Disney World and cheap are not two words that a lot of people put together often, but I can! It does NOT mean that you need to cut back. In fact, we end up doing more! Disney does not give out “coupons.” However, they have great deals, and hacks, if you know how to work them.
Getting to Disney World..
Traveling to Disney World is usually one of two ways: driving or flying.
Driving – Depending on the car and how many people; you could go from NYC to Disney World for $180. (Next August I will update how much we use – if it’s higher or lower.) The car is usually stocked up with snacks and items for bagels in the morning and sandwiches in the afternoon. We tend to drive straight through down I-95, but if you need to stop there are plenty of hotels along the way. If you want a cheaper overnight experience there are also a ton of campsites along the way. (Our stops are usually bathroom breaks, gas, and now playground time. You could find the list of playgrounds and how far off of I-95 it is here.)
Flying – I love JetBlue. The seats are comfortable, the stewards are usually the nicest people, and I could usually find a great deal. I have not had one bad issue from start to finish with JetBlue. I’ve had problems with a bunch of other airlines, but I won’t put them on blast. Last time, we flew to Disney, we were a family of three, and it cost us $720 round-trip. I didn’t have a credit card that had flight points, but if you have air points use them!
HACK #1 – It’s a little bit more time than just flying directly to Orlando International Airport, but it does help save! Book tickets to Jacksonville Airport for $72 one way (from NYC – amazing!) Then rent-a-car to drive to Orlando Airport. Simply, return the car and jump on Magical Express. That’s if you don’t want to rent-a-car.
Now that we went through those Magical Gates and into the Disney World bubble…
Where to stay and when?
I, personally, never booked the Magic Your Way Package. The reasoning, you can’t use discounts that come out after booking. The pricing is set in stone. I used to only choose room option, and wait for the season before to call the reservations line to talk to a cast member. They will, gladly, be able to put on the newest offer they have.
HACK #2 -You book a room through Expedia. Then you need to call them to get an actual Disney confirmation number. Now wait for the offers to come out for the time you’re going and call up to add the discount. (They sometimes don’t list the Disney discount offer. So you get the Expedia discount and the Disney discount.) It could save you up to 40-70% off!!
We like to book the value resorts. Our oldest, Chase, is only six years old, and doesn’t really care what the room looks it. He loves All-Star Sports since he can decorate our window. We typically only use our room for napping during the day and sleeping at night.
We find the best time to go is the first week of November, aka Transition week- aka “Jersey Week”. That way you could do Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party too! We love going to bed one night with Magic Kingdom having Halloween decor and waking up the next day to Christmas down Main Street. Magic at it’s finest. We feel like we go two different times of the year for one price!
UndercoverTourist can save you upto $68 depending on how long your stay is. My husband gets a discount through his job using WorkAdvantage. Those are the two top ways of saving money on tickets! Well, and a being under three years old. Free!
If your vacation lets you; don’t buy park hopper. You can use the Magic Hours to your advantage. Get there at least 20 minutes before the park opens. Get on as many rides as you can within the first two hours, and then start using your Fast Passes on “main” attractions when it gets busy. Eat on off peak hours of when others eat. You could grab a snack at 11:30 and eat at 2:30 or visa versa. That way you can get the most in.
Also, go back to your hotel and relax. That way you’ll be energized at night when most people leave the parks, like a stampede in Lion King, after the first showing of the parade and fireworks. Leaving the park to free range. (If you’re in Magic Kingdom, for an extra bonus, stay an extra thirty minutes after park closing to take awesome pictures and watch the “Goodnight Kiss.”)
HACK #3 – If you’re attending a special event like MNSSHP and MVMCP then don’t buy a ticket for that day. The event starts at 7 p.m., but you can enter the park at 4! Go take a swim, Disney Springs, or go take a nice long nap. You’ll need all that engery to do the event to it’s fullest!!
A few options are available: Free Dining Offer, quick service meals, buffets, and sending/bringing food.
I don’t use the Disney Dining Plan, because it doesn’t fit my families needs.
Disney offers free dining at certain resorts certain times of the year. The only downside is you can’t use the discount on the room. The best bang for your buck is the room only offers in the 25% category or more are the best deals! That’s the Moderate and Deluxe hotels. They are often a great value on Club Level rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Those rooms come with the best Savannah view for only a little bit more than a regular room with that view. It is a beautiful resort, and one of the furthest away from Magic Kingdom, but worth every penny!
Always get the refill cup for your stay at the resort. It pays for itself after a few uses. You can’t use it in the parks, but you can use it at Boardwalk Bakery or any of the resorts if you resort hop. Take them to the park with you and ask any of the quick service places for water. It’s free!
Quick services are the fastest, cheapest way, to eat in the park. Also, saves on park time.
To save even more park time….. What works even faster?
Open the My Disney Experience app and either
Tap on the image of your character, scroll down to “My Plans” and press the “Order Food” button.
Select “Dining” from the top of the app, tap on the restaurant you want and press the “Order Food” button.
From there, just select the menu items that you want to order! Currently, only accepting credit cards or debit cards. No dining plans are accepted (yet).
When you arrive at the restaurant, open the app, tap on the image of your character and press the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” button. This lets us know you’re here, so we can start your order.
When your food is ready to enjoy, you will receive a notification from the app and you’ll pick up your meal at the area with the “Mobile Order Pick Up” sign.
It’s so easy, your family will think it’s magic.
If we drive – we bring food or stop at the Target right outside the gate. Flying is just as easy. We use Amazon Pantry and for shipping we type our reservation name, our arrival date, and hotel address. It will be delivered to bell services. Upon check-in it it will either be in our room, or just a quick call over and they bring it rite to us.
Buffets are usually the cheapest at breakfast time. If you book Tusker House Restaurant, located in Animal Kingdom, around 11:15 a.m. you could get breakfast and lunch (brunch) for the price of breakfast! (That ham and sauce with Jungle Juice! Yum.) Bonus:: It also helps to not wait in those long lines to meet the characters since they go to each table.
If you have small kids – Dollar Tree, Dollar Tree, Dollar Tree!
Especially for glow in the dark products!! Those light up toys that they sell rite before parades, and you get suckered into buying it, are money suckers! Yeah, we’ve all been there with a cranky kid wanting one of those. Well, save those $14 dollars! Also pick up stickers, coloring books, and small toys. The kids will be less like to play the, “I want,” card. (Bonus- they also work out great for when they wake up and there is a present from Mickey Mouse.)
We have a Disney Outlet store not to far from where we live, and the prices are much cheaper. Also, shop those little silver spinners and the clearance wall in the Disney Stores. I’ve been able to get great deals from them.
.. to saving money is to buy Disney Gift Cards online from Target. You can use any Red Card that you have even if you’re not paying with it. You’ll get the free shipping and 5% off will be added to your account. Disney Gift Cards can be used for merchandise, hotel, food, to purchase tickets, and much more! Typically, they are 3-4% off from resellers, higher around Christmas, they were 8% off this year. I’ve also seen Disney Gift Cards at the Grocery store.
Chase Bank sometimes offers a Disney Debit Card Checking Account. (This is if you don’t want to get the Disney Credit Card from them.) This card will get you all the park perks as a Chase card holder.
♥– Theresa Rose