Tips For Your Disney Trip
All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.
WE’RE PRETTY DARN LUCKY TO LIVE ONLY 2 HOURS AWAY FROM THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH!
We love to visit as often as we can because we honestly do have an incredible time every single visit, but I’ll also be the first to say that Disney World is ridiculously over priced.
The more we visit, the more we learn how to save money during each trip.
Now, Disney is highly known for their Mickey shaped snacks, ridiculously cute merch and themed restaurants, but let’s start with some tips to help you not over spend.
1. PLAN AHEAD!!
Lord, I can’t stress this enough! Disney World consists of 4 parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom)….it’s huge! Each park needs at least an entire day if this is your first time visiting. Plan your days accordingly. Research each park, look up the rides (and height requirements), look up show times (Disney shows are incredible and I highly suggest you sit your butt down and enjoy them because your legs will need the rest) and find a nice restaurant that you can splurge on (Wait, what?? We’re trying to save!! Trust me, I’ll work this in and it’ll make sense).
2. BOOK YOUR HOTEL OR AIR BNB
This part is a tough one. Most people WANT to stay at a Disney Resort and I don’t blame them. If it were my first visit, I’d want to do the same but these can rack up your bill really fast. There are pros and cons to staying onsite so I’ll explain those to you and let you decide which route would be best for you and your family.
Pros to staying at a Disney Resort:
Transportation to and from each park via shuttle, ferry, monorail or boat. Now, not every resort carries each of those types of transportation and ONLY the shuttles will be able to transport you to all 4 parks. The ferry, boat and monorail typically only shuttle you to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot (Disney is working on a new gondola system that will make resorts and parks even more accessible too! Those are coming soon!!)
The themes at each resort are incredibly magical. We love visiting resorts just for the heck of it for this exact reason. Imagineers have worked hard to get these resorts up to a standard that will leave you in awe each time. From the views to the amenities, pool and shows, Disney resorts really know how to keep the magic going outside of the parks.
Merchandise delivery to your resort. This one is really cool and beneficial to you unless you love hauling around extra baggage at a theme park. Disney offers a delivery system that allows you to send your souvenirs directly to your resort after your purchase. If you’re a first time Disney visitor, I know you’ll definitely be spending money in this area (don’t worry, I did too) and for that reason, this is a great perk of staying on site.
Magic Bands are a great (and not so great) little invention that Disney created. I’ll obvi only talk about the pros in this section, so let’s start with the fact that these bracelets hold your room key! No more loosing room cards or forgetting them in the room! These bracelets also hold your park tickets, credit card and fast passes for rides. You can link everything through your My Disney Experience app (this app is extremely important and I highly recommend you download it wayyyyy before your trip comes around). These bands come free of charge if you are staying at a Disney Resort. You can purchase them at the parks if you’d like as well.
60 day in advance Fast Pass Booking! Disney has some pretty popular rides that are known to have wait times up to 3-4 hours. By staying at a Disney Resort, you have the ability to book your 3 fast passes a day through your My Disney Experience app 60 days prior to your trip! This is a BIG PRO!!! This gives you the ability to book your time for rides such as Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom), Soarin’ and Frozen (Epcot), Tower of Terror and Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios). Those are some of the more popular rides right now but that can all change as new attractions (such as Star Wars Galaxy Edge) start popping up. This also works with shows too, so plan accordingly since you only get 3 fast passes per day. As soon as those 3 are up, you SHOULD be able to grab 3 more (don’t hold me to that one though).
Cons to staying at a Disney Resort:
Parking fees range anywhere from $22-$24 dollars per night (as of now). Now if you’re flying in, this doesn’t apply to you, but if you’re driving in…..this really sucks. On top of your already pricey room stay, they’re going to go ahead and add some more money to your bill just to park your vehicle in their parking lot.
Value resort rooms are basically what you’ll find at a Motel 8. Disney offers Deluxe, Moderate and Value resorts which will fit different budgets. Obviously the value resorts will be the cheapest and the Deluxe will get you paying anywhere from $500-$2,000 (sometimes more) per night. We have personally stayed in both value and moderate resorts and while the themes are always great, the rooms can sometimes be extremely disappointing. Now, if you’re the type that just see’s your room as a place to sleep because you’ll hardly even be in there, then great! But if you’re bougey like me, you most likely won’t like what you see. There are a couple of value resorts that are really great so make sure you look into each one and view the rooms at each resort.
I can find way better rooms that can match a room of a Disney Deluxe Resort at a Value Resort price. I use Expedia for all our trips and more times than none, I have found us some incredible hotels/resorts that are off site but are much cheaper. Here’s a fun fact, most hotels/resorts that are within miles of Disney World….will offer shuttles to and from the parks. Transportation to the parks will hardly ever be an issue for you even when you’re not staying at a Disney Resort.
Magic Bands can be linked to your credit card….. yikes!!! There’s one for sure way that you’ll over spend. Please DO NOT link your credit or debit card to your magic band if you’re looking to save money. I suggest taking cash (an amount that you’re sticking to per day) and only using cash. This is a great way to stick to your budget and not overspend. I get it, getting your wallet in and out of your fanny pack vs just putting your wrist to the card holder is such a painnnnnnnnn…….but you and your wallet will thank me later.
