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Guest Post: Hip Tips to Save at Disney

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How to Take a Frugal Disney Vacation

Guest Post by Julie Harrington-Travel Planner

Did you know there are many hidden (and not so hidden tips!) to save money while you are on your Disney Vacation? Here are a few great tips put together by Julie Harrington, a travel planner with Family Time Getaways.


* Purchase a case of water online from a site like Walmart.com and have it shipped directly to your resort at Disney World. Currently, you can snatch up a case of Great Value Purified Water 1/2 liter bottles 24 ct. from Walmart.com for just $4.45 shipped (that’s just $0.19 per bottle!). When you arrive at the resort, pick up your shipment from the front desk and you’ll have cheap water for your entire stay. Note that some Disney Resorts are now charging a fee for deliveries, so I suggest you contact your specific Resort for complete details.

* If you prefer reusable water bottles, consider purchasing a few Disney-Themed water bottles from DisneyStore.com. Stash them in your suitcase and surprise your kiddos with their new water bottles on your first day of vacation.


* Pre-purchase souvenirs! Check your local Disney Store and DisneyStore.com for sales frequently. If you find a great deal on something, snatch it up, pack it in your suitcase and give it to your kids when arrive. You may also want to keep some of these on hand to disperse to your kiddos throughout the vacation (this will prevent you from buying these same souvenirs at the park and paying 2-3 times as much!).


* One of my kid’s favorite traditions at Disney World is buying their box of Disney themed Potato Head Pieces at Downtown Disney. Disney offers two options: (1) Pay $19.99 to put as many pieces into a box as you can fit (2) Purchase the actual Potato Head, which costs more and will also take up valuable space in your box. Instead, consider buying the Potato Head ahead of time (or even better, bring one that you already have!). This will ensure that your child has the Potato Head to put the pieces on later and has more room in the box to fill with Disney themed pieces.

* If you have been to Disney World or any large theme park for that matter with young children, you know that having a stroller is a MUST. Even my 8 year old gets in the stroller to relax after a long morning walk in the parks. Renting a stroller at the parks can get expensive (plus, the park strollers are not all that comfortable). I would highly suggest using an outside company such as MagicStrollers.com to rent your stroller. The prices are amazing for what you are receiving. You not only get a very clean, comfortable, compact stroller, but they also deliver to the resort for you the day of your arrival and pick it up for you the day of your departure.


* Take your own photos! Any of the Disney Photographers are more than happy to take a picture using your own camera as well. If you do want to take advantage of the Disney Photographers while you are in the parks, I highly suggest that you pre-purchase your PhotoPass CD (starts at $99.95). When you get to the parks and come to a Disney Photographer, you’ll ask them for a PhotoPass card and let them know that you have pre-purchased your CD. It’s always a good idea to take a photo of the back of your photopass card in case you lose it as you will need the number to retrieve your photos online after your trip. Once you return home, register your cards online and check out your photos. If for any reason you do not like your photos or do not wish to buy the CD, you will get a full refund of of $99.95 (love that!). If you decide to wait until after your trip to order the CD, it will cost $149.95.


* FREE Pixie Dusting! What little girl wouldn’t want Pixie Dust sprinkled on her? At Castle Couture, right outside Cinderella’s Castle, you can bring your little girls to have pixie dust (glitter) sprinkled on them as they make their enchanted wish. It’s so cute and it’s FREE! Shhh…If you’re worried about finding this “free” Pixie Dust, bring a bag of glitter/confetti with you.


* Want to do something extra special while at Disney World? Have you heard all the buzz about the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique, but just can’t swing the price tag? Then consider another option with a much lower kick to your wallet…the Pirates League at Magic Kingdom. It is just as cute and fun and perfect for little boys and little girls (and even Moms and Dads!). Get your make-up done up like pirates, put on some pirate gear and learn the pirate lingo.


Do you have any hip tips to share? If so, please share them with us in the comments below!

(A BIG thanks to Julie Harrington-Travel Planner with Family Time Getaways for all these awesome tips! If you need help planning an upcoming Disney vacation, you can contact Julie at (978) 707-9047 or follow her on Facebook.)

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239 Hip Readers Commented

  • Angel says:

    Also if you need a babysitter ..We booked through KidsNiteOut.com and we got 10% off our sitting since we also rented a stroller from them…A stroller for 5 days a sitter equals 152 w/o taxes and tip :)

    Also if you need food and aren’t renting a car.. You can food shop on GardenGrocer.com they deliver straight to your hotel room :) We are using them as well …

    We are going in March so I will let you know how all these fun new things pan out then :)

    • Amber R. says:

      What an awesome service! I had no idea anything like this existed!! Do you know if their are any services like this in Albuquerque? Thats where we’re taking our vacation this year and something like this would really come in handy, Thank you!!

    • CJ says:

      I live in Orlando, and frequent the Theme Parks. Many of the Disney Properties and local hotel chains are on a bus route that takes you past a local food store. Many times they are just a block away. Check your hotel’s website, they will usually indicate what grocery stores are nearby. Look for Winn Dixie, Publix, Albertson’s, WalMart MarketPlace, CVS, and Walgreens. Oftentimes, when you arrive at your hotel, it is too late to head out to a Park, but not to explore. Walk or take a bus to the local store and stock up on snacks and/or water. It will be a fun trip for the kiddos and just as nice if it’s just you and a SO! To make the shopping trip a little easier, don’t forget an empty backpack to carry all your goodies back.

  • Margaret says:

    Wow, I’m so happy that my dad worked for Disney when I was a kid and we got unlimited free passes year long! Disney seems to really have gotten outrageously priced from 10-15 years ago. What a bummer.

  • Ashley says:

    I was JUST going to email you Collin, to ask about saving at Disney! Although these ideas are great, I don’t have any kids but am going in March! My neice will be coming with us, so I’ll be sure to pass these tips along to her mom, but as far as adults…what savings can we get?? I need discounts on tickets, any meal plan ideas while at the park? Can you bring food/drinks in? We are not staying at a Disney resort and only plan to be at the park for 2 days and spend 1 day at Universal…any other tips would be helpful!

    • kelly says:

      They do not allow you to bring any kind of food or drinks (including unopened bottles of water) into the park. They check all bags, purses etc (at least for Disneyland in California). You can buy a water bottle there and fill it up when it gets empty but a water bottle will cost you a couple of dollars. As for food you can’t bring anything in but you can always leave the park for lunch/dinner if you don’t want to pay a fortune for a simple meal. Just make sure to get your hand stamped so you can re-enter the park when you finish eating.

      • Christie says:

        I am a annual passholder and bring snack into to Disney World in Orlando almost everytime I go. They check bags before you go in, but they are looking for guns not food. I copy and pasted this from the Disney website:
        Can food be brought into Walt Disney World Resort hotels and Theme Parks?

        Guests are allowed to bring food items—such as snacks or foods that do not require heating—into any Walt Disney World Resort hotel. If you have food items that need to be refrigerated, please ask the front desk at your hotel to have a refrigerator placed in your room. Refrigerator may require an additional charge. Guests are allowed to bring food items—such as snacks or foods that do not require heating—into any Walt Disney World Theme Park. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the Theme Park. Learn more on our Special Dietary Requests page.

      • Amy says:

        Actually they do let you bring in outside food. You can not bring it in a cooler that has wheels though. We also bring our own water into the park daily. We brought snacks and sandwichs with us on many of the days at the parks. We used a soft sided cooler that was small and compact. As long as you are not bringing in alcohol you will be fine.

      • Faye says:

        I went to Disney 4 times in the past 5 years with my 2 kids. I’ve always went in with bottled waters and snacks such as apples, goldfish crackers and pretzels. I never had any problem whatsoever. I freeze the bottled waters and even capri sun pouches and as we walk and have fun during the day, they melt and are always cool to drink. I would get apples from the hotel breakfast. We also would leave the park and have cheap lunch
        (fast food or chinese buffet) and have Nice dinners.Or we would pay for the breakfast with Mickey and than have an early dinner around 5pm. Renting the strollers was also a good idea to carry the bags with the frozen bottled waters that I took into the park. You’d be surprised how much $$ you can save just for doing these things.

