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32 Tips to Do a Disney Vacation on a Budget
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I’m not saying Disney World is more fun without kids.
But I am saying everyone should do a grown-ups-only Disney vacation at least once — especially if your kids are so little you always have to skip the big rides and theatrical shows.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Take a Day Cruise Around the World at EPCOT.
Charter a 25-foot pontoon boat and pay $149 for up to 10 guests. You’ll get snacks, soft drinks and a captain (for like $15 a person)!
The cruise leaves Bayside Marina at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and goes along Crescent Lake and the World Showcase Lagoon at EPCOT.
To reserve, call (407) 939-7529.
2. Watch a Movie Under the Stars at your Disney World resort.
Watch a free outdoor movie by the pool (or wherever your Disney resort hosts them).
Check with the front desk at the resort you’re planning to stay at for movie schedules.
3. Watch fireworks every night.
Because, why not?! All parks except for Animal Kingdom offer a nightly fireworks show. (Animal Kingdom offers a lights-and-water show in order to avoid distressing the animals.)
4. After fireworks, visit a Disney resort bar (even if you’re not a guest).
Most resort features are open to the public — except guest amenities like the pool, gym etc.
Most resorts have a lounge, and each has its own unique vibe. Here’s a list to get you started:
- River Roost Lounge (Port Orleans Riverside)
- Tambou Lounge (The Polynesian)
- Scat Cat’s Club (Port Orleans French Quarter)
- Jellyrolls (Disney Boardwalk)
5. Do a free Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom scavenger hunt.
Save the park from all the Disney villains by using clues on Merlin’s map to find 20 locations all over the park.
Stop by the Firehouse on Main Street, U.S.A. to begin the hunt. It’s totally free.
6. Make an EPCOT “Drink Around the World” passport.
It’s basically a big “around-the-world” bar crawl.
Make your own passport or checklist to be sure you hit every “nation” at EPCOT.
TIP: Not up for so many drinks in one day? Share each drink and you’ll take in less alcohol while still getting a taste.
7. Ditch the parks completely from 2-6 p.m. to avoid crowds.
Repeat after me: early mornings, late nights.
Go to your hotel and lie by the pool, or nap in the middle of the day.
You’ll avoid crowds of cranky kids along with the hottest hours at the park.
8. Use morning Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios.
Guests at Disney resorts get Extra Magic Hours every day, which means you get to enter earlier or leave later than all the other guests.
The parks have either evening or morning Extra Magic Hours each day.
Here is the current Extra Magic Hours schedule so you can plan which parks to visit on which days.
Most people use morning hours at the most popular parks, but when you pair the less popular parks with the more popular hours, you’ll get the park (almost) to yourself.
9. Use Extra Magic Hours in the evening at EPCOT or Magic Kingdom.
Same logic applies, but in reverse.
Use your Extra Magic Hours during the less popular evening times at the most popular parks.
Since most people used their Extra Magic Hours in the morning at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, they’re long gone by the evening.
10. Splurge on a Fantasmic! Dining Package at Hollywood Studios.
The Fantasmic! show is notorious for two-hour long waits in line in order to get a decent seat.
If it’s just you and your spouse, splurge on a dining package.
Packages are $46 per person and include dinner, a drink (non-alcoholic) and dessert along with a voucher for reserved seating at the show.
11. Go on a Kilimanjaro Safari inside Animal Kingdom early in the day.
It’s only 18 minutes long, but you’ll get to see glimpses of 110 acres of wildlife reserve inside the park.
The earlier in the day, the better — the animals are notoriously less active as the day gets hotter.
12. Watch Finding Nemo the Musical at Animal Kingdom for some shade.
It’s a 40-minute mini-Broadway style production and totally worth it.
Plus, you get to sit down and take a rest in air-conditioning.
13. Read DISboards to get answers to any Disney question.
Have a question about what hotels are like off-property? Or where you can get a rental car closest to the park?
How about whether or not each of the four parks is worth attending?
DISboards probably has the answer. You’ll get unbiased information, because it’s not Disney-sponsored at all.
14. Ride Jungle Cruise at night.
It’s a totally different experience than during the day.
I’ll just say this — when there aren’t kids around, the Jungle Cruise guides’ jokes get a whole lot more colorful.
15. Get the inside track on FASTpasses.
Pick your FASTpasses based on how long lines get, not based on your fave ride.
For example, you might adore Haunted Mansion, but the lines at Haunted Mansion move faster and are generally shorter than other lines.
Here are the very best uses of your FASTpass:
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Railroad
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Test Track
- Frozen Ever After
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Expedition Everest
- Kilimanjaro Safari
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
16. Treat yourself to a pedicure — they’re priced like a spa in your city.
Visit the Disney Saratoga Springs Spa or the Grand Floridian Spa, and pamper yourself with a manicure or a pedicure.
- 50-minute manicure: $55
- 50-minute pedicure: $75