My least favorite word in the whole world is budget. I may be a Disney blogger at night and on my days off – but when I’m not blogging, I’m working a normal day job just like everyone else. I’m a veterinary technician, and while I love my job and wouldn’t do anything else, it doesn’t exactly leave a ton of extra cash to constantly go to Disney.
Still, I’m a believer in making things work with your limited finances, and I’ve found many tips and tricks over the years to make sure I save as much money as possible so I can still go to Disney, and also continue to pay things like, you know…the rent. Here are a few tips I use to make sure I can afford to go to Disney on a budget and save a few pennies along the way!
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Open a Disney Visa
My Disney Visa has saved me soooo much money on Disney parks and items in the past few years since I opened it! You get 1% cash back in the form of Disney Reward Dollars on every purchase, and 2% on Disney purchases – as well as 2% on groceries, dining and more! I often put all my expenses leading up to a Disney trip on this card, so I have a gift card LOADED with points to use when I head to the parks! Almost all my souvenirs from my past three trips have been paid for exclusively with my Rewards card. I’ve also used it to pay for my dining reservations at Disneyland (where they don’t have the dining plan).
In addition to that, if you spend over $50 at Disney you get 10% off your purchase! Use it in the park or online at the shopDisney site – if you go through Rakuten, formerly known as eBates, you can also get cash back on your purchase! (If you haven’t signed up for Rakuten yet, you have to check it out for amazing cash back opportunities! Remember that every little penny helps when it comes to Disney!)
Plus, you get special financing on Disney vacations if you put it on your Disney card! This helps if you need to budget out paying off your vacation over the span of a few months. Plus, don’t forget all those Reward dollars you just got by putting your Disney vacation on your card!
Target REDCard Gift Cards
This is a little known trick that you can use to save on anything from dining to souvenirs on your Disney trip. If you’re a Target REDcard member, head over to the gift card section at your local store and pick up some Disney gift cards. You get 5% off all your purchases, INCLUDING gift cards, so you save 5% off each card! You can then use these Disney gift cards (which are still the full amount, despite you having paid with a discount!) on Disney park tickets, dining, souvenirs…pretty much anywhere at a Disney resort! It’s a small amount, but if you gradually accumulate gift cards in the months leading up to your trip, you’ll save a good chunk of change!
Go During the Off-Season
Not big on crowds? Then you DEFINITELY need to check out the Value season at Disney resorts. What is the value season? This is when crowds are generally at their lowest, which means PRICES are at their lowest as well. Conversely, prices are at their HIGHEST during peak season – which includes the summer months and around major holidays, like Halloween and Christmas.
If you’re ok with the weather being just a bit cooler than normal, I recommend going immediately after the Christmas season ends (January-February) and right after summer ends and kids go back to school (end of August-early September). You’ll find that the cost of Disney resorts goes down significantly during these times, and you’ll find crowds are thinner as well! During Value season, my sister and I were able to walk RIGHT on Splash Mountain – and then stay seated right in our log for another go, since no one else was in line!
Pictured: That fateful night we rode Splash Mountain twice in a row #neverforget
Stay Off Site (for Disneyland only)
When it comes to staying on site, I can’t stress enough how convenient this is – if you go to Disney World in Florida. The access to the Disney shuttle service alone is reason enough to stay there in my opinion, and the Value resorts are price comparable to staying at a non-Disney resort.
However, when it comes to DisneyLAND in California, don’t be afraid to check out the Good Neighbor Hotels. These hotels are operated by all the classic chains – Holiday Inn, Marriott, etc – but are all close enough to walk to the park, or at least take a shuttle, and are often a lot less expensive than staying at one of the three Disney resorts. If you are a frequent traveler, you may even have enough points through one of the hotel reward programs to pay for your room!
If you’re like me, you’ll probably just be sleeping in your hotel and spending the majority of your time in the parks – so why not save a bit by downgrading to the basics? Either way, you’ll have a comfy bed to relax in at the end of a long day of park hopping, and that’s what really matters, right?!
Call If A New Discount Becomes Available
Back in 2015, my sister and I embarked on our first sister trip to Disney World. However, about a month before we went, I happened to be on the Disney site and noticed that our resort, Caribbean Beach, was part of a new promotion. They were offering 20% off your room, and it was valid during our stay. Because I’m impatient, I booked RIGHT when the prices had come out the summer before, so the 20% off offer was not available at that time!
I’d heard that you could call Disney and get credit for discounts if they come out after you book – so I decided to give it a shot. I called customer service, and sure enough, they offered to credit me the money I would have saved had I booked during the 20% off promo!
So if you have an existing reservation, be sure you keep checking back as you get close to your trip – you never know what promo you might find! If you’re looking for more help on finding discounts, be sure you check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. It has the best information you could possibly ask for when planning a trip to Disney. The authors also compile actual guest reviews of restaurants and attractions. So you know you’re getting an HONEST review of everything – from the resorts to the parks and everything in between! Going to Disneyland? They have a version for that too!
Do you have any other tips for saving on Disney vacations? Drop them below in a comment! And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! You’ll receive updates and alerts on Disney park news, as well as alerts as to when I post new blog posts!