Disney on a Dime (Part 1): Disney World Tips, Planning and Money Saving Advice!


My family, and my husband’s family alike, are pretty big Disney lovers. Our childhoods were sprinkled with a healthy dose of Disney animated classics and visits to Disney World. Now, with a family of our own, my husband and I absolutely love watching our kids faces light up when we tell them we’re going to Disney World! Nothing beats the fuzzy feeling you get while watching your little boy rub noses with Piglet or your daughter gasp in amazement at Cinderella’s castle. We’ve done it plenty of times over the years, and I’ve been asked on numerous occasions how we’ve done it on a budget. So here it is, everything I can think to write about saving money on a Disney vacation!


We live on a $30,000/year salary. We don’t have much by way of savings or vacation funds. Because of that, many times our trips are fairly spontaneous and thrown together based on deals that come up, ticket prices, gifts, and many random ways that God provides. We also have been blessed by an amazing family that has helped us out in different ways over the years. We also have family in strategic areas (Florida, NJ), so many times our trips are based around these areas to incorporate free housing! I just read somewhere that there is a growing trend in today’s economy, to tack on vacation days to business trips, making them dual purpose. We do that at times too. If my husband has a conference to attend, we will save on gas by tagging along and spend an extra day as a family doing something fun.

Our budget for vacations has always been summed up in a phrase:
“As cheap as possible”

There have been a few times we’ve set money aside that was received as a gift, etc. Other times we will come up with money by selling things on craigslist and ebay. I sold a gold necklace from an old boy friend one time, we’ve also sold guitars, baby items, furniture, books, toys, etc. We also cash in credit and debit card reward points for gift cards that can be used on the trip.

When to Go

When determining the best time to visit Disney World, we usually always shoot for the off season – when crowds and costs are both lower. Start by checking a crowd calender like this one: yourfirstvisit.net If staying at a Disney Resort, they will tell you right on the resort page when their “value season” is: all-star-movies-resort/rates-rooms We have historically gone somewhere between mid February to mid March. Of course the weather is always iffy that time of year. It usually averages in the low 70’s, which is still an upgrade from snowy Michigan that time of year!


Counting Down to the Big Day!

Check out our collection of the Top 50 Ways to Countdown to Disney. There are some adorable ideas out there for breaking the news to your kids, and counting down each day. My tips? #1: don’t tell the kids too early! They will bug you every day until the day you leave :-) #2: Record their reactions when you tell them you are going!


Preparing the Kids

This has nothing to do with budgeting, but it will help ensure the investment you are making in your trip provides a positive return!

While planing for this last trip we took to Florida, we had some strong reservations about taking our youngest daughter, then 14 months. She was just reaching the age where she was getting into everything, very active, very strong willed and independent. Because she was still so young, we had not had to be incredibly firm with her yet for any reason, and very rarely had to discipline her. The thought of attempting to sit by the pool and keep track of the 3 and 5 year olds while the 14 month old darted out in every direction did not seem appealing.

Because of this, we decided to put her through baby boot camp. We started really cracking down on her attitude – when she would fuss or start throwing a fit, we would be extra quick to discourage it. We also made her sit for longer times in her seat at the table and practiced sitting still with her on our laps for longer periods of time. The attention to detail paid off and she was great on the trip! Preparing for a trip is a great time to buckle down in the areas you may be slacking off as a parent. Kids notoriously get crabby and uncooperative on vacations because they without fail get the message that the world now revolves around them! Vacations are fun, and we usually do a lot of things that are centered around the kids, so of course they’re going to start acting a little spoiled. We try to keep that in mind and start being extra cautious of it a couple months before leaving. Tighten up on things that have been slipping through the cracks and attitudes or behaviors that should not be acceptable. This is assuming you are already practicing good parenting skills and that your kids are somewhat well behaved and respect you enough to listen. If you struggle excessively at home with your kids, then it may not be time to reward their behavior with a trip to Disney World. On the other hand, for many people, a parenting tune up before a trip can help ensure the trip is enjoyable for everyone!


