There are a lot of articles/lists out there aimed towards families traveling to Walt Disney World on a budget. They offer some great tips, but let’s face it, families with children aren’t the only ones who need budgeting/money saving tips for vacationing in WDW.
It’s no secret that a Walt Disney World vacation can be expensive, something I found out the hard way when planning my honeymoon (makes me grateful to my parents who were able to budget and save for all those WDW trips when I was a kid!)
I have put together some money-saving tips that I personally like to abide by when planning a WDW vacation (like I said-this is a personal list, just what I like to do, if you find other tips that work for you then great, but hopefully these can get you started)
1. Spend some time away from the parks: This can be a money and sanity saver for sure-let’s say you are planning a 5 day WDW trip, you may want to consider doing only 3 or 4 day them park passes and give yourself a day or 2 to experience everything WDW has to offer outside the parks (and there is a LOT!). This will cut down on your park ticket costs (which can be pretty high!), and you can use that money towards other activities (boating. spa treatments, golf, signature restaurants, to name a few)
2. RESEARCH! Websites like allears.net and wdwinfo.com have great in-depth information about how much meals cost, and they have updated menus from all WDW restaurants. If you decide to use the Disney Dining Plan (which I would, I find it easy and a time saver), price out the meals you want to have, and make sure you are using the dining plan credits for the most expensive ones, and paying out of pocket for the cheaper ones. Breakfast and lunch tend to be cheaper at most restaurants, so keep that in mind too (a good tip for everyone-dining plan or not!)
3. PLAN: you don’t have to have a minute-by-minute itinerary, but knowing which attractions/shows/restaurants you want to get to will help you make the most out of your food/park ticket dollars (nothing is worse than leaving a park and feeling like a day is wasted because you didn’t get to see everything you wanted to see)
4. Stay on Disney Property: This is definitely a personal preference, and you can certainly get some good deals if you go even a mile outside of WDW, but first of all who would want to be outside of WDW, and second of all, I have done my research…in the battle of Disney hotels vs. off property hotels, there isn’t *that* much of a price difference, and you would have to rent a car to get around which is an added expense that just isn’t worth it to me. PLUS, when you stay on property, you have the HUGE added bonus of Disney’s Transportation system, which makes getting to the parks/other areas of WDW easy and worry free!
5. Plan a “Park Budget”: Figure out how much your out of pocket expenses will be, including: snacks, meals, souvinears, and incidentals (like ponchos for when it pours-which it probably will!)
6. Make a Souvinear Specific Budget: This is one thing my parents did that I use as an adult too: set an amount for each person to spend on souvinears at the park, and try to get things you will actually use when you’re at home too-like personally, I would rather get a Mickey Mouse oven mitt than a T-shirt, and when it got cold on our honeymoon, instead of buying a $60 hoodie (that I probably wouldn’t have worn at home), I bought a $40 blanket that I use often. One of my favorite souvinears is actually the pictures we take while on the trip, I love getting them printed and making an album and framing them, that is better than almost any park merchandise to me.
7. Don’t buy souvinears for the whole world: Does your dog sitter really want Mickey and Minnie Salt and Pepper Shakers? Does your best friend really need that Minnie clutch purse? Keep your list of people to buy for short, and if you must buy something for someone at home, make sure it is something they will like/use…otherwise you are just wasting your money.
8. Be Realistic: When looking at resorts, do you need a deluxe resort or would moderate work just as well (since you won’t be spending much time in the room anyway?). Do you need the Dining plan or are you not a big eater and would be better off buying smaller snacks/splitting meals with someone? Will you actually use the water park option on your tickets or can that be skipped?
Yes, it’s a vacation, but it is easy to go overboard, so just remember that some things matter more than others, and as long as you figure that out before you go by researching and planning, you can have a great WDW getaway that is within your budget