How to Do Disney on a Budget During the Holidays from How to Do Disney on a Budget During the Holidays

How to Do Disney on a Budget During the Holidays

Full Story

Ken Wolter /

How to Do Disney on a Budget During the Holidays

You may not know a cast member who can get you into the parks for free and then hangs out with you everywhere so you can get free perks, but you can still go to Disney without feeling guilty about possibly going bankrupt just to see your child smile. Visiting Mickey and Cinderella is conceivable even for cash-strapped parents.


Drive there, don’t fly

Plane tickets for a family of 4 will be a lot more expensive than a road trip. You can find good flight deals depending on how early you plan to book a trip, but nothing beats the cheap price of gas. Yes, it’ll take longer but you can turn it into a fun family adventure. Make a trip to Disney even more amazing and go camp under the starts one night.


Look at various sites for tickets

Go to Disney’s site to see what prices they charge and then run away. AAA offers a lot of discounts. You can also save a bunch by buying passes from other sites such as Undercover Tourist. Check your work benefits, too. Many companies offer certain perks that include discounted tickets to movie theatres, musicals, and amusement parks. Costco and Official Ticket Center may also offer good deals.

Walt Disney World News

Forgo the meal plan

Why would you do that when you can bring your own food and drinks into the park? A package includes three meals a day at Disney restaurants which include a table-service meal, one counter-service meal, and one snack per person. One or two are more than enough to meet favorite characters and enjoy the experience of having lunch or dinner with them.

Walt Disney World News

Don’t stay at Disney hotels

Even with free transportation to the resort and back, Disney hotels are not cheap. If you can’t stay at a friend’s house for a few days, look at other options. You can find low rates on sites such as and Airbnb. Even hotels that are just outside the park charge a fraction of what a Disney resort will. You can even bid on a site such as Priceline.


No need to pay for photos

Ask anyone, even the Disney characters around the park, and they will be glad to take a photo of you and your kids free of charge with your phone or camera. Just don’t bring selfie sticks. They are a big no-no for safety concerns.

Walt Disney World News

Have lunch there, not dinner

Dinners cost more at any eatery. If you absolutely must have a sit-down meal at a Disney restaurant, save money by booking lunch instead of dinner. Book a meal during non-peak eating times and the characters will visit your table more often.

Bring your own water bottles

Do you want to spend $4-$5 for a water bottle? That’s more than at an airport. You and your kids will get thirsty often because of the excitement and running around. The cost will add up quickly. Bring your own bottle and keep refilling it. Quick-service restaurants will provide water, and ice, even if you don’t buy food. 

Walt Disney World News

Get the multi-day park pass

Decide how many days you’re going to spend on your Disney dream vacation and buy a pass for as many days. Don’t buy one ticket at a time. The price per day drops with every extra day you add up front. One day at the park is going to cost around $102. A third day is down to $95, fourth to $81, fifth to $68, and so on.


Buy souvenirs in advance

You can buy Disney trinkets almost anywhere and all of those places will be selling them for a lot less than the actual theme park. Bring souvenirs from home to give to your kids to run with around the park. Target and Amazon sell many of them for a lot less. Photos are great souvenirs because they are personal.


Bring snacks

Either make some easy snacks or buy a few before you enter the park. You are allowed to bring in food, which is great if you don’t usually eat big portions anyway. You can save a lot by avoiding eating meals at the on-site restaurants or vendors. Splurge on meals with the whole family and save on all the rest.

Walt Disney World News

Know the free activities

Disney is expensive but the “happiest place on Earth” offers a lot of free opportunities to enjoy yourself. Go to Disney Springs for free boat rides from one complex to another, go on a free walking tour to see zebras, giraffes and other exotic animals at Animal Kingdom, stroll down the mile-long Disney’s BoardWalk and watch the fireworks over the park at night.

Walt Disney World News

Don’t get the Park Hopper pass

Are you really going to visit more than one park in a day, considering the sheer scale of each theme park? Just going from one park to another is a time-consuming endeavor. Pick your park for the day and make the most of it. Go on as many rides as you can instead. Also, the park hopper option doesn’t include access to water parks.


Use Disney discounted gift cards

They can be used for absolutely everything in the park. The discounts are not tremendous but saving even 5 percent on a purchase you’re going to make anyway is worth it. Buy several discounted gift cards and the savings will add up. You can buy these cards at Target, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, to name a few.

Bring character costumes from home

Buying a dress that one of the princesses in Frozen wears is going to be a lot more expensive at Disney than anywhere else. If your child already has a costume of their favorite character, bring it with you on the trip. That way you don’t have to spend a lot when he or she asks for one and you can’t say “no.” Costumes may not be worn by guests who are 14 years old and up. The same applies for masks, unless they are needed for medical reasons.

Walt Disney World News

Camp on-site

Forget about off- and on-site hotels if you can’t decide which is cheaper. Add one more adventure to your trip and go camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. This is by far the cheapest lodging option. The kids will love playing by the fire, the swimming pool, stargazing, and sleeping in a tent. Room for a pop-up or camper van-type vehicle plus a tent or 2 tents is just $53 per night.

Have breakfast before you arrive at the park

This one should be easy. Hotels usually offer free continental breakfast and you can always grab something before you actually enter the park. By doing this, and packing lunches, you can just pay for one meal at the theme parks.

Walt Disney World News

Take autographs as souvenirs

Your kids will want to have a souvenir to take home, and instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money in a Disney shop, purchase an autograph book instead. It’s the perfect way for them to take home memories of all the Disney characters, and the book only costs about $6.


Keep the receipts and your change

People usually toss the receipts , but you should avoid doing so when visiting Disney. Some receipts have discounts for Downtown Disney retailers on them. You can save money and use these discounts for souvenirs for your kids. Change adds up. Have your entire family save all of their change throughout the trip. At the end, compile all of the change together and use it on small souvenirs.


Set a budget

Write every expense you’re foreseeing down and set a limit. This includes meal costs, gas prices, snacks, parking, drinks, passes. Seeing what you are about to spend in black and white will help you decide where you can cut down so you don’t ever go over budget. Paying cash also helps keep track of how much money you’ve spent so far.

How to Do Disney on a Budget During the Holidays