“How do you afford to go to Disney World so often?” – If I had to pick one question I hear more than anything else, that would be the one.
I mean, it is a perfectly logical question and one I don’t mind answering, but it’s also the perfect time to share that not everything is quite as it appears online. We all know that’s true but sometimes it takes a dose of reality to really put things into perspective when our mind tricks us into thinking what we see on Instagram or Facebook is a perfect picture of someone else’s reality. We all share the highlights, and you rarely see the reality.
So, here’s my answer to that exact question and in turn I hope these tips help you save some money and visit the parks more often yourself. Well, here goes. I’ve been touring the parks for over 20 years at this point and while that is basically a lifetime for me (I’m 23), I’ve learned how to make what I love doing more affordable and been blessed with some incredible opportunities and good people in my life that help me do so. I get to do what I love every day while writing and sharing content here on the site and in doing so I have made a little money along the way. I’m definitely not getting rich anytime soon but it does help ease the burden.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, beyond Disney trips I live a very simple life. I work in marketing and project management and work remotely which offers a certain degree of freedom. Work trips get me to Orlando pretty frequently, and combining that with family trips and some solo trips for conferences I’ve signed up for or had the opportunity to speak at and I end up in Florida quite a bit even though I’m not local (which is always a good thing). It’s a near ideal blend sometimes and something I am unbelievably thankful for.
At the same time though, flying to Florida quite often isn’t always cheap. I fly almost exclusively Southwest or Delta when I fly south, and truthfully have had great results with both airlines. Prices tend to be reasonable and if you book early you’ll save a considerable amount of money.
Something also to note is that on occasion I’ll stay off property, intentionally stay in moderate or value resorts when need be to cut costs (they’re still great), and only typically book one “go all out” trip per year with deluxe accommodations and the whole family traveling together. In those cases we split costs or treat it as our family vacation for the year. The more people you have splitting a resort room, the cheaper it tends to be for all the folks involved in the trip! Travel in bigger groups and you’ll likely save money in the long run!
From the 30,000 foot view, here are the “Big 3” on how I cut costs when touring the parks:
-The first is perhaps the simplest to employ. Take your number of days and shrink them by a single park day. If you’re flying, a great way to do this is to cut your arrival day and departure day and time your flights the best you can to arrive very early in the day with a 6:00am flight in (or earlier). This maximizes your park time on the arrival day instead of using it as simply a get settled day. Leave on the latest flight you can find and make that a park morning that can stretch into a partial afternoon as well. If you can do this in a timely manner you can cut up to two nights off of your resort stay and potentially save yourself $400+ depending on resort rates. Sure, it isn’t ideal, but it’s often a way I cut costs and visit more frequently.
-The second is dining. Evaluate menus, get a good idea of costs, and do your research before you book a dining reservation. Some meals are vastly more expensive than you expect at a first glance. Buffets tend to be far more expensive at dinner opposed to breakfast or lunch and the experience varies only a very slight amount from meal to meal in most cases. Also consider drinking water at meals. These days the “Florida Water” taste has essentially become a thing of the past at most table service dining locations and a soft drink will typically cost near $4 no matter where you purchase it in the parks and at dining locations on property.
-The last thing we tend to do is to be very selective about the room we are booking and what rates are currently available. On our last trip, it was cheaper to stay at the incredible Swan and Dolphin resort than it was to stay at even the most budget friendly moderate. While that isn’t always the case, it’s worth noting that if you search around and look at various rates online, you can find some better deals than what appears at surface level.
I’m not someone who typically recommends renting DVC points or booking through Expedia or other similar sights. However, that’s not to say that within Disney’s site itself you can’t find better deals if you know how to look them up. If a discount rate is out, be it an Annual Passholder rate or a seasonal offer for the general public, be sure to search both the discounted availability and the non discount room only rates by toggling the button at the top of the “select a room” section when booking. Sometimes when you switch to a room only rate, the discount code disappears but availability at lower priced resort may still be available at a non discount rate. This can save you money opposed to a more expensive room that is discounted.
For examples sake, say there’s a 25% off rate out. When you search for rooms under that rate structure the allotted amount of rooms for that particular discount are capped for each resort. In turn, if you deselect the discount, more availability may appear at non discounted rates. So you may see a discounted room at Coronado Springs for $205 that could be a tower room or other room type than what you want to pay for but the other standard rooms may have already booked. If you click off of the discount offer however, you may see more availability and sometimes it’s cheaper to book a lesser room and save some money than to book the discounted room that accompanies the higher original retail price.
I know all three of these seem petty but you’ll be shocked how fast these select few things add up and can save you quite a bit in the long run. Especially when booking multiple trips to the parks in a given year!
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
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Ready to Plan?
Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2019. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2019 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2019 are a great place to begin!
Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2019 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way!