If you’re hoping to do a Disney vacation on a budget, you’re probably looking for cheap Disney World tickets or wondering how much Disneyland tickets are at Costco. You’re on the right track!
These Disney tips will not only help you spend less money at the House of Mouse, but also help you avoid some lines while you’re at it.
So get ready to say goodbye to “Most Expensive Day Ever” and hello to a truly magical (and on-budget) Disney vacation!
1. Use your Target RedCard to get 5% off Disney gift cards.
Use your Target RedCard to buy Disney gift cards and then use the gift cards to buy your Disneyland or Disney World tickets and you’ll end up with 5% savings off the top.
You can also use the gift cards inside the parks to buy food, souvenirs, or whatever else you’d like to purchase. RedCard is linked to your checking account, so it’s like spending cash — it’s not a credit card.
Inside a Target store you’ll only be able to purchase gift cards in up to $50 increments. Shop online for larger gift card amounts ($100-$500). The $500 gift card is an electronic gift card, not a physical card.
Also, you can consolidate multiples into one card by registering your Disney gift cards. Bad news is, you can’t load Disney gift cards to your Disney World MagicBand (good only for this Disney resort). But, if you consolidate them, you’ll only have to keep track of one gift card instead of juggling multiple cards inside the park.
2. Save money when you buy Disney tickets from an authorized third-party seller.
Check out how Official Ticket Center compares to buying from Disney directly:
(1) Disney World 3-Day Park Hopper Adult (10+) ticket:
Official Ticket Center: $396
Walt Disney World: $420.63
Total savings: 5.8%
Compare these authorized Disney ticket sellers and go with whichever is offering the best discount when you’re ready to book.
- Undercover Tourist
- Get Away Today
- aRes Travel
- SoCal CityPASS (Disneyland only)
- The Official Ticket Center (Disney World only)
- Orlando CityPASS (Disney World only)
TIP: Never buy a tickets on Craigslist or eBay. They can’t be verified for their authenticity and you do not want to travel all the way to a Disney park only to find out your tickets aren’t legit.
3. Local to Disney parks? Score up to 55% off tickets between January and May.
If you’re a California resident and can show ID with zip codes between 90000 and 93599, and 21000-22999, you can get discounted Disneyland tickets. Learn more about Disneyland’s SoCal Resident Ticket pricing.
3-Day, 1 Park Per Day Ticket: $199 (reg. $447)
Florida has something similar for residents near Disney World — it’s called a Disney World Florida Resident Ticket, and it’s available from January-June.
3-Day, 1 Park Per Day Ticket: $175 (reg. 346)
4. Get an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner to deal hunt for you — for free.
Score discounted Disney tickets through a travel agency using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Google search “[your town] and Disney vacation planner” and a bunch will pop up.
They’ll do all the deal searching for you, saving you time and money. Plus, it’s free — Disney pays these agents a commission directly. Learn more about working with a travel agent.
5. Book a Costco Disney vacation package and save up to 25%.
Costco Travel offers specials and all-inclusive Disney Resort vacations that you can book online.
Look for deals and specials for Disneyland and Disney World including up to 25% off Disney Resort Hotels, $150 Disney bonus gift cards, and special perks like memory photo packages included for free when you purchase an all-inclusive vacation.
Plus, Costco Executive members get 2% back on all travel purchases up to $1,000.
6. Book your Disney World vacation with frequent flier miles.
Airline vacation packages offer something similar to a Costco Disney vacation, but when you have airline miles to use, it may be possible to edge out ahead of Costco on savings, because you get free flights or more. So, always check on these packages if you play the points game.
Here are a few airlines to keep tabs on — they allow you to book a portion or all of your vacation package with miles!
- Delta Airlines: Use your SkyMiles to cover the cost of flight and hotel, plus you’ll get $350 off your booking if you’re a SkyMiles Member.
- American Airlines: Cover the cost of your flight with AAdvantage Miles, plus you can put 1,000 points toward the non-flight portion of your vacation too!
- JetBlue: Use TrueBlue points to book the airline portion of your Disney vacation through JetBlue. You’ll see prices like 12,800 points + $473. The dollar amount covers per night at the hotel.
- Alaska Airlines: While Alaska Airlines doesn’t offer a vacation package for Disney, they do have a great loyalty program called Mileage Plan. You earn one mile per mile you fly!
7. Join a 90-minute timeshare tour in order to get free or discounted Disney tickets.
This isn’t for everybody, but if all the other ways to save on tickets turn out to be a bust, consider getting your discounted or free Disney World tickets by listening to a sales pitch for a timeshare.