      • Mrs. Me says:

        Kelly
        I just went last week and they allowed me to bring in my full reusable water bottle and some pieces of fruit. I also have been known to bring in some sandwiches and put them on the bottom of one of my kids backpacks to tide us over.

      • Melinda says:

        This is NOT true for Disney World in Orlando. You can take in whatever food and whatever drinks (okay no alcohol) that you choose. They do check bags but they are looking for drugs, weapons, etc. You can’t take in a cooler, but other bags are perfectly fine. Many many MANY people take in their meals to save on $$. We’ve taken in sandwiches, chips, granola bars, juice, water, etc etc etc and never had a problem.

      • Nicole says:

        That’s not true Kelly. We just went to Disneyworld in December and we were able to bring food and drinks into the parks. Unless Disneyland does have a different policy, but I would doubt that.

      • Heather says:

        I just got back from Disneyland on Saturday and I packed lunch and drinks and snacks everyday for a week and they check your bags but they aren’t looking for food. My husband even took in fast food drink and they don’t bat an eye. Pack in as much as your body can carry!

      • becca says:

        Disney World Resort in Orlando, unlike disneyland, will actually allow you to bring in outside food and drink. They do however, have restrictions (no glass bottles, hard coolers, straws, alocohol). I highly recommend taking advantage of this because food is pricey at the parks!

        Having worked at disney, I have a few tips. If there aren’t any picky eaters in your party, you may want to look at the disney dining plan. It’s certainly not for everyone but it can save you money if it looks like something that would suit you. Also, make your biggest meal of the day lunch! Take advantage of those lunch prices because they spike up for the dinner hour. I suggest going here for more tips, they have acquired tons of great money saving suggestions http://www.mousesavers.com/meals.html

        Also, the pixie dusting is available not only at Castle Couture but also the bippidi boppidi boutique at the World Of Disney Store in Downtown Disney if you missed it at the Magic Kingdom.

        As for souvenirs, both the Target and Walmart closest to Disney World offer entire sections dedicated to disney merchandise for loads cheaper than the park. If you have a chance to head over there, you might be pleased with what you find! For some park freebies, make sure you get some free celebration buttons for the entire family! Guest services at any park will have them (‘City Hall’ in Magic Kingdom) but they are also scattered in the stores around the park, so just ask a cast member!

        For any pin traders out there, buy beforehand! you can buy lots of them on ebay for MUCH cheaper than park prices, and you still get all the fun of trading with the cast members :)

      • Danielle says:

        I go to Disneyland in California 1 to 2 times per year and always take in food and drinks. They always check our bags and send us right through with no problem. We just went 2 weeks ago. I pack them in my checked bag. If you fly southwest, you can have up to 2 bags checked free up to 25 lbs.

      • Kelli says:

        NOT true on bringing food into Disneyland – we’re annual pass holders and bring in food every.single.time we visit (2x a month, sometimes more). I’ve brought things straight up in Subway bags inside of my backpack (which they see when they do their routine bag check) without incident. They just want you to use the picnic areas if you’re going to bring in a full meal – pretty simple. You can’t bring in a huge rolling cooler but you sure can bring a soft-sided cooler to put in your stroller/bag or in a locker.

        We never use a stroller at Disneyland with our daughter (2). We either wear or carry her since we’re usually in line for things where the stroller has to be parked outside the ride anyways. She’s been going since she was 9 months old and I’ve brought the stroller once. People seem to treat them as people movers and I really loathe getting clipped in the ankles. :(

    • Alana says:

      Check out http://www.mousesavers.com/…they have a LOT of good ideas on there; both for parents and non-parental types :)

      We’re going next week! I can’t wait!!!!!

      • Laura says:

        Our family will be there next week too – our very first visit! I can’t wait!

        I’ve shipped a box of snacks to have in our room ahead to save a little money and I’m also bringing along some common medications (tylenol, ibuprofen, tums) that they charge a FORTUNE for at the resorts….just in case somebody gets sick and we need them!

        • Megan says:

          I always ship a box down before we get there! :) It was really great when the kids were still in diapers, I didn’t have to panic about forgetting them! Now I pack snacks, pool toys (Dollar Store so we can leave them), souvenirs bought on clearance at home from Disney Store, ponchos, clothes pins, etc.

        • BJ says:

          FYI – if any one gets sick the front desk will tell you to go to the urgent care facility – SKIP it! We all waited for 3+ hours in a germ infested waiting room before we heard that a Dr. could come to your hotel room. We left and called the Dr. my sleeping son and I waited in the room and my hubby and DD went swimming. 1 hour later he was there said that my son had an ear infection, had the medicine delivered and we were on our way to dinner that night. BEST PART our insurance covered it as if it was our normal Dr. Even if there had been a larger charge. TIME is MONEY at Disney! If we had stayed in the Urgent Care facility we might still be there.

    • We went to Disney World in August & took in TONS of food, snacks & drinks for all 5 days! (we went to all the parks) They did check our bags for weapons but could not of cared less about the food. :) We had the most wonderful picnics!! Hope this helps!

    • Sarah P says:

      We have gone to Disney World 4 times in the last 6 years (just got back from our last trip a week ago) and we ALWAYS bring food and water in a backpack or tote with us. That is a Huge moneysaver! We have never had any problems bringing any type of food and plastic bottles in the park. They do check your bag, but it’s for sharp things or weapons. We eat breakfast before we leave, get to the park before it opens, and then have lunch and snacks packed in the back pack.

    • Jenny says:

      Hey Ashley,

      My husband and I go to Disney world in Orlando on a regular basis. They do check the bags, but are only looking for glass bottles. Other than that, you are fine to take any food/drink into the park. I often saw people pull Subway subs out of their backpacks! We would freeze bottles of water to keep our foods cool (as a bonus, we had ice cold water to drink as well)!

      Other than glass bottles/jars, coolers are also not allowed in the parks (at least, not the big ones with wheels, anyway…not sure about small ones?)

      You won’t find discounts on meals if you’re staying off-property. However, IMO the dining plan at Disney is insanely over priced (unless you can get it for free). :)

    • Betty J says:

      Check out couponingtodisney.com or find her on Facebook. I read up on all her tips and tricks before we brough our family to Orlando last fall.

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, you can take food into Disney.
      And I haven’t actually done it, but I’ve heard that (at Disneyland) you can go to the post office right inside the gates and get a booklet of coupons for discounted meals and things.

    • kelli says:

      @ Ashley,
      yes, you can take food and drinks into Disney World. You can also go up to any service counter and ask for a free cup of water. Most of the time, they will give you a large one with ice. My family goes to the local dollar store and gets the little kool-aid flavor packs and put them in the water.

      • BJ says:

        Kelli you are correct we have stopped getting the water delivered to our resort ($8 Ice Mountain – regional version delivered from Costco/Sams) primarily because you can go right up to a counter and ask for a large water with ice. We also make sure to save a empty bottle to refill with whatever we are drinking at a restaurant. You can’t take a cup with a lid into most attractions but you can take a closed bottle in your backpack. The is also beneficial at Animal Kingdom where they don’t give you lids for your drinks but they do now give you a paper straw (Yuck!) imagine kids with open cups and no lids :(

    • Melissa says:

      I have always packed my backpack full of granola bars, cheese sticks and pb&j sammies at DW in Florida. I eat every hour and am always hungry so eating at the park would be expenisive and have never had an issue with food /water. I bring a lunch box with ice packs or small fabric cooler duffle thing to keep my snacks cool. (Live in FL and go often…)

    • Sarah says:

      We’ve done Disney World as our family vacation for the last two years. We’ve brought food in EVERY time, but as water can be heavy, we learned that the parks have to offer water for free to patrons. You can ask for a cup for ice water, or order ice water if they have to do it for you. We brought drink mix packets we get for free thanks to Walgreens and the need for filler items lol and pour them right into the cups or bring sippy cups for the kids and mix it in there. We’ve also made sandwiches, and froze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches overnight so that they’d stay cool and be ready to eat when we got hungry. Compared to Six Flags, I don’t find the Disney food prices to be as bad for what you get. We would order 2 meals for the 4 of us and split it. It was just enough to keep us full to keep going.

