If you’re planning a magical trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland in the near future, you are likely looking for ways to save and make your money go further. With that said, check out our list of 17 things NOT to do – and what you should do instead to save the most…
1. Don’t forget to plan ahead.
Not sure where to start in planning your trip? Head on over here to watch free Disney Parks Vacation Planning videos for a complete tour of the 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Disney Springs and 20+ Resort hotels at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, as well as a tour of the Disneyland Resort in California (including 2 theme parks, the Downtown Disney District & 3 hotels).
Plus, they’ll show you affordable ways to play and stay during your Disney vacation, with personalized tips and information on special events. If you’re interested in a guided travel trip, you can also go here to request a free Adventures by Disney Destination Guide brochure.
Hip Tip: Print a free Countdown to Disney image (use cardstock paper if you have it on hand). Then just cut the sides of the paper to fit into an 8×10 photo frame. Each day, use a white board marker and write on the glass frame to indicate the number of days left in your countdown.
2. Don’t be afraid to use a travel agent.
Using a travel agent to plan a Disney vacation is a great way to save money & time as they’re free to use (Disney pays them!). Agencies like Small World Vacations & Mouse Fan Travel specialize in travel to Disney destinations, so they know how to find great deals for you.
Hip Tip: If you’re a Costco member, be sure to check out Costco Travel for various Disney vacation package deals!
3. Don’t ever pay full-price for tickets or hotels.
Did you know that Undercover Tourist offers deals for discounted Disney tickets, Disney hotels, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, ski vacations and more? They provide authentic attraction tickets at discounted prices, as well as insider planning tips and excellent customer service.
They are authorized by Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood Resort, SeaWorld Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld San Diego, along with other top attractions and major dinner shows to sell discounted attraction tickets that are new & genuine.
As just one idea, four 4-Day Magic Your Way Tickets with 2 EXTRA Days for adults 10+ would cost $1,577.40 shipped (all taxes and fees included – no hopping) on Undercover Tourist and four 6-Day Tickets for adults 10+ from Disney.com would cost a total of $2,100. WOW!
Also, MouseSavers.com is a popular site devoted to saving money on Disney and other theme park vacations – whether you need a Disney ticket discount, Disney World hotel discount, a Disneyland vacation package discount OR any other Disney discount, deal or offer! Plus, if you sign up for their free newsletter before the 15th of the month, you’ll get a special discount code in your inbox that you can use for buying discounted tickets through Undercover Tourist.
4. Don’t travel during peak season.
Disney has multiple “seasons” each year and an easy way to save on tickets is to book during their off-season. Value Season tickets are the least expensive and have the least crowds, followed by Regular Season tickets, then Peak Season (go here and look for “Value”, “Regular” or “Peak” next to price).
Note that these tickets cannot be used on select dates depending on the type of ticket and when they were purchased. Also, be sure to go here and check out the Value Season, Regular Season and Peak Season 2018 DATES for Disneyland and Walt Disney World (in PDF format).
Hate crowds? Check out the Undercover Tourist Crowd Calendar to browse the yearly, monthly, and daily crowd levels.
According to Undercover Tourist, the best days to visit Disney World in 2018 are…
- January 8th-12th and January 17th-25th
- January 29th-February 15th and February 26th-March 1st
- The second half of August
- Most days in September
- Most weekdays in October
- Weekdays in November (minus the week of Thanksgiving)
- Weekdays in December (minus the week of Christmas and New Year’s Eve)
5. Don’t plan the shortest stay possible.
When you’re planning a trip to Disney, consider booking a longer trip to get a bigger value. On Disney.com, the daily cost of a Park ticket decreases in price based on the number of days that you purchase. For instance, you’ll save almost 50% on tickets when booking a ten-day vacation for adults 10+ at $440/ticket ($44 per day) versus a four-day trip at $350/ticket (= $87.50 per day) – plus taxes.
Also, on UndercoverTourist.com, be sure to check out the Undercover Savings tab where you can save an extra $10 off each qualifying ticket combo whenever a select 2-Day, 3-Day, 4-Day or 5-Day Disney ticket is combined with a select 2-Day, 3-Day or 4-Day Universal ticket.
6. Don’t buy the Park Hopper add-on unless…
If you are traveling with younger kids or older grandparents, your family is going to tour at a slower pace as they will get tired easier, so ditch the Park Hopper add-on and enjoy all that the park has to offer. The Park Hopper option allows you to visit multiple parks in the same day (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios), but there’s already so much to do in each park.