The Orlando Tourist Bureau offers a list of available timeshare presentations — check it out and see if you qualify (you have to be of a certain demographic and income level to qualify).
You’ll get free breakfast or lunch and you’ll need to stay for the entire 90-minute presentation but at the end, you’ll get Disney tickets whether you sign up for a timeshare or not (a word of advice: Don’t!).
TIP: Also look for Disney Vacation Club presentations inside the parks. If you attend one of these, you’ll often get free FastPasses!
8. Go to Disney World or Disneyland in January or September.
Crowds and hotel prices are highest when kids are out of school and during the winter holidays.
Plus you’ll pay slightly more for tickets during high season (summer and Thanksgiving through Christmas).
January and September are ideal months to visit — not just because the crowds are lighter, but also because of the (usually) mild weather in California and Florida.
9. Just going to Disneyland for one day? Go midweek and save about $45.
In general, regular 1-Day ticket prices for Disneyland (not including California Adventure) start at $149 if you go on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. So, go on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to get the Value Ticket price, which starts at just $104.
Value Tickets aren’t available in the peak season, though. So plan ahead and go when they’re available.
10. Kids under three don’t need a ticket at Disney World or Disneyland.
You won’t need proof of age for children between birth and two years old. Once they turn three though, you’ll pay the price of a child’s ticket (3-9 years old). Kids under three don’t need a FastPass to skip lines.
TIP: From January to May 2020, a 3-Day One Park Disneyland ticket for kids costs $199 (regular price is $280 — 29% savings!)
11. Get a military discount at both theme parks.
Active or Retired Military personnel can score 3-, 4-, 5-, or 6-Day military promo tickets; park Hopper option is included.
Disney World’s military discount offers 4-Day passes for $265, 5-Day passes for $283 and 6-Day passes for $301.
Disneyland’s military discount offers 3-Day passes for $184 and 4-Day passes for $204. These prices are valid through the end of the year. Purchase tickets on Base and at participating military sales outlets.
12. Get a free button if you’re celebrating a birthday, first Disney visit, or other special occasion.
Staying at a Disney Resort hotel? You’ll get a phone call from a character wishing you Happy Birthday.
Plus, you can get a button for your first visit, birthday, anniversary or really anything else special. They offer blank buttons that say “I’m Celebrating ____” and you fill in your own reason for celebrating.
Most of the merchandise shops have these at the counter, just ask! Also, you might get special perks just for wearing your button. For instance, on my son’s birthday, he received a free cupcake when a cast member noticed his birthday badge.
13. Skip the Disney World Resort but still get extra Magic Hours and early FastPass bookings.
If you stay at a Disney resort hotel at Disney World, you get access to up to four extra hours of park time called Extra Magic Hours. You also get to reserve your FastPass+ selections 60 days in advance instead of just 30, like everyone else (more on FastPasses in a bit!).
But the best part? You don’t have to stay at a $300+ per night Disney resort to get these perks! Instead, stay at a much cheaper “Walt Disney World Official Hotel” and you still get access to Extra Magic Hours and 60 days to make FP+ selections.
In the Disney Springs area, these hotels, which run for about $170 a night, are:
- B Resort & Spa
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista
- DoubleTree Suites Orlando
- Hilton Orlando
- Holiday Inn Orlando
- Wyndham Garden Buena Vista
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.
TIP: Use hotel points if you have them! I got 10 nights free at DoubleTree Suites Orlando because I hoarded American Express Hilton Honors points to pay for it.
14. Only book hotels with free shuttle service to the park (unless you can just walk).
For Disneyland, properties across the street from the park are a 5-10 minute walk and they run about $179/night (Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn). For anything else, make sure your hotel offers a bus shuttle to and from the park all day.
For Disney World, basically everyone shuttles to the parks. Make sure your hotel offers all-day shuttle service and be sure to find out when the last pickup of the day is — especially if you have Magic Morning and/or Extra Evening Hours.
15. Book a hotel with free breakfast or use Amazon Prime Now to ship breakfast foods.
If you can’t book a hotel with continental breakfast, don’t despair. You can order breakfast foods like fruit, cereal, oatmeal, milk and more through Prime Now. Heck, even if your order comes from Whole Foods it’ll be cheaper than buying a full breakfast for the whole family.
Place your order the night before, because deliveries don’t begin until 8 a.m. and by that time you’ll probably already be at the parks to beat the lines.
16. What’s the difference between FastPass and FastPass+? What about MaxPass?
In a nutshell, FastPass and MaxPass are for Disneyland and FastPass+ is for Disney World. But, they have their differences, too.