Getting There

You basically have 2 options – driving and flying. We’ve done both and both have their pros and cons. From Michigan, the drive is about 19 hours without stops. AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator currently estimates this round trip to cost us $515.58 in our mini van. If you’re going to drive, calculate the cost of fuel, one night at a hotel (unless you want to drive straight through – which we’ve done and vowed we’d never do it again!), the cost of meals while on the road and gas while you’re down there touring around. Once you have a good handle on the cost of driving, you can weigh it out against the option of flying. Ticket prices seem to be higher right now,  but there have been years we’ve scored $9 flights on spiritair.com which made flying a no brainer. If you fly, you have to factor in the price of car rental while there, unless you have relatives in the area or are staying at a Disney resort which provides free shuttle services! Other sites to check: expedia.com hotwire.com orbitz.com delta.com airtran.com southwestair.com

Option #1 Driving:

We went to Florida with some friends one year on the challenge to get there and back by spending the littlest amount of money possible. We drove straight through the night to cut out the hotel cost. We packed coolers full of food and never once paid for a meal. If you do plan on stopping for the night, don’t book a hotel in advance because you never know how far you’ll actually want to push yourself. Grab up a discount hotel book from the nearest rest stop along your route and call ahead to verify vacancy. Plan ahead by packing a small hotel bag within easy reach, rather than take all your luggage in. Keeping things to a minimal also lowers your chances of picking up hitchhikers (aka bed bugs).

Option #2 Flying:

When making the decision to fly, we always start by checking the list of airlines flying out non-stop. Making stops or changing planes is basically not an option for us with 3 kids – it’s not fun! Spirit, Delta and Airtran are some of the only airlines with non-stop flights from Detroit to Orlando, so we start by frequenting their sites (and when I say frequenting, I mean checking in daily!). Airlines can run deals and promotions at any moments notice – Spirit has been known to offer some crazy good deals, especially to “$9 Fare Club” members, which is totally worth the cost of membership if you know you will be utilizing it. Delta is a “Disney preferred” airline which means they are in direct communication with Disney and can streamline certain parts of your travel to a Disney resort, but it’s not absolutely necessary to use them if staying at a Disney resort.


Be on guard, airlines are sneaky these days with all their hidden fees. Spirit wont end up being any cheaper than Delta if you end up paying out big bucks for all your checked bags and carry-on’s. The key is to pack light! The general rule, even with kids, is to pack everything you think you need – then cut out at least half of it. Use the biggest bag possible and pack everything for the whole family in that one bag. Stay up-to-date on air travel policies, carry-on restrictions (liquids and gels), and what special policies apply to travel with small children and infants. Children fly free under the age of 2 if they are sitting in your lap (sometimes a baby bjorn or moby wrap makes this easier – but they may make you remove it during takeoff and landing). Strollers and infant carriers can be checked right at the entrance to the plane (for free) and will be waiting for you when you get off. If you really want to carry a car seat onto the plane (because you need it for a car ride at your destination), it has to be up to airline codes, otherwise children are not required to sit in them. Disney buses and shuttles do not have infant or children seats (and actually, they don’t even allow them!). When we fly and stay at a Disney resort, we check one big bag (stuffed to the maximum weight capacity) and carry-on as little as possible. We take one small stroller for the baby, which gets checked plane side and no car seats.

Follow Sarah {All Things with Purpose}’s board Destination Disney on Pinterest.

The Airport

The key to surviving an airport and flying experience with young children is:

  1. Stay relaxed
  2. Be prepared
  3. Carry very little
  4. Look as cute as possible!

I cannot stress that last one enough. On the way to Florida this year, we had it all together. We had packed light, we were organized, we were in good moods. The kids were unbearably cute with their rolling suitcases and Disney plush dolls in hand. Every grumpy TSA official we encountered took one look at us and smiled, started talking in a warm cuddly voice and opened up a special line to smooth out our security process. On the contrary, our way home we were over-packed, flustered and grumpy. We went into the trip stressed and it continued to be a stressful experience.

