If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World or you know anyone on social media who has been, you may have seen one of these infamous shirts… “Most Expensive Day Ever”… anyone know what I’m talking about? They’re cute, they’re funny, and they’re often very true. Walt Disney World is not a bargain vacation in terms of cost, but at the same time, many of us would argue that the magic & memories, along with the high quality experience that Disney delivers is well worth that higher price tag.
As someone who tries to go to Walt Disney World at least once a year, if not more often, I’ve dropped big bucks at Walt Disney World and I’ve found many fun things that are inexpensive (or free!) along with other tips just to save a little extra money along the way! If you’re wanting to add a few fun things into your stay or just don’t want to spend more than you have to, let this list of tips & tricks enrich your vacation while leaving a few more Benjamins in your wallet.
Have a Campfire with Chip ‘n’ Dale Followed by an Outdoor Movie
This fun can be had (for FREE!) at Fort Wilderness Campsites. You do not have to be a guest of Fort Wilderness to attend this event every night (weather permitting). Hanging with Chip ‘n’ Dale, watching a movie under the stars, and enjoying the evening are all completely free events! If you want s’mores at the campfire, you can either purchase a kit there OR pro-tip: bring your own ingredients & sticks!
To get the movie schedule & make sure the event is still on for the night you’re going, you can call (407) WDW-PLAY.
Stroll through Disney Springs
Disney Springs is a totally free to attend! An outdoor shopping mall + numerous amazing food options awaits you! Of course, the shopping & the food will cost money if you choose to indulge (which we always do! D-Luxe Burger has taken a lot of our money, and we’re always happy to go back & throw more money at it! Plus they participate in mobile ordering which is a game changer, but I’ll talk more on that another day!) However, there are still many free & inexpensive things to do there! Window shop, take photos of your kids with all of the unique Lego figures at the Lego store, listen to live music/watch performances, and grab a snack or quick bite to eat! They have quick service, table service, snack carts, and even food trucks!
Visit Disney Resorts
It is free to visit resorts & explore! Take one of the fun Disney transportation services (monorail, ferry boat, bus, or coming this fall – the Disney Skyliner!) to different resorts & see all they have to offer. Art of Animation with all its Cars & Nemo themed areas on the grounds are huge hits, along with All-Star Movies with its Toy Story & 101 Dalmatians themed areas! Visit the different gift shops throughout the resorts, explore their different restaurants, and enjoy the views they offer. The savannah views at Animal Kingdom Lodge are impressive (and while you’re there, stop in The Mara and grab a 4 pack of Zebra Domes. You’ll thank me for this tip! YUM!)
Note: if you’re not staying at a Disney resort already or traveling to the resorts from a park you’ve already paid parking at, you’ll be charged the resort parking fee which makes this not a free option!
Animation Academy Drawing Classes
This requires doing the tip posted above (unless you’re staying at Art of Animation Resort), but this is open to non-guests as well and offered three times a day! Take a drawing class at Art of Animation & learn how to draw classic Disney characters. Free, fun, & creative bonding time for the family!
BYOS: (Bring Your Own Souvenirs)
Don’t even ask how many times I’ve overbought while visiting WDW, and the majority of the time, it isn’t my kids begging for stuff…. No, it is me wanting everything. I learned this tip too late after our most recent trip in November, but so many ladies told me how they buy Disney items in advance & use them as surprise gifts every morning or throw them in their backpack and pull them out when their kids start begging to visit the gift shops, which I thought was genius! ShopDisney always has awesome deals and carries many of the same items you can buy in the parks from ears to plushes, from play sets to jewelry!
In addition, Walmart & Target both have many Disney licensed items for your trip! Bubble wands for a fraction of what the parks bubble wand costs, action figures & plushes, t-shirts, and more.
Go for Single Day Tickets Instead of Park Hoppers
Honestly, we only utilize the feature of the hoppers because they’re the tickets we receive with my husband’s generous military discount, but if we didn’t get that kind automatically, we’d be very content with the single day tickets. All 4 of the WDW theme parks are large with several things to do and need at least a day. Park hopping wastes time getting to and from each park and isn’t necessary for a good vacation! Save the money and do one park a day!
Order or Bring a Few Groceries
We have always driven when we’ve vacationed at Walt Disney World because we always lived so close, so I’d pack a bag of car snacks & breakfast foods and some days we’d do that for breakfast instead of buying an overpriced breakfast at a park. If you’re flying or just don’t want to bring along food, you can also have Amazon or local grocers deliver directly to your resort! We utilized Prime Now when we were there in April and it was effortless & saved us money compared to buying the items at Disney!
Book through a Disney Travel Agent
1. They’re free. 2. They know what they’re talking about. 3. They’ll be able to notify you if a promotion comes up that your booking would qualify for & switch things around to possibly save you money. 4. They can be as little or as much involved as you want – I personally prefer to do every single thing myself, but book through a travel agent to help a small business earn a commission & for them to help me with my next point (way easier to email a travel agent letting them know I am looking for all military discounts on x date than calling Disney myself and waiting on hold forever.)
Military Members: Utilize Your Discount!
My husband is active duty, but we rarely use the discounts and perks military members often receive in day to day life. Honestly, it just feels icky for us personally when we request discounts or just ask for them even when you know somewhere happily offers it, but when it comes to our Disney vacations, I have no issue asking and using it. Why? Because they have an incredibly generous military discount that makes it possible for us to go as often as we go. If you’re like me and hate to ask for it, let this be the one time you don’t hesitate. They offer discounted park hopper tickets that are a steal and can be purchased through Shades of Green or ITT. We also have used the discounted party tickets which can be purchased for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party & Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! These tickets are only good for select dates and can only be ordered directly at Disney or through Shades of Green in advance.
Along with discounted park tickets, Disney also offers military discounts on their resorts (contact Disney directly via phone for rates or use your favorite travel agent!) to find out about these rates. We always go for a deluxe resort with the mid-level dining plan, and still end up with an amazing deal!
Oh – and add on your memory maker at a discounted rate too when you go to activate your tickets! You want the memory maker even if you have your own camera too!
I hope that these tips help you when you plan your next vacation to the happiest place on Earth! It may not be the cheapest place on Earth, but there are many budget friendly things to do and ways to spend a little less!
Have you ever been to Walt Disney World? What is your favorite park? I think I have to fall back on my trusty Magic Kingdom – something about walking into that park makes me teary eyed every time!