Updated for 2017!
Disney World seems to get more expensive every year; if you’ve been following recent changes on ticket increases and up-charges for parking and extra park hours, then you already know that. There are a few tricks you can use to save some money on accommodations and tickets, keeping in mind that you get what you pay for, and if it sound too good to be true, it probably is.
If you ever weighed your options for staying on-property versus off-property to save enough ca$hola to stay on vacation for an extra day, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!
1. If staying on property is a must-do, then stay in the Value Resorts to save money. If you plan to spend your waking hours at the parks, all you probably need is a bed and a shower anyway, so no need to pay lot more for it. The difference between Value Resorts and the next level, Moderate Resorts, can be about $80 and up per night. Described as affordable comfort and convenience for families on the go starting at (2017) $93, the Value Resorts are Pop Century, All-Stars (Movies, Sports, Music,) and Art of Animation.
2. If you want to spend more time in your room, around your resort, or see more of Orlando, stay in a Moderate level resort rather than splurge on Deluxe accommodations. The Deluxe Resorts start in price about $140 more than Moderate level, and $200 more than the Value resorts, and that’s just a starting point. Combining beautiful themes and value starting at $166 a night, the Moderates Resorts are Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans (French Quarter and Riverside) and Cabins at Fort Wilderness. Use this link for more information:
3. Regardless of the resort level you choose, stay during low or fall season to save money. Value Season is the least expensive and least crowded time of the year, followed by Fall Season, Regular Season, Summer Season, Peak Season and Holiday Season. Value season has dates in January through early February. Fall season has certain dates in August, September, October, November and December. Anytime there is a holiday where school is out, there will be crowds at Disney World and room rates will be more expensive.
4. Staying on property gives you the perk of free parking. There is no cost to park at your resort with a reservation, and you won’t have to pay to park if you drive your car to the parks. The parking cost is built into your room cost, and therefore you’ll avoid paying an extra $20 a day.
5. Staying on property gives you access to Extra Magic Hours, which means you get more time in the theme parks without paying any additional money. That’s built into your room cost, if you choose not to go to the parks when Extra Magic Hours are offered. EMHs allow you to enter the parks early before general visitors arrive and stay after those visitors leave on certain designated days of the week. Crowds will be lighter during Extra Magic Hours than during regular operating hours.
6. Why pay full price? Stay on property when Disney offers discounts. Special offers and deals are announced throughout the year in one form or another. You can save money on room rates and vacation packages, and unless they end this special, free dining will hopefully be available for limited dates in the fall. You just have to be willing to travel during certain times of year. Use this link to the direct Disney special offers page. Travel Agents will be glad to let you know when deals and discounts are released. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel. If you book a vacation and deals are announced afterward, our TAs will apply these discounts to your trip.
7. Flying in? Stay at a Disney resort, and the Magical Express will take you to and from the Orlando International Hotel for free. This complimentary motorcoach transportation also comes with free luggage delivery. Purchasing vacation packages are not required to take advantage of this free service. When you make your Disney resort reservation, if you do not select Disney’s Magical Express and include flight information, just contact your booking agent for your Disney Resort hotel reservation number, or get your reservation online on the My Reservations page in My Disney Experience.
If you arrive between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., it can take up to three hours for your luggage to be delivered to your resort room, so be sure to pack what you need in bags that stay with you.
8. Book a hotel room using expedia.com. You may find a lower rate than booking directly through Disney, and they offer free cancellation on your room up to several days out from your trip.
9. Have AAA? They offer room discounts for Disney hotels. AAA requires annual membership fees. Classic AAA Memberships are $49, AAA Plus is $79, and AAA Premier is $101. All of these memberships require a $20 one-time admission fee. Use this link to AAA.
10. If you have ever served in the armed forces, you can get military discounts. Disney offers room and tickets discounts for our military. Shades of Green is the only Armed Forces Recreation Center located in the continental United States. To be eligible, you or a family member must be a current or retired member of the Reserve and National Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Cadets of Armed Forces Academies. Use this link to shadesofgreen.org for eligibility information.
Other Lodging Ideas
11. Have a camper or a tent? The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort are less expensive than some off-property resort or hotel stays, but Disney camping gives you all the Disney property privileges, like a pool, outdoor movies, and character meet and greets. You can cook your own meals to save money, and there are toilettes, showers, and laundry facilities throughout the campground.
Prices for 2017:
- Tent or pop-up campsites start at $55.00
- Full hook-up campsites start at $71.00
- Preferred campsites start at $85.00
- Premium campsites start at $90.00
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort also offers cabins for rent, but starting at $309 (2017) a night, these cabins are classified as Moderate Resorts and expensive, triple the cost of a Premium campsite and usually more than double the cost of a Value Resort.