When going through security, stay calm. You may feel rushed because of all the people behind you, but don’t rush. Everyone is pretty understanding of the challenges small children can bring. Send your most valuable things through last so they don’t end up sitting unattended for several minutes without you. Wear shoes that easily slip off (sandals!), new regulations allow children under 12 to keep theirs on. Have your liquids in a zip lock bag. Declare bottles and sippy cups – small amounts of liquid like this is allowed, but may need to be tested. Our experience has been pretty good with these things as most TSA officials would rather not be at the center of the next big media scandal involving kids and security. Identification is not needed for children, but have your ID’s handy at all times and be sure to have an “infant in arms” noted on your boarding pass.

The plane ride itself can be enjoyable with a little preparation. Take books, portable DVD players, iPods, candy, etc. Be prepared with special treats to keep kids happy at all cost (you don’t want to be that family)! If flying with an infant, be sure to have a bottle or pacifier handy to help their ears. Be sure to have small children use the bathroom right before boarding – airplane bathrooms can be a horrifying experience!

Disney on a budget - lots of tips and planning advice!

Where to Stay

Unless you have relatives in the area and plan on staying with them (which is obviously the cheapest option and one that we’ve enjoyed on numerous occasions!), you’ll be looking into hotels or condo/home rental in the area. I’ve known many people who have gone down in large groups and rented homes in the Orlando area or condos on the beach. For the past couple years, we have thoroughly enjoyed staying at Disney’s All Star Movie Resort which is part of the Disney value class of hotels. My husband has attended a youth pastors conference in Orlando for 2 years now, and what we discovered was that the All Star Movie Resort’s price per night was actually cheaper than the hotels that the conference was recommending he stay at! So, our family has tagged along for the ride and enjoys time at the resort while daddy is away at the conference. Of course my grandparents have driven over from Lakeland, FL and met up with us there for a few days, and my husband’s parents have flown in to join us as well!


Like any of the Disney hotels, your stay there includes the complimentary shuttle service from the airport to the hotel. This has made it possible for us to fly, without spending any money on car rental. Once at your resort, you can also hop on a Disney bus to any of the other resorts, Downtown Disney, and any of the theme parks that are owned by Disney. My husband and his parents, who have stayed at some of the most expensive Disney resorts over the years, have all been very impressed with the value resort. Prices fluctuate a little bit based on the season. By going late February or early March we have paid as little as $70 a night and no more than $90. I have seen the price go as high as $130 during peak season. By checking in on the same day as my grandparents, we were able to get a Florida residents rate (just by having them with us) that dropped our price down considerably.

Update! We have a trip scheduled for this coming January

where we will be staying at the NEW Art of Animation resort! 

This is considered a Disney value resort as well.
Though the cost is slightly higher, they offer family

suits at a lower cost than any of the other resorts.
The themes are Nemo, Cars and Little Mermaid…

can’t go wrong with that! I have friends that have stayed there and loved it.

Look for a review to come!!

Keep an eye on Disney’s site for Special Offers on hotels and dates that are less expensive. Disney does some very nice package deals that include meals, tickets, hotel stay, etc. We have never used these deals because we figured we could still spend less by coming up with our own meals vs. using their meal plan for 3 meals a day. Watch their promotions, however, because there have been times they’ve advertised adding on free meal plans, etc. to your hotel reservation.


Are Meal Plans Worth it?

We have never actually used a meal plan, because we’ve always figured we could eat cheaper without it. Many years, my grandparents that live in Florida have joined us at the resort with a cooler full of food. That obviously helps! If you have flown in and don’t have a car to do grocery shopping, there are grocery delivery services available such as: Garden Grocer and WeGoShop.

