A family holiday to Walt Disney World in Orlando with the cost of flights, accommodation and park tickets doesn’t come cheap.
Although a trip to Disney truly is priceless – with the pound falling against the dollar it’s more important than ever to make the most of your money on your next trip to Orlando.
Here are my top 20 tips.
- Don’t rule out staying on site at a Disney resort hotel. Many people think it’s too expensive. If you manage to book early and get the Disney Dining Plan which normally is open for bookings from late April until early November it can be great value. With this offer your meals are included and can be great value, especially now that the value of the Pound has fallen against the Dollar making eat out more expensive.Another benefit of staying onsite at Disney is the fact that won’t have to pay the $20 per day parking charge when visiting the parks, which can soon add up over the duration of a 14 day holiday. Disney also offers free transfers and transport to and from the parks.
- Fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday. When travelling with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday typically seems to be the cheaper days to travel. If you book around 11 months in advance when the flights are released or in the sale periods especially over Christmas you can pick up some excellent priced flights and packages especially at BA Holidays.
- Visit Disney outside school holiday periods. I know this sound obvious but it is cheaper, quieter and a great way to spend more time on the rides rather than sweltering in queues in the summer humidity. If you are fixed to school holiday times then the last two weeks of the August summer holidays is a great time to go as the American children are back in school and the parks are noticeably quieter.However the second week of January, February, September, early October and early November are the quietest months to go. The winter months are also the coolest with little or no humidity.
- Eat breakfast before entering the park. Choose a local restaurant for breakfast such as IHOP, Denny’s etc and use coupons to make it even cheaper such as children eat free. Alternatively keep milk and cereal in the hotel room or villa and have breakfast before you leave for the park as some hotels can charge upward of $30 per person for breakfast. Your family can save lots of money by avoiding the expensive breakfast options at the Disney parks.
- Use the Disney shuttle to get out of paying parking fees. If you’re staying at an off-site hotel many offer complimentary shuttle options to get you to and from the parks. Plenty of families use this to avoid the $20 parking fee at the Disney Parks. Disney Springs and the water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon offer complimentary parking.
- Make the most out of your tickets by visiting two parks in one day. Disney parking is currently $20 per day, however you can re-use the same parking ticket for all Disney parks on the same day. So for example you could go to either Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Hollywood Studios during the day and then to a different park to watch a night time spectacular show in the evening.
- Buy your own autograph book before you go to Disney. It can cost over $15 for an official autograph book in the Disney Parks. You could buy a Disney notebook and pen quite cheaply from the UK or from the likes of Super Target, Dollar Tree, Walmart or Publix in Orlando and have it ready for you to take to the Disney Parks. Another alternative that we like is to make your own autograph book before you go. I buy a small notebook and I let the children decorate it as they wish with stickers, pictures from holiday brochures etc. You will start creating memories before you even leave the UK.
- An alternative to the autograph book. We have asked characters to sign t-shirts or pillow cases for our children. This makes a unique keepsake which you could frame in your child’s bedroom when you get home to the UK. It’s also worth taking a sharpie style pen as some characters wearing large gloved hands will appreciate it and you’ll get a nicer autograph.
- Don’t buy water in the parks. Buy bottled water in packs from a supermarket such as Walmart, Publix or Target. If you put them in the freezer overnight at your villa or hotel and take with you to the parks the next day. The water will thaw out and remain chilled for you to drink throughout the day. It saves you having to pay over $3 for a bottle of water at the parks. There are also free fountains around the Disney Parks to refill your bottles or ask for free iced water from the quick service counters.
- Take snacks with you into the parks. Purchase snacks from a supermarket such as Walmart, Publix or Target. You can buy multipacks of cakes, crisps, biscuits, raisins, fruit pots etc in advance, saving you money and time waiting in long queues at the parks. If you have purchased a Disney Dining Plan then you have the opportunity to purchase snacks and drinks using your daily credits.
- Dine as a child. As an adult there is nothing stopping you from ordering a children’s meal at any counter-service restaurant. The portion sizes in America are very large and you get a generous portion at half the price.
- Shop outside the theme parks. Visit the Disney Character Warehouse at the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets Mall, near Downtown Disney, the Disney Store at the Florida Mall and also the Disney Store at Tampa. They have the same stock that is sold in the parks with one difference – most items are 50% or even 80% off! You can even visit a Walmart, Publix or Super Target to get your Disney outfits and toys for a fraction of the price at Disney.
- Keep a hold of your receipts from the park. Some receipts from Disney Park restaurants include same day discounts for shops at Disney Springs in the small print. So take a look before you throw it away, you can use these discounts to buy toys and costumes for your children with a discount!
- Have your picture taken for free. While the Disney Photopass photographers are there to sell you a professional photo they are more than happy to take a photo of your family on your own camera if you ask nicely.
- Cheapest Disney Souvenirs. A little known fact is that the cheapest Disney souvenirs are the Disney pressed pennies. These machines are dotted around the parks and it’s a fun and cost-efficient activity that your children will remember forever.
- Get free drinks. At a World of Coke at Disney Springs and at the Cool Club in Epcot you can try Coke products from around the world, completely free.
- Get free badges. If you are celebrating whilst at Disney, go into guest services and let them know that it’s your birthday, engagement, anniversary etc and you will get magical Disney badges. The birthday badge for example can help you receive complimentary cupcakes from certain restaurants at Disney.
- Escape the rain. Buy ponchos from the likes of Dollar Tree, Walmart etc and take them with you for the afternoon and evening thunderstorms and wet rides instead of buying overpriced ones for $10 at the park.
- Always buy your Disney tickets before you go. On the gate prices are very expensive. For UK customers Disney offer 14 day hopper tickets for the price of 7, but it is worth planning which parks you wish to visit and look at the best ticket option for you. Depending on the amount of times you plan to go to the Disney Parks a 5 day Magic Your Way ticket could be better value. These tickets are for the American customer but can be purchased in the UK. These tickets typically work out much cheaper than the 14 day Disney Ultimate ticket. However always compare ticket prices from the various ticket retailers as the cost can vary significantly and some will also offer extras such as Kids Dine Free cards. The websites we have used in the past to book our tickets have been American Attractions, Orlando Attractions, Florida Tix, Attraction Tix and Orlando Attraction tickets.
- Children under the age of three they can get into the parks for free. Children are never too young to experience Disney. We have taken our girls when they were just 14 months and again at two years old and they loved the experience of meeting their favourite characters.
If you plan on visiting Walt Disney World in the next few years (we are going again this year), I hope you these tips have been useful.