There are, in my experience, three types of people who don’t like Disney World.
First, there’s the person who just doesn’t get it. It’s not for them. There’s no hate here, it just isn’t a fit. I don’t care much for cheese, haven’t read or seen anything related to the Lord of the Rings, and strongly dislike the vast majority of popular music; I feel like I get these people. Everyone has things they like and don’t like. That’s cool.
The next option is the person who hates Disney World. And I mean hates. Sometimes they hate big companies (fair) and sometimes they just hate the joy persona surrounding the parks (less fair, sorta sad.) This person sometimes likes to start random conversations with people in a Mickey Mouse shirt about why they would possibly enjoy it. He or she is also a distant relative of those who pick fights with bar patrons wearing team gear for a different city. It’s an odd use of passion, but we’ll table this one for now.
The Disney hater I’d like to discuss is the person who is solely mad at the price. They aren’t wrong—visiting Disney World is expensive—but they aren’t necessarily right. I’ve heard some insane assumptions about how much a Disney vacation costs. Add that to the plethora of questions I get about my trips and it seems some of you would like to know how to enjoy the parks without breaking the bank. Let me put on my ears and offer a little help!
We’ve discussed saving while eating at Disney World before. You can actually bring your own food if budget is your No. 1 concern, although I think you’d be happier saving a bit more and eating at some of the parks’ special dining options, as it is a big part of the experience. Read a little more about your best options here to decide what is right for your budget before you go.
I also explained on my Instagram a bit about how I save on souvenirs by buying ugly/unwanted pins on eBay and bringing them for the pin trading system. If you’re interested in that, or how to find regular Disney merchandise in Orlando at a discount, let me know and I’ll do a full post on it!
For now, we’ll focus on two of the most expensive parts of a Disney vacation and how to save: tickets and lodging.
Park hopping gives you the chance to see multiple parks in a single day, but is shortening your amount of on-site days actually the budget-friendly solution? For our upcoming trip, we considered buying a three-day hopper ticket and combining Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios into one day. It had to be cheaper than going for four days, right?
There’s a few big downfalls of park hopping, the most obvious being that each park has more than enough to do for an entire day. Even if you’re fine with only spending a half day somewhere and skipping tons of attractions, it is also time consuming to get from one park to the other.
You could take the monorail, but the only parks connected to it are Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. There are buses, but the waits can be pretty lengthy at times—and if you left your car at one park, you have to check with a cast member to make sure there will be a bus at closing to bring you back. (Since the closing time varies park to park, transportation might not be available when you need it. Trust me: we were stranded thanks to this once.) Or, if you drove, you can move your car. If you save your parking receipt, it works all day at any of the parks so you don’t have to pay for it twice. While this is often the fastest and easiest option, you do have to remember that the time it takes between parking and entering the park can add up.
With this in mind, we knew we’d easily lose 60-90 minutes getting out of Animal Kingdom, to our car, to the Hollywood Studios parking lot, on the tram to the gate, through security, and into the next park. We had the time on our trip for another theme park day, but we assumed four tickets would be prohibitively expensive. Not so when you remove the hopper feature!
Three-day hopper pass: Starting at $359.70
Four one-park passes: Currently $356.00, regularly starting at $375.85
There’s currently a promotion on a four-day ticket that allows you to visit each park once, which brought the price down even lower than our original three-day hoppers would have been. If you can’t visit during the promotional period, still check on the standard one-day passes versus the hoppers. While more days in the park requires more transportation and, likely, food it may still be a better option if your goal is to see as many attractions as possible.
Disney resorts are tons of fun… and those themed additions can cost you big money. While the most affordable on-site hotels (All Star Movies, Music, and Sports) start at $110 per night, the median price (excluding camping) starts at $347 per night.
It’s not unusual to find great Orlando lodging for less than $75 per night on Expedia. Sure, these aren’t Waldorfs or Hiltons, but they’re under the “Very Good!” review category, and if you were above budget hotels and motels you wouldn’t be reading a blog post on easy ways to decrease your vacation cost.
But do the perks of staying near the parks actually add up to make it the smartest move? If you stay off site, there are a few things you have to take into consideration.
The cost to rent a car
The cost to park at Disney World
The cost to Uber/Lyft from the airport, to your hotel, and to the parks
I haven’t tried using a rideshare app to get into the parks, so I’m not going to touch it. (But you can read more about it here.) Since we stay off site when we visit, and do several non-Disney activities in Orlando, we rent a car at the airport. It works out best for our budget.
Would it for you? Here’s how it can all break down with two easy examples.
1 bedroom off-site suite for one week, ~$756
Car rental for one week, ~$226
Theme park parking for four days, $100
1 bedroom suite at Disney’s value All Star Music resort for one week, ~$2,112
To get these example numbers, I threw spring dates into the Expedia, Enterprise, and Disney websites, so the price is sure to change depending on your when you’re leaving for vacation. The point, however, is timeless. You need to check the rates across all options. Is there a special value happening for Disney resorts? Do you really want to stay in an Ariel-themed room? That’s great! But if you’re focused on getting the most for your money, don’t assume staying on site is always the way to go.
Have other Disney questions? Leave me a comment or send me a message on social media! Happy travels!