Requested by kviii

DISNEY ON A BUDGET

Bless you @k8mcgarry, what a great request. I hope this is the right amount of thorough-ness 🐭💰 Disney listers, help me out with suggestions!
  1. Buy tickets in advance if possible & go during the off-season
    Disney has got a new thing now where one-day tickets are up to $20 more expensive during holiday weeks. If you're buying multi-day tickets, this doesn't apply, but February (just not Presidents' Day) and September are usually the best months to go regardless, both crowd and weather-wise. Plus you'll get a better deal on your hotel, etc. You can look for discounted tickets online, but make sure you're using a reputable site.
  2. Lose the park hopper option
    Adding the park hopper option to a 1-day ticket is about $43 extra. If you're staying enough days to visit all the parks individually, you don't really need it (but if you decide later in your trip that you want to see multiple parks in one day, you can always go to a guest service kiosk and upgrade your tickets later).
  3. Wait for one of Disney's resort promotions
    They offer these periodically if you book a stay within a certain block of days, usually during the off-season. Keep checking their website to look for deals. A lot are room-only (up to 30-40% off), but sometimes they offer discounts that apply to your whole vacation package. They also have a seasonal free dining promotion where they throw in a dining plan with your resort stay. I think that usually comes around in the spring/summer.
  4. Stay at a value resort
    The cheapest tier of WDW resorts are called "value resorts," and they're basically motels, except with cute Disney theming. They start around $85/night. You won't be there much apart from sleeping, and the values still have pools, shopping, and cafeterias. The Art of Animation resort is pretty new and has Lion King rooms that fit up to 6 people- which is 👌🏼 if you're coming with friends. Throw some questions about it @jacobcorreia cause he works there.
  5. OR book a hotel off-property
    I've only stayed at one off-property hotel (a Hilton), so I'm no expert on this, but I do know that there are TONS of options, many cheaper than Disney. There's also rentals, or you can live like Beyoncé in an Airbnb. The downside is you won't get Disney transportation (or service). Some hotels do offer their own busing though, so definitely look out for that if you're not bringing a car!
  6. Use Disney transportation if you're staying on-site
    Disney has something called the "Magical Express" which handles all your luggage for you, and transports you to and from the Orlando airport. It's 100% free and SO convenient. You can also use the complimentary busing, ferries, and monorail to travel between the resorts, parks, and Disney Springs. Don't pay for parking!
  7. Never buy bottled water
    Go to any quick-service food place with a fountain soda machine (so, anywhere except the outdoor carts) and ask for a cup of ice water. I live here, so you can trust me when I say the water is just fine. Much cheaper than buying 8 water bottles a day in the heat.
  8. You can bring your own food into the parks
    For some reason, a lot of people are not aware of this, but it's totally allowed.
  9. There are good quick service options if you're not paying for table service
    A lot of people are skeptical of quick-service restaurants at Disney, but it's not as bad as you'd think. If you're getting real sick of chicken nuggets, try resort locations like Captain Cook's at the Polynesian. Epcot's World Showcase has the best variety of QS food (and drinks, and snacks). You can also find a few unique options at Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs (they have a to-go window for Morimoto's!!!!)
  10. If you want to eat at a table service restaurant, have breakfast
    At most restaurants, breakfast < lunch < dinner in terms of cost, and Disney breakfast is GOOD. I currently work at the Crystal Palace, and we've got a make-your-own omelet station where you can also custom order pancakes. Highly recommend.
  11. You can totally order kids meals
    I do this all the time. They're much cheaper than adult meals (like $6), and come with a small drink, and kiddie sides like yogurt and apple slices. The portion size isn't even that bad (granted, I'm not a huge eater).
  12. Bring all your stuff!
    If you forget toiletries, camera supplies, etc., you're gonna be paying more to buy them at Disney. UNLESS the thing you've forgotten is baby supplies, which you can purchase at standard prices in the Babycare Center.
