Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom — Photo courtesy of Sarah Etinas
Given that theme parks are notoriously expensive, it can be hard to imagine visiting Walt Disney World Resort on a budget. But there are proven ways to stretch your dollar at this famed Orlando, Florida, attraction. From ticket hacks to saving on meals and transportation, here are six travel-planning tips to visiting Disney World on a budget.
Stay at a Disney Value Resort Hotel
Squirt from ‘Finding Nemo’ at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort — Photo courtesy of Sarah Etinas
There are three tiers of Disney resorts: value, moderate, and deluxe. As you might assume, the best place to stay while visiting Disney World on a budget is at a Disney Value Resort Hotel. Even though these hotels might not have all the frills, they’re still fantastic for an all-around Disney experience with a few added perks.
The most affordable Disney Value Resort Hotels are Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort. With basic amenities, these Disney resorts offer a magical experience at a lower price point. As of 2023, you can find rooms for as low as $118 per night.
That said, if you can splurge a bit more, book a room at Disney’a Art of Animation Resort. While still considered a Disney Value Resort Hotel, this budget-friendly hotel offers next-level theming, such as a “Finding Nemo” pool and rooms fashioned after “The Lion King.” There’s also easy access to the Disney Skyliner gondola system for convenient transportation to and from the parks. Pro tip: Use Disney Vacation Club points to save even money.
Make use of Disney resort transportation
Disney Skyliner gondolas — Photo courtesy of Sarah Etinas
One of the biggest perks to staying at a Disney resort hotel is that you have easy access to all of Disney’s free transportation options. From boats and buses to monorails and gondolas, there’s always a way to get from one park to the next at Walt Disney World.
These convenient transportation options will save you time and money. Instead of driving to the resort and parking (standard parking starts at $25 per day), you can save that hard-earned cash for later.
Get a bright and early start
Snow White and a dwarf sculpted out of plants — Photo courtesy of Sarah Etinas
Free transportation isn’t the only budget-friendly perk you’ll get by staying on the Disney property. You’ll also have early entry to the parks!
With a 30-minute head start on entry for the general public, you’ll be able to hop on more rides, see more shows, and meet more characters. Simply put: More activities per park day equals more bang for your buck!
Be smart about your tickets
Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom under construction — Photo courtesy of Sarah Etinas
Many Disney World visitors on a budget make the mistake of buying a park hopper ticket. While this is a bit cheaper than buying a separate ticket for each park, it’s not quite the money-saving hack you’d expect.
The biggest downside to a park hopper ticket is the time you’ll lose “hopping” from one park to another. While EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are only about a 20-minute walk apart, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are more out of the way. Walking from Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom can take over an hour!
Instead of a park hopper ticket, pick your favorite park and enjoy it all day long. That way, you’ll get to ride every rollercoaster on your list, say hello to a few special characters, and even find a few hidden gems along the way — all without rushing through your day.
If you have a little more time (and money) to spare, opt for multi-day tickets. With Disney’s pricing algorithm, the more days you purchase, the cheaper the ticket for each individual day.
Bring your own food (or stick to quick-service restaurants)
Salmon with a slaw from an Epcot counter service restaurant — Photo courtesy of Sarah Etinas
Unlike many theme parks, Disney World allows you to bring outside food and drinks into the parks. This is one of the best tips to keep in mind while visiting Walt Disney World on a budget. Simply pack a picnic and plop down on a park bench when lunchtime rolls around!
If you still want a little bit of the Disney World food experience but don’t want to break the bank, opt for quick-service dining options. In comparison to the resort’s table-service restaurants, Disney’s quick-service options are significantly cheaper while still serving up delicious bites, like fancy pastries, savory barbecue, and tasty tacos.
Enjoy free Disney activities outside the parks
Life-size gingerbread house and Christmas tree at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort — Photo courtesy of Sarah Etinas
A great Disney World family vacation doesn’t have to entail multiple park days. Truth be told, that’s a sure-fire way to wear yourself and the kids out quickly!
Instead, intersperse your park days with Disney World’s free activities outside the parks. Disney Springs is a great spot to enjoy some Disney magic for free. Here, you can participate in LEGO car races, watch glass-blowing demonstrations, do a little window shopping, and listen to live music — all without spending a dime!
Also, stroll along Disney’s Boardwalk, where you can find arcade games, firework shows, and late-night dancing. Or hop from one Disney hotel to the next for a slew of entertaining sights, from the life-size holiday gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian to the wonderful wildlife at the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.