1. Book Early When Possible
-In many cases, throughout the booking process the most budget friendly rates will appear at the farthest out portion of the booking window from your experience. However, in many cases, Disney will release discounted rates throughout the year for different seasonal price percentage discounts. If you’ve already booked your vacation, you can always rebook your vacation at the discounted rate. Personally, I recommend using a travel agency like our friends over at Destinations to Travel (We’ve provided a completely free quote request form for them down below) so that they can monitor the dates of your stay and rebook accordingly to save you any money you possibly can. While during some seasons Disney does not offer discounted rates, it’s often quite likely that a cheaper rate will pop up at some point before your vacation.
Also worth noting is that you should always take a second look at the “free” dining offers before booking them automatically or even requesting to book. In some cases, “free” dining isn’t technically ‘free.’ In many cases, you may be better off booking at a discounted percentage rate or even at the standard rate and paying to add the dining plan or simply buying your meals out of pocket. That plan certainly isn’t for everyone as many like to have a set full vacation figure and pay everything before they arrive at the parks so that they don’t have to worry about costs once they arrive un the parks. Either way, it’s definitely worth looking into and certainly something a great travel agent can look into for you.
2. Spend a Day Outside of the Parks
-I’ve mentioned this option a few times for a variety of reasons across many articles. Taking a brief break from the parks can afford guests a great deal of different opportunities. First and foremost, taking away even one park ticket from your stay can really save you a significant amount of money, especially if you have a family of four or more.
Thankfully, if you do decide to remove a park day from your itinerary, you do have a lot of other great free options. A personal favorite of ours is to simply tour the resorts. Spending time hopping from resort to resort using Disney’s free transportation can actually be an outstanding experience. If you really want to upgrade your shopping and wandering experience, set up a reservation at one of the many resort table service locations. The food at nearly all of them is outstanding, and typically will turn out to be much cheaper that spending a day in the parks and you really can enjoy an outstanding day simply touring a few resorts.
Beyond resorts, be sure to spend some time at Disney Springs. The shopping and dining experiences that have debuted are really second to none in the Orlando area. While the shopping locations are quite high in many cases, other locations like Uniqlo are extremely affordable ($14 Tee Shirts!).
3. Utilize the Top Counter Service Locations
-Disney is full of counter service locations, but more and more, the offerings at these locations are getting increasingly tasty. For example, Floatworks at Port Orleans French Quarter has outstanding food at counter services prices that could easily pass for table service dining options. This certainly isn’t the only option, but it’s definitely one of our favorites. Another great option is Captain Cooks over at the Polynesian.
By utilizing many of these top counter service locations, you can easily eat great food while avoiding many of the high costs associated with some table service offerings in and around the parks/resorts.
4. Eat Breakfast at Table Service Locations
-Another great option regarding dining is to book breakfast at table service locations rather that lunch or dinner. This is a simple tip, but it really can save you quite a bit of money. For example, a the Crystal Palace character meal at Magic Kingdom you can save over $10 per person by eating the breakfast buffet. The experience remains the same in nearly every case, but the costs associated with the meal are drastically reduced. In the short run, $10 doesn’t seem like much, but it very well could be the cost of a counter service meal later on in your vacation.
5. Utilize Free Resort Activities
-To be quite honest, this is one perk for Disney resort quests that gets completely overlooked by so many guests. Throughout the day at every Disney resort, activities are held for guests of all ages. Some activities are quite simple like pool games for kids, but others can be quite fun for the whole family. On a vacation to Disney’s Contemporary Resort quite a few years ago, we took part in a Disney parks trivia game hosted by the resort. The prizes ranged from board games to small gift baskets or similar items. At the end of the day we took home a limited edition Indiana Jones Monopoly game that we still have to this day. The game itself is outstanding and quite the collectible today, but more that anything it’s a very unique memory that we have of our time at the resort. It didn’t cost us a dime and the experience is something that we’ll remember for years.
Beyond basic games, each resort typically has its own special events throughout the week including everything from scavenger hunts throughout the resort to movies around a campfire or resort pool location. These events don’t cost anything extra and really do provide a fun variety of ways to explore and appreciate the little details that set the Disney resort experience apart from hotels across the country.