Disney World on a Budget: Nine Ways to Save

Here's nine pro tips for visiting Disney World on a budget, from a discounted gift card hack to avoiding peak times.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s every child’s (and most adults') dream to visit Disney World. After all, where else can you have such a magical, one-of-a-kind experience? But from tickets and accommodations to meals and transportation, attending Disney World can be expensive. In fact, the average cost for a family of four to visit Disney is $6,865 ($343 per person per night) in 2024. 

Does the price sound too steep to manage? Before you give up on making it to Disney World this year, consider what you can do to cut costs. Finding affordable flights and otherwise cutting back on transportation costs is essential. But there are also small, meaningful ways you can cut costs once you're actually there. These hacks and pro tips from MagicGuides can help make Disney more affordable. 

1. Don’t buy bottled water

It’s easy to forget to hydrate when running from one ride or interactive experience to another, but buying bottled water in Disney World can set you back a pretty penny. The number one top tip is that ice water is totally free at Disney World fast-service restaurants.

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2. Use discounted Disney gift cards

Try and buy discounted gift cards from participating retailers before you visit. If you shop at Target and use your RedCard debit card, you get 5% off. If you shop at Sam’s Club, you can get nearly 4% off Disney gift cards. That’s like getting a half-dozen Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwiches for free.

3. Avoid overly crowded days 

Disney World is the most expensive during the peak times of the year when the kids are out of school, the weather is warm and sunny or over the holidays. That’s why it’s best to visit after the first of the year, in the first half of May, from mid-August to just before Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving week until mid-December, if your schedule allows. Check out the Disney World Crowd Calendar for up-to-date crowd information. 

4. Pack what you need

Because food, water and other essentials are expensive if purchased in the Park, stretch your cash and try bringing a few of these “easy-to-carry” essentials with you, such as hand sanitizer, a portable phone charger, snacks, ibuprofen and sunscreen.

5. Come rain or come shine

The sun may be shining when you arrive at Disney World, but a storm may be just a few minutes away. So, rain or shine, pack a raincoat, umbrella, parka and sunscreen. Umbrellas and single adult ponchos, if purchased at the Park, can cost over $12 each. Ouch!

6. Budget for the dreaded snack attack

Satisfying your hunger at Disney World can be really pricey. Disney brought back its prepaid dining plan in 2024, but how much you’ll save depends on your family. Instead, Disney World allows guests to bring food into the park, so you could conceivably buy no food inside Disney parks at all. Or, consider using those discounted gift cards to help cover the cost.

7. Skip the Park for a day 

Explore other adventures around Disney World and save on admission costs. Orlando has dozens of attractions, parks and events that are just as fun as taking a selfie with Mickey Mouse but won’t break the bank. Or, simply relax at the pool for a day in the Florida sunshine. 

8. Book your Disney World trip through an agent

Booking your Disney World vacation through a Disney travel agent can be a cost-effective option, provided you choose a reputable no-fee agency. You’ll get personalized attention from a Disney World expert completely free of charge. What’s better than that? Plus, they can help you plan almost all aspects of your vacation so you get the best prices. Try Disney Travel Agency, Vacationeer.com.

9. Book a room off-site

Disney-owned resorts are typically more expensive than a non-Disney hotel off-site. It’s not uncommon that you’ll find more room choices, free breakfasts, kitchenettes and spacious suites ideal for a large family. Or, check out Airbnb and Vrbo, which offer short-term vacation rentals. Staying off-site may have a few disadvantages, like the cost of transportation to the Park, but can potentially save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

MagicGuides is not affiliated with Disney, Universal, or any of their subsidiaries or parent companies.

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Kathryn Pomroy

For the past 18+ years, Kathryn has highlighted the humanity in personal finance by shaping stories that identify the opportunities and obstacles in managing a person's finances. All the same, she’ll jump on other equally important topics if needed. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Journalism and lives in Duluth, Minnesota. She joined Kiplinger in 2023 as a contributor.