Stay at Disney’s Art of Animation
Yes, there are slightly cheaper hotels, but price per experience, this hotel can’t be beat. If you have a larger family this is also the cheapest way to stay on property period. I actually recommend this resort to almost every one of the guests who books a vacation with me who have children under 12. Why? because the theming is what you want/expect when you go to Walt Disney World. The food court is excellent, the pools are some of the best on property, the water splash pad area for kids is incredibly themed, it doesn’t share a bus with any other resorts and it’s close enough to things that you aren’t in that bus for ages. Also, the arcade is fantastic and there’s a really cool lobby with easels for kids to draw on which my daughter loves. The Little Mermaid rooms here sell out fast but the Family Suites tend to go one sale often and if you can get one on discount they are the best value on property as at that point it’s a suite for the cost of a moderate resort room!
Share Meals at Table Service Restaurants
The servings at Walt Disney World are massive. I am not even kidding when I say that the pasta dishes at Trattoria Al Forno could serve a family of three or four. I’ve found that ordering two Entrees to split between four people is often the right amount of food. You can add a desert or appetizer to split as well if you’re feeling decadent.
Character Breakfast vs Dinner
Character breakfasts are roughly half the cost of Character dinners, for this reason alone it’s worth going to the breakfast. I would actually go further and say that the Character breakfasts are also better from a food quality and character availability perspective. For example, Ohana’s Character meal is only available at breakfast and the famous Mad Hatter at 1900 Park Faire is, you guessed it, only at breakfast. The food at these buffets is often fairly average. Maybe it’s just me, but breakfast is a bit harder to mess up on a buffet and with many of these locations having signature breakfast items, like Tonga Toast at Ohana’s or Puffed French Toast at Crystal Palace, I find breakfast the tastier meal all around. The other thing to consider is that if you do a Character Breakfast at around 11am, technically, this is brunch. So you’re getting two meals for the price of one breakfast.
Have Breakfast in Your Room
Many people pack food from home. While I don’t prescribe to this as it’s a pain to lug all that food, I do still recommend breakfast in your room. What I suggest is going to your hotel’s little food shop, buying a box or two of cereal, a carton of milk and then grabbing spoons and bowls from the quick service restaurant in your hotel. I do this often and it’s a life saver for us. Breakfast is a quick affair and we are out the door and at rope drop in time to ride Seven Dwarf Mine Train with no wait. There are other options as well, such as pop tarts or bagels. I do have friends and clients who pack granola bars in their bag and eat those for breakfast and that’s a great idea too. Essentially, the idea is to not waste time and money on a meal you’re gonna eat quickly. If you aren’t gonna sit and savor the food don’t pay the restaurant prices for it.
Ask for Iced Water vs Purchasing Bottled Water
It’s hot at Walt Disney World. You will need water. You can get this water for free by going to any quick service restaurant and asking for a glass of iced water. They have to by law give it to you (ok maybe it’s just Disney law). Some people, my husband included, think that the water tastes funny, but when you add ice to it, it’s hardly noticeable. Plus, when a small bottle of water costs $3, a slightly funny tasting but perfectly good glass of iced water starts to taste pretty good to me. If you, like my husband, are a water snob, by all means bring a water bottle with a filter and fill it up at the water fountains. Note though that you can’t bring in any glass bottles so make sure that filtered bottle is aluminum or plastic.
Buy Disney Themed Shirts/Clothes Before You Arrive
When you’re at Walt Disney World you will see adorable apparel and you will want to have it to wear around the parks. Children and mothers of young children (aka me) are very guilty of this. How can you pass up that super cool Minnie Mouse shirt!! However, that shirt is $30 and they will out grow it in 6 months. Instead, I go to Old Navy and Target and purchase $4-$6 t-shirts for my daughter with any and every Disney character I can find. She looks super cute and cool in her Disney gear and I don’t lose MY shirt achieving that.
Budget Souvenir Spend
Decide how much you will spend on “stuff” BEFORE you are in the store/on your vacation. That Anna and Elsa doll will be easier to feel good about/say no to if all expectations were set before hand. I find the easiest way to do this is by purchasing gift cards before your trip for this purpose. Especially when traveling with kids, putting a set amount on each gift card and giving it (or if they are too little holding it for) each child means that they not only have fun shopping, but learn how to manage money. So it’s educational to boot! As a side note, Target card holders can get Disney gift card at 5% off last I checked so that is another great way to save a bit of cash.
Go During Less Crowded Times
This is great for two reasons: 1. you’re likely to get a better room with the discounts as those go quickly and the more people traveling the more demand there is and the less likely you are to get the great room at the great rate. 2. Fewer people means shorter lines/waits for rides and attractions so you see more in one day. Higher volume of attractions per day is clearly a better bang for your buck. Then of course there is the somewhat unknown fact that buffets and Magic Kingdom theme park tickets cost more during busier times of year. All this ads up to a better deal if you go during off peak times. What are these times you ask? September-Mid November, First two weeks of December, Mid January-Mid February, late April-May. These times are getting less and less “empty”, but they are still mild compared to the other times of year.
So there you have them, my top tips for making the most of your funds at Walt Disney World. Did I forget one of your tips or tricks? Share them in the comments!