My advice is to add up how much you think you would need to eat on your own, and compare it to the price of the meal plan. My kid are all very small eaters, so a meal plan just didn’t make sense for us. When we go back in January, I plan on packing as much non-perishable food in our suitcase as I can get away with! There are plenty of options you could pack in your checked luggage, including almond or coconut milk that is shelf stable. I even have a bread loaf container to keep bread safe. We plan on eating some meals at the quick-service restaurant and splurge on some character dining as well. We will split some of our meals, share with the kids and eat others from our suitcase, so I think we will still end up spending less. Watch for that post to come!! I will be doing a comparison of eating the cheap way vs. a meal plan, to finally see what worked best! I think it all comes down to how you are used to eating as a family and how cheap you really want to be. For some great advice, check out The Disney Food Blog


 Why We Like Disney’s All Star Movies Resort

  • Free transportation to and from airport, to and from parks
  • Giant Toy Story figures, 101 Dalmations, Fantasia, etc. the kids love the whole place!
  • You get the same Disney perks and service as you would at a more pricy Disney resort
  • Large pool with Mickey fountain and small kiddy pool with splash pad (I’m not sure that other value resorts have this area for small children). There are plenty of lounge chairs and tables with umbrella near by – we sat here many days while the kids swam, and ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch :)
  • Cafeteria style food court. We ate one meal a day here and were able to split 2 adult size meals or a large pizza between the 5 of us, which allowed us to spend only $20.
  • The refillable cups – which are expensive at first (around $14) but we only bought 2 and refill them endlessly for the whole family during our entire stay. This would be our coffee in the morning, pop, water and tea all day long. They can be used at any of the Disney resorts (but not the theme parks unfortunately), so when we visited Animal Kingdom Lodge one night for dinner, we took the cups! PLEASE NOTE: There is some controversy surrounding the use of cups. Though we were told by Disney staff that the cups could be used at all other resorts, some places will tell you they can only be used at partnering resorts (for example: All Star Sports and All Star Music, etc). Check out some other great advice and info on the cups here: Disney Food Blog there is also an interesting post about Disney’s plans to crack down on the use of cups at other resorts and for those that bring them back year after year: System Experiment Check with a Disney cast member for up to date info!
  • Up until now, you could pay $10 a day to get a fridge in your room (which allowed us to keep milk, yogurt, meat, cheese, etc. for meals) or request a “medical fridge” which got you one for free. While we were there this past time, we noticed they were installing permanent fridges in many rooms, I have since heard that they are now included!!
  • The whole place is so much fun, our kids would have been content to just stay there and do other free things in the area without paying money to actually go into the parks. You get the real feel of Disney World just by staying there.
  • The staff is very friendly and accommodating – they will do everything in their power to give you an enjoyable stay.IMG_0993
  • There are connecting rooms available – but cannot be reserved ahead of time or guaranteed. We stayed one night in separate rooms from my grandparents and when a connecting one came available, were moved over to it. It was worth it! Overall, the staff just wanted to do what we wanted and made the process very smooth.
  • There is a decent size arcade/game room and good size Disney store on the grounds.
  • The rooms are nothing special. They are fairly small with two queen beds. But the decor is cute, they are kept very clean and the housekeeping service is very nice! If the housekeepers are not too overbooked for the day and have extra time to spare, they do a fabulous job of sprucing up your room Disney style. One lady took all the toys in the room, including my daughters princess dress, to create a window display that greeted us when we returned! There are always cute little animals or Mickeys formed out of the towels, which the kids love.
  • Pack and Plays are provided, so that is one less thing to have to bring with you!
  • Disney tickets can be purchased right at the front desk and added right onto your room key.
  • Each park has a day of the week that offers “extra magic hours” for those staying at a Disney resort. This could add an extra hour onto the beginning or end of your day in the park.DSC07910
  • On certain nights, Cartoons are shown on a big screen down by the pool.
  • They have a very nice playground with sand, right next to the kids pool.
  • They have a very nice laundry facility which makes packing light all that easier. This is located right next to the kids pool, so I had laundry running while still keeping an eye on the kids.