      • jamie says:

        I always bring in food and drinks. I bring empty water bottles and fill them with “tap” or fountain water and then bring the mix in pouches of lemonade or whatever. It is lighter than carrying water bottles in a back pack and takes care of the not so tasty fountain water issue.

    • Hi Ashley,

      Disney World allows food and beverages to be brought into the parks. They do have you get your bags checked at a security checkpoint, but no worries about any food or beverages. We do it all the time for our kids.

    • Angel says:

      You can bring food in just not hard coolers, straws(into animal kindgdom) … I am going to visit family a week before so I am going to food shop on my way up to Disney for sandwich meats, milk, juice for the kids…But I heard a good tip is to order a double cheese burger and ask for just the extra bun so that way you can get two cheese burgers out of the deal..Also when ordering a kids meal opt out of the hard plastic lunch boxes they take off a 1.50… If you don’t want to order a whole meal and do a la carte you can just ask they won’t charge you for fries if you don’t have them… And if you aren’t a big eater order a kids meal they don’t ask questions… I’m a frequenter at Disney but find new ideas often :)

    • Patty says:

      You can bring food and drinks into Disney World. My husband, son and me have gone 3 times in the last 4 years. If you have any questions post back your e-mail. We went high end deluxe resort so spent more, but still went as cost effective to some degree. There are many pros and cons that readers will share, but I can share my pros and cons as to why we stayed where we did ….. alot of it was convenience to parks. We went to be at the parks so to be able to walk to two fo them in a few minutes was a huge plus for us.

  • Bethany says:

    We got a GREAT deal on an Orlando Hotel using Priceline! The site BetterBidding.com is so helpful – it gives you an a list of all the hotels it could be when bidding on Priceline or a guess to a hotel when using Hotwire. It takes a little bit to read up and understand it, but DEFINITELY worth it! I’ll never pay full price for a hotel again!!

  • Candice J. Cameron says:

    We just got back from Disney World with 4 kids, so we needed every tip and trick we could get to make it an affordable experience. Along with the bottled water, we packed granola bars and snacks. Also, we took two rolls of quarters and a roll of pennies to use in the pressed penny machines. The kids loved looking for the machines and selecting which ones to get!

    • Jana says:

      What a GREAT idea for the pressed penny machines!! (I LOVE those! I don’t care that everyone seems to think it is a waste=)

    • Kathie M says:

      These pressed pennies have been my favorite thing at every vacation since I was about 5! I’ve found the best way to carry them change is to get a tube of M&M Mini’s and stack it 2 quarters and 1 penny. It’s then easy to pour out the top 3 coins and we’re not digging for change all the time.

  • Amanda says:

    I used to work at Disney, so I know that you can also get free cups of water from quick-service restaurants (like Casey’s baseball restaurant on the corner of Main Street at Magic Kingdom). If it’s like a fast-food takeout eatery, just ask for 2-3 cups of ice water and they’re yours for free! (If you need more, maybe have your other half ask for more cups of water because sometimes they get judgmental!)

    • Ana says:

      Great tip! And don’t feel like you *have* to order something just to get the free water. Most cast members are more than happy to give you a cup of water even if you don’t order anything else. I’m a former cm also, and my friends and I would always do this when hanging out at the parks. It beats having to carry a water bottle or paying for bottled water!

  • zoe says:

    it seems like it’s way too expensive and nowhere near worth it. never went as a kid, have no desire to take my kids, i just dont see why everyone wants to do this…

    • zoe says:

      also, i can get 2-3 weeks in an all inclusive resort in mexico for what disney charges for one week in the park. no thanks! the hotels are up to what, like 450/night?!

      • you don’t have to stay at a Disney hotel to have a great trip… we stayed at a hotel off the parks which had a free shuttle & had a very affordable and memory making trip! loved it… & can’t wait to take my 3 year old back this summer!!

      • kelli says:

        the value resorts range from &75-$120 depending on the season. My recommendation is to go right after the New Year. Cooler, short lines, and the prices are usually better. The Moderate and Deluxe Resort hotels are $200 and up / night. Some of them also include kitchens, which can save money if you buy your own food.

        • Other great times of years to go which are lower priced is the beginning of May, which allows you to see the Flower and Garden Festival in Epco. This is A MUST DO. Also Sept/Oct also offers great rates and then could be there for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Then there is always right after Thanksgiving, which is another value season and you will see Disney all decked out for Christmas. We are heading to Disney this year after Thanksgiving. I cannot wait.

      • Miriam says:

        They have three categories of hotels. Even their top tier deluxe resorts will rarely be $450, promo rates put them at $300. I can’t afford to stay there but I’ve stopped to see them and hotels can’t be called “overpriced” though. They are luxury and wouldn’t be cheaper elsewhere. Their Value category is less than $100 a night during the many promo periods. Regardless, you don’t have to stay at their hotels; it’s really about the amusement park.
        You haven’t been there so you don’t get it. An all-inclusive resort has nothing on this unless your goal while on vacation is to see and do next to nothing, eat and drink as much as possible. It might be. Disney’s shows are first rate entertainment for bkth adults and kids. Their rides are so creative and innovative that it’s hard to wrap your head around it even AFTER you experience it.

      • Dana says:

        Disneyland resorts charge around $250 & up per night. Disney World I have paid as low as $62 per night {value resort with discount}. One reason I prefer DW to DL is the pricing! I can stay two weeks in Florida for the price of 5 nights in {Disneyland} California.

    • Tilla R Ham says:

      i never went as a kid, didn’t go anywhere as a kid, took my kids 7 years ago and it was so much fun, so happy to see the joy on their faces, i cried at the experience of sharing it with them!

    • LC says:

      Definitely because you have never been as a kid!

      • anonymous says:

        I went as a child over 25 years ago with close neighbors who had family in Florida (at the time) where we stayed. My parents couldn’t afford it & unfortunately neither can I to take my children but I do have some nice memories after all this time! :-)

    • Janice says:

      I can more than understand taking your family once, and only when the kids are old enough to remember the trip. I don’t understand the need for the annual pilgrimage.

      • Megan says:

        Everybody has their preferences for vacations. I didn’t get it either until I took my child. It was like a completely different experience. For us, we just enjoy the chance to be a kid again on the rides and see the beautiful shows and parades too. Plus seeing how excited our daughter and nieces get, is so fun.

      • Kathie M says:

        I have to say I didn’t plan on taking DD to WDW till she was old enough to remember it but plans change. Last fall we ended up in LA with a free day and 2 free ticket to DL so we thought why not dake DD (2 and free). She got so excited seeing the princess and watching the parade it was priceless! When she say Mickey she almost peed herself she was so excited. It’s been 6 months and she still talks almost daily about that vacation (we did other fun things as well). I now want to to take DD to WDW this fall for a week. Waiting till she’s old enough to remember it was a grand plan but seeing the joy and excitement on her face while she still believes in all the magic is magic in and of itself!

      • Crystal says:

        Everyone always says to not take your kids until they “are old enough to remember”. I am not sure what age people think is “old enough” but many people questioned me taking my kids when they were 2 and 4. We also went when they were 3 and 5 and plan to go this year when they are 4 and 6. They never stop talking about their Disney trips and certainly remember them. When kids are older they don’t look at Disney the same way as they do when they are this young and think all the characters are real. To each their own, but going to Disney is something that my family and I look forward to every year!

  • Christie says:

    Don’t pay for bottled water at the parks! Go up to any place that sells fountian drinks, and ask for a cup of ice water. It is free and taste just as good as anything that comes in a bottle.

  • Britni says:

    It’s so funny that you posted this because just yesterday we were planning our trip for september!

  • Heidi says:

    We drove to Disneyland and brought our toaster and slow cooker. We made bagels and toast for breakfast, adding ham and cheese to make them into power breakfast sandwiches. You could also do toaster struedels or frozen waffles if you have your ice chest. We made slow cooked bbq chicken and stew for dinners: prepared them in the moring and just cooked at the hotel all day, returning to eat it around 4pm (skipped lunch, just snacked on apples and granola bars), then after resting, we returned to the park for evening fun and rides. It seems like food is one of the most expensive parts of Disney, so doing it ourselves saved tons of money. If you are flying there, you could go to a nearby thrift store and purchase a toaster and slow cooker super cheap (cheaper than buying a meal at Disney) and then donate them back when you are finished. You can also find umbrella strollers at thrift stores to save money on rentals. Have fun!

