How To Save Money At Disney World

February 10, 2012

 

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Walt Disney World vacation is one of the greatest most magical getaway experiences you can plan.  It’s also very costly if you don’t plan it carefully.  Under and over planning is also a danger to your ability to enjoy the time you’ve worked so hard for.  The pressure to get the most out of your trip is almost unavoidable, but with some simple strategies and money saving tips you can have a guilt free and relaxing time away from the ‘rat race’.

Save money, breathe easy.

Travel and Lodging:

It’s never too early to start planning a vacation you already know you are going to take.  Check out airfare around the time you want to take your trip and see if you can find dates with especially low rates, ie. the middle of the week, as opposed to a Saturday, or Sunday.  Looking on a discount booking site like Travelocity, or Bookit.com is great, but don’t limit yourself to just one.  Take your time.  Don’t rush.  We fell in love with three hotels before we found a great discount on one of them.  Be sure to read customer reviews whenever you can.

Also, know how much you want your vacation to cost.  Spending money on a budget is a lot more carefree than handling expenses on the fly.  Expect to pay so much for lodging, food, transportation, etc.  Don’t forget taxis they are pricey, but terrific in a bind and it’s better to plan to use them once or twice in a bind.

Booking a hotel with a flight is usually a money saver.  While it’s recommended to stay at one of Disney’s many themed hotels, there are some nice non-Disney hotels just outside the boarder by Lake Buena Vista that will save you money and not sacrifice too much of the charm a Disney resort has to offer.  Hotels inside Disney World rely on buses to transport guests across the vast stretch of land.  Outer hotels offer free shuttle service that is very reliable and some are just a short leisurely walk from Downtown Disney a free place flush with Disney ambiance and a vast range of dining options.  If you are looking at one of the low end Disney Hotels a hot deal on on a non-Disney establishment may be an upgrade.

Food:

Another advantage to staying outside the boundaries of the Disney property is the option to not be in Disney World.  You will need time off to relax, go resort hopping and maybe even just recuperate in your room for a day.  It sounds like a waste, but you will seriously thank yourself after hitting up two or three parks in a row.  On off days you can check out nearby non-Disney, budget friendly eateries and stock up on snacks at Walgreen’s that you can bring into the parks later.  One night we got Olive Garden to go and ate it in our room.  A few times, we got Q doba which is a lot like Chipotle.  As part of your planning its good to start asking for gift cards you can use on the trip.  Any gift giving occasion can help with your budget and ease up the strain of planning where to eat.  T.G.I. Fridays is another place we frequented, because we had gift cards, they were a lifesaver.  Dinner is a dish best served near your room.

When planning your meals on the inside (parks) be sure to bear in mind your eating habits for a realistic budget.  Start high and see what can be eliminated as you hone in on your desired price range.  It’s surprisingly easy to spend less when you bring prepared snacks and water bottles in a backpack and target the many counter service eateries in the parks.  Counter service saves time and money by eliminating a wait staff and giving you more control over what how much you order and what you do with it.  Its easy to share and mix a la cart items to satisfaction and the food is often priced lower at a counter than their dine in counterparts.  If you drink, budget for it.  Give yourself a limit and don’t go beyond it.  Disney World has a lot of great beer and cocktails.  The beer is very reasonably priced in most places, but alcohol in general is bad for budgets.  Web forums like Disboards are an excellent resource for seeing what is offered where as far as pricing and food options.  You can also determine when and where you want to put in the little extra for a nice sit down meal.  There are some really nice restaurants around the resort for a very special night.  They may require a reservation six months in advance.

Also there is the Disney Dining Plan in which you pay upfront in exchange for credits to be used on snacks, entrees and such – this is PERFECT for families.

Parks:

While you are planning when and where it eat is also the perfect time to think about where you are going to spend your days.  Parks offer special tours and experiences that cost extra, but can really make your trip.  We personally loved the aqua tour at Epcot that allowed us to go snorkeling in the enormous tank of their Seas pavilion with sharks, turtles and other gorgeous fish.  Epcot is our favorite park and time there is easily split up.

We recommend a two day minimum for Epcot:  One for Future World and at least one for the World Showcase.  Go HERE to order free customized maps that will help you plan how to experience each park.  The Magic Kingdom, despite its size is very manageable with the right approach thanks to a very convenient traffic flow and pathways.   A crowded day is no picnic, but you can still do a lot and see the entire park in a day.  Disney Studios is compact and easy and you can have a good day there, but you may want to head back for more.  Themed dining and shows are the main attractions, but the few rides they have are some of the most thrilling in the entire resort.  When choosing what days to go where, consider park hours, including Early Entry times.  That will indicate projected park attendance.  Early Entry and Magic Hours mean big numbers.  Parks have different attendance projections so look for the ones without extended hours.

Having a basic knowledge of the lay of the land and the crowd factor are the first steps to having an amazing time at any park.  Know when and where you plan to eat, but (this is the good part) allow yourself to change your mind if another option seems better.  This is the time to enjoy, so if you’ve done your homework on this park you have an idea how to navigate it in the most time effective way.  You’ve already bought yourself time to stop and smell some of the exotic plants and scented air all around the resort.  Fast Pass is another fantastic queue (pardon the pun)  Not all rides offer them, but find one that does and go there right away.  That’s a great start point.  The pass tells you when to come back.  You may think, you can just go on the ride while there’s no line, but it’s better to do other things instead and wait less when there is an actual line.

Another trick to being able to take it easy is show schedule knowledge.  If you want to see a show, you’ll have to plot your day around it, if you don’t it’s still good to know when and where to expect congestion along parade routes or theater exits.  Be sure to grab a show schedule and a park map at the entrance and if you lose it, don’t hesitate to ask any cast member for another.  As former Disney cast members we can safely say that that’s probably one of the big things we did most of the time.

We also saw too many people walk away from an attraction with a line.  Most attractions post wait times that are set by a dial and have a minimum time window (eg. 10 min.) no matter how short the wait.  If you are interested in a ride, never turn down a ten minute wait.  Disney staff is usually pretty good at moving things along compared to other parks, so the lines tend to move faster than expected and the queues are usually designed to entertain and enchant.  They won’t kill you like wandering around looking for something to do will.

As I said before, it’s important to relax when your there.  Trust your schedule and your budget, and be sure to give yourself an extra day in a park you really enjoy.  Gift cards are a great way to aid park admission and dining expenses, when you plan your trip, consider how many days you have and where you would like to spread them.  At least ten days is ideal if you want to visit all four parks.  Remember, you will want down time during the trip and there is a lot to see and do that won’t cost anything.  Exploring the grounds of a beautiful hotel, taking a boat ride, or monorail around the seven seas lagoon, strolling through Downtown Disney are all free and there are low rental fees for kayaks, fishing,  and scenic carriage rides to name a few.  Planning these things is fun and working them into a practical budget is extremely gratifying.  Best of luck!

{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Bell February 11, 2012 at 12:33 am

I swear by MouseSavers and Undercover Tourist when planning a trip to Disney. Both sites are free and will provide behind the scenes info and discounted tickets. UT is safe to order from and sends the tickets quickly. You need to sign up for MouseSavers the month before you need it, so you are in the system. You can Google both of these awesome services or PM me an email and I will forward you the latest link. They also provide services for Universal and other tourist attractions, so they are worth a look.

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Carolyn June 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I totally agree. I use them all of the time for tickets (UT) and go by MouseSavers advice. They have great tips and tricks. UT prices are a little discounted, BUT they include the tax, so the savings is greater than it initially appears.

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Vicki September 22, 2012 at 3:52 am

Hi Linda! Could you send me the lastest link of Mousesavers- we are going to Disney for the first time October 12th, so I missed the deadline of the 15th and would like to buy tickets through Undercover Tourist with the discount- thanks so much!

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Jennifer March 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Linda Bell – Can you please send me the latest newsletter of Mousesavers – I missed the deadline of march 15th and we are going to DW for the first time April 1 – 4.

I would greatly appreciate it!

Jennifer

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Jennifer March 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Linda Bell – Can you please send me the latest newsletter of Mousesavers – I missed the deadline of march 15th and we are going to DW for the first time April 1 – 4.

I would greatly appreciate it!

Jennifer

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Shannon March 17, 2014 at 12:20 am

Hi Linda,
We are going to Disney at the end of this month. I just signed up for the MouseSavers, but missed the deadline for the last issue. Can someone send it to me? I’m sorry, and would be so very appreciative if you could.
Thank you,
Shannon

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Lori D February 11, 2012 at 1:32 am

We have never been to Disney World and now are going to watch our son compete at the Sports complex in wrestling. Anyone have any suggestions for a easy on the budget hotel near the complex? Any other suggestions on eating and flight would be welcome. Thanks!

