Disney World on a Budget
Updated: Sep 25, 2022
Tips and tricks on how to save money on a Disney vacation.
Disney is all fun and magic until you look at your bank account post- “best week of my life.” Here are some tips and tricks on how to have a magical vacation without breaking the bank and questioning your entire existence.
Yeah, you heard us right. Free money — well, kind of. There are numerous apps available that use a gift card reward system that can be used toward your next Disney vacation, but these are a few of our favorites.
Shopkick is a fun and easy app that rewards users with free gift cards for scanning products, watching ads, purchasing products, submitting receipts, and entering stores. To get started, download the app. Use referral code “BLUE013589” and earn at least 10 kicks (their term for points) in the first week to earn 250 bonus kicks. Choose the Disney gift card reward and start scanning! (Note: Disney doesn’t always show up as a primary option. Choose a different reward, go back in to change your reward, and then choose Disney.) 6,250 kicks equals a $25 gift card, 12,500 kicks equals a $50 gift card. Once you reach your goal, you can redeem kicks and download the eGift card or prize of your choice. Tip: Follow Shopkick on social media — they’re always holding kick giveaways to help you reach your goal sooner. I was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t a scam and I used my gift card on 50th anniversary merch in Magic Kingdom!
Fetch Rewards is an app that rewards users with points to use toward free gift cards, just for scanning receipts. While they don’t offer Disney gift cards as a reward, they do offer airline and Visa gift cards. To get started, download the app and create an account. Use referral code “C92UT” to receive 2,000 starter points! Start scanning everyday receipts to reach your goal.
Ibotta is similar to Fetch as it is a receipt scanning app. The difference is, Ibotta’s “rewards” are just straight cash. Can it get any better than that? The app rewards you for buying certain products and can be used for in-store or online shopping. To get started, download the app and create an account. Use referral code “cqinmtq” to receive bonus offers for your first shopping trip. Before shopping, check the app to see their latest offers and click add. You can also add store loyalty cards to your Ibotta account to earn even more cash back.
On-Property vs. Off-Property
Realistically, staying off-property is cheaper than staying at a Disney resort. There are a ton of hotels, resorts, and Airbnbs in the Kissimmee, Florida, area that accommodate Disney vacationers. Oftentimes, they have extremely low rates to try to appeal to visitors who are trying to avoid the expense of a Disney resort. Many have included breakfast, parking, free shuttles, and other amenities. This, generally, would be a no-brainer when booking a vacation, but the one thing they don’t offer is the magic of Disney.
While you’re paying more to stay on-property, you’re getting more for your money physically and emotionally. When staying in a resort, you never have to leave the Disney bubble and break the immersion. So how can you save money and still stay on Disney property?
Since the Magical Express is no longer an option, Uber is going to be the cheapest and fastest option to get to your resort if you are splitting the cost with your group. There are now other bus options to get to your resort that are similar to the Magical Express, but they charge per person. If you’re riding solo, then this will be your cheapest option. Rental cars can be expensive and you will have to pay the resort parking fee. Once you’re on Disney property, their complimentary transportation is the best and cheapest way to get around.
The All-Star resorts are the cheapest option. Many of the rooms have been remodeled recently and don’t seem like a “cheap option.” If you’re looking for a step up from the All-Star resorts at a similar price range, Pop Century is going to be the best option. Art of Animation is also considered a value resort, but is always more expensive.
David’s Vacation Club Rentals
This option allows non-Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members to stay in DVC Deluxe Villas at a cheaper rate. Essentially, David’s Vacation Club Rentals acts as the middle man between a DVC member and guests looking to rent a DVC’s timeshare points. This helps DVC members save money on the years they don’t use their points and in return, the guest who rents their points can save 30% to 50% on a Deluxe Villa. Not only will you receive all on-property perks, you will also receive extra perks for staying at a Deluxe resort, like extended evening hours.
Plan in advance
The further out you plan the trip, the better options and prices you will have. Supply and demand my friends. Also, the time of year will affect this. It will be more expensive to go around a holiday or on the weekend.
Food and Drinks
We all know that one of the benefits of going to Disney is the delicious food and unique drink options. But, it also can get quite pricey when eating out for every meal.
Kids meals are a great option to help save money. Kids meals are made up of an entrée, one or two sides, and a drink for less money than an adult entrée. It’s plenty of food for a quick meal, and you can order them at any age!
Granola bars, fruit snacks, and snack packs are going to be your best friend. Plus, you can order groceries directly to your Disney resort, so you can stock up on all the essentials.
Popcorn buckets are refillable and make for a cute souvenir. After the bucket is purchased, refills are only $2 and it can be used for the remainder of your trip!
Resort Travel Mugs
Purchase a resort travel mug at the beginning of your trip and refill every morning, break, and night with your favorite beverage, including coffee! Not only are they useful, but they’re also a fun way to remember your trip on a mundane day at the office.
Disney merchandise is almost irresistible when vacationing to WDW. These are some cheap options that still offer sentimental value.
Pin trading can be a fun and cheap activity in the parks that results in multiple souvenirs!
While MagicBands are no longer complimentary, they’re fun to have and collect. If you preorder your MagicBand to the resort, you can have the back engraved. This is a fun way to memorialize the trip. We suggest putting the year on it. They also serve a purpose so you won’t feel bad purchasing one of these. But, you also do not need one to enter the parks. Guests can use their smartphones with the My Disney Experience app the same way as a MagicBand.
Park and Resort Hopping
Park hopping is an additional cost that allows guests to visit multiple Disney parks in one day. Our advice to cut down the cost is to skip park hopping completely and just plan a day at each park. It is roughly the same price for three days of park hopping and four days with single park admission. Plus, as part of Disney’s Covid protocols, guests can’t park hop until 2:00 p.m. and could still be turned away if the park has reached capacity. Skip the added stress and cost and use the money for an extra night stay. Also, you can enter and exit the park you reserved as many times as you want throughout the day. So, feel free to head back to the resort to take a break, nap, swim, or eat lunch! Bonus tip: Aim for park open and park close for the lowest crowds.
Resort hopping is a fun and free activity. You can use the Disney transportation options to jump from resort to resort. There is plenty to look at, delicious restaurants to try, pin trading opportunities, photo opportunities, and fun to be had. For example, start at Hollywood Studios and take the Skyliner to Epcot. Walk the boardwalk and check out the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and/or the Boardwalk Inn. Hop on a bus to Magic Kingdom. Take the monorail to the Grand Floridian. Marvel at the beauty of this lobby and listen to the pianist play classic Disney music. Kick your shoes off and walk along the white, sandy shores of the Polynesian Village Resort and stop for some pineapple Dole Whip. From there, either continue along the Magic Kingdom resorts on the monorail, or take a bus to Disney Springs or another park and pick a different resort to go to! The opportunities are endless.