However, if you’re planning an adult trip or with teens, have visited Disney before and know which rides you want to do, are visiting during a less busy time of year, or just want more flexibility with FastPass+ or advance dining reservations, a Park Hopper add-on might be worth it for you.
Check out this tip from a Hip2Save reader:
“The one feature I purchased that I wish I hadn’t was the Park Hopper option. I thought we would use it, but I think we only ended up using the Park Hopper one time. If I’m blessed enough to be able to take another Disney vacation, I think I’ll save the $250.”
7. Don’t forget to subscribe to Disney emails.
Sign up for emails from your favorite Disney park to be sure you don’t miss out on any deals as they offer several promotions throughout the year on hotel discounts, dining plans and more. You can also go here to find special offers and promotions for Disney Parks and Destinations.
Whenever you register for a My Disney Experience account, be sure to check the box to receive updates and special offers from the Walt Disney Family of Companies.
8. Don’t venture out without the My Disney App.
If you’re wanting to get actual wait times for attractions and showtimes for fireworks & parades, be sure to download the My Disney Experience mobile app. It also includes an interactive, GPS-enabled map that will help you navigate your way around the park. Other features include:
- Find Character greeting locations and times
- Browse restaurant menus and make dining reservations
- Select and modify your party’s FastPass+ experiences
- Share your itinerary with others through Family & Friends
- Manage your Disney Resort reservations, tickets, MagicBands and cards
- Preview your Disney PhotoPass photos on your mobile device throughout your vacation
- + MORE!
9. Don’t wait to make FastPass Reservations.
Disney’s FASTPASS or FastPass+ service allows you to reserve access to select Disneyland or Walt Disney World theme park attractions, entertainment and Character Greetings in advance. There is no additional cost to use the FASTPASS service―it is included with your theme park admission.
BUT be sure to make your FASTPASS or FastPass+ reservations as early as possible! Whenever you get your MagicBands, you can create an account and link all your FASTPASS times and reservations with other family members. You’ll be able to use your MagicBand or card to enter the FastPass+ line any time during the 1-hour arrival window and avoid having to wait in lines for that ride!
Note that with a ticket or pass, you can make your selections up to 30 days in advance. Or if you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can make your FastPass selections up to 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of your stay. You can lock in up to three FastPass selections for each day.
Hip Tip: Get to the park early or right when it opens to ride other rides that aren’t scheduled on your FastPass with the least amount of wait time! Check out this tip from Hip2Saver Angie…
“When we went, FastPass was a life saver. At Disneyland you are only able to have one FastPass ticket in your hand at a time. We would hurry to grab a FastPass ticket for one of the popular rides that would have a long wait time, and then you have an hour window (sometime during the day) that you are able to return to this ride. Instead of waiting in the long line, you are able to get in the FastPass line and get on the ride MUCH faster. While we were waiting for this time, we would go ride the rides that didn’t typically have much of a wait and then return to the ride that we had the FastPass for during the appropriate time. As soon as we had ridden that ride, we would then go grab another FastPass ticket for the next ride.”
10. Don’t pay for expensive souvenirs.
Before forking out a lot of money on overly priced souvenirs at the park, be sure to hit up the Dollar Tree where they carry a lot of Disney licensed items for just $1 each, as well as glowsticks, trinkets, reusable bags, toys and more.
Target also has fun and inexpensive Disney items in Bullseye’s Playground (i.e – their dollar spot). Buy your own and pack them in your suitcase for fun treats for the kids!
Hip Tip: Instead of paying for an autograph book, be sure to check out these free Disney character autograph pages designed exclusively for Hip2Save readers to print.
They can be used to make a fun autograph book to take along with you on a Disney vacation or for scrapbooking your favorite Disney photo memories!
11. Don’t buy Disney apparel (Instead DIY!).
Instead of paying for expensive Disney T-Shirts or apparel, consider making your own before you go (check out Lina’s tutorial here) OR head to stores like the Disney Store, JCPenney, Old Navy or Kohl’s with a coupon or during a sale when you can purchase Disney apparel on the cheap!
If you do purchase items at a Disney World park, be sure to keep your receipts from your purchases. On the bottom of some receipts, you may find a money-saving coupon valid for specific stores at select times during your stay (like 10-20% off merchandise etc).
12. Don’t pay for drinks & snacks in the park.
One way to save money on food and drinks is to bring your own into the park. Yes, you are allowed to bring a soft case cooler and food into the theme parks (note that the cooler or bag can be no larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″). Also, to save on dining out expenses, consider buying groceries at the store when you arrive and prepare as many meals yourself as you can manage.
