Going to Disney World as a family can be expensive! It’s called the happiest place on earth, but I think it can also be called one of the most expensive. But rest assured! There IS a way to visit Disney World and have a magical time WITHOUT breaking the bank!
I have been to Disney many times and on our recent trip to Disney World, we only spent $1,793.79 on our 5-day vacation, which included airfare, accommodations, car rental, and theme park tickets! With some creativity and planning, you can be on your way to Disney World and creating memories that last a lifetime!
Let’s dive in as I share with you my top money-saving travel tips and how we went to Disney World for less than $2,000!
If you are paying for airfare, stop right now! Gone are the days of needing to pay for an airplane ticket. If you are like most people and use a credit card for your everyday purchases, make sure you are using a credit card that offers points for airline tickets. It has drastically changed how we travel as a family.
There are a ton of credit cards to choose from, each with their own unique benefits. So how do you know which one is the best? You could go with a specific airline, like Delta for example, and use their VISA credit card. The only downfall to choosing this type of credit card is that you typically can only use these points on Delta flights.
I personally love the FlexPerk credit card from US Bank. This credit card allows you to earn points on every purchase you make and the best part is, when you go to redeem your points, you don’t have to stay with a specific airline, like Delta for example. When you log onto your account and select your flight, for example, Minneapolis to Orlando, it will show a selection of different airlines to choose from! Select your flight by the number of points you want to redeem and away you go! It’s that simple! (Plus, you can use for points for a ton of different things besides airline tickets!)
We use this credit card for all of our everyday purchases and bills. It’s amazing how quickly the points add up and before you know it, you’re flying for free because you used a specific credit card on purchases you were already going to make.
If you are a little nervous about credit cards, I understand! I am definitely not an advocate for debt and buying things that you can’t afford. We are very conscious about what we use our credit card for and because we value the points that allow us to fly for free, we are ok with using a credit card instead of a debit card.
If you want to fly for free, this is the best way to do it! But always be wise and keep track of your finances. I suggest always paying off your credit card every two weeks. That way you are on top of the balance and you’re less likely to get behind. As always, you have to decide what works best for you and your family. For us, using the FlexPerk credit card has literally allowed us to travel all over the world for free. It makes sense for our family and has allowed us to take vacations that we couldn’t have afforded if we had to pay for each airline ticket.
- Airline Tickets – free and $125 (fee for bags – roundtrip)
Disney Resorts vs. Offsite Accommodations
When booking a Disney World vacation, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is where to stay. Do you stay at a Disney resort or do you stay offsite at another hotel? During our many trips to Disney World, I have done both and here are my pro’s and cons for staying at Disney resorts and offsite hotels.
During our last trip to Disney World, we stayed at an offsite condo. We had purchased a special package through a timeshare company at our local county fair the summer prior and originally we were going to use this package for a mini vacation to the Wisconsin Dells. When we went to book the vacation, Wisconsin Dells wasn’t available but they offered a place in Orlando instead. Since I am a massive Disney fan, I quickly convinced my husband that this was the perfect Christmas gift for our girls.
We purchased the timeshare package for $100 and later upgraded it for an additional $188 for another night/upgrade for a 2 bedroom condo versus a regular hotel room. The resort we stayed at was decent and we had to attend the typical timeshare presentation, but in the end, we had a 2 bedroom condo for 4 nights for $288.
If you’re able to find a deal like this and don’t mind attending a 90-minute timeshare presentation, then this is a great way to save money. This package was definitely cheaper than staying at a Disney resort and we had two bedrooms, which was great with two little girls.
After staying at an offsite condo during a Disney World vacation, I definitely prefer staying at a Disney World resort. If you are only in Orlando for Disney World, you cannot beat the convenience that Disney offers when you stay at their resorts.
Plus, Disney World offers a wide range of resorts which range in nightly prices. We typically stay at one of the All Star Resorts and we typically pay between $100 – $125 a night. Here are a few of the perks you receive when you stay at a Disney resort, regardless of which resort you choose.
- Magical Express: If you are only visiting the parks, there really isn’t a need for your own car. Disney makes it super easy to get to their resorts, even with young kids! When packing your bags at home, make sure to attach the luggage tags your Disney Resort provides you with and once you check in at the airport, you won’t have to touch your bags until Disney delivers them right to your hotel room. Once you arrive in Orlando, follow the signs to the Magical Express and hop onboard! Next stop is your Disney resort.
- Buses to and from the park: Ready to head to the park? Then hop on board one of Disney’s park buses. Each resort offers buses to and from each Disney park, including Disney Springs for free. There is no need for a car to drive yourself to the park and pay $25 a day for parking, plus the extra walking!