  • Fleen says:

    My family (5 of us + mother-in-law + brother-in-law) did a budgeted Disney trip in 2011. We saved in every aspect that we could. I work for the government – so was able to save about $20/ticket by purchasing through thier programs. You don’t have to pay taxes on tickets. It was $5 cheaper to buy 5 day park tickets than 4 day tickets (don’t ask me – but it’s true!). We also arrived early at the parks and hit the rides early, then would return to the condo late afternoon, have dinner there and return to the parks for the evening and fireworks. Anyone that was too tire to return to the park – stayed home. The grandparents and little ones were too tired some days.

    We stayed at a 4 bedroom condo for 8 nights for only $880 total. We packed/planned for several home meals and made reservations at all the parks prior to arriving (some months in advance). But this prepared us for costs (as you can get the menus online). We budgeted, but not skimped and had one of the most memorable trips ever. I have kids, 9, 4, and 2 and they still talk about it. In fact – they were so pleased that they haven’t bugged us to go this year – as they know we are saving again for a 2013 trip. Planning goes a long way and having not to worry about paying for it when you get home helps as well!! Good luck!

    • sounds amazing Fleen! where did you guys stay?

      • Fleen says:

        We stayed in Davenport, FL at a condo place out there. We sent my husband and brother-in-law in our sequoia, my mother-in-law, 3 kids and I flew down. The drive to the parks was about 15 min, but well worth it. The condo unit was really nice and had a great pool area with zero depth entry, slide, lazy river and hot tub area. There’s several restaurants next to it and grocery stores within walking distance. I can’t exactly remember the name, but we searched VRBO.com. We’ve rented a 7 bedroom house for family vacations also from here – great site.

        Something else that saved our trip – we didn’t buy the park hopper tickets. That is very expensive. We just chose 1 park per day and took our time. Once you buy your parking pass at the parks – you can come and go all day to any park with one pass.

        • I live in the Davenport/Four Corners area and many of the subdivisions are zoned for short term rental in the area. There were more rentals when the economy was better but you can still find quite a few condos and 3-4 bedroom single family homes (most with a backyard pool) that may be cheaper than a hotel room, especially if you have a large family and factor in the savings of having a full kitchen and laundry room.

    • Kim says:

      Where did you stay?

    • jen says:

      yes, where did you stay and how did you get to the park each day?

  • ma23kids says:

    We have always taken our own snacks an such into the parks. And as far as the strollers? It’s a pain to lug them on and off the bus so we LOVE being able to rent the strollers at the parks. You pick it up when you get there and leave it right there when you leave. And the dining plan – the cheapest way to eat at Disney!! And lastly, with a Disney Visa from Chase you get extras!!

    • The Dining Plan is a great option to help save money while dining at Disney, and depending on the Dining Plan you pick, your Dining Plan could also include all your Character Meals as well. These meals can EASILY cost well over 200.00 OOP depending on size of family and which meal you pick.

  • Michelle says:

    As of less than a year ago – they let you take food and drinks in with you. This is definitely a must – even if you eat meals in the park!! Thanks for the tips Collin!!

  • Fleen says:

    Oh- one more tip! Bring glow sticks from the $1 store! I would crack those open at night for the kids! We had so many parents say to us “I wish I had thought of that!”. Disney sells tons of light up things that are about $15+. This also was great – as we could spot our kids easily through the crowds!

    BTW – never went to Disney as a kid – but to see their faces light up – it truly is a magical experience. Have done the whole Mexico thing too – with kids – but I’ll never forget the memories I have with my kids at Disney. Every movie that comes on with the Disney castle – my kids’ face light up and they get so excited for the next trip.

    • we did that too… bought light up toys at Old Navy (of all places) before our trip so our 3 year olds felt like we had bought them a cool toy for the parades & firework shows. ;)

    • Megan says:

      We always deck out the stroller in glow bracelets and necklaces for the MNSSHP and my kids love giving them away to other kids while we’re waiting for the parade, running around collecting candy or on our way out. :) My oldest packs as many as he can on the stroller because he wants to “light up everyone in the whole park.” Too cute and lots of fun. I buy them at the Dollar Store or in Target’s dollar spot.

  • Mrspurple says:

    I have a few questions:
    Where is a good place for families with 4-5 small kids to stay(a lot of hotels do not allow 4-5 kids even if they are ages 1-7 to sleep in the same room with 2 adults, too many people) ?
    Can a family bring their own strollers or do you have to rent?
    Can you bring your own empty bottles of water and fill with water from water fountains?

    • of course you can bring in your own stroller! they have “stroller parking” all over the place so it’s so nice to push the little ones around and not feel weighed down by the stroller. ;)

      and yes, you can bring water bottles in & fill them. just can’t bring in any glass containers.

    • kelli says:

      @ Mrspurple,
      Yes, you can bring water bottles to the parks. Or you can get free water at the service counters. You can bring your own strollers. My family recently stayed off site at a place called Fantasy World Resort http://www.fantasyworldresort.com/home.asp that we LOVED. VERY close to the parks, has 2 bedrooms with a fold out couch, kitchen, 2 baths. etc. We really enjoyed staying there. HTH

    • Val says:

      If you are driving, look into renting a house for your family. Check http://www.vrbo.com. Some close neighborhoods are Indian Creek, Formosa Gardens, Acadia Estates. Varied pricing, but most have their own pools. Some have community pools and activities. We have gotten great deals for our family (10-12 people).

    • Megan says:

      You might want to look into renting a condo for the week. A friend of mine rented one last summer with three bedrooms, less than 1 mile away from Disney for $1000 including car rental. If you’re looking to save some serious $ that might be the way to do it. Otherwise you’re probably looking at a delux villa or two rooms on property.

    • qponklink` says:

      You can also go into any of the park’s restaurants and get a cup of ice water for free.

    • Megan says:

      We went to Disney in 2010 and Disney World last month. We brought our own stroller both times. We “gate checked” it at the airport and it was really nice to have it while waiting for our flights. We either had our daughter in it or our carry on luggage. When you get off the plane, the stroller is waiting for you. Plus it has been free to check.

    • Carbal2012 says:

      We just reserved a 4 bedroom condo at Lake Buena Vista Resort Village for 1200.00 and it sleeps 10! 5 nights/6 days the week of Christmas. I’m sure you can find greater deals for other dates too! :) if you “like” them on FB they offer a 15% discount off current room prices.

    • You have some options, if your considering staying at a Disney Resort. Wilderness Cabin’s can sleep max 6 people. Or you can always get 2 Value Resort rooms, that way you are still on property and can take advantage of all the amenities and services you receive staying on property. They also offer Villas that will accommodate your family size, as well as they offer kitchens so that you can save money buy cooking your own meals and offers ample space so that your family has their own personal spaces.

    • Jennifer says:

      We always stay at the Holiday Inn resort right outside the gate on SR 535 (there’s three in the area – make sure it’s the resort). We get a “kid suite” room pretty reasonably (last trip was $112/night). It has a king sized bed and two sets of bunk beds, a mini fridge, a microwave, and lots of space. Our kids love it there and there is room for everyone – 6 of us!

    • Kathie M says:

      We’re considering “Quality Suites – The Royale Parc Suites.” DH has lots of hotel points so we’d only need to pay for 3 of our 8 nights. The room I’m looking for is sleeps 10 (4 double beds and a sofa sleeper) has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living/dining/kitchenette. It runs $109 a night if you have a Choice Rewards card (just sign up for one before you book if you don’t have one) and it 2 miles from WDW with free transportation to the parks, and has a free hot breakfast each morning! We just have to get to the hotel from the airport and we’ll be set.