Other Things to Note…

  • I am not totally clear on how many they will allow in a room there at the All Star Movies due to fire codes. The first year we were there, we had 2 adults, a 2 year old, a 4 year old and an infant. This year, everyone was a year older but we still counted our 14 month old an infant. I am not sure what the age cut-off is where they would count the infant as a 5th person and potentially not allow it. You could possibly sneak around this by leaving the 5th person off the registration, but they have to be accounted for to get transportation to and from the resort, or to use the extra magic hours at a park.
  • When using the Disney transportation, plan on it taking a full hour from the airport to the resort. This is the one draw back, but still a really nice perk.
  • We paid $10 extra a night (and thought it was worth it) to be guaranteed a spot in one of the 3 closest buildings to the pool and cafeteria. These three buildings include the Toy Story building, Fantasia and 101 Dalmatians. There is no map of the grounds for this resort, but you can visit googlemaps.com and look up Disney All Star Movies Resort to find maps and more pictures than Disney even has on their site.
  • There are 3 All Star Resorts: Movies, Music and Sports. All 3 are located side by side and are in walking distance of each other. You could feasibly visit the pool or arcade at the other resorts if you really wanted to – and take your refillable cup with you!
  • For a change of pace, we hopped on the Disney shuttle and ate dinner one night in the food court over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We ate for the same price we had been paying at our resort, but got a change of scenery. The Animal Kingdom Lodge comes highly recommended by us as well (to visit for free!), but more on that in my next installment.


One Last Tip!

  • Kids will inevitably see all kinds of things at the Disney resort and inside the theme parks that they want, and they will beg you for them. Rather than spend big bucks there, I like going prepared with our own special Disney toys, activities and clothing! Shop around ahead of time for deals. We take our own Disney toys, all the makings for a princess outfit including dress, crown, “pixy dust” and jewelry, Disney pool toys, floaties, and Mickey ears! Our kids have warn the same Mickey and Minnie hooded sweatshirts that Grandma bought them, for the past 3 trips to Disney! We still get inquiries about them while there, and we have to say – sorry, they’re from Walmart in New Jersey!


488036_10151389219905291_1213742429_ned12But wait, there’s more!!
Disney on a Dime (Part 2)

  • FREE Things to Do at Disney
  • Disney Theme Park Tickets
  • Theme Park Comparisons and Tips
  • Visiting with Young Children


You might also like: 50 Disney Tips You Must Read!!


Disney World Tips - Planning a Disney Vacation


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    • says

      Planning ahead is right! Not to mention, there are all sorts of awesome resources online to get good prices to Disney. All you’ve got to do is be a little google savvy. Anyone can find great prices if they look, and that can make it easier to have extra money to buy souvenirs and ice cream ^_^

      You guys recommend keeping an eye on Disney’s special offers! That’s definitely a good idea.

      I found this pretty helpful when I needed the cheapest tickets possible for my Disney trip: http://quickvacation.net/

    • Jennifer Davis says

      Thanks for the great tips!! I too, am a mother of three! We just returned from our 2nd Disney trip this past October and I am already saving/planning for our next trip in Nov 2016. I sell on eBay and Craig’s list also, as we are on a fixed income with only my husband working . one question I have for you, your article stated Art of Animation has the cheapest suites. Did they recently lower their prices? We tried staying there and they wanted $296 a night. We ended up with a suite at All Star Music, which was amazing!! It was $224 a night. Was hoping you could let me know and maybe we could try AOA suites next time, if the price is right! Thanks!

  1. says

    Great list! We love Disney and go about every 12-18 months. I’m fairly certain that age 3 is the cutoff for the smallest in the room, it’s a fire code thing. :( Once you have to start paying for their admission, you have to have a ‘legal’ room. Thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    Found this on Pinterest. Bu far the BEST money saving info I have found. Practical stuff. I do have one question. I love the idea of storing food in the mini fridge (I found out that they do all have one now) but I think we would be flying. Is there a place close to buy to purchase groceries or did you pack them with you? Or maybe only had them when you drove? I am hoping to go next year and am starting to save. Living in AZ growing up, I remember many Disneyland trips as a kid. I would love to take my son to Disneyland, but now that we live in PA, Disney World just makes more sense, so I am ready to try it out. Thanks again!!!