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Misty Johnson February 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Lori,
Pop Century is an awesome low-priced hotel on Disney’s site. We have been four times with our daughter. the first time she was four. we all fell in love and go every year. I would DEFINATELY recommend staying onsite. Pop Century is very close to the Sports complex and if you drive and EASILY drive there (less than a mile). staying onsite at pop century will probably run you about 75-90 dollars a night; however, the money that you will save in parking at the parks by riding the bus outweighs the small amount of extra cost. if you plan on doing any character dining (depending on how old your son is) chef mickey is awesome, we always buy the dining plan because it will pay for the character dining, which is very expensive. plus, you get a counter service meal a day and a snack (which can be a drink, mickey bar…or the WONDERFUL pineapple juice/vanilla ice cream mixture over by alladin’s ride!! yummy) we typically fly southwest airlines becaue it’s usually cheaper than other airlines and you do not have to pay for luggage. let me know if i can help any other ways!! Best of all, have fun. It is absolutely amazing!!
Misty

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Dana February 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Lori,
I took my son a few years ago as a newly single mom so I really needed to be creative with the budget. Mousesavers.com was also a great source of info. I think we stayed at a Best Western just off the property but with free shuttles to the parks. AAA used to sell park tickets at a discounted rate. I got a deal on a rental car through my professional association. We flew Allegiant, depending on where you live and when you are going some flights are as cheap as $30 each way per person. I carried snacks like granola bars and crackers, and we usually split an entree at lunch. Dinners were usually eaten off site since I had a car. Check AAA or AARP if you are members, credit cards sometimes offer deals on rentals. Most cities have an “Entertainment Guide” that you can purchase with tons of coupons. I’m planning another trip now that the budget is a lot more flexible, but why spend it if you don’t have to?

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Hilary February 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I live in Orlando and there are tons of ways to eat cheap! If you have a car there are tons of restaurants on International drive that offer “kids eat free” . Typically those are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you plan ahead and know where you want to eat you can visit their websites, join their clubs, and you might get a free appetizer or dessert. Uno’s has a great club that once you sign up they send you a coupon for a free entree on your birthday.

There are also several hotels on International drive that offer shuttles to the different parks. If you stay in that area the hotels are typically cheaper than onsite hotels and within walking distance to restaurants, Walgreens, and other hot spots.

If you are traveling with younger kids, I would recommend checking the height restrictions. When my boys were younger we found that there wasn’t alot for them to do at Hollywood Studios until they were around 40″. Disney is expensive and I would hate for anyone to spend that much money and not be able to ride any rides and enjoy themselves.

One last tip….you may want to come up with a “rain-plan”. Disney is mostly outdoors and if you end up with a day with alot of rain you may want to change your plans around a bit. Maybe visit the Outlet Malls, Orlando Science Center, or even just hang around the hotel and not use up your pass for that day.

Have fun!! :)

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Taylor Smith March 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm

If you havnt already gone on your trip, I would say staying at one of the cheaper disney resorts like pop centrey is a great place to stay. Also disney has an awesome bus service called disneys magical express that picks you up right from the airport and takes you to your disney hotel!

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teresa January 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Downtown Disney Marketplace…..The Earl of Sandwich…..breakfast lunch or supper you will not go away hungry!

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Barrie/dvcRequest February 11, 2012 at 11:42 pm

You can also save a ton of money by renting DVC points to stay in Disney’s Delux Vacation Club Villas. You can save thousands on a week long trip just on the room alone. When you factor in what you can save on food by eating a meal or two in the room, or what you can save on airline luggage charges by using the in-room laundry, it REALLY adds up. Plus when you rent points you get the same discounts that DVC members get on food, shopping, entertainment, recreation and more. The list of perks is huge. Renting is easy when you use a reputable company. AllEars.net recommends David’s Vacation Club Rentals. David has been in the business (since 2005) providing both members and non-members the opportunity to rent Deluxe Disney Villas at great savings. http://www.dvcrequest.com

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Holly Manthey July 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm

We rented DVC points on our last stay, and it was AWESOME! We stayed at Bay Lake Tower for about the same price as a moderate resort would have cost us. It was great!

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Frugalhayman February 13, 2012 at 7:50 pm

We just went to Disney World in June ’11 as a Debt Free Celebration Vacation on Dave Ramsey’s plan. We brought an ice chest with sandwiches, snacks, & drinks in our van. You can bring in a back pack into the park storing drinks (plastic containers) & snacks. It was really hot; so to be able to refill the water bottles was essential! We also chose a rental home from Home Away that was fully furnished with a pool. It was about as big as our home and provided a lot of upgrades. We shopped @ a nearby Target for all our meals & ate at the rental. I know we saved a lot of money on food. :)

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Jamie Brown February 14, 2012 at 3:41 am

Misty Johnson, I was reading your post and me and my family are going to Disney the end of Oct. We are staying at POP Century and I bought the dining plan. It has been 16 years since I have been to Disney and my husband and kids have never been. Is there any other tips are just anything I should look out for. Im nervous cause ive never spent this much on vacation and I know it could be a few years before we get to do a big vacation again. I just want to make this PERFECT for my family….

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Hilary February 16, 2012 at 10:01 pm

You can bring in softsided coolers with ice packs. I have brought in bottled water, capri-sun, soda, grapes, and even yogurts. Peanut butter and jelly packs well for a backpack, along with other snacks. If you have access to a freezer, freeze bottled waters the night before and it keeps your food cold but you also have ice cold water!

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Debbie March 2, 2012 at 1:21 pm

We LOVE Pop Century! The buses run directly to the parks from Pop Century with very few stops. The pools were never very crowded and the food court is good. We only ate breakfast there because we spent most of our time in the parks. We have been to DisneyWorld 5 times in the past 2 years (before that it was almost 15 years since we had been there). Two of these times, we took our two daughters, two sons-in-law, and 5 grandkids (the oldest were 5). It was wonderful!!!! You didn’t say how old your kids are. If they are in their teens, Disney is safe enough to let them go on their own, while you and your husband enjoy some time to yourselves. Just set a time and place to meet up (plus they probably have cell phones to keep in touch). If they are little ones, be sure to take strollers or rent a stroller. Taking your own allows you to let the kids stay in the stroller all the way to the bus stop (just fold the stroller up on the bus). We always use the Quick Meal Dining Plan and have always been able to find a variety of different foods. Most meals are big enough to share, so even though we only get two meals a day, we usually shared a lunch and then had enough to share a breakfast. We took snacks and water bottles for the kids in our backpacks. While they don’t have refrigerators in the rooms at Pop Century, you can rent one for $10 a day or just use a cooler and stock it with ice from the machines. And…internet costs $10 a day if you want internet. There are a few “wi-fi” hotspots in the parks (which I have found by searching the internet) but they are few and far between. Let me know if you have specific questions. We are headed back there again in June for 8 days with our daughter and her husband and 2 kids. By the way….if you can ever get there in Nov-Jan, the holiday lights are FANTASTIC. If you let me know your specific dates, I can send you a “crowd calendar” to let you know what the crowds will be like.

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Candi March 16, 2012 at 1:21 am

I am considering Disney the 1st week of May. Could you send me a “crowd calendar” for that time period?

Thanks

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lisa April 1, 2012 at 7:44 pm

I llive here in Orlando and have been to Disney a hundred times i know due to my mom working there.Please please bring rain gear.In May we will be close to our none stop rainy season and it is miserable to be wet and trying to enjoy Disney.

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Emily March 9, 2013 at 4:47 am

Hi Lisa, my family and I, are going to Disney world next week. We have a time share room for the week, so we are good for hotel, but all the other info on Disney is very overwhelming. We have a 2,7, and 11 year old. We will only go to Disney 1 day, which park would you recommend? Any other advice that would help us?

Sue April 15, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Refrigerators should now (or soon) be available for free in all Pop Century rooms.

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Stacey March 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Debbie, thanks for the info, we are wanting to plan a trip this year and would love it if you could send me a “crowd calendar”
Thank you, Stacey

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Ana March 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Jamie, you must NOT miss the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, it is the best deal and the most fun you’ll have. If you have time, get into the water parks. Oh and at POP it’s custom to decorate your windows, so bring window clings or anything else you can think of… you’ll see what I mean when you’re there. If you can, do the dining plan, it will save you lots of money. You can read my comment at the bottom of this thread, it has useful info as well. I hope you have as much fun as we did! :)

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Sandi May 25, 2012 at 2:47 am

We just stayed at Pop Century last week – I think maybe our 20th time – and love it more than ever! Mini frig and free internet now! The pool games, movie under the stars and arcade are so fun – make time to enjoy your resort!

