A Disney World vacation is an experience unlike any other.
If you’re not careful, your trip to Disney could cost more than all the future trips you may take combined!
A trip to Disney can drain your bank account without you even noticing!
Between the treats throughout the park, the tickets, the hotel, and even the photos from your favorite rides, all add up quickly.
When my family first got Disney Annual Passes, we couldn’t afford to buy anything else, the tickets were so expensive that we didn’t want to spend any more money.
So we found some creative ways to save money and “Do Disney On A Budget” all while making sure we didn’t lose any magic along the way.
If you are planning a Disney World vacation, here are the best ways to save money at Disney to come in under budget!
Skip The Paid Photos
It doesn’t matter if it’s a special occasion or even your first time on your Disney World vacation, skip the paid photo options.
There are plenty of people in the park that would be happy to take your picture with characters or even in front of the castle at the Magic Kingdom.
The Disney Photographers are also super nice and they will gladly take a picture of you using your own camera or phone.
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Your photos will look just as great as the paid photos, and will even have the same background as the paid ones if a photographer takes it for you!
INSIDER NOTE: Did you know that if you have your phone on “Selfie” mode when you hand it over to a Cast Member to take your photo, they might take a photo of themselves right before they take one for you!
Later when you look back on your phone for your special Disney World vacation photo you’ll see an extra magic “selfie” sprinkled in. That’s how I got the photo above. Isn’t that fun?!!
Grab Some Disney Gift Cards Before Your Trip
Before you leave for Disney, guess how much you will spend on things like food and souvenirs when you are in the park. Once you have this number in mind, buy enough Disney gift cards to cover the cost of these expenses!
Not only will you be forced to stick to your budget, but you can save a ton of money by using the gift cards!
I’ve got several ways you can earn Disney gift cards for free or buy discounted Disney gift cards to use in the park.
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
If you remember to bring your water bottle into the park, you can save some serious cash throughout the day!
Reusable water bottles in the park may cost you around $5, so if you forget to bring one, I do think it’s worth the investment.
Plus, any counter service restaurant (that’s a restaurant serving fountain drinks) in any of the parks will let you refill your water bottle or get a cup of water at no cost!
There are also drinking fountains located around the park which you can refill your water bottle at.
If you’re not sure how you feel about drinking from a fountain, get a water bottle with a built-in filter.
Bring Your Own Souvenirs
Autograph books cost around $20 in the park, and that is for a basic one.
Stuffed animals and other souvenirs will cost a fortune in the parks, but if you bring your own from home, you can still let your kids experience the magic without the added cost!
You can even have them create their autograph books to use, make personalized matching t-shirts, and more!
You’ll start making memories even before your trip begins, and you’ll be saving money while you are there. That’s a WIN-WIN to me!
Bring Your Supplies
Rain ponchos and souvenirs are going to cost you three times as much in the park, then if you bought them outside of the park.
We forgot our rain jackets and ended up paying around $8 a poncho in the park! You can find similar ponchos at the dollar store or even $2 at Walmart!
Here are 8 items you should bring with you instead of buying them at the park:
2. Wipes: Baby or Sanitizing (or Both!)
4. Water Bottles and Drink Mixes
5. Rain Ponchos
6. Ziploc Bags
7. Glow In The Dark Items
8. Princess Items
Learn more about these items in this article about the Must-Buy Items to bring with you to Disney that you get at the Dollar Store.
Eat Breakfast Before Going To The Park
Any meal you eat on a Disney property or in the parks is going to cost you big time!
However, character meals and some of the restaurants will have less expensive options at breakfast time.
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If you are merely looking to put food in your belly before a day on your Disney World vacation, make sure you eat before you enter the park.
This can mean eating a complimentary continental breakfast at your hotel or a quick cup of yogurt and fruit in the room. (Most of the hotel rooms in Orlando have a mini-fridge that will easily fit yogurts and bottles of water).
BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)
Disney is one of the few theme parks that will let you bring your own food to the park!
You can bring everything from fruit, soda, a whole lunch (or dinner), and even a cooler into the park with you! (just no glass and make sure your cooler is smaller than 24″ long x 15″ wide x 18″ high. Trust me, that is plenty big to carry an entire day of food.
Now there are even better items to bring your food in like these backpack coolers! So much better than lugging a cooler box around.
I found that it is smart to bring food items along that are sold IN the park but are a lot cheaper to bring from OUTSIDE the park. Because while you don’t want to have the expense of the food, you also don’t want to feel deprived as you smell the yummy Disney food around you.
Here are some items that can be found inside the park that I regularly bring with us:
• Pineapple chunks or fruit salad (melon, grapes, oranges, apples, or blueberries)
• Apples (whole or cut up) or oranges
• Cotton Candy (Walmart sells buckets of this stuff for $2)
• Goldfish Crackers
• Snack Bags of Chips
• Dill Pickles (Disney sells the massive ones… pack your own as a treat!)
• Sweet Treats such as Brownies, Candy or Cookies
NOTE: If you are headed to the parks for multiple days, you could buy a refillable Popcorn Bucket (it costs around $10 the first time, and then around $3 when you refill it). That is a fun, less expensive treat for the kids! Plus, it has an attachable handle that will easily hang on your backpack (and bringing popcorn takes up a lot of space in your bag).
There are a ton of ways you can save money and still have a magical time on your Disney World vacation.
If you follow these tips, you’ll easily shave a few hundred dollars off of your vacation!