- Magic Bands: Disney knows how to make things convenient! With the addition of magic bands a few years back, a lot of things got even easier! Your magic band serves as your ticket to get on the Magical Express, your room key, your theme park tickets and you can use your magic band to charge to your credit card on file while at any resort, theme park and store located at Disney Springs. Yep, Disney makes it that easy! Lol
- Accommodation Price: $288 for a 2 bedroom condo for 4 nights
Ways to save on food
No matter what vacation you are on, food always seems to be one of the most expensive parts! With a little planning ahead, you can find ways to save money on food at Disney, which quickly adds up to money saved!
Because we had a condo, we decided to eat breakfast in our room each morning. This easily saved us $30 a day and made our mornings more relaxing. Eating out with a three-year-old and 15-month-old is hard enough, let alone for three meals a day! Even when we stay in regular hotel rooms, we try to find fruit, granola bars and cereal to enjoy and maybe go out once or twice for variety.
A part of the Disney experience is certainly trying the fun restaurants they have at the theme parks. Plus, who doesn’t love Mickey ice cream or Mickey pretzels! I know I do! 🙂 Because we had breakfast in our room, we planned to have one big meal a day at the parks. One day we ate at Tony’s Italian Restaurant where the Lady & The Tramp had their first date and the second day we ate at Minnie’s Holiday Party at Hollywood and Vine. Because we saved on breakfast, we wanted to have one meal a day that was a true Disney experience!
For the rest of the day, we brought snacks and bought the popcorn tub at the park for $10 and each refill is $2 throughout your whole stay, at any park. We all love popcorn so this was the perfect snack for us!
Theme Park Merchandise:
Once I enter Disney World, I quickly get sucked into the excitement and love for everything Disney! I think I’m almost as bad as our three year old! I love Disney’s creativity and the amount of merchandise they have is insane! You can quickly spend a lot of money on all your favorite Mickey ears and stuffed animals, but with a little bit of planning and a budget, you can keep yourself from going too crazy!
Because we went to Disney two weeks before Christmas, we decided that our trip and a few souvenirs would be the majority of the girls Christmas present. In order to keep our three year from wanting everything in sight, we explained to her that each day she could pick out something special. She saw lots of things she wanted, but with some guidance, she did an amazing job waiting until she found something she absolutely loved and then picked that as her special gift. One day it was a Rapunzel doll and the next day was a Little Mermaid Dress. I was honestly shocked by how well she did. Proud mom moment!
If you accept the fact that most likely you’re not going to leave any Disney park without some sort of souvenir and explain the game plan to your kids, hopefully, you can avoid the gimmie’s and focus on having a fantastic time! If you can make it through the whole day without buying anything, hats off to you!!! But most importantly, remember that Disney is a great experience and it’s about having fun and making memories!
I love taking photo’s and took over 500 photo’s in the three days we were at the parks! Capturing those special moments and the character meet and greets are the memories I’ll always remember. Disney does a great job of helping you capture those moments with professional photographers available throughout the parks and at the character meet and greets. But did you know you can get your photo taken for free and you can purchase the photo’s later if you like!
Depending on your preference, I choose to have the professional photo taken and also have them take the picture with my phone, which they gladly do. I can later look at the photo’s online and if there are a bunch of amazing photo’s, then I’ll consider spending the $200 to download the whole trips worth. I haven’t bought the photo pass yet, our phone photo’s were great enough, but maybe when the girls are older we’ll purchase the photo pass and go crazy getting a million professional photo taken so we can download them all! If you do buy the photo pass, just make sure to get your money’s worth!
Car or no car, that is the question?
Having your own car on vacation has its pros and cons. Most trips we have a rental car, but if you are staying at Disney World, I honestly feel there is no need! This past trip, we did rent a minivan because we were staying at a condo offsite and it worked well for us. It was nice to have our own vehicle to get groceries, our morning Starbucks, and have the option of eating somewhere other than the parks for dinner.
A lot of resorts near Disney do offer shuttles to and from the park so you don’t need your own transportation. Again, this is a personal preference and really comes down to what you are going to do on your trip. If you’re only doing Disney and especially if you’re staying at a Disney resort, save the money and enjoy their free transportation!
- Car Rental: $228.84 – Minivan for 5 days through Advantage
Airline bag fee: $125
Theme Park Tickets: $1,082.95
Theme Park Parking: $75
Have a magical vacation!
Well, there you have it! My top money saving tricks for how we went to Disney World as a family of 4 for $1,793.79! If you’re wanting to plan a trip to Disney World but are nervous about the price, my best advice is to think outside of the box. Plan ahead and start earning frequent flier points with a FlexPerk credit card and decide if an offsite hotel or Disney Resort is best for you. Be creative with your food and work with your kids and make a plan for souvenirs.
But most importantly, remember that these memories you will create at Disney World are priceless! Seeing your kids Disney and meet Mickey and Minnie are the moments you’ll hold dear to your heart. It’s great to save money when traveling, but don’t let it get in the way of having the best vacation and enjoying your family! In the end, that’s what matters!