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Ashleigh August 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm

If you stay at Disney that much you should really consider buying a DVC contract…it will really save you tons of money in the long run, and the resorts are sooooooooo much nicer!

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Kels February 15, 2012 at 3:03 am

We go to Disney every year in November. We stay off site and take in a soft cooler/ backpack full of snacks, water, and soda. It saves us a bunch of money on food. Food really isn’t terrible at the parks, it’s the snacks and drinks that will get you. We opened a Disney visa credit card one year because they were offering a $200 Disney gift card that was good at the parks. That helped a ton on admission. Now we just accrue points all year and can use our points towards admission. There are lots of way to do Disney on the cheap end and still have a blast!!

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Sandy February 17, 2012 at 8:36 am

We love disney time so much that we go almost every sunday after church. We always pack a cooler and drinks. We have annual passes that we pay in installments which is a FL resident feature. Our lil ones are 3 & 1.5 and we all have a great day together, walking, exploring and rides. My daughter is a super princess so we sometimes let her dress up before we leave home so she can pretend she is ariel or belle for the day. We learned the hard way that its best to stay at one park for the day because no matter how fast you think you can get from one park to the next, the little ones pass out during the down time and you might as well load them up and go home.

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Karon February 26, 2012 at 5:45 am

Go to the Dollar Store before the trip and buy glow stick type items. When the carts with all the glow toys show up after dark you can be Super Parent by pulling those out of your bag. You can also buy cheap Disney stuff in value stores to surprise the kids during the trip to help lessen the shopping requests.

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Kristin March 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Rental Car momma has the BEST rental Car prices- And no sign -up or additonal fees!!! Love this site .!!!

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Rachel Norris March 8, 2012 at 1:26 am

We have been to Disney several times and LOVE IT, but LOVE staying away from all the traffic and craziness. We have 4 kids and a Grandma/Nanny and to go to FL on vaca a vacation home rental is a LIFESAVER! Wait closer to your date, get a “Last minute deal” and you save HUNDREDS! We go for a home with 2 master suites, so my Mom has her own space/privacy, and 2 other bedrooms. You can save by eating at the house, everyone has room to roam, play, run, ect. The BEST part a private POOL! We just went in January and rented a house for $560 for the WEEK! I couldnt even find a hotel for all of us for anywhere near that price. I use OwnerDirect.com for our rentals. They have larger homes that two families could go in together and split the cost. Eating at the house for breakfast every morning saved us about $35/day! We ate some lunches/dinners there as well… and always had munchies for when we got done at the parks. A quick trip to Walmart was all it took, and saved us hundreds of dollars! I HIGHLY suggest taking/renting a car! There are so many AWESOME things to do in the Orlando area, don’t limit your self to just Disney!! We drive from Ohio, it’s a 16 hr drive but drive 1/2 way the first day…stop in Charlotte, NC (exact 1/2 way point)fro the noght and finish the next day…saves our sanity and it’s not bad at all! They have Kids Eat Free cards online, you can check out as well…we go and we have a big family but the most expensive part is the tickets, which I shop around for and watch websites for deals on… You don’t have to spend thousands… it’s very simple and you don’t feel like you are skimpping on anything.

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Holly July 11, 2012 at 7:34 am

I just had to comment on your post. $560 a week for a house with 2 master suites and 2 other bedrooms? Wow! That is definitely something to look into. I have gone to Disney many times as a child, but financially, as an adult, life hasn’t allowed me to be able to take my kids. They are now 17, 14, and 9 and have never been!! I think it’s about time to start saving up for it. But seeing what you spent on renting a house for a week, that gives me some kind of hope of being able to afford a trip!! If you have any other quick tips, I would really appreciate it! :)

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Ashley March 13, 2012 at 12:12 am

I have insanely been to Disney World 33 times… seriously, 33! Staying on property at a “value” resort has always been the best option for me. #1. You get free transportation to all of the parks, Downtown Disney, Wide World of Sports, and the airport. #2. IMO, you get the complete Disney experience. The “value” resorts include All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, and Pop Century resort. However, they are building another value resort close to Pop Century. For our “expensive” park meal, we always eat at PrimeTime Cafe in Hollywood Studios. It’s almost like a dinner and show since your waiter plays your brother, cousin, uncle, aunt, etc. and constantly tells you to watch your manners, etc. Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom is also one of our favorites. Also, if you are planning to refill your water bottles while in the park, be sure to have your own container of water. Florida water tastes awful! And if you don’t mind missing the daytime parades, you can find shorter lines for the rides at this time!

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Lisa June 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

If you do not like the taste of Fl water bring the individual powdered drink mix to add to the water. The savings just in drinks alone could pay for dinner that night.

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Ashley March 13, 2012 at 12:13 am

Oh! And if it’s beyond crowded, get your Fast Passes for the rides early in the day!

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Taylor Smith March 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

For my family and the experiences we have had at disney we found it alot easier to just stay on disney because with that option you get so many extra things. For example the parks sometimes open up early or stay open until 2 am and you can only enjoy that if you stay on disney property. My family really enjoys the campground at disney and with that you can save money of eating because your family can make their own meals every night.

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Jackie March 16, 2012 at 2:54 am

We are considering a trip to disney world in May. I’m really very nervous about the food. I’ve heard the food is an amazing experience, but I have a medical condition that forces me to a strick, low-fat diet. Will I be able to find meals/snacks that will accomodate my needs? I may not be able to make this otherwise, but I hate to deprive my family of the disneyworld experience based on my anxeity over my diet.

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Elayne Werges March 20, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Let Disney know when you are registering or in advance and they can accomodate your diet needs. There are specific questions for you when you are booking the meal plan too and the number for requests is there too. The menus are available on the Disney website for most table service restaurants and the menus for counterservice for other restaurants are availaibe on the boards such as allears and disboard. Have a great time…..

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Lori April 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm

My son has diabetes (type 1) and all of the restaurants inside the Disney World Parks are very accommodating. You need to let them know ahead of time (as Elayne mentioned, above). They send a chef out to your table to discuss your issues/needs and then he/she personally prepares your meal & makes sure you are taken good care of. We have never had a problem – we live in FL and have visited Disney World 20+ times. Have fun!

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Angela May 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Lori, what about the counter services? Our son has food allergies and I am more worried about that than anything.

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Budget Savvy Diva May 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I have food allergies as well and they will be able to work with you.

STEPH May 27, 2012 at 1:39 am

At counter service restaurants the manager will come out and discuss your food allergy and will find alternatives that fit in your diet.

Susie March 19, 2012 at 12:57 am

Love the blog. Our last visit to Disney World was a disaster when my husband came down with the flu as we were driving down. Bless his heart he stayed in the hotel room the whole time while we had fun. :( We also stayed off site which made it even more stressful. We are planning another trip and I have received some useful information here. We will absolutely be staying on campus next time. I will come back when we lock in a time and I will go through your site to make arrangements! Thank you so much!

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Ana March 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Went on our first Disney vaca in Sept last year with 11 & 8yr old girls and husband. We too stayed at Pop Century and did the value dining plan. It was awesome, took the bus from airport to hotel and enjoyed transportation throughout entire complex for free, never had to worry about driving, directions, parking, etc. We saved a ton of money by buying “souvenirs” at dollar tree before hand which included disney nick knacks as well as glow sticks and such. MY BEST ADVICE: go to ebay and buy a couple of dozen of Disney pins! By far that is the one thing the girls LOVED the most and saved me the most money. All disney employees wear lanyards with Disney pins on them and they have to agree to any trade requests. The girls had an absolute blast trading those pins, plus they make for awesome souvenirs! To buy pins on property are about $6 each, buy them on ebay! I also bought rain ponchos at dollar store which came in handy when it started raining & we didn’t have to buy $10 ones at the park. Ohhh also, we went when Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was going on and loved it, tickets for that are half price and you get just as much time in the park but with special parades, parties and waaay shorter lines! Also, don’t miss the water parks, they are awesome and you can get a great deal on them if you add them to your park ticket! I could go on forever, email me and I will be glad to send over any advice.

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Melissa March 22, 2012 at 2:43 am

Ana,

You seem to have a lot of experience in planning a disney trip. I have been once as an adult and am trying to plan a trip for my mom and step-dad and my 5 year old niece. We are trying to do this on a budget but am having a hard time deciding if it is more cost effective to stay at the Pop Century and do the dining plan or to stay off site and take our own food. One of the issues we are having is that we really need two bedrooms so she can do to sleep early and we can stay up. The suites are really expensive. Any thoughts?

