It can seem like visiting Disney theme parks these days will put you in the same wallet-emptying league as buying your own plane or yacht. With the cost of a day pass racing toward the $100 mark, it will soon be cheaper to fill your car with gas than go to Disney World or Disneyland. But if you’re smart, you’ll read our top 20 Walt-bashing hacks and save yourself a wedge of bucks.
20. Ride early… and eat in your room
The early bird catches the best rides, as parent Ian Ford – CEO of ticket retail firm Undercover Tourist – told culture website Thrillist in 2016. He explained, “We wake up at like 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. and have protein bars and shakes in our room. It not only slices the cost of the meal dramatically, it also gets everyone to the park right when it opens. You can ride short rides, and ride 20 of those before the park fills up.”
19. Avoid the back-street merchants
Planning your trip with a Disney-certified travel agent will not only potentially save you money. It should also make your experience so much more enjoyable. These agents are armed with the most up-to-date knowledge and tips – from where to stay, through to booking your meals in advance.
18. Target those bargains
Use that Target store red card, if you have one. Snap up a pile of Disney gift cards… which Target actually considers to be entertainment cards. That means you’ll get a cool five percent off whatever you would have otherwise paid – and that means cheaper food.
17. Divide up that food
Don’t let Disney force you into being a cartoon-American, sitting there with a huge burger in front of you. If your tot gets handed a three-quarter-pounder hamburger, ask staff to split it over two buns. Two meals for the price of one adds up to health and wealth benefits.
16. Plan your time – don’t wait in line
If you go for your food, or your rides, at the same time as everyone else, you’ll have to wait in line. But if you’re smart, you’ll plan to eat at odd times – while they ride – and ride while they eat. As a result, you’ll get so much more done.
15. Water way to save lots of cash
Water is a free commodity on Earth – or at least it should be. But there’s always someone happy to sell you drinking water. This will certainly ratchet up your holiday bill like a marlin on a rod if you let it. Like bread rolls in France, every food outlet will provide you with a cup of iced water for free… so make sure you ask.
14. Bring drinks powders
However, if plain ol’ H2O doesn’t cut the mustard for you, make your own DIY soda by bringing in packets of fruity drinking powders such as Crystal Light. Then, simply mix it into the free water at the stands for a refreshing, flavorsome beverage. It sure beats paying out big bucks for fizzy drinks.
13. Eat for free in the fall
The fall is a great time to go to Disney – chiefly because you can often eat for free! The park owners have instituted a free dining promotion at this time as visitor numbers drop – for obvious reasons – during Florida’s hurricane season. You can add this plan to your ticket for free in the autumn, so don’t miss out.
12. Avoid peak season
However, if you can’t make it in fall, do consult your calendar and plan a visit between January and March instead. Everything, including meal prices, are reduced as Disney bosses try to attract more customers during the colder months. Decide to go during summer or peak holiday breaks at your peril: you could shell out up to $4 more for each adult meal. Ouch.
11. Things go better with free Coke
If you’re in Epcot, you might well want to go to the Coca-Cola shop… for a very good reason. Here you can score free samples of different Coke drinks from right around the globe. There’s no limit – except that imposed by your belly – on this fizzy fun.
10. It Disney make sense not to plan
You might think it’s just another money-spinning scam, but Undercover Tourist’s Ford insists that the Disney Dining Plan will save you a wedge of bucks in the long-term. By buying in advance, you can plan out your meals and avoid the sort of overboard impulse behavior we all exhibit when hungry! Ford told Thrillist, “The plan gets you so many meals and so many snacks and enables you to know what your budget is upfront. Kind of like buying chips in a casino.”
9. Grab a pizza da action
You’ll find that Disney resorts will generally offer a pizza delivery service right to your room, up to 1:00 a.m. This can be a great way to snatch a real filling meal without melting your plastic. So bear it in mind.
8. Grin and Bear it
Don’t like pizza? That’s a little weird… but if so, there’s good news for you, too – especially if you want an out-of-the-way place to eat in Disneyland. Just sneak off to the Hungry Bear Restaurant. You’ll find it on the western side of the park, in Critter Country. And because it’s a little more off the beaten track, it’s less noisy as well – bonus.
7. Put the ‘e’ in ‘eat’
Use the internet for a little research before you go on your trip, and you may be able to save lots of cash on dining out – particularly in buffet joints. This is because at eat-all-you-like venues, the lunch menus are occasionally much cheaper than the evening ones. Biergarten Restaurant at Disney World, for example, offers more German cuisine for your buck in the afternoon than at dinnertime. So do some searching and find yourself a good deal.
6. Be smart, baby
During your magical trip to Disneyland you might well have a toddler, or even a babe in arms, in tow. And in this case, you need to know about the Baby Care Center, which you’ll find on Main Street. It should have everything you need to get you by – including changing tables, a nursing area and even microwaves to help prepare your formula. And that should all make feeding your little one a breeze.
5. Don’t take the heat
Skip the park in the afternoon when it’s at its hottest and stickiest – and when everyone is chowing down. Trip back to base for a nap or a rest around the pool. Then, like every good vampire, head back to the park around sunset. You’ll be feeling all refreshed and set for fun and food, while the less smart day trippers stagger home, wilted.
4. Go big at breakfast
Your parents always told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and at Disney World that holds especially true. Why? It’s the least expensive meal option, so take advantage: find an all-you-eat breakfast buffet and pig out so that you’ll be able to skip lunch. And you’ll soon burn those calories walking around the theme park!
3. Make a quick saving
Stopping for a bite at Disney World’s quick-service restaurants will save you precious dollars as well as minutes. While quick-service will set you back about $15 for a two-course meal on average, the majority of table service eateries are likely to charge over $40 for more or less the same amount of food. Be aware, though, that you can’t reserve a spot at the quick-service places, so pick your time to eat wisely.
2. Get crafty with your eating times
If you didn’t pig out at breakfast and are feeling peckish come lunchtime, make sure you hit the buffet restaurants right before their lunchtime price hike sets in. That way you’ll be dealt a smaller charge but should still be able to indulge in all the afternoon entrées and desserts – result.
1. Bring a refillable water bottle
Staying hydrated at Disney World is essential, but no one wants to shell out big bucks for water. And while you can get free iced water at various outlets, it’s best that you have some thirst-quenching liquid with you at all times. Luckily, there’s a trick to this, too: simply bring in a water bottle and refill from the water fountains scattered throughout the park. Ta-da!