A Disney vacation is many things: Fun, Magical, Amazing, Memorable, and oh yes, it’s Expensive! We happen to think that a Disney vacation is worth the cost. Of course, if you can save some money and reduce the price tag, well that makes it even more worth it!
Every vacation is unique, and can offer unique ways to save a little money. The following list consists of ways to save that we can personally attest to. If you have any questions or want more details about our experience with any of these methods of saving, leave a comment or shoot us an email: [email protected]
10 Best Ways to Save on a Disney Vacation
1. Disney Deals
Every year, Disney offers discounts and incentives as a way to entice people to book vacations. Bookmark this link to keep an eye on offers, and check back every so often to see updates as new offers are released throughout the year: Disney Parks Special Offers
2. PIN Codes and Bounce Backs
A PIN code is a personalized discount offer for you direct from the Mouse. Check out our post about ways to improve your chance of getting one.
Bounce Back offers are offers you get while you are at Disney that you have to take advantage of before you leave.
3. Order Groceries/Pack lunches & snacks
Any resort or hotel is probably going to charge you a premium for buying everyday necessities from them. Disney is no different. Buying items like Milk, Coffee, Diapers, Toiletries, Snacks, etc., can add up. At the parks, bottled water is expensive. If you have a car, there are plenty of options for stocking up on these items.
In lieu of a car, you can use a service such as Garden Grocer to do your shopping for you and deliver it to your hotel.
Having these items will enable you to pack lunch/snacks, water, eat breakfast in room, etc., and that will save you money because you’ll be less apt to be buying snacks and paying for meals inside the parks!
4. Ticket Savings
One of your biggest expenses will be your park tickets. Gone are the days of the Disney tickets that never expire and can be used on return trips. Buying the right ticket type is very important. You can save money by not opting for add-ons like park hopping or the water parks if you aren’t going to use it enough for it to be worth it. Taking multiple trips within a 12-month period? Buying an Annual Pass could work out to be savings.
5. Disney Gift Cards
There are a few places I know of where you can buy Disney Gift Cards at a discount. If you have a Target REDcard or Debit REDcard, you can save 5% on every Disney Gift Card you purchase at Target. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can add up when you’re talking about a vacation that will cost thousands of dollars.
Costco and BJ’s Wholesale sell at a 4% discount. The upside with them is the gift cards are usually in larger amounts. I wouldn’t buy a membership just to purchase gift cards, but if you are already a member, you should check your local store.
How does that save you money? Well, you can use Disney Gift Cards to purchase just about anything and everything related to your Disney Vacation. They can be applied to your Disney Resort Hotel, Restaurants, Gift Shops, Park Tickets, and more.
Gift Cards can also be a budgeting strategy. Purchase gift cards ahead of your trip as a way to set limits on what you’ll spend on food or souvenirs.
6. Disney Rewards Visa
If you have the Disney Rewards Visa credit card, Disney will reward you with points on purchases that can be used to get a rewards card usable at Disney, just like a gift card. Disney will also run incentives or promotions for extra savings or benefits for using your Disney Rewards Visa for booking your vacation, or for making your Disney purchases.
Other credit card rewards programs can help you save money on Disney, or your trip related expenses such as airfare or car rental. Just be sure to use those credit cards wisely! Paying interest on balances just cancels out the perks.
7. Discount Memberships
Sometimes being a member of a company, organization, or signing up as a preferred customer can get you discounts. AAA members can get discounted rates. Disney will offer discounts for Military, or sometimes other Government or Civil Servants. Being an annual passholder, a Florida resident, or a DVC member can get you discounts as well. You can also check with your employer to see if they have any special programs or corporate discounts. Bottom line: When in doubt, ask!
8. Drive to Disney
We live over 1100 miles from Walt Disney World. Sometimes, the situation dictates that we fly down to Florida to maximize our time at the resort and be able to make it home to get back to work or other commitments. When time permits, driving the family those 1100 miles is actually cheaper, even with splitting the drive between two days and stopping overnight at a hotel.
The car trip can also be a memorable adventure in and of itself, which adds to the vacation experience. You may live closer or further than we do, but if driving is a possibility for you, I would give it some thought. Here’s a fly or drive calculator you can use to help you decide.
We’ve also found that we can save money on flights by driving part of the way and flying the rest. For us, driving about 5 hours to the Maryland/Washington, DC area has saved us over $1000 on flights for our family of 4, even after taking into account gas, tolls, parking and other expenses. That’s not too bad a trade off to be able to get to Disney that same day.
9. Go Off Peak
If you’re like us, your work schedules don’t allow you to just pick up and go on vacation whenever you like. Unfortunately, as a result, we predominately travel during the busiest times of years, such as summer and school breaks.
If you can make it work, traveling to Disney during off-peak times can not only save you money, but it can also be more relaxing as there are less crowds to contend with. Off-peak used to simply mean whenever school was in session. Now with so many special events going on at Disney, it’s a bit harder to find the slower days. But they are there if look. A travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations can be very helpful in pinpointing those windows.
Disney room rates are lower and they tend to offer more deals during “off-peak” times of year, and you’ll generally find that airline fares are cheaper as well.
10. Join DVC
The Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s way of doing timeshare. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly saves us money every year. We just paid off our loan and for the next 35 years we only have to pay our dues and maintenance fees. But the savings is just one of the reasons we love our DVC.
If you take a Disney vacation at least every other year, and prefer the moderate or deluxe hotels over the values, I strongly recommend taking a look at joining DVC. At once every three years, you might consider it. Any longer than that between trips is probably not often enough to justify the cost, in my opinion.
Did any of your best ways to save not make our list? Let us know!