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Heather April 17, 2012 at 1:48 am

Look into Suites at Old Town. We got a deluxe suite for $68 per night. It has a kitchen, one bedroom, one bathroom and a living room with a Murphy bed. If you want to cook in your room they charge $10 I think for dishes etc. it is about 15 minutes from Disney and there is a Publix across the street as well as several shops and places to eat.

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Debby Pinho April 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I stayed at this hotel in October,2011 and like it, too. Very well located. Besides Publix, you can find a Wallgreens just across the street. Drive 10 min down the road and you’ll find a SuperTarget and a General Dollar store.

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Angela May 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I have a question about the pins-Do you mean if you have a Disney pin you can actually switch with the characters?? I love your advice! We are going the first week of July and can’t wait!

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Budget Savvy Diva May 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Yes you can — they must be wearing pin lanyards though ( they are pretty easy to spot).

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Tara March 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

What type of shoes are best to wear to Disney? Tennis shoes, Sandals with heel straps.. ?

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Budget Savvy Diva March 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I always wear tennis shoes :)

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Pegg yMiller April 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Never wear sandals, I wore them and one pr the strap broke and I had to go all the way back to the hotel and change and the other pr gave me blisters from all the walking and my feet getting wet in the rain. Sneekers all the way.

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Lori April 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I wear my Teva Flip-Flops every time! Too hot for tennis shoes. We have been to Disney World 20+ times & we spend the entire day at the park(s). Whatever you decide just make sure they are comfortable because it’s a lot of walking. Have fun! :)

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Ann Zeuke December 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

You need good walking shoes. Anything that is comfortable will work, but for safety reasons I would not go for anything that has open toes (I always worry about that.

Crystal April 2, 2012 at 5:34 am

My musts for Disney

2 backpacks for the parks with these items(ponchos for each of us,couple small umbrellas, an extra set of clothes for my two kids in a ziplock bag, medicine we may need {tylenol, pepto bismol, kids motrin, bandaids~ you do not want to have to pay for medicine inside Disney}, waterproof cameras, beach towel to dry off with if it rains..or for water rides{YOU WILL GET SOAKED}, sunscreen, wipes, spray fans!!!(get these at Walmart bc they cost 20$ inside Disney), and something to put your cards, I.D., or cash in(in the gift shops they sell waterproof boxes on a string, but you can also get them at Old Navy! Handy), and also another ziplock with snacks to nibble on~ trust me, you need to pack park snacks ! If you have young kids.. extra clean sippie cups are a good idea so that you can half a drink up and nothing gets wasted. The Hess Gas Stations were pretty affordable but that might have changed by now. I’d park your car at the resort, and take the bus!!

There’s no need to bring floats.. we could never put them in the pools there.. they have lifejackets for the kids :) They have towels by the pools too~
Most pools stay open til 12 so if you get in from a park early.. the pool may still be open :) Less crowded! As far as shoes.. parents, my advice is wear some very comfortable tennis shoes!! You’ll be walking on pavement alll day! while pushing your kids around.. flip flops are ok for the kids I think..

When it comes to where to stay

I have stayed at Pop Century, Carribean Beach Resort(twice), Old Key West Resort.. Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.. they all were great!! We really enjoy the Carribean Beach Resort( ask for pirate ship room ) ,but with the kids and family, its best to go with the Moderate or Deluxe if you can.. OKW offers kitchens, two bedrooms.. balcony..washer and dryer.. like being at home :) We saved big bucks on food by bringing our own and making sandwiches and cooking a couple of nights at the resort. Request a fridge so you can freeze Capri Suns and Water!! This is a must! We have also stayed off property at Wyndham Bonnet Creek.. it’s nice, but we had to drive to the parks bc we could never make the bus in time :) The buses at Disney Resorts are great!! They run often!! Once you figure out how to take a bus, boat, or monorail from one place to the other.. you are set!! NO DRIVING=LESS MONEY ON GAS

I recommend eating at The HoopDeeDooRevue over at the Ft. Wilderness Cabins Resort!!! You can go to Magic Kingdom and take a boat there!! So much fun! Also, if you’re at Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tavern is a great meal for lunch or dinner and Crystal Palace is great for Breakfast or Lunch(character dining with Winnie the Pooh) YOU WILL NEED RESERVATIONS USE THE MEAL PLAN.. you save so much to be able to eat at these places!! I usually go with the Magic Your Way plus Dining(Quick Service and Table Service and Snack)

Go get fast passes for the popular ride first!!
Magic Kingdom has added new rides for this summer so that’ll be a hot ticket to hold probably. The big rides are all the Mountain Rides..and Pirates.. but most importantly.. Dumbo!! Definitely go to Tom Sawyer Island and plan on being there a while..Don’t forget to ride the train! And don’t be scared to let the kids run and play with the other kids.. they will always remember that! As long as you’re keeping an eye on them.. it’s ok! I only say that because I was so nervous about that the first time I went.. but when we let my DD play on Donalds boat with the other kids.. and I could see her having so much fun.. I let go and just watched from the side like the rest of the Moms..I’ll never forget that! For the parade and fireworks I say get on the curb in front of the castle~ the characters will walk up right to your kids while they are lit up.. sooo magical! Bring glow sticks from home you can always find them in the party section of Walmart! Just surprise your kids~ They even have those spinning glow lights that cost $$ inside Disney at the party supply store :)

In Animal Kingdom,.. You Have to see the Finding Nemo show.. when you get to the park.. ask about times! It’s Awesome!! And the Lion King Show!
The best food that we’ve had was at Restaurantosaurus at Dinoland :) Definitely do the safari! I don’t recommend any of the buffet type places.. I never eat as much as they charge here…nor do the kids!

In Epcot~ Our favorites are The Food and Wine Festival in the cooler months..we went last November.. it was wonderful.. great food! Soarin’ is my favorite ride at this park!! Fast Pass!!! for the kids.. Nemo and Turtle Talk with Crush

Hollywood Studios~ My favorite place to eat is 50s prime time cafe.. a great experience! need reservations.. also you may want to try Sci Fi Dine In theatre. You will need to get your fast pass to Toy Story Mania when you get there! that’s always crazy!! Rockin’ Rollercoaster is my DH favorite..and I love the Great Movie Ride..classic! Tower of Terror will get your goat! :D No water rides here to cool down!

Waterparks

I’ve been to both.. I love the Typhoon Lagoon, only because it has the wave pool and lazy river too ;) sooo hot.. you will need shoes, sunscreen,sunshades, and maybe even an umbrella~ i recommend wearing shoes you are used to because you will get blisters! UGH!!!! Bring in your cooler too and get a spot early.. seats under the shade goes fast!! You can rent cabanas but they are expensive!!! Be prepared to pay a lot for that luxury~

Remember your Buttons with your name on them.. if it’s your or your kids bday.. tell them in the restaurant and they will bring out a little surprise for them at the end of the meal :D Makes them feel so special bc they are..afterall~
Always have a plan… never go to DisneyWorld without that! Or there will be major meltdowns! Don’t think you can see everything in one day!! not gonna happen..just pick some things you really want to see :) The most important thing. just breathe and take in the little things.. from the ducks walking around.. to the nice lady sweeping on the street..sitting and just being :) ENJOY!

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Jackie April 17, 2012 at 5:12 am

We are heading to Disneyworld February 2013, there are 4 adults and 5 kids ages 4 and under. We have never been before, but have already rented a vacation house, so accommodation is already looked after. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and any mobey saving tips are LOVED!!

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Ann Zeuke December 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I have found that with some of the more popular sit down eateries they might be really hard to get into for dinner. Plan a late lunch (usually 2pm is their last seating) and then you can have a wonderful meal…which is much cheaper than dinner and almost the same menu.

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teresa January 30, 2013 at 12:07 am

go to the park of your choice exactly at opening time…..stay till time for lunch…..leave the park for lunch anywhere you choose….we go to downtown disney marketplace…..to THE EARL OF SANDWICH or mcdonalds…or we make it our BIG meal of the day at our favorite resturaunt because lunch prices are cheaper then dinner prices…..then hit your hotel for a couple of hours….pool, naps,SOAK MY FEET…and go back to the park (of the morning) and finish it up….because refreshed your able to make it to the grand finale fireworks at 9 pm…otherwise its such a LONG day no one has fun in the end…we have been doing disney since it opened…..WEAR GOOD BROKE IN SNEAKERS!!!!