  • Kristi says:

    Yes..l they do allow food and beverages brought in… I also like garden grocer. Mouse savers has lots of money saving tips. Other helpful planning tools are tour guide mike and touring plans. Must have apps: wdw lines(goes with touring plans), and Disney world maps and more box set( maps, restaurant menus and prices, wait times, show times, etc)

  • Kim Castleberry says:

    An easy way to save money for a hotel is to stay at a timeshare. You do NOT have to listen to their pitches, but if you have an extra hour they usually will give you $100 worth of restaurant gift cards. (totally worth the hour or less). Also, Disney world in florida DOES allow outside food and drinks. We carried a backpack full of drinks, snacks and prepurchased souvenirs. If youre going for multiple days I do not reccomend paying for the “park hopper” option. It’s not worth it. By the time you go through one park one day you usually wont feel like going to another park the same day. I personally prefer Hollywood studios though. Much more adult friendly. The kiddos love the magic kingdom. Also, if youre going to Orlando they sell meal cards for kids. They’re around $12 but it allows kids to eat free at a lot of different “fast food” places around town. We ate out a lot but mainly used them for breakfasts. I suggest eating a huge breakfast before going in the parks so you only have to buy one meal while in the park…. A late lunch early dinner. We’ve gone three times in the past 12 months. And can’t wait to go again in a few months.

  • Silla says:

    We usually stay at an off site hotel, huge savings there when booked online through Hotwire, Expedia, Cheapfares etc. I find that one is always cheaper year to year so definitely check around. Last time we stayed in a condo type hotel that had a small kitchen and fridge. We rented a car and hit a Walmart for drinks, snacks, and breakfast items. Making them ourselves saved a bundle. As far as tickets I suggest buying them online beforehand. Universal has some good deals where even Sea World is included:) we also bought souvenirs at Walmart as opposed to the park.

  • Michelle says:

    If you stay at a resort you can use the disney transportation. If you don’t feel like waiting around for a bus, you can use your resort parking pass and park free in the theme park.

  • Kristi says:

    @ mrspurple We took our own stroller and it was fine….saved$$
    If you want to stay onsite I would look at some of the vacation resorts (bay lake tower, satatoga, key west… There are others too. ). They are set up like an apartment with a full kitchen and washer/dryer. 7 of us stayed in a 2 BR and had plenty of room.
    You can bring your own bottles to fill but if you’re not used to it, their water may taste a little yuck. Some will either have bottled water delivered to their room, or take packets of Propel to kinda make it taste better… Or an individual water bottle that has a filter on it

  • Megan says:

    We go every year with the kids and love it! We splurge on some things and save on others while we’re there. I coupon and budget all year so we can go on this vacation and another other large one every year while still saving for retirement and the kids’ college. H2S has been a HUGE part of us being able to do all of this on one income. Thanks Collin!

  • qponklink` says:

    Someone has probably posted this.You can go into any restaurant in Disney and get cups of ice water or just ice. If you don”t bring your own food in there’s a few restaurants in the parks who offer kid’s meals that are just as big as the adult meal, the only difference is an added cookie(the one western place can’t recall the name and pizza planet in Hollywood Studios for sure).Also, you can order foods ala carte and save tons too.This is not listed on the menu. You can order a double cheeseburger and then an extra bun for a dollar and make two burgers.

  • kelli says:

    Living in Fl, season passes are a must. Try to go through AAA for discounted park tickets (and the Orlando Kids Eat Free card as mentioned above). I DO recommend park hopper passes only for the fact that if you get bored or done with one park, you can go right to another one without wasting time. Staying off site will save the most money, but be aware that parking is now up to $14/day, so if you stay onsite, you will be able to take their free transportation buses or park for free. A great area to look at staying is Kissimmee, FL. Right next to Disney with some very cheap rates. Plenty of restaurants to chose from. Take advantage of the Fast Passes at some of the more popular rides at the parks. Take food, and ask for water. HTH

    • Jen says:

      Having annual passes, I agree with the park hopper option. We stay onsite and I love waking up early with my hubby and doing one park then spending the afternoon by the pool or going to Downtown Disney, then heading to a different park for the evening. I have been there over 15 times in the last 7 years and I don’t think I have ever spent one entire day in the same park.

  • Crystal J. says:

    The best prices I found on tickets (without a timeshare presentation) is through http://www.undercovertourist.com.

    Military members are eligible for deeply discounted tickets ($165 for a 4 day ticket with park hopper and waterpark options) – go here: http://bookwdw.reservations.disney.go.com/ibcwdw/en_US/specialOfferDetails?name=Promo&promotionCode=fy11military&market=fy11military.

    We were able to take a water bottle and small snacks into the parks.

    If you are going with a group, or a few families, have them combine all you pictures onto one photopass and split the cost.

    Epcot has World of Coke where they have free drinks of different flavors from around the world. We were NEVER thirsty that day!

    We didn’t eat full meals at the parks. Instead of buying the kids’ meal chicken strips I purchased the adult chicken strip meal (which has REAL chicken breast meat) and split it among two children. Combined with our snacks it was just what they needed to get them through the day.

    There are a ton of money saving tips on http://www.mousesavers.com as well.

  • Jen says:

    If you go to the Barbershop on Main St. in Magic Kingdom – right near the entrance, kids can get their hair pixie-dusted. It costs something like $7.50. My 4 yr old has long blond hair. They put it up in a bun, sprayed it with stripes of pink and blue (she chose the colors) and then sprinkled confetti sparkles all over it. It looked great, she felt like she had gotten a makeover and it cost under $10. There were two boys in there getting it done too and they put their hair in faux mohawks and sprayed a green mickey mouse on the back. I highly recommend it, one of the best buys there. (The hair cuts are really reasonable too, I think I paid $15- for my other child to get a haircut).

  • Sue says:

    We went to Disney World in 2009. I read just about every post on mousesavers.com, at least twice. We chose not to buy the dining plan. Instead, we ate breakfast in our hotel room each morning and brought lunch with use most days. We did this cheaply by bringing food with us- a jar of peanut butter, a couple loaves of bread, a bag of apples, a bag of oranges, etc in our luggage saved us so much money, and more importantly, TIME!! We don’t drink soda, so we just brought a reusable water bottle and filled up throughout the day. The water in Orlando tasted a little funny to us, but we discovered that super cold ice water tasted better than cool water. Eating on a budget allowed us to splurge on a few fancier dinners.

    My daughter was 10 when we went, so she could have cared less about most of the “princess” stuff at most of the stores. We did buy some souvenirs, but we didn’t go overboard.

    We didn’t take advantage of this, but different hotels throughout the week host free events- iirc, there was a movie night at one hotel, and campfire stories at The Wilderness Lodge. For us, the evening was our time to relax at the pool.

  • Kristi says:

    I bought Disney type treats at the Dollar tree before we left so I could give them while there and save some on souvenirs. We also skipped on Bippitty Boppity Botique but played Bippitty Boppity Botique in our room with my 3 girls b4 we had dinner in Cinderellas Castle. We took dresses, crowns, spray sparkles, makeup, polish, etc

    • Amber R. says:

      We went last year and I did the same thing the dollar stores actually have quite a bit of Disney items! Worked like a charm my kiddos had no clue we didn’t get them at the park and loved them just the same!

  • Sarah says:

    We went to Disney World in October of 2010, and stayed in a timeshare “getaway” that my parents gifted to us as our Christmas present. We chose to go to a timeshare talk and although we refused to purchase a timeshare, we talked them into allowing us to come down and see their resort (this was a different one from where we were staying) and stay there before we decided. So they gave us a great price to come down for a week, and that amount can be applied to the purchase of a timeshare if we chose for it to. We went this past October, stayed in a 1600 sq ft condo with all of the bells and whistles. While it might have been a little bit pricier than staying at a hotel, we had two washer/dryers, a full size kitchen and all of the comforts of home. I brought ALL of my CVS ECBs and Walgreens RRs with me to use in case we needed something, brough reusable bags as well. Went grocery shopping at Target with coupons… We ended up eating at restaurants TWICE during the 8 days we were there. No lie, TWICE. We did have to get some food at some of the theme parks, but not full out meals, more just to hold us over.

  • DJ says:

    Any suggestions for Legoland? Anyone know a good place to stay? I go in March and want to find a good place at a freapy price.

    • Miriam says:

      FYI- All I’ve heard of Disney World’s Legoland is not good. Basically, people are really disappointed and find it not worth the admission cost.

