared ice cream bars, crispy churros and those enormous turkey legs, but watch what the treats are doing to your wallet. You might be out of cash before you even reach dinnertime. The pre-paid Disney Dining Plan is designed to help alleviate those expenses, but be careful here; this program limits you to a predetermined number of snacks, meals and beverages, and it can be downright confusing to figure out which meals count toward which category. Our advice? Before creating your dining budget, use Disney’s online food finder to track down eateries, browse menus and explore prices. Not only will you have a better idea of what you can actually afford, but you’ll also be able to make reservations that let you stick to your plan.