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Erika April 23, 2012 at 3:00 am

I am looking at going to disney world with my 3 kids ( 6 year old, 4 year old, and 2 1/2 year old) this fall, is there a month that is better than the others? We are thinking of just spending our time at Magic Kingdom and MGM as to not overwhelm Does anyone have any must do’s or suggestions. Also I’m thinking of staying at a value resort on site, do you think that is better than staying off site and traveling? This is our first trip with the kids and want to try and do this as “cheap” as possible. I already plan on doing most breakfasts and lunches by making our own in the room and lots of snacks and juices to bring into the park. Are meal plans the way to go? Any valuable tips and suggestions would be good of must sees and dos for the ages of the children and the best fall month to go. Thanks

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Jes May 8, 2012 at 4:18 am

I still call Hollywood Studios MGM, too. :) We’re FL residents and have annual passes with a 6-yr old and almost 4-yr old. I would try to plan a day at Epcot, too. Our kids love it. They have “Club Cool” where you can get unlimited samples of sodas from around the world…a kids dream! Don’t try the one from Italy…trust me! There’s also a ton for them to do in Innoventions. The Great Piggy Bank Adventure and Fire Safety areas are their favorites. They also really like the Nemo ride. If you enjoy walking through the World Showcase, get the kiddos a free Duffy Disney Bear at any country and have them go on a scavenger hunt to get it stamped at each country. It’s free and keeps them happy so you can enjoy the stroll. The ride in Mexico is a hit and the countries are also a great place to see Princesses (get a times guide for that at the front).

I recommend booking at least one character meal in the Magic Kingdom, even if you don’t do a Dining Plan. The Crystal Palace with Pooh is much more affordable and the food way better than Cinderella’s Royal Table. Pick a day without early extra magic hours (you can find that at the calendar’s on Disney’s website) and make your reservation before the park opens. You’ll be able to enter around 7:45am and have an almost empty Main St. for pictures. You’ll be done with breakfast in time to hit the lines before the regular crowds and we always eat enough to not be hungry until later in the afternoon. Our last trip to Crystal Palace cost $92 after tax and about a 22% tip (we had great service!).

I recommend staying offsite if you can. As a passholder I always have a car and free parking, but I would still strongly consider it. I’ve stayed at the Value resorts and they’re just not that nice. Check rates on Mousesavers for their preferred offsite properties. We’ve stayed at a few and they’re all nice with great locations. Our favorite is the Caribe Royale. We spent 6 nights in one of their villas last November. I got a great rate through Mousesavers and ended up getting an even better deal through the Wednesday One Day Sale at the hotel website. Each villa has a full kitchen, so the character breakfast we did one day was the only time we ate out.

For food in the park, bring Uncrustables and other favorites for the kiddos. You can get free ice water at any location in the parks with fountain drinks. I would usually ask for 3 or 4 and get them with a smile! Bring some Crystal Light to-go packs if you think you’ll need some flavor. We love to get ice cream at the parlor on Main St. in MK or Fountainview at Epcot. I order the kids a double scoop and ask for an extra bowl. You can even get 2 different flavors. 2 singles would be $6.58, but the double is $3.99 for the SAME thing! The hubby and I always share.

I hope you have a great trip!

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susanlindsey April 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Clarifications:

The Disney Magical Express bus service from the Orlando Airport is only to Disney hotels (resorts), not those “off property”.

Extra Magic Hours (referred to above as “Early Entry” or “Magic Hours”), Parks opening one hour early or staying open late, are only for Disney Resort guests, not those staying off property.

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Leigh Beth Hudson May 1, 2012 at 1:36 am

Disney is my favorite place to vacation. I have been at least ten times. I am now a Disney Vacation Club member so I can’t help with tips on where to stay. But I have learned over the years the food can be more expensive than anything. If you’re driving and there is room in the vehicle I suggest bringing groceries from home. I always go to the grocery store in my town because its cheaper and get (cereal, chips, dips, plates, bottled water, plastic spoons, granola bars,condiments, etc.). If there is no room but you’re driving there is a grocery store around Downtown Disney that is cheaper than going to the little grocery at your resort. There I get milk, sandwich meat, cheese, bread. We eat breakfast and lunch at the room. And yes I take a nap! Disney is exhausting. Then we get ready head back to the parks and have dinner out. Also bring a backpack with a ” frozen” bottled water and snacks. Hope this helps!

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Megan Williford May 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I just visited Orlando in March and stayed at the Hampton Inn-Florida Mall on Orange Blossom Trail. Although it’s only minutes from Disney World grounds, it could take up to 25 minutes to drive there due to traffic (as any frequent-Disney-goer would know, I-Drive and I-4 is a death sentence in terms of traffic). The price (only $50-some/night) made me skeptical that it would be trashy, but it was honestly like any other Hampton I’ve been to! It was also nice that it came with free breakfast and a nice, quiet pool area.

If you’re looking for a place to eat, check out Sweet Tomatoes. It’s located directly across from the Apopka-Vineland Rd. main entrance to Disney World (literally, keep driving strait out of the Disney grounds thru the intersection, and you enter a road with a bunch of chain-restaurants). It’s near the end of that road, and for those of you who don’t know it’s a restaurant buffet with a 20-30 foot fresh salad bar, yummy warm breads, soups, pastas and frozen yogurt. Adults for lunch are about $7, dinner $9, kids are cheaper. You will get pretty full, so I’d recommend doing a late lunch (like 3ish) and then returning to the park for the day….. you’ll for sure be held over through dinner time, so then you won’t have to spend more money on dinner. And since you’re saving money, you won’t feel so bad about buying the whole family a $5 Mickey ice cream bar at the end of the night!

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Charles Mayo May 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm

We saved money on Beer by calling a beer delivery company. We set up and order about a week in advanced, and it was waiting for us when we got to our resort. Sure beats paying 6$ a bottle.

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Kelsey May 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I work for Disney in California and have been to Walt Disney World on several occasions. This is my top money saving tip for anyone…and keep in mind that I get an employee/cast member discount!!!

Even though I get my rooms at half price at any of the resorts, I have NEVER stayed on property. We go with other family who live on the East Coast and always rent a house. There are thousands of beautiful homes for rent in the Orlando and surrounding areas. You can locate them by going to VRBO.com (VRBO = vacation rentals by owner). We split the cost of the house with the other family and the most we have spent is $400 for the entire week!!! We also rent a van and split that cost as well. We’ve always gotten large homes because there was 7 of us, but every home we rented could have accomodated more people. And…there are a ton of smaller homes as well. If you go ‘off season’, the prices can be even lower. There are advantages with staying off property as you can go to other sites in the area…and you aren’t limited to waiting for buses and shuttles….particularly at the end of a day when everyone is waiting for the shuttle. One disadvantage…you do pay for parking. (Because I’m an employee/cast member, we park for free.)

Upon arrival, one of the first things we do is hit the closest Costco or Sam’s Club and stock up on breakfast items and snacks. Let’s face it…who wants to go out for breakfast every day? Or purchase a ‘dessert’ to take home at the end of the evening? We don’t!! We also buy bottled water. As others have posted, being able to refill a water bottle that you take into the park is definitely a money saver.

Every home we have rented has had a pool/jacuzzi (our choice), but that provides additional entertainment which is relaxing and fun. Plus, these homes are usually fully stocked with TV’s, DVD’s, games, etc. Many of them also have toys for the kids. There is nothing like the excitement of kids finding a bunch of ‘new’ toys for them to play with. Most homes also have washers and dryers, barbeques and all sorts of additional ammenities. The downside…you don’t have maid service and you have to make your bed each day.

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D. Russo May 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Fantastic ideas on this here website- http://www.budgetsavvydiva.com! As an Orlando resident (20 yrs) I can vouch for all these suggestions.

Staying on property or off property is simply a choice for you. One is not better than the other. As you figure out your budget and where you want to spend your vacation money and time, it will work the way YOU want it to. If you want to check out WDW and what is happening right now, my website http://disneyinaweek.blogspot.com/ will give you a whirlwind daily tour. It will include little tricks and side trips that no one tells you about. And the carrot cake cookies, the green tea ice cream…among others. So check out that website too. It goes perfectly with this one!