Do you drink a lot of soda? Since buying soda can add up really quickly, consider purchasing a refillable mug at your Disney Resort for $14.95 and refill as much as you would like at the beverage station at your resort. This mug will also be a fun souvenir from your trip.
Also, if you’re heading to the park on a hot summer day, be sure to pack a small reusable water bottle and refill at water fountains or in restaurants throughout the day to avoid the cost of bottled water. And, if you’re able to fit rain ponchos, baby gear and other things you may need in your luggage, you’ll save a bundle than having to purchase them in the park.
Hip Tip: If you are planning to dine at the park, go here to check out ALL of the Disney World menus with prices (note that menus and pricing are always subject to change).
Also, if you’re a fan of Disney’s Pineapple Dole Whip, check out how easy it is to make your own delicious version of the famous frozen Dole Whip. YUM!
13. Don’t wait until your child is older than…
If you have a child under the age of 3, now might be the perfect time to plan a trip to Disney World. You might be thinking it’s not very cost effective to take a small child to Disney, but when they are able to eat free on the Disney Dining Plan, enter any of the Disney World theme parks for free (including the two water parks!), and experience any of the attractions (as long as they meet the height requirements for the attraction), well it really seems like a great time to plan a trip.
But do consider bringing your own stroller as rentals can add up quickly and those little legs may get tired easily. Also, if you do choose to rent a stroller while in the parks, pre-paying for the duration of your vacation will save a few dollars. Go here for more tips on using a stroller.
14. Don’t pay for expensive photos unless…
If you don’t like having to carry around a heavy camera or worry about taking pictures yourself and IF it’s in your budget, you may consider the Memory Maker service to capture fun memories.
However, if you own a camera or mobile device that takes quality photos, consider passing up the Memory Maker service as it costs between $169-$199. Once you download the first photo on MyDisneyPhotoPass.com or the My Disney Experience Mobile App, you only have 30 days to capture more photos. Be sure to download your photos before they expire.
Instead or purchasing the Memory Maker service, consider asking a PhotoPass photographer to take a photo of you and your family with your device.
15. Don’t pay full price for Disney gift cards.
Consider saving a few dollars by purchasing Disney Gift Cards before you go. You can purchase discounted gift cards on sites like Raise.com and eBay OR even cash in your reward points for Disney gift cards on sites like Disney Movie Rewards, Kellogg’s Family Rewards, etc. Occasionally, some stores like CVS, Walgreens, Target, Kroger, and Safeway will have promotions on gift cards.
These gift cards can be used online at shopDisney.com, Disney Store locations in the US and participating locations at Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and Disney Cruise Line (includes most shopping and dining locations). If you want to be able to use the card at Walt Disney World, be careful that you are purchasing a Disney Gift Card, not a Disney Store Gift Card, which can only be spent at Disney Stores (there are NO Disney Stores at Walt Disney World).
16. Don’t apply for a Disney credit card unless…
Disney has two co-branded VISA cards offered by Chase – the Disney Rewards VISA Card and the Disney Premier VISA Card. Both cards offer a rebate in the form of “Disney Reward Dollars” that can be redeemed towards Disney merchandise or toward Disney vacations (Disney Theme Park tickets, Resort stays, shopping, dining at Disney restaurants and more).
- Annual fee: $0
- Sign-up bonus: Get a $50 Disney Gift Card after first purchase
- Earn 1% in reward dollars on all card purchases
- Annual fee: $49
- Sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Disney Gift Card after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars on card purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations. Earn 1% on all other card purchases.
- 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations and 10% off select dining locations
- 10% on select purchases at Disney Store and shopDisney.com
If you spend a lot of time at Disney parks, consider getting a Disney Rewards VISA Card as it doesn’t have an annual fee. However, if you spend more than $4,900 annually on the categories which accrue bonuses, then the Disney Premier VISA Card might make the most sense for you.
17. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of the park.
Check out this awesome list of all the free things to do to celebrate the magic of Disney World without actually entering a Disney Park so you can save yourself some money!
How do YOU save on a Disney vacation?
Written by Mary for Hip2Save. Mary is a proud mom to 3 kids in Austin, TX, who thrives off Jesus, running long distance, bargain shopping, warm Texas weather, a yummy latte…and a little Candy Crush from time to time. She also loves quality time with family & friends and sharing great deals with others.