    • says

      Thank you so much for the kind words! Great question. When we drove, we obviously had a car to drive to a nearby grocery store. When we’ve flown, my grandparents that live near by were able to bring us food. What I can tell you, is that the food court there at the resort does sell loaves of bread, milk, etc. but at a higher than normal price. I’ve thought many times that if my grandparents were not there, I could always try packing dry goods in a suitcase and carry a loaf of bread in my purse! I’d pack cereal, pop tarts, peanut butter and jelly, etc. You can’t carry-on any liquids, so it kind of rules out a cooler full of dairy with ice, etc. I’d lower myself to purchasing milk there on the premises. Sorry I can’t give you a specific answer, but I’d check google maps, trip advisor, or the Disney mom panel: http://disneyworldforum.disney.go.com/ for ideas! I hope that helps! :)

    • Nicole says

      We Are Bringing Some Shelf STable Milk With Us On OUr Upcoming Disney Vacation.I’ve Been Buying ItFor A Few Weeks Now To Get The Kids Use To It.They Seem To Like It.I Honestly Don’t Think They Know TheDifference.But Its Cheaper Then Buying Milk There And Doesn’t Have To Be Refrigerated Till Its Opened.

    • says

      If you are driving, there are grocers outside of the Disney Park and as noted there are grocers who will deliver to the park, but you have to be in the room to accept the delivery so that ties up your time in the park.

      • polly plum says

        If you have AAA,I think you can get a driving map on the website or at their office/store that gives driving directions,mileage, bathroom stops, tolls, road construction updates, etc.Look up grocery stores on the web before you go- the FL supermarket chain is Publix, but walmart and target also have groceries.look for addresses before you go.

  3. Anna Callaway says

    I have tried looking on hotwire.com for a hotel but I don’t know the area enough. there are rooms that say they are in the lake buena Vista – downtown Disney area and also the Disney main gate area. would those happen to be on resorts with free transportation?

    • says

      Great question, Anna! The only hotels that offer the free Disney transportation are Disney owned hotels. Other hotels may also offer free shuttles, but you would have to check with them directly. I think Hotwire would be a tricky site to go through, as they don’t show you the names of the hotels, so you don’t know what you’re getting into. Expedia.com on the other hand, does offer discounted rates to Disney owned hotels. I’d check there! I hope you have success finding a great deal!!

    • Anna Callaway says

      Thanks so much for the help! I will have to check Expedia. After I asked I just googled hotels with free disney transportation and it took me to some pretty good deals with some pretty cool activities that they offer. One of the best ones was Holiday Inn Resort. It said it was a “neighboring resort” and had free transportation and if you booked 2 nights you get a third one free for the same trip. I think I almost have my husband convinced thanks to your post! :)

    • says

      Only if it is a Disney Resort hotel or specifically says Disney transportation offered. However, we stayed at in Lake Buena Vista a couple of times that offered transportation to and from and found it clean, comfortable and timely. One thing you don’t want is to spend an hour or more waiting for transportation to the park it eats into your park time and coming back you and kids are exhausted.

  4. Anonymous says

    I was just wondering were you able to account for the toll cost before your family left on the road trip down to Florida? My dad and I are currently attempting to plan everything out now and we’re not entirely sure how to do so. Thank you!

    • says

      I am sorry that I cannot remember a specific cost that we would have reached. It will be so different for each situation though. I’d encourage you to calculate the fuel costs with a fuel cost estimator like the one found here: http://fuelcostcalculator.aaa.com/ then add up hotel stays on the way down and while there. Will you be buying food along the way or packing a cooler? Will you purchase a Disney meal plan or add up the cost of meals while there? You can estimate costs for sure. Depending on where we’ve stayed, we’ve spent anywhere from $500 to $2,000 – but never more than that! Hope that helps :)