12. Have a big family? The least expensive Disney Resort rooms allow only four people, so if you stay on property, you’ll need two rooms or a more expensive room that allows for five or more. Many people with larger families or traveling with groups rent houses off property. There are many house rental companies that serve the Orlando area, including All-Star Vacation Homes and IPG Florida Vacation Homes. Another great option our family has used with good results is Vacation Rentals by Owners (VRBO.com)
13. If you ever wanted to stay at a Disney Vacation Club Resort but have not joined the DVC yourself, you can save money renting DVC points using businesses like David’s Vacation Club Rentals and DVC Rental Store. You can save up to 40% off retail prices, but remember retail prices for Vacation Club accommodation are really high. The following locations are available for use with DVC points:
- Animal Kingdom Villas
- Bay Lake Tower
- Beach Club Villas
- BoardWalk Villas
- Grand Floridian Villas
- Old Key West Resort
- Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
- Saratoga Springs Resort
- Wilderness Lodge Village
14. Let’s start with the fact that you do not need to have tickets every day of your vacation. I know lots of people who want to be seated on a roller coaster every waking moment of their trip, but this can be tough traveling with younger children or older adults who may tire easily. We high recommend a free day, or even two, to explore the resort properties, swim, shop, and relax. Use this link for ideas for a free day: Disney World Tips for Kids: “Free Day” Fun Activities.
15. Head to the beach! Orlando is only about an hour or two from several free beaches, including Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Clearwater Beach, Daytona Beach, and Canaveral National Seashore. Swim, build a sand castle, and take a walk along the shore.
16. You will pay less per day for your theme park tickets when you purchase more days/tickets, and it’s a significant amount. Adult Disney World park tickets for four days cost $305.00, at a per day cost of $81.25. Adult tickets for seven days cost $350.00, at a per day cost of $52.86.
So the more days you play at the parks, the less you will pay per day.
17. Be wary of fantastic ticket offers. A website called orlandowego.com offers $35 one-day Disney tickets, which normally cost three times that amount. In small print at the bottom of the page is a tag line, “THIS ADVERTISING MATERIAL IS BEING USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF SOLICITING SALES OF VACATION OWNERSHIP PLANS.” Companies are not giving you discount tickets for no reason. Ticket prices too good to be true probably are, and you could find yourself using park time for sitting through a time share presentation.
18. I always recommend buying tickets straight from Disney, because I don’t like to take any chances. But if you want to go for a slight ticket discount, use reliable sources like MouseSavers or Undercover Tourist. You do not want to be standing at the gate dealing with problems from tickets you purchased from a less reputable seller just to save a few dollars. This would be a terrible way to start off a vacation.
19. Other theme parks in or near Orlando offer less expensive ticket prices than Disney tickets. You might not have traveled to Orlando just to visit Disney parks, but that’s certainly an option if you are on a budget. Let’s compare 2017 one-day ticket prices for Orlando theme parks before taxes.
- Magic Kingdom $97 Value ($102 Regular, $114 Peak)*
- SeaWorld $79
- Busch Gardens $79 (about an hour away from Orlando)
Universal Studios Orlando has undergone a huge increase in traffic since the addition of the Harry Potter sections of their parks. Universal offers a one-park ticket for $105. There is no tiered pricing at Universal, so this ticket would be better than a Peak Season ticket at Disney, but just barely. Saving money wouldn’t be a reason to visit Universal Studios in Orlando, but visiting for the fabulous theme park experience would be.
*To learn more about ticket seasons, use this link: Disney Parks Seasonal Tiered Ticket Pricing: A Cheapskate Princess Guide
20. To save money on Disney tickets, don’t purchase the Park Hopper Option. You will spend valuable time moving from one park to another, and you will pay more per day for the option of going to different parks on the same day. A one-day ticket to Magic Kingdom during Regular Season before tax is $110. Adding the Park Hopper Option takes the price total to $160. If you purchase four-day tickets, your price before taxes is $325.00. Adding the Park Hopper Option takes the price total to $394. You’ll save $69 when you skip park hopping, which can add up if you are traveling with a group.
Did we miss a tip that saves you money? Leave us a comment so we can add it to our list. If you’re going to be a cheapskate, you might as well be a Cheapskate Princess!
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you rolling quarters and eating sandwiches for lunch, saving up for your Disney vacation…
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Julie and Elizabeth. You can also e-mail them at email@example.com.