20 Genius Ways to Save on a Disney Trip This Year

A trip to the Happiest Place on Earth is on almost every family’s bucket list. The problem is, the cost of visiting Disney isn’t in everyone’s budget. Before you give up on the chance for your child to meet Elsa or ride Space Mountain, keep reading for our tips that’ll show you how to save on a Disney trip (we were surprised at how much we didn’t know). With a little know-how, even the thriftiest households may find themselves humming It’s A Small World and donning their mouse ears.

Find the Discounts

Disney trivia
Disney/Matt Stroshane

1. Buy gift cards. Retailers like Costco, Best Buy and Sam's Club sell Disney gift cards at a discount. Deals vary, but you may be able to buy a $50 gift card for $45. Target's Red Card gives customers 5% off of all purchases, including gift cards. Although these savings mays seem modest, given how expensive planning a Disney vacation is in 2022, the savings can add up. Be aware that many retailers limit the number of cards you can buy in a single transaction, so it pays to plan and purchase gift cards one at a time as soon as you decide to go to Disney.

2. Get a credit card. Getting a Disney credit card leads to earning Disney Reward Dollars that you can spend at Disney World and Disneyland. Cardholders also receive discounts between 10%-20% on merchandise, food and tours. As a bonus, you can flash your card for access to exclusive photo spots around the park.

3. Look around for the best price on tickets. Pricing fluctuates, but there are discounts to be found through retailers like Get Away Today for Disneyland and Undercover Tourist and Orlando Fun Zone for Disney World. Remember, if something looks too good to be true it probably is—make sure you purchase tickets through an authorized retailer. There may also be discounts for certain groups: members of the Military, First Responders, Florida residents, Southern California residents and Disney Vacation Club members. Dig around a little to see if you qualify before buying.

4. Consider an annual pass. For frequent visitors, getting an annual pass may pay for itself. Not only will you get park admission, but you'll get discounts on food, merchandise and free parking. You'll also get access to exclusive merchandise and even some freebies. Unfortunately, annual passes no longer cover admission to both Disneyland and Disney World, even at the top tier, so you will need to choose which park you prefer to visit upfront. 

Be Smart about Food

Disneyland

1. Purchasing food at the parks can get expensive. Luckily, Disney allows guests to bring in their food and snacks. However, there are some restrictions, so be sure to review them before you go. Even if you want to eat your meals in the parks, packing snacks can save a bundle.

2. Eat breakfast in your room to save money. If your room has a small refrigerator, you can have a filling breakfast with bagels and spreads, cereal and fruit. (Don't forget to bring utensils or snag some from the park) 

3. Don't want to pack groceries? No problem—have groceries delivered to your hotel instead.

4. Bring a water bottle, and fill it up for free around the park. If you want to carry a water bottle around, you can get cups of water for free at food and beverage stands, although they tend to be small.

5. Meals with Disney characters are magical, but not necessary to have a great trip. Stick to quick-service meals instead of sit-down feasts, and you will save a ton while still eating well. Some quick-service meals are large enough to share, especially with young children, so eyeball the portion sizes before ordering too much.

Consider Your Hotel Options

Disney Springs

1. There is no denying staying at an on-site hotel that keeps you in the "Disney Bubble" throughout your trip adds to the magic. If this is a priority, be sure to look at the budget hotels, including the Disney Wilderness Lodge at Disney World, which has cabins as well as campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs. At Disneyland, the Paradise Pier Hotel is a more affordable way to stay on property while not paying premium fees.

2. If you do stay at a Disney hotel, try to make the most of your stay by taking advantage of perks, like adding a discount dining card onto your package if eligible. Disney hotels also offer transportation to the parks, which helps save on parking fees. You can also take advantage of hotels that offer unique experiences, such as views of nightly fireworks.

3. Save money by staying off-site. There are plenty of hotels and Airbnbs close to Disney World and Disneyland. Many guests prefer this option, as these spots have more space and some offer amenities like full kitchens. And some hotels, like Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando and SpringHill Suites by Marriott Orlando at SeaWorld, have earned a Certified Autism Center designation. They are a great choice for every family, but particularly for those traveling with a child with autism. In Anaheim, Marriott's Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort also provides extra support for guests with autism.

Figure Out the Souvenir Situation

Patrícia Ferreira via Unsplash

1. If your child wants to wander the parks dressed as their favorite Disney princess or pirate, save big by purchasing costumes ahead of time.

2. Trinkets like mouse ears and bubble wands may be irresistible. Get some ahead of time and bring them with you instead of shelling out big bucks in the park. Keep your eye out for sales at the Disney store ahead of your trip to get officially branded merchandise for less.

3. In a pinch, you can get deliveries from places like Amazon and Target at your hotel. You may be able to find souvenirs for less and get them overnight.

Park Strategy

Taylor Gregory via Unsplash

1. It may be tempting to buy "Park Hopper" passes so that you can visit more than one park in a day. However, there is so much to in each park this isn't necessary to have a good time, especially if you are visiting for more than a single day. You can save money by buying regular tickets and making the most of one park at a time.

2. Disney ticket prices fluctuate throughout the year. If your travel dates are flexible, pay attention to when tickets are less expensive. Not surprisingly, ticket prices rise around holidays and school breaks. 

3. Plan strategically to avoid paying for Genie+ and Lighting Lane. If you visit during slower times of the year and arrive at the parks as soon as they open, you can go on more rides without paying for these perks.

4. You can have a magical Disney vacation without spending every day in the parks. This can help you save a bundle. Check out free and low-cost activities near Disney World and Disneyland. Disney Springs in Orlando is run by Disney and is free to visit. While there are no rides, just walking around keeps you in the Disney bubble without paying for an additional day of park admission. In Anaheim, take a beach day for an inexpensive change of pace without losing those vacation vibes. You can also plan on spending a day just relaxing by the hotel pool in either location.

5. Consider your add-ons carefully. For some, photos are priceless and the value of a Disney PhotoPass or Memory Maker is well worth the investment. For those who don't mind cell phone snaps or not being in every picture, it's a better idea to save your money and spend it on something more meaningful for your family. 

 

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