Okay, summer is here again and we’re headed to Disney World. I know the Magic Kingdom and saving money don’t really go together but there a couple of things you can do to stretch the bucks. I would recommend doing some research both online and check out the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World at your local library or buy Birnbaum’s Disney or something from Fodor’s travel guides.
1) Airfare – the advertised price may look great but what else do you have to pay for? Most airlines charge other fees on top of the cost of the ticket like baggage fees, seating assignments and who knows what else. Southwest still offers your “bags fly free” with 2 checked bags per person. Even your golf bag flies free. Jet Blue allows your first bag to go free.
2) Hotels – the All Star and Pop Century Resorts are the least expensive and still on-site with shuttles running all day until the after the parks close. Plus, staying on-site gives you “Magic Hours” – time that you as a Disney resort guest get in the parks before it opens or closes to the public. Plus, you get free parking! Staying off-site can save you some money but the aggravation of driving in traffic, parking or having to wait on shuttles to take you back or missing the fireworks because the hotel’s shuttle leaves before it’s done may not be worth it. If you want a less expensive property, Disney does offer packages with their “Good Neighbor” resorts – close by with shuttles. Going off-season (Mid-Aug to about the first week of December) can help save money too.
3) Tickets – if that’s all you need, give us a call before you leave and save 4-6% off the prices at the gate. Your best savings comes with multi-day tickets (savings start with 4 days or more) and purchasing a package with hotel and passes. There are 3 tiers of tickets – the base ticket is your least expensive deal, hopper pass (give you the option to hop from park to park on any day at any time) and hopper pass with water parks includes Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Skip the hopper pass if you’re trying to do this on a budget – we’re talking a savings of $50 per person. And, unless you’re planning on spending a full day at the water park – you can save about $50 per person by not getting this option. You can hop from resort to resort and check out their pools which gives you some fun times in the water without having to pay extra.
4) Food – take snacks with you. All that walking around makes for a hungry bunch. So, we bring a backpack with granola bars, fresh fruit or sandwiches. Also, most resort and theme park restaurants serve good size portions – try sharing with the kids or buying kids meals. Also, most menu boards only offer the combo prices. However, if you order just the entre and skip the fries and a coke – you can save money there too.
If you don’t want to mess with bringing food, try Disney’s Quick Dining or PLUS Dining packages. The Quick Dining gives a snack and 2 combo meals per person, per day. The PLUS Dining option gives you a snack, a combo meal and a sit-down meal. You can combine 2 of those table meals to get a character dining experience or even a dinner show. Those can really tax your wallet if you’re not careful. During certain times of the year (usually in the off season), Disney offers FREE dining. Warning – you do have to stay on-site to get the meal deal and there may be a minimum number of nights required with the FREE dining offers.
5) Drinks – can cost a fortune at the park. Option one, buy a refillable mug at your Disney resort which gives you free refills at the resort – it’s a big mug and can last all day. The down side is carrying it around. Option two, buy some six-packs of your favorite drinks, put them in the fridge overnight and then stick them in your backpack with your snacks. Don’t forget the water – buy some water bottles, freeze them overnight and by the time you get thirsty at the park; they should be thawed and cold. You can refill your water bottle at the park’s fountains.