      • Jessie says:

        We went to Legoland last month with a special school $5 admission. It was a disappointment. I’m glad we did it cheap to know it’s not worth it to go back!

    • Dawn says:

      Is California’s Legoland the same?

    • Sharon R says:

      We have an annual pass to Legoland florida – got it cheap enough with FL resident rates and my son loves the place so we can’t complain. He loves it there and we kind of enjoy it too although it’s no Disney, it doesn’t really have that Disney magic and the restaurants need some improvement, not enough variety there, etc . It’s off the beaten path too, so a little bit of a drive to get there and the park doesn’t open till 10:00 a.m.

      Even merchandising isn’t on the scale of Disney, they could do so much more to create ambiance – maybe eventually they will! I could go on and on but won’t bore you. Best advice is go to the legoland florida FB page and read up on any hints too.

      As for hotels, I am not impressed with the hotels so far in that area, in terms of outward appearance and maintenance…you can go hotels.com to compare for ratings. We actually drive to Orlando afterwards and stay there instead each time just because newer hotels, a little more upscale, more ammenities, etc. They are supposedly going to build a legoland resort eventually which I am sure will be top notch. Also they are planning a water park at Legoland which will open soon….

  • Amber R. says:

    We’re taking our family vacation to albuquerque this year. Does anyone know of any money saving tips for there? We’re planning on doing the zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden, but are there any other reasonably priced things to do with young children? Perhaps hidden gem restaurants? Any advise would be awesome, thank you!!

    • Rachael says:

      Amber- I live in Albuquerque. How old are your kids? If you want to email me I’d be happy to answer any of your questions! RLB9RLB at AOL dot com

    • Bri says:

      Check VRBO and Groupon for lodging.
      Pick up some Resturaunts.com gift certificates at the end of the month when they are 80-90% off and redeem them for certificates that are near your attractions or lodging just before you leave on your trip.
      Groupon is also good for hidden gems of attractions and food.
      AAA books for AZ will be helpful and typically you can find discounts there too.
      Also tripadvisor has lots of great ideas on hidden gems.

      • Liz says:

        How do you find out which restaurants are located near the park? I would love to do the restaurants.com gift certificates ahead of time.

    • Cheryl says:

      OFF TOPIC but…
      I used to live in Albuquerque. I believe there is a combo pass for the zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens if you are going on the same day. There is usually a little train between the zoo and aquarium/botanical gardens complex.
      The Explora children’s museum and the natural history museum are right beside each other and across the street is Old Town with lots of good, walkable streets, restaurants and ice cream parlors, Day of the Dead store, and sometimes cowboy re-enactors. Albuquerque museum is there as well although kids may find it boring as its mostly art although the sculpture out front is worth a look. There is also a trolley from old town which goes in to the outer neighborhoods which you can try to spot roadrunners in people’s shrubbery-especially near the Bart Prince house.
      Duran’s near the zoo is a great New Mexican restaurant but it’s cash only. Be aware the Little Anitas in Old Town is more generic Mexican food than New Mexican. The best restaurant in that area is in the Pueblo cultural center on 12th a short drive from the zoo or old town.
      Be sure to check out the parks and trailheads on Tramway Blvd such as Erna Gallegos, Piedra Lisa, Juan Tabo/La Luz, or on the tram it’s self. They are great for short walks or hikes. Bring suncreen! Then take a break at the Walgreens on Indian School and Tramway beacuse there is a prarie dog field right there by the fire station, but park at Walgreens. This is also right across from a putt putt. If you drive all of Tramway Blvd which is a great drive it end at Bien Mur on Sandia Pueblo land and if you go into the gift shop parking lot there are buffalo/American Bison. You will see Albuquerque city limits end here as the house back to Indian land.
      Other popular places: the mountain/tram, National Atomic museum, National Hispanic Cutural Center, Acoma pueblo (40 -60 miles away?), VLA outside of Soccorro(2hrs away), Santa Fe (hr 1.2 away), or Chaco canyon (2hrs away). All of these are well worth the drive.
      Favorite hotels: Marriot on Lousiana(swim thru pool), Four Seasons(new name?) on Carlisle and Menaul (nice pool), or maybe Tamaya resort because they probably have a kids club, or one of the other casinos. Holiday inn on Jefferson/Osuna/Pan American(waterslide pool). Best super budget hotels-any on Hotel Circle with indoor pool or off Jefferson/Pan American area. Hotels off Menaul are older and generally not nice except the Sheraton and the Four Seasons(Clarion maybe the new name?). Avoid the airport hotels as they are in a bad area. Ditto downtown/Central Ave.
      Best very budget little kids restaurants: Itz pizza, Nickle City snack bar, Saggios, and Taco Cabana.

  • Brenda Vicario says:

    So with all these tips, how much should two parents and three small children plan on spending for a trip to Disney???

  • Alana says:

    Also, remember, you cannot take straws and wrappers (not even juice pouches) into Animal Kingdom for the animal’s safety! :)

  • angie says:

    We are wanting to plan a trip soon I am very inexperienced at such things. I have two kids with special needs. I’ve. heard they specials for them. Also everytime I find hotel packages they seem to be for 4 people and we have 5. Anyone have tips on these situations. Oh and thanks Collin love your tips

    • Angie,
      Disney is great with accommodating anyone with any special needs concerns. My daughter has SPD and my son has low-vision, and they both completely enjoy Disney and we have never had any problems taking them there over and over again. Disney does offer resorts that allow 5 guests in one room. Send me an email and I can get you more information. julie.harrington@mousetalestravel.com

    • Jessie says:

      You can go into Guest Services and let them know your kids have special needs. They’ll give you a “Guest Assistance Card”. It helps the cast members identify what special needs your kids have and may get you shorter wait times depending on their need.

      Two good websites for planning are mousesavers.com and allears.net. We booked a room at the Caribe Royale through mousesavers for a trip last year and paid only $150/night for a 2 bed/2 bath with a full kitchen. We were able to have all our meals (except 1 special character breakfast) at the hotel which saved a TON of money and was much more enjoyable IMO with the kiddos. The hotel was wonderful!

      Enjoy your trip!

    • cathy says:

      There are 5 of us…we stayed at the Wilderness Campground in a cabin that sleeps 6. Still had the shuttle to the park, just be sure to spend the extra money for the golf cart to get you around the resort. We had a full kitchen, which made it much easier to feed my son with food allergies. Although, usually travelling with him is difficult in restaurants, Disney was a BREEZE. Even at the “quick service” places, all we had to do was say “food allergy” and a chef magically appeared with a book of ingredients! It was the easiest place ever to feed him! We did alot of cooking in the cabin, stopped at the grocery on the way.

    • BJ says:

      Look at Port Orleans. It is a moderate resort that can accommodate 5.

  • Megan says:

    My favorite Disney souvenir are the silhouette pictures. You can get them done on Main Street in Disney and Disney World Magic Kingdom for about $8 and you get TWO copies of it mounted on hard back paper. You can buy an oval frame for it for another $8.

    I also buy this book http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1423116704/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwhip2saveco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1423116704 to use for an autograph book because it is so much more interesting than a plain book and it is less than $12. It has not been updated in a couple of years so a few characters are missing, but I just use the front or back page for them.

    I got a “dog tag” from one of those machines at Petsmart and put my daughter’s first name and my and my husband’s cell phone numbers on it. I clipped it to the belt loop on the back of her pants in case she got lost. I actually saw a little girl that was lost at Disney and there were several people helping her, but it freaked me out a bit so it makes me feel better to know our numbers are there.

    I bought lots of souvenirs to bring with us and I would pull one or two out in the morning and most of the time I didn’t hear any begging.

    If you can, I suggest recording the parades and fireworks show especially if you have little ones. My daughter loves to watch the videos over and over.

    If you are going with more than one family, you can combine your Photopasses and just order one CD of everyone’s pics. Our CD with 8 of us had over 1000 photos on it (including the enhanced photos that you can create). There are a lot more awesome photos on there than what I got with my camera so I think it was worth it.

    • Love autograph books. I will say my kids have never done this, but we may attempt on our next trip. Love all the tips everyone is giving out as well.

    • Megan says:

      Sorry for the long post, but I forgot you can also go to Town Hall on Main Street and get special buttons for free if you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, 1st visit and other events.

