There are millions of visitors to Disney theme parks each year, and many of those who visit pay full-price for absolutely everything—from food and drinks, to theme park tickets, and even hotels. But for the truly frugal-minded, spending full-price on anything at any theme park is a definite no-no; thankfully there are lots of great tips, ideas, websites, and even books to help you get the most of your money at Disney.
Saving on food and beverages
1. Be willing to splurge once or twice on lunch and/or dinner while you’re at the park.
Budget this in beforehand so you can have one nice lunch and one great dinner while you’re on vacation, and save the rest of your food budget for the grocery store so you can cook your own meals while there. A few examples of Walt Disney World restaurants that have affordable, yet delicious lunch choices include Mara (features burgers, sandwiches, and other normal lunch fare and located close to the pool inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge), Fresh Mediterranean Market (located on Level 1 of the Dolphin building), and the Grand Floridian Café (just off the Main Lobby of the Grand Floridian).
2. Avoid the park’s pricey vendor food!
The places located within the park are notorious for being overpriced and expensive. Since you’re allowed to bring outside food into the park (no alcohol and no glass bottles), purchase your family’s favorite snack foods and lots of bottled water, then bring them into the park with you. (You can actually bring a cooler with you, but check with the Disney park location you’ll be visiting in order to find out their particular rules for this.)
3. Opt to purchase a dining plan.
While still pricey, a Disney World dining plan still allows you to save money, especially if you purchase it through your travel agent or Disney website. And if you decide to go during the off-season, you might be able to get the “Free Disney Dining” plan as well! Disney has several different plans listed below:
- Quick Service Plan: This plan includes two “Quick Service Meals” and one snack per person (ages 3 and up) per night and a refillable Disney resort mug for $41.99 (per night for adults and kids 10 and up, and $16.03 per night for kids 3-9). A meal includes an entrée and beverage at breakfast (non-alcoholic); and an entrée, beverage, and dessert at lunch and dinner.
- Plus Dining Plan: This plan includes a “Table Service Meal,” one “Counter Service Meal,” a snack per person ages 3 and up, and a refillable Disney resort mug. The price is $60.04 for adults and kids ages 10 and up, and $19.23 per night for kids 3-9.
- Deluxe Dining Plan: The deluxe plan includes three meals of choice and two snacks per person ages 3 and up per night as well as a refillable mug. It’s $109.53 per night for adults and kids 10 and up, and $29.86 per night for kids 3-9.
4. Visit Disney park restaurants for lunch, instead of dinner.
You can save as much as half per person by eating lunch at a particular Disney restaurant instead of hitting the same one for dinner. Plus, they’re usually less crowded at lunch!
5. Take advantage of the park’s enormous portion sizes.
Just two large entrees at one of Disney’s restaurants could feed a family of 4-6 (depending on ages, etc.) for lunch or dinner.
Saving on park tickets
Via Go World Travel
6. Check discount ticket vendors (but beware of scams!).
AAA members can get discounts of up to $11 per person per ticket, but be sure to check with your local AAA to see what their discount prices are. Other than AAA, a few legit discount ticket vendors include Maple Leaf Tickets and DW Tickets. You should check with your company’s HR department to see if you qualify for a company discount as well!
7. Are you or a loved one in the military or a veteran?
You may qualify for a military discount! Check Disney’s website to see if you qualify.
8. Understand your tickets!
Disney World has base tickets to its parks called Magic Your Way (MYW) tickets. MYW tickets allow you to enter one park per day, and you can add as many days as you need to. (Tip: the price per day drops with each additional day.)
9. Don’t park hop!
There’s an additional Park Hopper charge if you plan to visit more than one park per day. Plan to stick to just one park per day, and it will be much more fun and cheaper in the long run.
This is a guest post by Kristy from Catawba, VA.