We all know that Disney vacations are not cheap, but around here, we budget and plan to make it happen. (We’ll gladly skip a few dinners out a month and live more simply to be able to save more money for traveling!) Vacations are a priority for our family. We only have 18 summers with each of our kids. 18 short summers. And we want to make the most of them and make long-lasting memories. Thankfully, The Charming Travel Co. has the inside info on how to save money to make your trips even more affordable.
- Book Early!
Booking early is one of the easiest ways to save money on your Disney trip. Every June, Disney opens for booking for the following year up to 499 days out. When you book early, you lock in the cheapest prices before annual ticket pricing increases. Often times, my clients who booked early have cheaper prices than discounts that are released later after prices have increased.
Disney World packages require a $200 deposit for each room and the final payment isn’t due until 30 day before your trip. Booking early also gives you the opportunity to divide your trip cost up and pay smaller monthly payments. Splitting a trip up into 12 or 15 payments makes it so much easier to swallow!
2. Be Flexible with your dates!
Visiting Disney World during non-peak season is often significantly less expensive than visiting during peak times. Non-peak seasons include January, February, early May, August & September, November, and early December. On the flip side, the most expensive times to visit is between Christmas & New Year, during Spring Break, an summer months.
If your dates are dictated by school breaks, you can still save money by being flexible with your check-in dates. Resort rates are cheaper during the week than on the weekends and date-based tickets can save you money by shifting your check-in date one way or another. This simple trick can save you up $100 or more.
If your family is planning to fly, we also recommend being flexible with your dates to find cheaper flights. Often times, flights aren’t available yet when you book early, but Disney packages are super flexible and we can easily modify your dates later if needed. (Also – if you are willing to fly budget airlines and have no frills, there’s lots of money to be saved!)
3. Pay with Gift Cards
Did you know that you can pay for your Disney trip with Disney gift cards? Some retailers have ways to purchase discounted Disney gift cards. This is a little bit of work, but can allow you to save 5-14% on your trip total.
Target: If you have a Target Red Card, you get 5% off gift card purchases every day. And you can get up to 10% off on special card holder discount days.
Sam’s/Costco: Club stores often sell Disney gift cards at discounted rates. This discount is usually 5-10% off full price.
Kroger/Kroger Affiliates: Purchasing gift cards at Kroger will allow you to earn 2x-4x fuel points on your purchase. Depending on how many gallons you use your discount on, this discount adds up! You can easily save 14% of your gift card total on future gas purchases. (This is the one we do!)
One caution! If you have to cancel your trip for any reason, all payments go back to their original payment method. This means that any money paid with gift cards will be refunded to the gift cards – and your money will be tied up in gift cards.
4. Stay onsite!
Yes, I know this seems counter intuitive, but for most families, onsite hotels are just as affordable as staying offsite – unless you have free accommodations! Disney’s value resorts are super affordable and there are many money saving perks to staying onsite. For larger families with 4+ kids, there are some more inexpensive resort options offsite that we can also help with, but be sure to consider cost vs. convenience in your decision.
When you stay onsite and fly, you get free transportation on the Magical Express to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO). Once you arrive at your resort, transportation is also free throughout the entire Disney World Resort and Park area. This eliminates the need for a rental car and parking fees!
Though not available right now, staying onsite also gives you the opportunity to add a dining plan to your vacation package. This can be pretty big cost savings, plus it helps you budget knowing that your food is paid for before you travel
5. Take your babies when they are little!
Children under 3 are free! And little ones age 1-3 are my favorite age at Disney. Everything is so magical…especially when they see their favorite mouse for the first time!
Additionally, children under 3 don’t count towards your room capacity. This means that a family of 5 with one child under 3 is still able to stay at a resort that has a max capacity of 4 people…saving you money on your room options! If you are considering a birthday trip, their age for the trip is whatever age they are at check-in, so be sure to take advantage of this money savings tip!
Side note: One of our core values is honesty & transparency, therefore TCTCo. does not support being dishonest about kids ages.
6. Plan ahead and Pack smart!
Make sure to plan ahead and bring certain items with you. Thankfully, Disney has pretty much everything you would need at your resort shop or park shops, but prices are usually a premium. Make sure to bring your poncho, over-the-counter medications, band-aids, baby products, etc. from home!
If you want to avoid packing some larger items or there are items you can’t bring with you on the plane, we highly recommend purchasing some must-have items through a grocery deliver service – such as Amazon Prime Now, Instacart, or Garden Grocer. Having bottled water (if you are a water-snob like me and don’t like tap water) and some light snacks (like granola bars, fresh fruit, nuts, etc) on hand will definitely help you save some money at the food court! You can also order diapers, feminine products, and other items that take up lots of space!
7. Save money on Food!
There are so many great ways to save money on food until our beloved dining plan returns! An obvious tip is that ice-water is free. Bring your insulated water bottles and ask for ice water to fill them up at the park! Eating quick service meals are cheaper than sit-down meals, but if you decide to do a sit-down meal, lunch is almost always cheaper than dinner…and often times, the menu is exactly the same!
Sharing meals is another great way to save money. There are some huge meals that definitely feed more than one person – like the Rib & Chicken Combo at Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom. Everything at Pecos Bill’s in Magic Kingdom is huge and can easily be split between two people!
One last food tip – check out some of the delicious snacks that are more than enough to be a meal or share with others! Some of our favorite hearty snacks are: Colossal Cinnamon Rolls at Creature Comforts, Cinnamon Roll at Gaston’s Tavern, Mac & Cheese (plain, with pulled pork, or with shrimp) at Eight Spoons Cafe, Waffle Sandwiches at Sleepy Hollow, and Chicken Fried Rice or Egg Rolls at Yak & Yeti Cafe!
8. Check out the Disney Visa Card!
I’ve been a Disney Visa cardholder since 2011 and have saved thousands of dollars on our vacations over the years with this card. We use our Disney Visa to pay for all of our monthly bills (yes, all of them besides our mortgage!) and pay it off every single month. Then we earn 1-2% on all of our purchases in Disney Dollars to use on future Disney trips! On average, we earn $500-800 annually in Disney Rewards.
If you sign up through our link and spend $500 on your card, you’ll earn a $100-200 statement credit depending on if you have the Disney Visa or Disney Premier Visa. Click here to sign up!
Note: If you aren’t responsible with credit cards (spending more than you normally would or don’t pay in full monthly), this method will NOT save you money. Sometimes saving money is as simple as sticking to a budget and not spending unnecessarily.
9. Book with a Travel Agent!
Booking with a Charming Travel Co. agent is totally free! It doesn’t cost you a penny more than if you booked on your own AND we have all of the inside info to help you save as much money as possible. We provide complimentary Price Watch – and are always checking to make sure you have the best deal possible. When promotions release, we apply them automatically if nothing changes besides cost, and check with you first if any package component changes. In addition to the great ways to save money listed here, we have even more tricks and tips up our sleeves!