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Jenni Anderson - Magical Vacation June 25, 2012 at 4:19 am

I am a Disney Addict for sure. I actually love it so much that I decided to make a living out of my love. I am a stay-at-home mom of 4, and I get to plan Disney Vacations for people! And my services are FREE! I can help the Disney newbie or the fellow addict. ;-) Plus, I can find some of the best deals and prices that will work for your family.
Go “like” my page on Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/MagicalVacationWithJenniAnderson
and check out my new blog – http://www.MyMagicalVacation.wordpress.com (I still have a TON of posts to do, but there is already some useful information on it)

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Heidi July 10, 2012 at 8:45 am

We are going to Disney end of December this year and will be there for New Year’s Eve. We are going with family, total 5 adults and 4 children 7 and under and renting a vacation home with a heated pool(hopefully will be warm enough to do some swimming). We have rented a van that will fit everyone, now we are looking for tickets, any ideas on getting a good deal?

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Emily August 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

We are Planning a trip in January 2013. My husband has a work conference. We must stay at the Contemporary resort b/c of his conference. We will probably arrive on Thursday or Friday and We plan on leaving the next Wednesday. I plan on going to Magic Kingdom all day Saturday and Sunday. He has meetings all day on Monday and Tuesday. We have a 4 year old daughter. I am wondering what we should do on the days he will have meetings. Will it be too much for me to try to take her in a park by myself?

If you book a dining reservation in the MK, but don’t plan on doing anything else there that day, do you have to have tickets to the park that day?

If my husbands meeting ends at5, and we want to enter a park from 5 until closing, is the price still the same?

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Ashleigh August 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The Contemporary is very nice…has a zero entry pool which will be nice for your daughter =)

I recommend just staying at the resort and hanging by the pool! You can burn yourself out SUPER fast trying to pack your days full of activities. Most of the resorts have a lot of activities for the kiddos right at the resort. You can go to the Community Hall and find out what activities they are doing that day. (They also do DVD rentals). There is usually a movie by the pool a few nights a week (maybe every night??)

If you want to get into a park, even just for dining, you must buy a full days pass =( However, they do sell “after 2pm passes”…obviously meaning you can’t get into a park until after 2pm, but they are much more affordable. If you were to buy a regular park pass, it is the same price any time of day.

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Tara August 7, 2012 at 1:44 am

Just received a promotion in the mail last week. If you sign up for the Disney Visa Card you get a $200 Disney gift card. The Visa card gives you discounts on various things, not tickets. We are getting the card just for our trip and then will not use the credit card again once we are home. For our sons birthday we asked family to give us money and he got $300 total. So that is $500 for our trip that we can add to our own funds for the trip. Thanks for all the tips posted.

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anna1029 August 16, 2012 at 12:41 am

We are going to Disneyworld from December 26 2012 to January 2 2013 – anything fun to do on new years eve at the park???

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Becky S. August 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Hi, My family is going to Disney World in October. We are staying at one of the hotels that is “on property” but not run by Disney (Hilton I think) and we are flying in. We will get around by bus and on foot for all of our stay, but what is the best way (cheapest) to get to/from the airport to our hotel (the hotel doesn’t provide service). There are 2 adults, 2 kids and the youngest needs a booster seat which we can bring with us. This is one thing I can’t seem to figure out.

Thanks!

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Natalie September 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm

When we go to Disney we stay on property and go in September (like the second week). There are low crowds and if you book early enough you can get free dinning during this time (and other times as well). Free dining has saved us 100s of dollars!! We got our Disney Value resort hotel rooms cheaper than we would have if we had stayed off property. We saved money on Gas because we used the Disney transportation, and we flew so we saved gas by taking advantage of the free service Disney offers. The Magical express, they take you to and from the airport. by staying at a Disney hotel we also got a lot of extra park hours. They have Extra Magic hours that let only the people staying at a Disney hotel stay in the park either late or get there early. They also have special things going on at the hotel for kids. Like movie nights (I am not sure how often they do them, I think like every other night). We used to stay off property when they only had the expensive hotels, but now that they have the value hotels we have never gone back to staying off property. The hotels have neat themes and is a cool place to stay with the kids.

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Tiiffany October 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

We are going in Dec for 6 days, family of 8 2 adults and 6 kids 7 and under. we found it to be cheaper to book 2 value rooms than a suite in a nicer hotel. We have rooms that connect. Only cost a little over 4000 dollars with the dinning plan. I feel this is a great price, dont have to worry about food or anything, hopefully i’ll get to have fun too since i wont be worried about meals.
We are preparing the kids by showing them videos off of youtube, and I sent for the Disney movie by mail. We just got our maps in the mail and my 2 oldest love them. my 7 year old has planed out what rides he wants to ride on what days.

I have also hit up Halloween stores and bought my 2 girls princess dresses to wear when we dine with the princess( 15 buck each. they both got 2) that save us a ton. could have waited until after Halloween for the sale but my 4 year old really wanted Brave.
I made autograph books for each of my kids cost 20 dollars for all 6 books. use scrap booking Disney paper i got at hobby lobby and cardboard from a box (saved us 100 bucks)
I have also bought small Disney stuffed animals for each of my kids that house keeping will put out on their beds each day, so we don’t buy souvenirs at the park and pay 3 times more for them (target has the best selection)

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Linda January 31, 2013 at 1:32 am

How did you get house keeping to lay out your stuff animals for your children?

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Kristina November 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm

We are going to Magic Kingdom the week after Thanksgiving (I believe it’s the Weds after Thanksgiving to be exact) we are booking a shore excursion through Carnival. Our children are aged 2 and 4, are there any recomendations of what we should (or shouldn’t) do while visiting Magic Kingdom with children that age? I realize we won’t be able to “do it all” in one day, but that isn’t our goal. My sons LOVE Disney and have been begging (the four year old especially) to go see “the Disney castle”. There’s not really much else that interested us that day as a shore excursion, and after being two days at sea before that I would hate to stay on the boat all day, so Disney seemed the best option. I plan on taking snacks and juice for them in a soft sided cooler. Any other advice would be appreciated!

Thanks!
Kristina

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Jennifer November 26, 2012 at 4:35 am

Hello,
we are going to Disney World as a surprise to our 3 children. This is our 1st big family vacation ever. This will be their 1st plane ride, 1st amusment park. 1st Disney experience. We are going the last weekend in January 1st of Feb. what is the weather like there then? We are from the midwest so we are use to below zero. Also any ideas on how to surprise them we are telling them on Christmas that they are going on a Disney cruise but they have no idea that they will be going to disney world when we get there.

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Sharon November 27, 2012 at 12:01 am

January and February in the Orlando area is unpredictable. The weather can be nice for t-shirts 70s during the day and 50 in the night or the weather can be cold for us, 50s during the day and freezing at night. The best advice is to watch the weather channel for the Orlando area. Have a great time.

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Michelle December 1, 2012 at 8:13 pm

We recently went to Disney and I needed to go on a Budget in a big way. I had heard that eating in the parks can be expensive so I shipped down lots of goodies for our room and to pack for park days. I sent down, juice boxes, water bottles, snacks my kids like, cereal, breakfast bars and some healthy snacks for me as well. I simply called the hotel 2 weeks before and asked them for there mailing address and I sent it 3 day air and it was waiting for us when we got there. It was wonderful and easy to give the kids snacks in the parks and in the room inbetween meals. We also had a meal plan that made it easy and much more affordable.
I also picked up Disney t-shirts and pjs, pens and a mickey and minnie doll at my local Disney store much cheaper than the parks. I snuck up to the room while the kids were checking out the pool and set everything up on their beds so when they got to the room, they already had some “souvenirs”. The kids were thrilled to see what was waiting for them and I didn’t have to spend money in the parks for the first few days on “stuff” . It was a great trip and Disney truly is a magical place.

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Marianne December 3, 2012 at 3:16 am

I am taking my kids age 10 and 6 to Disney in April 2013. My son (the 6 year old) has Down Syndrome. We are looking to stay on the resort. I am looking for advice as to which resorts would be best, money saving ideas and any ideas for vacationing there with a special needs child!

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Elizabeth Lainey December 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

These are great! Thanks! The “Disney on a Dime” book is also a great resource for more tips. I always check it out of the library before I go (it’s free!), as well as other similar books, to help plan before I get there. Some tips I really love that I’ve learned along the way are:

1. If you are going to eat a fancy sit-down meal, make it lunch, and do dinner as a quick service or off site. It’s cheaper (and just as wonderful) and usually a bit less busy. Portions are huge in WDW, so you get plenty of tasty food at lunch. In Epcot, the Moroccan restaurant is a bit of a hidden gem for couples or families with older children. I think it gets passed over a lot, but the food is AMAZING and it has a great atmosphere and entertainment.