      My nieces and daughter also enjoyed pin trading. You can get a starter set or just use a lanyard you have and try to get some pins on clearance at the Disney store or DisneyStore.com. It doesn’t really matter what pin you have. In fact, if your children don’t like it, they will WANT to trade it for something they do like. If you do buy pins at the park, get the cheapest ones (usually the mystery pouch with two mystery pins) because they are going to trade them anyway. If you buy special pins that you do not want them to trade, you can buy locking backs so they can’t take them off.

      Hope all this is helpful to someone! :-)

      • Megan says:

        Two more:

        If you are going to Disney World, you can order free personalized maps here http://customizedmaps.disney.go.com/?CMP=ILC-WDWFY12Q1CMRCustomizedMaps0010 . It takes a while to get them, but they are really cool.

        If you are going on a ride where they take a picture (like Splash Mountain, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Dinosaur etc), you can buy a “special” picture. Instead of getting two 5×7′s of the same photo, you can get two different photos for the same price and we got both photos added to the photopass included. So for example, we went on Splash Mountain many times and we would make different faces for the picture. Then we wrote down the picture number and got two different photos. Another time we went on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, then my brother and sister-in-law went and we got each of our pics for the price of one. I hope this is making sense. I was excited to make this discovery. :-)

        • Marie says:

          You can also buy Disney pins on Ebay very cheap and use those for trading. I also suggest buying the locking backs. My daughter lost a few pins before we caught on.

          • I’ve heard that you have to be careful when buying pins from eBay that you’re getting authentic Disney pins. I don’t think the cast members are supposed to trade with you if it’s a knock-off/generic even if it’s Disney themed.

  • Great article, Julie! At Disney World, you ARE allowed to bring food into the parks, just no glass bottles, alcohol, or hard-sided coolers.

  • Lana says:

    This isn’t a cost savings tip, just a helpful tip… Stores like Walgreen’s have Disney gift cards. Buy one (whatever you can afford) every payday up until the time of your trip. When you get there, use them up. They are good at most all places in the park. Also hit up your local dollar store for Disney themed toys, pens, notebooks, etc. ahead of time and take with you to give to the little ones instead of giftshop shopping.

  • Megan says:

    Can you not bring in your own stroller? Do you HAVE to rent one?

    • Megan says:

      You can definitely bring your own!

    • Amber R. says:

      I brought my own strollers with no problem and I saw several other families with their own strollers as well.

    • Denise says:

      I brought my double stroller (the kind with a seat in front and one in back, not side to side) and it was a life saver. It was great in the airport, too! You get it tagged at the airport and you give it to the flight attendants right before you board. They store it, and have it ready when you get off the plane. The only inconvenience is that you have to fold it up when you get on the busses, but we had several adults with us so that helped out a bit.

      • BJ says:

        A couple of tips on strollers. Make sure you mark the handle of your stroller with something easily seen across a sea of strollers like a pink feather boa, balloon, etc. from a distance all the strollers look alike! Also, if you come out of an attraction and your stroller isn’t where you left it. DON’T PANIC! Cast members frequently “re-park” the strollers in the correct location or neater rows. Hence the reason for marking your stroller. Also, if there is the slightest chance of rain cover your stroller with a poncho or garbage bag.

  • Kimmy says:

    Don’t forget about giveaways! I entered a raffle today and won a mickey mouse balloon, a T-shirt, Luggage tag savers, a scrapbook kit, stickers, a beautiful display mug and holder, a lolipop and a knapsack all Disney themed of course! This will make for some good Disney keepsakes for free!

  • Kristin says:

    Everybody talks about bringing in a backpack with snacks and a water bottle. But, does the backpack get in the way when you are going on rides?

    • Amber R. says:

      Well if you have a stroller with you you can leave it with the stroller and they have stroller areas where their safe. Atleast thats what I did.

    • At Disney, I’ve never had an issue with backpacks.

      If we have the stroller with us, we’ll put valuables in our pockets (cash, ID, cell phone) and leave the bag with the stroller. We’ve been many times and our stroller/bag has never been tampered with.

      With the possible exception of the roller coasters, I can’t remember it ever being difficult to bring a backpack on a ride. Most of the rides, especially at Magic Kingdom, are slow enough that you can easily put the bag on the floor and “hold” it with your feet. Some rides even have mesh pouches in the front of each compartment to stow your gear. At Universal Studios, there are one or two rides that they won’t let you bring bags on (the Mummy for instance) and then they provide free short-term-use lockers outside the ride to stow your things in.

  • Denise says:

    My family went to Disney two summers ago, and one day we had breakfast with the princesses. I brought my young daughters and niece a new princess costume at home (paid about $12 for them) and spray glitter for their hair. They ended up looking the same as the rest of the girls in the park, whose parents paid $200 for the same thing at the bibbidi bobbidi boutique, and had no idea they were “missing out.”

  • Stacie says:

    BUY YOUR TICKETS FROM COSTCO- Last year they did a 4 day parkhopper pass for $200 PLUS a FREE $50 Disney Gift Card- Usable EVERYWHERE IN THE PARKS! That makes it only 150 for 4 day parkhopper and $50 for suiveneers or snacks! Also if you are going to Disneyland in Anaheim- Go out of the park to eat- Try Dennys or even Mcdonalds right across the street- Its cheap & hey your on Vacation!

  • Ashley57 says:

    I haven’t read every single tip, but I can tell you something that used to work (I haven’t been to Disney in like 5 years). Parking at the hotels is free, and then you can ride the hotel shuttle bus to the different parks…a way to save on parking.

  • Annie says:

    Disneyland/California Adventure Tips for Adults/Kids:
    (I went in Dec2011)

    World of Color (CA Adventure)
    * When the park opens, there will be a mad dash for the “Fast Pass” near Grizzly River Run. Have one person gather the admission tickets from all members of the party and stand in line. They will ask how many Fast Passes you need, but you need all admission tickets from everyone. On the “Fast Pass” it will indicate what show time you have and what color area you are assigned to. I think Yellow has the best viewing spot.
    * Sometimes there will open a 3rd show depending on the popularity

    Fast Pass
    * Get it for the popular rides because it will cut down on your wait time!
    * Even if the pass says return at this hour, you can go anytime after that hour. The attendant will just check to see if its valid on that date, not time.
    More info: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29092-c3632/Anaheim:California:Disneyland.Fastpass.Tips.html

    *Rides tend to be less crowded during the parades
    *If you get tired walking, ride the rail that goes around the park and drops you off at different areas of the park. But it goes in one direction, so make sure it will be quicker to take the rail vs. walking.

    *Try the Turkey Leg. It is HUGE! And can be split among 2 Adults easily!
    *Dole Whip: It is out of this world!

    More tips:
    If you’ve purchased your park tickets or passes prior to you visit, take five seconds and make a photocopy of the reverse side (the side with the magnetic stripe). If you misplace your tickets, Disney will replace them IF they have the coded information. If you’ve purchased your tickets at a non-Disney source, the receipt won’t have any information that helps with replacing tickets and Disney is clear that they are not responsible for lost tickets, so copy, copy, copy.

    If you are visiting Walt Disney World with a child who is too short to ride some of the attractions you’d like to experience, you can still ride as long as you have two adults present. When you enter the ride queue area, ask the Cast Member if you can do a Child Swap. This allows the first adult to ride while the second adult stays with the child. Then the second adult can ride — without waiting in line again — while the first adult stays with the child. Usually the child is entertained by the Cast Member and can benefit from pin swapping with all those that get to the head of the line.

    Other tips: http://trifter.com/usa-canada/california/35-hot-insider-tips-to-visiting-disneyland/

    HTH

  • Amy says:

    We just got back from Disney World and we packed our lunches and snacks every day. Saved a TON of money on food, and you can eat what you like (not just the cheapest item on the menu). A stroller with a big bottom basket is a must! We kept our food (in a soft cooler), jackets, water bottles, etc. in there – so less to carry. Our kids also loved getting autographs from the characters. We bought autograph books at home (another money saver) and then braved the autograph lines. Here’s my #1 tip for getting princess autographs. After going through the castle at the magic kingdom, there’s a building on the right where you get autographs from a group of princesses. This line is always extremely long except during the afternoon parade. SO – if you skip the parade (or can watch it another day) get in line to see the princess right when the parade starts. We waited less than 3 minutes, got autographs from Cinderella, Belle and Aurora, and had 2 extremely happy daughters.

