How to Plan a Walt Disney World Vacation on a Budget

One of my family’s favorite vacation destinations is Walt Disney World ResortTM in Orlando. I’m a big kid at heart, and I love seeing my kids’ faces light up in the park’s magical atmosphere while riding the rides and meeting our favorite characters. The thing is, from airfare, park tickets, hotel and food, the cost of all this fun can add up fast. How can you make the most of your Disney vacation on a budget? With some careful planning, you can have a fabulous time without breaking the bank.

Meeting Gaston Meeting Gaston in Disney World!


Tickets

If you are just dropping in for a one-day visit, keep an eye out for regular and value ticket prices. Peak days in the summer months will cost you more than off-season prices before Spring Break. But if you’re planning a Disney vacation, chances are you’re preparing to spend more than one day in the parks. You can get more bang for your buck by purchasing multi-day passes.

You can also save by getting “Park Hopper” tickets, which allow you to visit multiple parks in one day on a single pass. Be aware, though, that this is much easier to pull off if your kids are older and you’re not lugging around strollers, diapers and tons of snacks for them. Hopping from park to park in a single day with little ones is not as simple.

Lodging

There’s a wide range of lodging options in and around Walt Disney World. From value-priced to luxury deluxe villas, there’s something for every budget. When you stay on Disney property, you are close to the parks and have free transportation to and from the parks. Also, the Magical Express takes you and your bags from the airport to your hotel room so you don’t have to worry about waiting around and toting them yourself.

If you’re staying in a villa, with a friend or renting an AirBnB and you have a kitchen or access to a mini fridge, you can stock up on some snacks and easily pack lunches to get you through most of the day without splurging on park food.

Affordable Car Rental

Whether you’re staying onsite or not, it can be nice to have your own transportation. Alamo is the Official Rental Car of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. We rented a car from Alamo right from the Orlando airport (MCO), which made it very convenient to get around. If you stay on Disney property, you get free parking at the parks. You’ll also have the freedom to venture out to do other fun things around the city. Or, you can do what we did and use your rental car for simple, quick trips to the grocery store to stock up on inexpensive snacks, or buy that rain poncho you forgot at home.

You can also rent a car at the Disney Car Care Center. So if you decide to take a spontaneous excursion to a nearby beach, you can rent a car from Alamo from a location right on Disney’s property.

Food

There are several ways to save on food when taking a Disney vacation on a budget. One thing we love about the parks is they allow you to bring in your own food, even full coolers if you want. My kids are picky eaters, so we saved ourselves both money and trouble by packing lunches and snacks we knew they’d like and just buying food for the adults now and then.

Mickey Mouse Cupcake Mickey Mouse themed cupcakes at the park.

If you know you and your family can’t resist all the delicious Disney food and snacks, you should look into getting a Disney dining plan. It’s a nice feature for guests staying onsite and can save you up to 30 percent on food in the parks and throughout the resorts. We love to enjoy some of the character meals; some of our favorites are breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom and lunch with the princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot.

Magic Kingdom
Princess Anticipation Magic Kingdom and Epcot princess anticipation.

No matter where you stay or how many Mickey Bars you splurge on, you’re bound to make some magical memories with your family. Using these budget-friendly tips can help you save along the way.

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About the Author

Jennifer Borget

Jennifer Borget is a domestically-challenged part-time journalist, and a full-time mom. She’s a photographer and storyteller challenging families to cherish and make the most of every day on at Cherish365. To catch more of her motherhood journey, follow @JenniferBorget on Instagram and join her #Cherish365 community on Facebook.