  5. says

    Wonderful hints! The fridges are now standard in every Disney Resort room. Grocery delivery is available for a small fee from a couple places. (We’ve used Wegoshop for the past several years and have heard great things about Gardengrocer as well. We use them to deliver cases of water, and a few perishable/ crushable items like milk, bread, fresh fruit…we pack PB & J, small cereal boxes, canned snacks, candy, etc in our checked bags – Southwest offers 2 checked bags for free per ticketed passenger, and participate as a preferred airline, which means you can curbside check in your bags AT YOUR RESORT before getting on the free shuttle back to the airport) If you do get a meal plan (Even one that is FREE with a special) you now get a refillable resort mug for every person on the plan. If you stay at the All Star resorts, you can use any other All Star pool! This is not true for any other resort except for Port Orleans. Riverside and French Quarter allow “pool hopping”, POR is a moderate resort that sleeps 5 (or 6 if one is a child under the age of 3). Speaking of ages…Any child under 3 at arrival is considered an “Infant” and is not charged. A child that is 3-9 on the first day of vacation is priced as a child and any child 10 and over is considered an adult. Yes, this does mean that you can celebrate a birthday in WDW, but still be charged the cheaper fees the entire trip! FInally, working with a Disney Vacation Specialist is always a great idea, and if you book directly through them, there should be no charge for their services! A good specialist will watch your dates for the best deal, alert you to deadlines, offer suggestions on activities that are sometimes free, but most people don’t even know about (FREE outdoor movies, fireworks on the beach, archery lessons, or campfire smores, anyone?) and can even work on time saving itineraries so you are not standing in long lines in the heat! Anyway, its so nice to read an article about everyday, practical advice that doesn’t break any moral laws LOL! Great job!!

  6. says

    Such a great, helpful article! We aren’t going to Disney World for several years (haven’t ever been, but it’s going to be our family reward when we pay off all our debt), so I’ve got this bookmarked so I can read it again later. Thank you so very much for sharing!!!

  7. says

    Hi Sara! It’s Dave from yourfirstvisit.net. I just wanted to thank you for the link–and to note that more than 1,500 people have come to my site from this page! Thanks :)

  8. Anonymous says

    Garden Grocer charges $14 and you have to buy a minimum of $40 worth of groceries. We brought cereal/pop tarts in our suitcase (as well as chips and snacks), and then just bought a half gallon of milk from the marketplace for about $3.50. It lasted us the week.

  9. Anonymous says

    We are a few years away from our Disney vacation, but I’ve started planning so we can figure out a ballpark number to save for. I love some of your very helpful tips here. You’ve got me sold on the all star resorts. I didn’t realize Disney had resorts that were comparable in price to regular hotels, and so worth it because of the perks of staying on site! We will have to evaluate the driving/flying question when it comes time to see which will be cheaper, though I’m leaning towards flying for the convenience alone. Thanks so much for this post!

  10. Anonymous says

    We are going to Disney in Oct. With 3 kids (the youngest will be 8mo) we got a condo so the kids can have separate rooms. Can we still go to downtown Disney and wall around for free and walk around the Disney resorts?

    • says

      I am trying to figure out exactly what you are asking – but the simple answer is yes! Downtown Disney is always free and open to the public, no matter where you are staying. Of course there are things to do there that could cost you money, as well as free things to do and see, but anyone can go during their open hours.

  11. Anonymous says

    Thanks. Basically I was just wondering if we could wander around downtown Disney and the resorts even if we weren’t staying in one of the resorts. I was looking at all of your suggestions of free stuff to do and lots were at resorts and I was curious if we could do those, too.

    • Anonymous says

      one of the greatest things to do at disney is to resort hop and check out the different themes of each resort, it is free and you don’t have to be staying at one of the resorts to enjoy it. It is even fun to do a little research on each one and have a different exotic treat, each resort has a totally different feel and I believe all have the “food court” that offers some treats from the more expensive restaurants for a small snack size fee.

  12. Anonymous says

    We love to go to Disney and my husband & brother do extensive research. We have never done the Dining Plan and after doing our math, we have come to the conclusion that it just isn’t worth it. We normally eat at Disney, but it is still cheaper for us to buy it on our own than with the Dining Plan. Many have said, “But what if you get the free dining plan”? It is actually a better deal to use the discounted resort stays, which Disney is known to have (you cannot combine the discounted resort and the free dining plan). This year, we have gone with renting points from a DVC member. We are staying at a Deluxe Disney resort (Beach Club) at a pretty great rate. We suggest getting tickets from Undercovertourist.com…a legitimate site that is recommended by Disney guru’s. We usually get discounted tickets through my husband’s work, but have heard many great things about undercover tourist. Oh, and the quick service places at Disney parks offer free water if you ask. You don’t even have to purchase anything. We have, also, taken our own water bottles and packets of Kool-Aid or any other flavoring packs or drops. Just fill them up at any drinking fountain. We like to carry our own snacks, too.