2. If you are on the dining plan (which I love!), you get an allotted number of snacks, quick service , and sit down meals each day (so, 2 meals and a snack – you pay for the 3rd meal if you want it). I have gone twice where we have had this plan (as a group of 10 adults), and we all agreed that it was too much food! So, we tended to use our snack as a breakfast, since some of the snack items are pretty substantial (fruit cup, veggie cup w/ dip, granola bar, yogurt cup, etc.). It is cheaper to buy another snack later (or better yet, pack your own) if you want it than to purchase breakfast and use your free snack later. Plus, with the huge restaurant portions, we found we just wanted a really light breakfast and that we usually weren’t hungry for a snack throughout they day, anyway.

3. For souvenirs: There are tons of fun, crazy hats at every gift shop you see. They are expensive (and really, after you get home, how many times are you actually going to dig out that crazy Goofy hat and wear it?) – instead of purchasing one, it’s fun to try them on and take “souvenir” pictures. My family has done this every time we’ve gone and they are some of our favorite shots. As long as you are not disruptive of other shoppers and are gentle with the hats, the cast members do not seem to mind.

For souvenirs for little kids, I’ve heard of parents buying Disney gear (stuffed animals, hats, toys, princess accessories, etc.) on sale or at discount stores before the trip, then packing them and giving them as souvenirs after a day in the park. Many of the same items can be purchased much, much cheaper outside of the parks – and with small children, long as they have a cool Mickey toy that they love, they don’t know or care that it didn’t actually come from the park. It can still be fun for kids to pick out something in the gift shop, so it might be nice to bring along a few of these less expensive items, and allow the child to pick out one special thing in the park – maybe something with the says the year or features a favorite attraction that can’t be purchased outside of the parks.

4. It’s nice to do a day of hotel hopping, especially if you go around the holidays. It sounds a little silly at first, but it’s really a good time! You can use the transportation for free and just check out all the themed hotels, wonderful decorations, restaurants, and gift shops. Many times there’s live music and other events going on at the hotels (the huge Gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian is always fun). We have even hotel hopped and used the pools at other hotels when we were staying on site. The resorts have so many little details that you don’t even notice when you’re just in and out going to the parks, and a hotel hopping day is pretty low-key. It’s nice to plan a day like this in between parks to rest a bit and have a bit of down-time. It works well to hotel hop in the morning and do downtown Disney at night.

5. In the parks, a good strategy is to start at the back at the park and work your way forward. Most people just start at the entrance, so you will be going against the crowd and can save yourself some wait time this way. Like this blog says, know the lay of the land, use fast passes, and plan out when you will go to all the big attractions. There are tons of books that have great advice on wait times and planning, etc. Check these out beforehand and come prepared to make the most of your time in the parks.

6. Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide To Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets by Steven M. Barrett is SUCH A FUN BOOK! Get it and take it along to the parks. (I think there is also an iPhone app now…never tried it, but it sounds fun!) If you are not familiar with this, there are hidden Mickeys all over the parks and resorts – it’s so creative! It’s fun to be “in the know” about where they are, and this book is a lifesaver if you are in a long line with kids. Many of the Mickeys are located in the line areas of attractions, so you can search while you wait, as well as use waiting time to look up where the Mickeys are in that particular attraction so you can watch for them when you finally get on the ride.

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Kim January 3, 2013 at 1:24 am

If purchase park tickets fromUndercover Tourists,but stay onsite at a Disney Resort, can you still take advantage of the extra magic hours? Even though not buying tickets through Disney??

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Brandy January 7, 2013 at 2:17 am

How much are elec. wheel chair rentals? We will be going in May and I cant walk that much so I want to budget for it in advance. Thank you.

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Reina February 6, 2013 at 1:26 am

Hi, Brandy! We rented a electric wheelchair from Randy’s Mobility in Orlanda. I got the info from Mousesavers.com. They delivered the chair to our hotel & picked it up, it was great service & the most affordable service we found. I hope you have a MAGICAL time!

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Sara January 8, 2013 at 3:04 am

We are planning our daughters (age 2) first trip to Disney in March and are looking for advice. We are staying at our timeshare (off property) and will be renting a car, besides that the rest of our trip is still all up in the air. My daughter loves animals, and says she wants to meet the characters. I’m not sure how she’ll actually react to them though. I’m looking for advice on everything from surviving our first plan ride, to finding an amazing kid friendly place to eat and help picking out which park(s) we should defintly visit. Help…any advice is appreciated!

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Valerie White January 30, 2013 at 4:48 am

Hi Sara! We (my husband, I and 2 girls) love Disney and have gone several times. When my kids were really little (4 &1) they were terrified of the characters. They did fine with the princesses (they look quite “normal”) but anything else scared them. I have to admit when thinking about it — those creatures are HUGE in comparison to the movie versions – not at all what they expect, I think. Anyway, The Crystal Palace has the Winnie the Pooh characters. When we ate there – we just kept our little one in the stroller and kept reassuring our 4 year old. When the characters would come to stop and let you take pictures and sign autographs, we would just wave them on. They were very sweet – they would stand at a distance and just wave at the girls. We were very thankful! I don’t know if that would be everyones experience, but it was a great experience for us. Oh, and we love the breakfast buffet – yummy! There are several other places that offer character meals, this just happens to be one of our favorites. You could opt for one of the princess ones. Like I said, they didn’t scare our girls at all.

As far as the parks, that’s a hard one because we love them all. Just go with what you think will interest them the most. Some kids love the Animal kingdom for the animals alone. (think “super” nice zoo with some shows and rides.) Of course the Magic Kingdom is so fun for kids – I can’t imagine going to Disney without going to MK. Epcot is one of my girls favorites – but we always need a good 2 days for it. Hollywood studios up until recently has been the least important park for us to visit. As my girls are now older (10 & 13) they really have started to love HS. My oldest daughter loves the animation academy – she would stay there all day if we’d let her. ;)

I’d say just take a break in the middle of the day or be prepared to leave the parks in the early evening. It just gets too tiring if you try to go open to close every day. You’ll end up exhausted. That’s no fun for anyone.

If you get to come back when your girls get a bit older, they will love the pin trading. My girls still love to trade. I second the Ebay idea. That’s where we get the ones for them to trade.

The food thing can be a big deal. Personally, we are blessed to be able to eat most of our meals in the parks. The food is a big part of the experience for us and we plan accordingly. That being said, if money is tight, this would be an area you could definitely try to save some money. A couple thoughts: alot of the meals are rather large and could be shared with your girls. We usually have breakfast in our room. We always carry waters in our backpacks – the water in FL really is awful! We lived in FL for a while and I never could stand to drink it with out filtering it. Next time I’m thinking we might take our water bottles that have the filters in them. That way maybe we could just get water at the counters and be able to drink it. We’ll see. Take snacks.

If you are a planner (we are), I’d recommend The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. We buy the updated version every time we go. We also use their app.

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Valerie White January 30, 2013 at 4:53 am

Sara! I forgot to mention pictures! Take tons of them. One thing we do now – is include pics of our foods. Fun to remember. We also include poses like looking down at our maps, everyone pointing different directions, taking a bite out of a mickey mouse ice cream, with our back to the photographer – like we are walking, etc. There are photographers everywhere – use them! We buy the prepaid photo package – then we get to have every pic taken and we always end up with lots of good ones!

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meganT January 8, 2013 at 4:07 am

Ok so I have to say this since i have been reading alot of disney trips lately. I did you know it is cheaper to go to disney world than disneyland, i didnt look on other sites or hard searching, i set a budget and has able to stay at a med. hotel at disney world go 5 days, and 2 days to the waterparks/golf course and get a 5 day meal plan all for 4 people and that equals 3 days at disneyland/ca adventures and 3 day meal plan and staying at a med hotel close by. I didnt factor travel but it would cost us more in plane tickets to world than driving the 8-10 hrs to land. I just cant believe the price difference

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Chloe January 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I am a college student and my 21st birthday happens to fall during spring break this year. I have only been to Disney twice when I younger but I LOVED every moment of it and I have always loved everything Disney and I even hope to be an imagineer for them after I graduate. I want nothing more than to spend my birthday at Disney with all my friends, but being college students we are all concerned with the cost. I would much rather spend my 21st at the most magical place on earth rather than the typical college spring break locations like destin and Panama City like we have done in all the past years. Any ideas to lower the projected cost of our trip or to things to do that appeal to the a college student would be very much appreciated!

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Des January 14, 2013 at 12:54 am

We will only be at magic kingdom for one day we’re coming on the Disney cruise and its part of the cruise…any advise on how to make the most of our day there?