  13. Use Disney Photopass photographers, just don't pay for their camera pics
    They're really cool and usually helpful, and they're happy to take photos on your own camera or phone. You're not obligated to pay for anything they take on their cameras (and I suggest you don't, they're expensive).
  14. You can get pixie dust without going to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Harmony Barber Shop
    Castle Couture and Sir Mickey's (stores in the castle courtyard) will pixie dust you for free, as will the cast members at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique entrance.
  15. Save on merch by buying it online
    If you want a cute shirt or some mouse ears to wear around, you can find lots of unique, less marked-up options on sites like Etsy. Forever 21 used to always have cute Disney sweatshirts, and I've found stuff at H&M as well. The official Disney Store site has sales, unlike inside the parks.
  16. If you're in the market for a kid's princess dress, try the Disney Store at home or online
    They change the price of the costumes in the parks a lot, but the Disney Store options are usually cheaper, and in my opinion, much cuter (Nope, the Disney parks outfits aren't the same!) Also, when Disney Store updates their costumes, they'll sell the old version at clearance prices.
  17. Get free souvenirs!!
    Apart from character autographs and photos, you can find a bunch of free stuff to bring home with you. In Magic Kingdom, they give out cards for the virtual game "Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom," which are cute even if you don't play. You can also collect stickers from cast members (CMs in different areas have all different kinds that they give out). In Epcot they have Duffy Bear cutouts that you can color and have stamped in every country. Just to name a few!
  18. Eat free samples!!
    They give them out at the Confectionary on Main Street & Ghiardelli's in Disney Springs. At Club Cool in Epcot they have mini cups that you can fill with flavored sodas from around the world. There's no limit to how much you drink.
  19. Check your receipts before throwing them out
    Some dining receipts have coupons at the bottom for same day merchandise purchases & stuff. I don't know exactly what the pattern is, but it's worth looking.
  20. Take advantage of fast passes!
    They are free and magical!
  21. Get free s'mores
    Most Disney resorts show free movies outside, and a couple host a s'mores campfire beforehand. You don't have to be staying at the resort to take advantage. I know for sure that the Beach and Yacht Club resorts do this.
  22. Find out what other discounts apply to you!
    Florida residents, annual passholders, military, etc. I know that if you're a nurse you get a discount at the Swan and Dolphin resorts, and I'm pretty sure AAA does a lot of discounts too. If you go to Disney a lot, DVC and annual passes are worthwhile.
  23. Use the Internet
    This pretty much goes without saying, but there are SO many websites out there with Disney budgeting tips- one that I remember of the top of my head is www.mousesavers.com. If you just google "going to WDW for cheap" or "free stuff to do at Disney" you'll find tons and tons of articles.
  24. Check menus online.
    Allears.net is a great resource. It often gives you prices along with selections. You can budget better if you know what to expect from a restaurant. Also, many places let you share plates.
    Suggested by   @MaddyandOwensMom
  25. We like the Ft Wilderness Campground. They have a couple pools and free movies at night. You can make s'mores there. Also it's on the lake and you can take a boat to magic kingdom. Then at night there is a light up boat parade.
    Suggested by   @k8zinker
  26. Bring your lunches to the park and store them in a locker. I didn't mind this half as much as I thought I would.
    Suggested by   @notme
  27. We stayed off park in a great 2 bedroom , 2 bath townhouse decked out with 3 TVs. I was actually surprisingly happy to take a break in the evening from the park after 4 wonderful days there.
    Suggested by   @notme
  28. We went with a school Disney education program through our school district. I think any parent in the district can set this up. It saves like 40% on tickets. This means one day the kids need to spend like 2-3 hours in a class being indoctrinated to Disney early one morning before the park opens. These classes range from totally awesome to boring.
    Suggested by   @notme
  29. Tell your kids ahead you are buying them each one souvenir for $10. Chances are if you are even reading this your kids are accustomed to being cheap as hell so they are already broken into the nightmare that is having frugal a$$ parents. Mine now question my every purchase! I have created cheap a$$ mini monsters!
    Suggested by   @notme