Disney Hacks - How to Save Money on Your Next Trip

The happiest place on earth doesn't always have to be the most expensive
By
Anna Dominguez
Cinderella's castle at Walt Disney World
 

You're going to Disney World! A day spent at the happiest place on earth can be one of your most memorable vacations, but also one of your most expensive. Food, parking, and souvenirs can all start to add up, not to mention the cost of the admission ticket itself. Never fear! It's not game over for your wallet just yet.

While there are no magical free Disney passes, there are ways you can save money at the parks. After all, what's better than ending a magic-filled day with some extra cash in your pocket? Keep reading for some tips and tricks on how to save a few bucks during your next visit to Disney.

Woman wearing Mickey ears standing in front of Cinderella's castle in Disney World.

Planning is key

The money-saving starts before you even get to the park! Pay attention to Disney deals and check reputable discount sites for discounted Disney tickets. Disney periodically has park bundle deals, perfect if you are planning to visit three or four parks on your trip. This is a great alternative to buying individual tickets for each park. Also make sure to be on the lookout for veteran or senior discounts for parks and hotels.

Going in to the park with a plan is a good way to maximize your time spent there. Download the My Disney Experience app for your phone to get FastPasses, park maps, and check ride wait times. You can plan your day accordingly, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck by avoiding long lines as much as possible. You can also avoid unnecessarily walking back and forth between different parts of the park. This in turn means you won't get as tired, so you won't need to stop for water or food breaks as often, which leads into the next tip!

Two Mickey Mouse pancakes

Food & Drink

One of the biggest things people spend money on in an amusement park is food. We all have to eat, however, Disney food comes with that Disney price tag. Avoid this by bringing your own snacks and meals, especially if one or more of your travel buddies is a child. Snacks will keep you energized throughout the day and when lunchtime rolls around, there are many places to sit and eat. The same rule applies for water. Water bottles at Disney can cost anywhere between $3-$5. Bring your own bottles from home, or a reusable bottle to refill at water fountains. You can also get free cups of ice at any restaurant to have nice cold water.

If you don't want to carry around your food and drinks, another way to save some money when it comes to food is to share a meal. Certain meals, like chicken tender platters and wraps, are big enough for two people to enjoy. Most restaurants at Disney have the food served and ready to go, so you can see the amount of food you will be getting before paying. If you're not looking for a big meal, you can also opt for a kid's meal. These are smaller portions, but they typically come with two sides so you still have a satisfying meal.

High angle view of cars parked near a building

Parking

The day has arrived! You've planned your day, packed your lunchbox, and you're on your way to the park. But before you can reach Disney's doors you're faced with another costly item: parking. Parking at Disney can cost upwards of $20 per vehicle. Don't worry! You don't have to walk to the parks if you're trying to avoid parking fees. Disney offers complimentary shuttles to and from the parks from various Disney properties. To avoid parking fees, you can park your car at Disney Springs or a Disney Resort hotel.

Disney Springs parking is free, but you will have to take two shuttles in order to reach the parks in the morning. Shuttles leaving Disney Springs go to and from Disney Resort hotels. Stop at any hotel and wait for the shuttle that will take you from the resort to the park. In the afternoon, there is a shuttle service offering direct access from the parks back to Disney Springs starting at 4 p.m.

Disney Resort hotels have shuttles going directly to the Disney parks. Parking is available here for guests of the hotel, and non-guests alike. If you are a guest at the hotel, parking at the parks is actually complimentary. If you are not a guest and are only planning on staying in Disney for a few hours, you can obtain a free three-hour parking pass to park your car at the resort.

Lego set of the Disney castle with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy

Souvenirs & Gift Shops

You've made it into the park. You followed all the steps and saved some money, and now it's time to enjoy Disney. You're not going to spend anymore money unnecessarily. That is until you see the cutest Mickey sweater in the window of the gift shop. T-shirts, magnets, jewelry, toys, you want it all! You have to commemorate your Disney day with some Disney swag, right? Everything Disney is designed to be wonderful and amazing, causing people to want to drop some serious cash on souvenirs and matching shirts.

The biggest money mistake you can make is buying your souvenirs at Disney. In Orlando, especially close to the parks, there are many stores stocked with Disney themed memorabilia. On International Drive, mere miles from all four Disney parks, there are several stores dedicated to Disney-themed items. You won't find the exact same items as those in the park, but you will be able to stock up on shirts, hats, toys, and figurines at a fraction of the cost. You can even find Disney things at local stores like Publix. Disney is a very big part of Orlando culture, so you won't need to go far to find a pair of Mickey ears.

No matter how decked out you are in all things Disney, you can't avoid the gift shop. Most rides will have you exit through their store to persuade you into making a purchase. Try to avoid the other gift shops as much as you can. The more exposed you are to Disney trinkets, the more likely you are to go home with a $12 magnet. This is especially true if traveling with children. It can be hard to pry them away once they've laid eyes on a giant stuffed Simba.

Shoes, sunglasses, lipstick, scarf, and bag laid out on a brown surface

General Supplies

Now that you've got the fundamentals down, it's time for some extra details. Supplies, supplies, supplies! It's part of the planning stage, and will most definitely save you a chunk of change. Think about what you will, or might, need for your day at Disney. Sunglasses, lotion, cooling towels, are all things that add up if you have to buy them at the park. Sunscreen is a must. You will be spending most of your day outside in the sun, so you don't want to get caught without a bottle.

Is it going to rain? Do you plan on riding water rides? Do you need to bring a poncho? Check the weather forecast to ensure you're prepared for the day. If you need some rain or water gear, head to stores like the dollar store or Walmart. Rain ponchos at Disney can cost almost $10, whereas a non-Disney poncho will cost $2 at most.

Making sure you have all these little things saves you a trip to the Disney shops to buy your necessities at a marked up price. As mentioned before, planning is key.

Dollar by dollar, cent by cent, there are many ways for you to save some money when you visit Walt Disney World here in Orlando. There is no reason why a magical vacation should break the bank. Now you're prepared to make sure it doesn't!

Cinderella's castle at night