Disney World on a Dime

How to get more magic for less money

Want to bring your family to Disney World? Here's how to do it without breaking the bank, and where to squeeze out more value for your money.

 

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    Disney World
    ••• Handout/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

    Disney World ticket prices and room rates fluctuate according to demand and are at their highest during school breaks and seasonal holidays. The first rule in landing an affordable getaway is to come during a time when prices are at their lowest.

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    Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
    ••• Walt Disney Parks

    Choose any of the hotels in Disney's value category or stay at Disney's campground. No matter which property you choose, you'll get the same resort benefits as you would at the pricier hotels at Disney World, but at a fraction of the cost.

     

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    DisneyGang_DisneyParks.jpg
    ••• Walt Disney Parks

    You'd be surprised how often Disney World has a great offer on the table, often with savings of up to 30 percent or more. And if you follow no. 1 and time your vacation for slow periods, you're guaranteed to find a money-saving deal.

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    YachtClub_BeachClub_StormalongBay.jpg
    ••• Stormalong Bay. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

    It may seem counterintuitive, but you can get more value out of your vacation if you stay longer. For one thing, Disney World is a big place—about twice the size of Manhattan—so it's impossible to see more than a sliver of it in a couple of days. Second, consider ticket prices. A one-day Disney World park ticket costs about $100 for adults and kids 10 and up. Afterward, the per-day ticket price begins to fall, with the biggest drops happening after the third day. Your fourth-day admission costs 25 percent less than the first day's admission, the fifth day costs 40 percent less, and so on. Staying longer allows you to slow down and stop rushing.

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    Disney Gift Card
    ••• Disney

    Do you have a Target Red Card? (It's free if you don't.) The card gets you a 5-percent discount on every item purchased, including gift cards. Buy Disney gift cards in advance of your trip, use them inside WDW, and you'll reap automatic savings on dining, souvenirs, and more.

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    Epcot_DisneyParks.jpg
    ••• Walt Disney Parks

    The park-hopper option lets you visit more than one Disney park in the same day. It also adds a flat $60-per-person upcharge to your overall spend. Instead of ponying up $240 for the add-on, a family of four would be wiser to stick to one park per day and plan their time efficiently. If you do no. 3 and stay at least four days, you can focus on one park each day.

    The exception to this rule is if you visit during a peak time such as spring break or Christmas. During these periods, the park-hopper can be a valuable tool for saving time in lines.

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    Make time for free fun.

    DisneyWorld_FortWildernessLodge_ChipnDale.jpg
    ••• Fort Wilderness Lodge. Walt Disney Parks

    Don't buy theme park tickets for your arrival and departure days. Instead, take advantage of the many ways to have free fun around the Disney World resorts. Likewise, consider skimming back on theme park days in favor of a day filled with more low-key fun. Here are many favorite ways to have fun at Disney World that don't require a theme park ticket.

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    DisneyWorld_ExpeditionEverest.jpg
    ••• Expedition Everest. Walt Disney Parks

    Getting value at Disney World means spending less time in line and more time having fun. For guests staying Disney resorts, that means taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours. Every day, one park opens an hour earlier than the others and another stays open an hour later. During the morning Extra Magic Hour, even the most popular attractions have virtually no line. This is your chance to ride Expedition Everest or Space Mountain twice in a row without waiting, so go for it. 

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    MagicalExpress.jpg
    ••• Walt Disney Parks

    Yet another reason to stay at a Disney resort is that you get free transportation to and from the airport aboard the Magical Express.

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    DisneyKids_MattStroshane_DisneyParks.jpg
    ••• Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney Parks

    If you're overwhelmed with the trip-planning process, consider turning to a Disney vacation specialist. Many families don't realize it doesn't cost anything extra to have a travel professional help you book your trip, but it's true. Finding an expert who knows the ins and outs of Disney resorts and how to get the most bang for your buck can be indispensable.

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    MyMagic_FastPass.jpg
    ••• MagicBands give FastPass+ access. Mark Ashman/Walt Disney Parks

    How can you save time using the new My Disney Experience app and Fastpass+? How can you meet the Disney characters without waiting a long time? What if it rains? Check out the Smart Parent's Guide to Disney World for more tips on getting even more value out of your stay.

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    ElsaDress_Frozen_Kohls.jpg
    ••• Kohls

    Planning an affordable Disney vacation means being thrifty when it comes to souvenirs. On a budget? Limit your time in the gift shops and turn on on your kids to these less expensive options, or get creative with these DIY Disney souvenirs spied on Pinterest.

    Explore hotel options at Disney World