A Happy Ending: Saving at Disney World
Posted On 01.04.2017 | By: John Foster
While known as “the happiest place on earth,” Disney World is not synonymous with being affordable. With tickets for those over age 10 at $99 for just one park (excluding EPCOT, the Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios), the average American family could easily break the bank just on entertainment. However, you can give your kids the quintessential childhood vacation that is a Disney park without cringing every time you pull out your credit card. Here are a few things you should know before you book:
1. Schedule smart
While Disney park tickets do not change in price depending on the season, lodging does. Beware of price climbs during common vacation times, with Christmas and Easter weekend being especially pricey for hotels. Families wishing to travel during the summer should hold off until August if they can. Since southern schools generally reconvene in early August, hotels (especially those affiliated with Disney) drop in price, expecting fewer visitors to the park. This is the best time to sweep in, as well as January to February if you can get time off.
2. Bundle up
Not with layers (hey, it’s the Sunshine State), but with deals. While you may think Disney packages are just a scam, they’re actually one of the ways Disney attempts to A) make their amenities more affordable and B) offer an all-inclusive experience. You can actually end up spending less when you stay at a Disney hotel while attending the parks. For those who would still prefer other accommodations but do plan on exploring the parks as much as they can, do not feel the need to cram it all in one day. Disney offers tickets at a discounted price when you book multiple days.
3. Think ahead
Instead of spending more time waiting in lines than actually on rides, use Disney’s FastPass services to schedule your time to ride. The Disney World map indicates which rides offer Fast Pass, so all you have to do at these rides is approach the Fast Pass kiosk for a scheduled appointment time of when you can return and enjoy the attraction. You’ll get more bang for your buck when you try to keep waiting time to a minimum. However, use sparingly; you won’t be able to sign up for another fast pass until you’ve used your last one. Families with larger budgets can also look into getting FastPass+ included in their tickets, which allows for more line-skipping.
4. Pack snacks or lunches
Have Mom pull out her Mary Poppins bag; you’ll save time and money when you bring your own food into the park. Plus, while Disney does offer healthy dining options, they are few and far between. Restaurants can also often be crowded—meaning wait time, slower service, and even less time in the park. Bring your own food, but be discreet. While outside food is permitted, coolers are not, so pack efficiently.
5. Set limits beforehand
Avoid temper-tantrums or feeling guilty in the park by discussing the souvenir rules with your kids. If you budgeted for souvenirs in your vacation, discuss how many and under what price they must be. One souvenir under $20 is a perfectly reasonable limit to set for your child, and as long as you discuss it before hand, they won’t have a problem in the stores picking something out. It’s when your child hears the word “can’t” while shopping that he or she feels like the rules have changed, been unclear or unfair. Setting these limits beforehand can save you from spending hush-money on your child and keep the experience enjoyable for everyone.
6. Do your homework
The Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau offers an Orlando Magicard, which offers savings on everything from hotels to rental cars to Disney amenities. Your Disney vacation is also the perfect time to use your credit card rewards. Chase Freedom Rewards and AMEX Rewards are particularly ideal for using at Disney with their cash-back policies. Members of AAA also get discounts at Disney resorts.
For deals at all Disney parks, visit our coupon roundup here.