FastPass is free but you have to walk up to the entrance of each ride to get a FastPass. This means you might walk all the way from Space Mountain over to Guardians of the Galaxy just to learn Guardians is sold out for the day.
So, consider upgrading your tickets to MaxPass for $20 per ticket per day in order to save yourself 50,000 steps. With MaxPass, you can get FastPasses directly from the Disneyland app and scan your unique Disneyland app barcode at the FastPass scanner. (Yes, you can even reserve FastPasses for California Adventure attractions while you’re still over in Disneyland.)
Not only do you get more convenient access to FastPasses, you also get Disney PhotoPass downloads with your MaxPass purchase. Access and download photos taken from character experiences and rides right from the Disneyland app.
FastPass+ is available to every ticket holder at Disney World — it comes with the cost of your park tickets. Instead of scheduling your FastPasses the day of, you’ll reserve them 30 days in advance. You can make three FastPass+ reservations per day ahead of time. After you’ve used all three that day, you can hold one at a time for the rest of the day. Just like Disneyland, there’s a limited amount of FP+ selections available every day and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
One catch is that you must schedule all FastPasses for the same park in one day. So even if you have a Park Hopper ticket, if you scheduled your three in advance for Magic Kingdom, you can’t use them and then try to get a FP+ for Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom at the end of the day. You can only get another FP+ for Magic Kingdom attractions.
Your FP+ selections will be linked to your ticket, which you’ll scan every time you want to use a FP+, unless you have your ticket linked to a MagicBand, then you’ll scan that instead.
17. Get the most out of FastPass+ at Disney World.
Now here’s the strategy: Book your three FastPass+ selections ahead of time for the first three hours the park is open (this will end up being roughly one per hour). Then, on the day of your visit, if you don’t have Extra Magic Hours, plan to arrive up to an hour early to line up in order to enter the park right when it opens.
Next, toss aside all dignity and run to the back of the park and try to ride two rides in the first hour, leaving just enough time to get to your first FP+ ride before it expires (use the 15-minute grace period as much as you need to! There’s a 5-minute grace period to enter your FP+ ride early, too). For example, ride Space Mountain once without a FP+ and then try to ride Buzz Lightyear without a FP+ as well. After that, use your first FP+ for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train if that’s what you booked in advance.
This will get you three rides in the first hour!
After you’ve scanned your third FP+ for that day, open the Disney app and look for another FP+ to book as you are walking on to your third pre-scheduled FP+ ride so you can get access to the best selection possible. After you use your third scheduled FP+, you can only hold one FP+ at a time but you can do that an unlimited amount of times until all the FP+ selections are gone or the park closes.
You absolutely must get a FP+ if you want to ride these Disney World attractions or you will be waiting in line for up to three hours during the busy season. You won’t be able to get a FP+ for them in the evening as they will likely be gone (looking at you, FoP and Slinky Dog!):
- Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom)
- Na’vi River Journey (Animal Kingdom)
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom)
- Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)
- Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios)
18. Get the most out of FastPass at Disneyland.
First, arrive at the park when it opens and run to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in order to get in before crowds can get there.
There are no FastPasses available for Galaxy’s Edge at all (this goes for Disney World, too) so if you want to see it, get it done first thing. Since you don’t know how long it will take, it’s almost impossible to commit to a FastPass. If you don’t have MaxPass, after Galaxy’s Edge, send one person in your group to run and get FastPasses from the ride’s kiosk for your whole group (they will need everyone’s tickets). If you have MaxPass, pull up a curb, have a seat, and make your FastPass selections from the Disneyland app.
If you don’t want to visit Galaxy’s Edge, modify your strategy so that one runner is getting the group’s first FastPass right at opening while everyone else is trying to ride at least three attractions without a FastPass. Of course, if it’s not busy, you can get more in and if it’s bonkers busy you might get less.
Plan to get FastPasses for these attractions at Disneyland:
- Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! (California Adventure)
- Space Mountain (Disneyland)
- Radiator Spring Racers (California Adventure)
- Indiana Jones Adventure (Disneyland)
19. Plan to hit rides during a parade or fireworks show.
You’re not gonna get right on to The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with this tip, but you can get right on to rides that otherwise have medium-level wait times (which is anything with a queue that’s usually around 45 minutes during the busy season).
20. Use Rider Switch or Single Rider if both parents want to ride, but the baby can’t.
Have an infant or child in your party who can’t ride an attraction? Look for a sign or ask the cast member supervising the ride if Rider Switch is available.
While one parent watches the child, another adult and any older kids can ride the attraction. Once they’re finished riding, the waiting adult can ride and can even bring a second person along (even if that person just rode) with them!