  • SimplySara says:

    I’m a Premier passholder (for all parks in CA and FL) and have the following to add:

    DisneyWorld Resort
    - The Hilton Hotel across from Downtown Disney is the only non-Disney property that offers magic hours the same as a Disney property would.
    - The Earl of Sandwich restaurant in Downtown Disney is a HUGE bargain. I believe sandwiches were about $6-7 each and none of us could finish our entire sandwich.
    - When we go, we rent a car for one day so we can get transportation from the airport and to pick up supplies from supermarkets, etc. The Hilton has a rental car location inside it so we return it right to the hotel. This is a big savings over many of the airport shuttles and you have more flexibility with the car on the first day. We use the first day to go to one of the water parks with the car because the shuttle schedule doesn’t have any mid-day pickups so you are there the whole day.
    - Epcot – the serving sizes in the International pavilion area are quite generous. We tried to buy one item at each country to share and we got too full for half the countries. The cheese platter in the French area was only ~$5-6 and was quite filling and the sampler platter for Morocco was huge! (don’t bother with the Moroccan mint tea though – it isn’t served the traditional way and I was really disappointed).

    Disneyland
    -There is an Anaheim shuttle that costs $4 a day per person that takes you from many hotels to the parks. However, if you are at a hotel near the Toy Story parking lot, you can walk into the parking lot and hop on one of the Disney operated shuttles for free.
    - The Anaheim convention center is right by the park. A large convention will drive up prices for the local hotels. Also, you may want to check out what kind of convention is going on while you are there because most of them have at least one day that they go to the parks. I have some friends that were a little freaked out to find that the “adult video industry” convention was going on during their visit.
    -Several of the hotels in the area offer free breakfast buffets (Hampton Inn comes to mind immediately) and you can grab some fruit or a bagel to bring into the park.
    -You can get a free, small piece of sourdough bread at the Boudin tour in California Adventure by the “wharf”. The tortilla factory is no longer operating and doesn’t give out tortillas anymore (my last visit was in January so if it has since been opened, let me know.
    -You can ask for a cup of ice or ice water and they will give it to you but it is almost always a child’s size cup (at Disneyworld we have always been given larger cups)
    -The World of Color picnic meals are not worth it. They are small and while you do get a “pass” to see the show, you don’t get a better view or anything. If you don’t mind waiting early, you can get a good view from the pier without the World of Color fast pass.
    If you go to Boudin’s restaurant at CA Adventure, the soups and salads come in a bread bowl. There is way too much bread to eat at once so if you ask for the bread on the side, you can save some for later and it won’t be covered in soup.
    -There is a Target store within walking distance of the park (about a mile) down Harbor. You can purchase many supplies there and they usually have a display right in front with common things park goers would want (especially cheap strollers). It’s usually cheaper to buy a stroller than rent.
    -There are many restaurants along Harbor that are easily walkable from the park so you can get a bit of a break from the park prices.

    Annual Passes
    The Premier pass I have is good at all Disney parks in the US. You can only buy it in CA and it isn’t really advertised so if you are interested in it, you might have to ask. It cost $750 in June of 2011 and include parking at all parks, entrance into all parks and retail discounts in CA and FL and dining discounts in CA and some locations in FL Downtown Disney but not in the park. You don’t have to be a resident of CA to buy it. If you plan to go to Disneyland and Disneyworld in a single year or CA this summer and FL next summer, you could buy it in CA in August for your vacation and then use it in FL in June, July or August the following year. You also get invited to some cool events with the pass and you receive the Disney Family Fun magazine with it.

  • Anonymous says:

    If you have older kids (5 and up) look into the disney Yes program individual enrollment. you can sign up for a 3 hour program and save on tickets.

  • Adrienne says:

    We have stayed at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek hotel (http://www.hiltonbonnetcreek.com/) numerous times during the last two years and we keep coming back. It is perfect for families (Waldorf is also on the property and beautiful but Hilton is much better for families). The hotel is new, clean and well-kept, staff is friendly and courteous and eager to please. If you are too tired for the parks you can have fun in the amazing pool and lazy river and with all the planned activities for kids. I highly recommend it: great value (all sorts of package deals to please everyone), it is on the Disney property, nice courtesy shuttle bus to the 4 Disney World parks (saves you from paying for parking at the Disney park), Disney Store on site and kids 12 and under eat for free (Harvest Bistro offers complimentary children’s breakfast or dinner with the purchase of an adult entreé). They have a lovely buffet breakfast where you can load up before heading out to the parks. Downtown Disney is about 5 minutes away and they offer shuttles there as well. They also run special deals if you need to book an adjoining room if you have a bigger family. Also, if you have little ones, this hotel is perfect since it is so close to the parks that you can run back for a nap and then head out again. Michael’s, Target and Dollar Tree have great $1 Disney items to purchase beforehand to save you money at the parks.

  • Aimee says:

    We just went to Disney World on Feb 4. We had an amazing time with our 5 and 3 year old. We found that the price during that time of year was very reasonable. We included the regular dining plan and were able to use it for 4 character dinners, which those alone would have cost us more than the whole dining plan did. We also got a quick service meal everyday and a snack everyday per person. It was more than enough food for us. We brought sovenirs from home including shirts from disneystore.com. We spent the same amount on 12 gifts that we would have on 2 shirts at the park. We also packed granola bars and took reusable water bottles. Also a stroller is a must. We only took one and ended up having to carry one child at times. It was also helpful for us to have a backpack with snacks and busy stuff for standing character lines. Those can be long. But arriving at the park early will allow you to ride the rides without having to wait in long lines. At Hollywood Studios, as soon as you get there go get a fast pass for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride. They run out of fast passes early and that line is usually over an hour long. It was loved in my family.

  • Linda says:

    We brought packets of oatmeal, some strong disposable bowls and plastic spoons in our suitcases. We would heat up the water in the coffee pot and have oatmeal for breakfast before we left for the parks. Worked out great!

    I also recently recommended to a friend to buy a sit and stand stroller on Craigslist for $30 for her 4 and 7 year old. She said it worked out great, and at that price, you could just leave it there if you wanted!

  • W says:

    The day after Labor Day through middle of September is the quietest. IF you book through Disney, take advantage of FREE Dining Plan.

    We use Ebay for Disney Resort Rental (timeshare). Cheap, Cheap, Cheap. Keywest, Saratoga Springs, Wilderness Lodge & Animal Kingdom (usually more expensive) These do not qualify for for Dining Plan, but if you rent 2 bedroom, it comes with kitchen and washer/dryer. We ate in some and ate quick service at WDW. Still cheaper than going through Disney Vacation.

    YES Program- DISCOUNT TICKETS!!! Ages 5-18 take a 2 hr class at Disney. Many to choose from. Pick Individual enrollment. Tickets are good for just around the date of the class. We did WDW first and the last day my kiddo attended class. Totally fun-not boring. One parent must attend with child. Interactive class by staff and usually involves Disney rides during class before park opens. If you don’t attend class, they will charge you full price for tickets.
    http://www.disneyyouth.com/youth-education-series/

    Do NOT go to parks that have extended hours on that day. Too many people. Choose another park. (unless going in September)

    Best Walt Disney World Buffet Restaurant: BOMA near Animal Kingdom and usually easy to make reservations.

    • W says:

      I forgot to mention that when you stay on Disney Property, all transportation is free. It was so easy to just get on a bus and go from park to park or downtown Disney. If you choose to drive and park, you get free parking at any theme park.

      We bought discounted Disney cards on Ebay and at Sam’s Club to use. I just gave them to the check in and they were added to our Key to the World. I even was able to purchase discount gift cards to Fulton’s Crab Shack, Wolfgang Pucks and Portabello’s on Ebay.

      Be sure and “like” Wolfgang Pucks on Facebook. When we ate there on a weekend, we received 50 % off our bill and we used our discount gift card. It was like getting the food for 75% off.

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