Food at the resorts are the same price as they are at the parks. This is a HUGE con for me. While I adore eating my Mickey waffles in the morning at my resort, I’d rather much pay for regular waffles elsewhere and just pretend they’re Mickey shaped. Your Disney Resort will have shops everywhere you turn and food everywhere you look. Consider looking into the Disney Dining Plan or eating off site if you’re wanting to save some big bucks.
3. DOWNLOAD THE MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP
Now I know I touched based on this above but this tip is really important. This app allows you to book your fast passes, reserve your dining reservations, link your magic band, view ride wait times in real time and provide you with a map that you will surely need if this is your first visit. I spent HOURS on this website when booking Daniel and I’s first trip back years ago. I knew every restaurant, every ride and every show just by spending time on that website/app. It’s a great tool and resource for you to have as you’re booking your trip.
Sign up for an account here.
4. PACK FOR ALL TYPES OF WEATHER
Orlando is NOTORIOUS for having the craziest weather in the history of the earth!! Just kidding….but not really. It is either scorching hot with a chance of melting your skin, raining cats and dogs with a chance of rides closing down or extremely cold with a chance of you never wanting to come back again. Seriously though……the weather over there is a perfect representation of my mood swings. Pack for the rain, pack for the dessert and pack for the possible blizzard. I could just tell you to keep an eye on your weather app but those apps can never keep up with the mood swings of Orlando.
5. MAKE A CHECK LIST
Make a list of everything you’ll need beforehand. I live two hours away and I STILL make my check list before every trip. You’re way more likely to be prepared if you’re keeping a list before hand and adding to it as you go. Strollers, diaper bags, extra sets of clothing, swim ware, sun glasses, hats, sunscreen, etc. The great news is that you can always rent or buy what you forget…..but we’re trying to avoid those costs so we can spend that money on a cute Mickey shaped pretzel.
Tip: pack some hand held fans….trust me on this one.
6. IF YOU’RE WILLING, AND ABLE…BRING YOUR OWN FOOD AND DRINKS
Now I know that you really want the full experience of Disney and want to indulge in all the food, but think about this……..most kids just want chicken tenders, fries, hotdogs, burgers and all that typical junk food. These types of food will be VERY expensive in the parks. Bring a mini cooler along and pack it with sandwiches, chips, snacks and drinks. Save money on $5 water bottles and bring your own refillable water bottles that you can easily fill up with water at various locations around the park (I typically go up to counter service places and ask for a few cups of iced water and pour those into my water bottles). We have recently been taking our own cooler with turkey wraps that we make at home, protein bars, fruits, chips and other things we can munch on throughout the day. This is ABSOLUTELY allowed at every park so please don’t be afraid to do so. By bringing simple meals and snacks, you can save up to splurge at a fine dining restaurant at any one of the parks or resorts and receive an incredible experience with that alone. I highly recommend looking into The Disney Food Blog on YouTube where they talk all things related to Disney dining. You’ll definitely get all the info you need to figure out which restaurant you need to reserve for your splurge.
7. MAKE TIME TO VISIT DISNEY SPRINGS
This is EXTREMELY important! Just kidding……no, no I’m not kidding. We ADORE Disney Springs! Some of the best shopping, dining and entertainment you will ever experience! Think of Disney Spring as an outdoor mall with some of the most incredible restaurants at every corner and a BIG hint of Disney magic. Disney Springs never disappoints and it’s definite fun for everyone in the family. You can find a bowling alley, theatre, one of the largest Disney merchandise stores, food trucks, live music, life size Lego statues and way WAY more. This place definitely has some great splurge restaurants
8. BECOME AN ANNUAL PASSHOLDER
This is a tricky one, BUT if you believe you’ll be visiting Disney AT LEAST twice within a year…..consider an annual pass. Every time I do the math, annual passes always come out cheaper than purchasing 2 or 3 day park tickets twice in a year. Besides saving you money on entry, annual passes can provide you discounts to dine in restaurants and discounts on all merchandise PLUS free parking. These discounts can really come in handy for you IF you’re heading to the parks more than once in a year. Florida residents get really great discounts, so don’t forget to always check the Disney website for the latest news on specials.
9. GET YOUR CELEBRATION PINS AT THE ENTRY
If you’re a first time visiter, get a pin. If it’s your birthday, get a pin. Anniversary? Yup. Alive day? Yup. Just get a darn pin!! These pins can get you some great magic from cast members and maybe even some free desserts! Just ask the cast member at the entrance and they’ll give one to you or lead you to one.
10. HAVE A MAGICAL DAY AT THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH
Will it be packed? Yes, most likely. Will it rain? Yes, most likely. Are the lines long? Yeah, for sure. Is it crowded? That’s a HECK YES. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Forget the long lines or the crowds of people, don’t be such a Debby downer!! Take a deep breathe and look up at Cinderella’s castle as you’re walking down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. Cry a little on the inside as memories from your childhood wash over you while walking into Andy’s back yard in Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. Be in awe as you walk through different countries hearing the different types of music and smelling the different foods at Epcot. Experience a whole other world as you walk into Pandora at Animal Kingdom. Disney World really is as magical as they say it is, at least for me. Yes, it’s expensive but there are ways to save and still experience the magic. Everyone deserves to go to Disney World at least once in their lifetime. Nothing compares.