Disney Budgeting

As you might guess, vacationing at Disney can be very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. If you plan ahead, find ways to spread your costs out, and work hard, Disney doesn’t have to break your wallet. There will still be expenses but there are many corners you can cut.

Disney Deals


  • Deal Breakdowns: You’ll frequently see ever-changing deals on Disney’s Special Offers page. Don’t book a trip without one. My last trip was booked with a 35% off room rate discount. The difference in the savings allowed us to book a moderate resort instead of a value resort. On TravelHyper, I like to do Disney Deal Breakdowns. Last year I compared room discounts to free dining and the current deal breakdown focuses on kids staying free versus Late Spring/Summer resort discounts. (Note: Deal #1 has since expired) If you have kids, take the kids stay free option for maximum savings. I break down resort options and timing of your trip further in the post.
  • Who You Know: Don’t forget to take advantage of any offerings based on your employer or memberships. Military members often qualify for extra Disney discounts. DisneyGuru has a long list of tips but my favorite is that if your employer sponsors a Disney exhibit, you may qualify for discounts via your employer. I have seen sponsorships for General Motors, Coca Cola, and Visa throughout the park so check the full unofficial list of sponsors and see if you might qualify.

Change your Travel Dates

The 2011 Price Season, Credit: YourFirstVisit.net

  • Travel in the Off-Season: Did you know there are different seasons at Disney? From Easter through the summer, you’re likely to pay a premium on your hotel stay with other increases scattered throughout the year. Prices can rise as much as 95% during the busy season between Christmas and New Year’s. And that’s just your hotel. Food prices and buffets can increase too during the busy seasons.
  • Bang for your Buck: Did I mention that when prices are up, crowd levels are too? You can go on more rides if you travel in the off season which means more bang for your buck. If your trip costs $3500 for 7 days and you can go on the average 9 rides a day, you’re looking at $56/ride. Sneak on 4 more rides and save $18/ride.
  • Don’t worry about the tickets: Park tickets aren’t the place to look for savings. They aren’t affected by the seasonal changes and they actually cost less per day the longer you stay. If I wanted to buy tickets for a trip in 2011, it would cost me $242 for 6 days. If I want to stay longer, it would be $247 for 7 days. But remember, those extra days in the park means extra meals.

Save on Dining

  • While the dining plan can lead to some cheaper prices, consider whether you would truly be ordering all the food put in front of you each meal. If you don’t think you can consume that much, maybe the dining plan isn’t for you. This opens you up to a lot of other savings options.
  • Tangierine Cafe

  • Split a dish. Disney often has huge portions and a single counter service meal can often easily feed 2 people. Tangierine Café in Epcot has some large portions as you see above. The Mediterranean Sliders Combo pictured is $13.99. You’ll get the deliciousness of a Disney meal without paying a premium. Check out this list of best Disney Quick Service Values over at the Disney Food Blog.
  • Character Meals: If a character meal is a must-have, remember not all meals are created equally. Breakfast will get you the most bang for your buck. Crystal Palace, 1900 Park Fare, and ‘Ohana are all under $15.00 for kids and $25.00 for adults. Dinner jumps to $36 for adults at 1900 Park Fare while breakfast while breakfast for adults at Cinderella’s Royal Table can cost $45. And that’s before premium season pricing.
  • Consider saving in Downtown Disney. Not all restaurants in Downtown Disney are Disney owned. Get an Entertainment book for Orlando for a chance to save at the Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex. Or check out Restaurant.com (particularly during one of their 80% off sales) for a chance at a House of Blues gift certificate for pocket change.

Save in the Parks

  • Snacks: People are inevitably going to want to eat or drink between meals. While Disney doesn’t really allow food or drinks into the park, they will look the other way at a soda or water bottle or a pack of fruit chews. I carried around a cinnamon roll in my bag for 4 hours and no one batted an eye. Use these drinks and snacks to prevent someone from eyeballing Main Street Bakery. If they spot the food while hungry, you may be in for a battle convincing them they really want that fruit snack.
  • So many Stitches

  • The Gimmes: You know Disney has purposely lined the sidewalks with gift shops. And of course you will want to cherish your memories forever by buying lots of neat things. Plan ahead to avoid begging. Offer each child an envelope of spending money if they are old enough. They will have the first day or morning at a park to look around and decide if they want to buy something. If they say yes, they can spend the amount. If it’s a no, they can save for something bigger. This way they know they are getting a gift and learn a lesson about money.
    If they’re too young to handle money, cheat. Buy items back at home and sneak them in a suitcase. Some top items kids want are princess crowns and pirate gear so stock up on things you know your kids will like and surprise them each morning with a smaller (and cheaper) gift.
  • Your Gimmes: Kids aren’t the only ones who want. Luckily, I know you’ll do the right thing and RESEARCH. Check out the Disney Store ahead of time and stake out what you’re up against. Get an idea for prices and make any last minute adjustments before heading out.
  • Know the Weather: Don’t be caught by surprise by rain, cold, or even aching feet. Pack weather appropriate gear, including ponchos and mole skin, hoodies and shorts. A good pair of shoes too You don’t want to be in the park and wishing you had packed something. During the recent cold snap in Florida, many people had packed shorts and were shocked when the parks quickly sold out of mittens.
  • Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Botique

  • Save on a Splurge: Many people like to take advantage of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique during their Disney stay. With all the budgeting tips above, you can probably save enough to afford it. But just because you’re splurging doesn’t mean you can’t save too. The Coach Package includes a sparkly hairdo and makeup for girls and starts at $49.95. The Castle Package includes the hair, makeup, and fingernails, 2 photos and frames, and a complete costume of your choice with accessories starting at $189.95. Or, you could cheat, paint the nails before the visit, bring a costumed dress you find back home, and take photos during a park meet and greet. You can even buy a Disney frame and still save.

Another great way to save? Choosing your resort or hotel. Check back tomorrow for our tips.

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I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

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