  13. polly plum says

    CanI add my 2 cents?As FL residents, there are perks- a few times/yr there are ‘ buy 2 days, stay for 3’types of offers. We have found some cheaper ways to go to Disney with 5 kid so that we’ve been able to go for a weekend or long weekend almost every year:):1. don’t go during summer if you can avoid it! hot as heck, every school in the country is off, so extremely crowded, long lines at rides and restaurants If you have AAA, before, not at the park.
    2.stay at a hotel off-site, not on property- cheaper, and we always rent a condo or timeshare with a kitchen, so we don’t have to eat out every meal.

  14. polly plum says

    bring a small, insulated lunchbag in your biggest purse, to bring bottles of water , fruit, for snacks.Get to the park as early in the AM as you can, and stay til the parades or fireworks are over, which is free entertainment for the kids. One idea that saves time and stress, but not $: instead of having kids beg for souvenirs, we buy ‘Disney dollars'( basically disney giftcards) at our local Disney store before the trip( maybe $10-15/kid)and give it to them to choose ONE memento/souvenir, also, take lots of pictures- there are TONS of good photo spots- during the trip, buy a small album and/or frame for each child at the $ tree( my fave dollar store) so they can have photos of the trip, since you won’t be buying tons of souvenirs.***Do lots of research online ahead of time!Yrs ago, there was a hotel(initials are H.I.that gave free buffet bkfst( for every guest) and free dinner for kids( limited menu for kids, so we made sure to gt back to the hotel for dinner each night. many hotels have free movie/game nights, which help keeps the kidsfeel in ‘ vacation mode’- they have so much fun that they don’t realize you’re taking the ‘frugal route!:)

  15. polly plum says

    Also, keep in mind you don’t have to stay in Orlandoproper to be close to the parks- look on a map ahead of time. We often stay in Lake Buena Vista orKissimmee. the hotel’s site will say how close they are to the parks.

  16. Heather says

    Thank you for your tips! I plan on applying a few of them towards our Disneyland vacation next year! I tried clicking on your link for your next set of tips and it said I needed an invitation?

  17. Kristin says

    How awesome is this review! Really the first that I have read where the person writing truly sounded like they knew what they were talking about, not to mention the meaning of “on a budget.” We float in such similar boats, it’s almost scary. Thank you so much for the wonderful tips and I will be reading the updates or more recent reviews soon.

  18. says

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    I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write concerning here.
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  19. Kelly says

    Check with Disney to see if they are giving free dining with your stay. Even with a value resort, you can get a free quick service meal plan. We got it free one year, and have gotten it ever since. Either free or paying for it, we love it.

  20. Rebecca says

    Could you explain the $9 fare from SpriritAir? I tried joining the $9 fare club and booking a flight that it SAID had $9 fare club seats but, then it charged me $400 PLUS the $9 seat. When I checked Orbitz, I could actually book the same flight cheaper through them than I could using the supposed $9 fare. How has this worked for you in the past? Am I missing something?

    • Sarah Lemp says

      Spirit still calls it the $9 fare club – even though they currently may not be offering any flights for $9. Sometimes they DO have $9 flights though to select locations, you just have to stay on the lookout. In our experience, they still have the cheapest price (and being a $9 club member does earn you an extra discount), as long as you don’t have to check a bag or even take a carry on since they charge you extra for those. We almost always fly Spirit because it usually ends up being cheaper… unless we find a great promo on a credit card for example – a few years ago we did one through Delta that earned us tons of bonus points plus free checked bags every time you use it. It probably depends on where you’re flying out from. We happen to have a large Spirit base out of Detroit and we fly nonstop to Orlando, but not all airports will have that option. Hope that helps!


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