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Melanie January 19, 2013 at 12:56 am

We are going to Disney April 5-12… 4 adults and 1 -6yr old…have our hotel (Art of Animation), have gotten our meal plan, and have booked a few dinners… (Aloha Dinner show at the Polynessian, Cinderella’s Royal table, Cinderella and Prince Charming at the Grand Flordian) Wondering how long it will take to get to the parks, how much time we should allow to get around… and any tricks, things to check out, etc. I am the only one who has been to Disney and that was about 20 yrs ago. I will take any help and advise

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Jennifer January 28, 2013 at 4:37 am

I would say it takes a good 20 minutes to get to the parks from Art of Animation on the buses….depending on what other stops it has to make…..allow time for that. At night…..just plan for about the same amount of time. I purchased Mat Stacks at the craft store for my daughter to use as an autograph book…..that way you can scrapbook them. Buy the big pens in the park-the characters need large pens to autograph…..take backpacks with emergency ibuprofen, tylenol, etc…..take extra batteries for your cameras. we each take a backpack with a light jacket and poncho…snacks, glow sticks for night activities. Look on disney’s website for the schedule when you are going to visit…..make your strategy based on the schedule…like when to see night shows….what days you will enter parks early or later….and plan what you want to do in the parks. If you want more info I have a ton…soo much to write here.

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Valerie White January 30, 2013 at 5:03 am

Your 6 year old might love the pin trading (buy them on ebay to trade). Take tons of pictures – we have the Disney photographers do most of the work, although we take a camera too. We purchase the CD with all the pics on it (we actually prepuchase it) Take breaks often. Just sit for a bit and talk about what you’ve done or get a snack and rest a bit. There is no way to see/do everything at Disney on any visit. Be okay with that and enjoy what you do get to experience. It will be so much more memorable if you stop and enjoy it instead of running around like crazy. comfortable shoes are a must!!!! Chapstick, wipes, moleskin. If you really like to plan ahead I’d recommend “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World”. We use it everytime we go.

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Janey February 5, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Such great info from everyone! I’m a travel agent, and I have several clients planning to go to Disney this year. I’m sending them here to read all your comments to plan their trips! I think I need to plan one of my own too… :)

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mamanut February 16, 2013 at 12:35 am

Awesome tips! Thanks!
We’re just back from a WDW trip (1/26/13-2/6/13) with our 3 and 5 year olds. We saved money by:
- driving – we are in NC and driving (even with a hotel stop in Savannah on the way down, was much cheaper than even the least expensive flights)
- staying off-site… we rented a 4 bed, 3 bath very nice home with its own private pool and paid $100 per night… equivalent of the value resorts at Disney… of course, we didn’t get extended hours, but with small kids, we weren’t going to use them much anyway
- eating ‘at home’ as well as dining out off-site and taking snacks, juices, and some food into the parks in a soft-side cooler
- never ordering drinks with dinner – we like water and we got free water from the restaurants and put them in our brita bottles to filter (also we took a Mio flavor with us for the odd time when we wanted more than plain water)
- buying nearly all of our mementos before heading to disney (including glow sticks for night time events like the MK fireworks, Tinkerbell toys, Disney tshirts, and much more)
- just like you said, we budgeted our in-park expenses and each kid got a ‘wallet’ with spending money ($25) to choose a memento during our trip (we bumped each of those amounts by a few dollars when they made a choice just over $25 or when tax took the bill over $25)
- we brought our own stroller, rather than renting, which was easier because we drove… even our 5.5 year old spent a lot of time riding – those parks are big! (I have a pedometer I use and we averaged more than 7 miles each day in the parks)
- we did not buy park hopper tickets… we did 6 days at the parks with each day spent in just one park
- we did one character meal – breakfast with Cinderella at the castle – we got in before the crowds (big gain if you are wanting extended hours without staying on property) to make our breakfast and finished just as people were allowed in so we beat the crowds to the rides… we skipped lunch and just ate our snacks we brought with us
- two days we did just 6 or so hours in the parks (other days were 9-11 hours)… on those short days we ate breakfast at home, went to the park, ate our snacks we packed while there, and came home for dinner…
- we did free things on our days off (plus it was restful in between those long days on our feet at the parks) – swimming in our rental house’s pool topped the list (no fighting for lounge chairs and no worries that big kids would be too much for our littles)! Shopping malls, Downtown Disney, Universal Walk, and Celebration (the town has some nice walking paths) were other fun things we did… we wanted to hit the beach, but the weather didn’t cooperate.
- I love your tip about timing – there are some sites out there that show per week and per day crowd anticipation… we went in one of the 3 least-busy weeks of the year – it makes all the difference (we’ve been 4 times in the past 8 years and not always in low-crowd times)… waits were shorter (very important with young ones), fast pass waits were nonexistent, even with smaller crowds, restaurants were busy and it still felt like there were plenty of people there… since I’m not a crowd person, I can bet I’d find it the most miserable place on earth in the peak weeks… crowd and heat – ugh!
- winter weather in Orlando can be chilly, but it’s not super-hot… we had what I’d describe as ideal weather… 70s and 80s as the high most days and for half the time the lows were in the 60s, the other half it was upper 40s and that made for chilly mornings, but far better than the 90s+ and humidity (plus guaranteed rain shower for an hour) that you get in the summer – that is waaaay hot to walk 7 miles, pushing a stroller, dealing with kids, transport, lines, crowds, etc. Fall and spring are nice, too… we’ve been in March and late Sept – very nice – hot in the afternoon – warm mornings and nights.
- make sure you make a daily plan – your 3 to 5 “must do” things, then prioritize getting to them early (before the crowds)… if one has a fast pass, quickly grab an FP, then line up for another one that doesn’t do FPs… that way, if you only get to do a handful of things, you’ll have done the best ones… we did tons of rides with 15 min or less waits while there in Jan/Feb – which definitely makes the price of admission easier to swallow.

thanks for the post! I’ll direct my friends who are planning WDW trips here to get started!

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Katie Warfel February 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Katie,
see attached info for “how to save $$$” at Disney World!!!!

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jennifer February 25, 2013 at 7:12 pm

HELP!!
I am a single mom..i so want to take my son to Disney…he deserves it…
so, i’m gonna drive from texas and was wondering for the cheapest route possible on lodging and food…
i was going to rent a hotel offsite and just do magic kindgom for two days…i figured that will be enough time for a 4 year old…and then of course, i will have all our food packed in an ice cooler in the car….i’m sure i will have to splurge on a ten dollar ice cream for him…lol!!
any advice would be great for a very limited budget…
thanks!!
PS – I went to Undercover Tourista nd Mouse Savers today…i see i have alot of reading to do….i am planning on going the first week of December…seems to be quiet then…

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Aeoliana Elliott March 22, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Great tips!! We live in Florida about an hour from Orlando, and these tips are great even for regulars like me. Looking forward to using them the next time we go. We plan on going in either April or May after our son turns 1.

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PJ Boothe April 2, 2013 at 2:16 am

This is excellent! I have been a few times, and I think I have caught on to some of these. The penticton restaurants are excellent! That is definitely a huge place where you can save money.

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Frances April 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I am going there in May

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Shawn Williams January 21, 2014 at 5:40 pm

My family and I had a blast at the Disney Parks. Military travel and leisure offices have great deals on tickets on many bases. We purchased the family of 4 to four main parks which includes 2 auxiliary parks (like water parks) To save money, we stayed outside the resort area at a Holiday Inn. The hotel includes a free breakfast buffet and a pool. There are many restaurants nearby as well. The drive is nice and only took 20 minutes to parking at Disney Parks, you’ll still ride the monorails to the main entrances which was cool. Remember folks, you’ll spend all day at the parks so if you are planning a down day just to regroup, a resort hotel is nice but most of the time your out and about shopping and stuff. Backpacks are allowed but strongly recommend things like a water bottles, energy bars, sun screen, and a recharger for batteries for cameras etc. Folks, wear tennis shoes with a pair of socks, you will walk a lot. Have a great time folks!

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Michael Falconer April 15, 2014 at 4:59 am

We are getting ready to go in June & we are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Can you pass along any advice on being able to get cheap upgrades on rooms when we get there?

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Sara April 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm

If you are celebrating a birthday or other event :)

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rosa mazzella May 20, 2014 at 1:05 am

I am planning a trip to Florida and it is kind of short notice so these kind of websites are life savers thank you and I really think some of these tips/tricks will work!

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Katie May 24, 2014 at 1:02 am

Hi Linda, we are going to be at Disney World on the 10 am I to late to get the UT and other savings you talked about? Could you send it to me please!

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