Or just hop in the Single Rider line!
21. Don’t rent a stroller! Bring your own cheap stroller even if you have to ship it to your hotel.
Stroller rentals inside Disney parks will run you about $15 per day, and considering you can buy a cheap umbrella stroller for that price or less, this seems like a no-brainer.
If you don’t want to pack it on a flight, look into shipping it to your hotel, or buy a cheap stroller on Amazon and Prime ship it for free. Most hotels will hold on to packages if you mail it to yourself and you can pick it up when you check in.
22. Bring in your own drinks, refillable water bottles, and snacks.
No glass and make sure you don’t bring in straws from juice boxes, as they’re unsafe for animals. Oh, and keep your drinks and food in a bag or cooler that’s no bigger than 24x15x18.
Look into locker rentals to store your cooler if it’s small enough. You could also store extra changes of clothes or souvenirs you don’t want to lug around. Rentals range from $7-10 per day with unlimited access.
23. Staying at a Disney resort? Buy the refillable mug.
Disney’s Rapid Fill mugs are a blend of technology and convenience because they have a chip in the bottom that acts like a hotel room key. The Rapid Fill stations around the Disney resorts will sense the mug, that it’s active and allow you to choose between water, soda, coffee or tea.
The mugs cost $19.99 and they’re active for seven days from purchase (mugs are included for free with a Disney Dining Plan). While you can bring mugs into the parks, you can’t refill them for free except for at resort locations. Ice water is always free at Disney parks, though!
Don’t bother trying to cut corners to buy one of these mugs on eBay — it won’t be activated when you need it. Bummer.
24. Attach an over-the-door organizer to a stroller to hold drinks.
Just use a few zip ties to secure the organizer to your umbrella stroller.
25. Buy ponchos before you get into the park.
Ponchos sold in the park start at about $15. Plan ahead and get a bunch of Amazon ponchos for about $0.93 each. This is necessary if you are going to Disney World in the summer as you’ll get hit with at least one quick downpour per day.
Also helpful if you don’t want to get at all wet on Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run.
26. Make dining reservations as soon as you possibly can!
I don’t recommend eating at a fine-dining restaurant at Disney because it’s just so freaking expensive. But some people have to eat at Be Our Guest, so if that’s you, know that you must book the very minute you can — especially for high-demand restaurants like Be Our Guest at Disney World.
You can make reservations up to 180 days prior to your trip at Disney World and 60 days in advance at Disneyland. Plan your meals ahead, see menu prices, and make reservations now at Disney World and Disneyland.
Do not try to walk into a restaurant that you know is booked and get a seat. It simply won’t happen.
TIP: Some Disney dining packages include reserved seating for popular fireworks shows like Fantasmic!
27. Disney Visa cardholders save 10% on select dining and merchandise in the park.
Disney Visa cardholders with Chase bank save 10% on select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at Disney parks, resorts and stores. If you have a Disney Visa, you also get access to exclusive character experiences within the park, dining discounts, special vacation financing, and more.
28. Only have special event tickets? Arrive at 4 p.m. to get three extra hours of park time.
Most special events at Disney parks — like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party — require separate park tickets and start at 7 p.m.
Even though 7 p.m. is the start time, call ahead to see when you can actually enter the park. Most of the time, you’re allowed to enter a few hours early, giving you extra time to enjoy the park!
29. Don’t pay for attraction photos — snap a pic with your phone and get it free.
If you’re already buying a MaxPass for Disneyland, these photos are included in that fee, so ignore this tip if you’re in that category.
But for anyone else at a Disney theme park, don’t ever buy one of these pictures. Just take a pic with your phone and print it at home!
30. Make your own Disney autograph book.
Autograph books in the park run upwards of $20. Instead of buying them directly from Disney, make your own.
One easy idea: Ask characters to sign decorative or plain notecards. When you get home, print photos of your kids standing next to their favorite characters, and display the autographed cards next to each image.
31. Trade pins with any Disney cast member who’s wearing a lanyard.
There are a few rules to this memorable (and totally free) activity, like it must be a Disney pin, and pins must be in good condition.
But cast members don’t own their pins — they’re given to them specifically for trading with guests, so don’t be shy about asking!
32. Skip spendy character meals and use a FastPass to meet characters for free.
Some Disney attractions offer character meet and greets and you can use a FastPass or FastPass+ to bypass the long line.
This is the most cost-effective and time-efficient way to meet characters. If you plan to dine with a character, it’s gonna be expensive and if you try to wait in a line to meet them, you’re going to waste precious time.
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