10 Ways to Save Money on Your Disney World Vacation

  • 01 of 10

    Arrive at Disney Early

    The Walt Disney World Monorail glides along the Epcot line, Epcot, Walt Disney World, Florida.
    Cory Disbrow/Contributor/Moment/Getty Images

    Disney World vacation deals often save more than money. You want to save time and add as much value as possible for each dollar spent. Let's begin with the time of our arrival at the park.

    The later you wait to start the day, the more overcrowded you'll find monorail cars and attraction lines. Those who arrive early leave the parking lots quickly and enter the parks with minimal delay. Just a few hours later, the same actions could take 30-40 minutes, and that's time you will not get back. On a recent visit, I arrived about an hour after the park opened and still found lines for the monorail and lines of moderate length already had formed at some of the popular attractions. Plan on being there when they open. You won't be sorry.

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  • 02 of 10

    Map Out a Disney Plan

    Find the rides you most want to visit and plan your Walt Disney World itinerary accordingly.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Most of us are not interested in every attraction, and there are some you might not reach in the time you have to spend here. So decide before arrival on the "must see" attractions and also list a few that could be missed without any regrets. This is time well spent, because you will want to map out the best route to your preferred attractions, and dress accordingly for those that might splash you. Guidebooks such as The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World will give you strategy suggestions, but a visit to Walt Disney World theme parks and water parks web section should provide the information necessary to make these decisions. Your plan should also include sunscreen, rain gear and a note about where you parked.

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  • 03 of 10

    Visit Popular Disney Attractions First

    At Walt Disney World, it's often wise to visit the most popular attractions early in the day.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Many people concentrate on the cost of a Disney World vacation. But there is another important factor to consider -- your time. Experienced visitors to the parks advise hitting the most popular attractions first. Save the places where lines are likely to be manageable for later in the day. It will take some discipline to walk past the near-empty areas, but your reward will be less time in line and more value for your travel dollar.

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  • 04 of 10

    Check Out Disney Single Rider Lanes

    Check out single rider lanes at Walt Disney World.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler
    This suggestion won't work for parents who have young children, but if you don't mind seeing your older kids take off in the car before you or the car after you, Disney's single rider lanes are a real time-saver. Essentially, by getting into this line you agree to let the park personnel at the front of the line assign you to any car where they need to fill a seat, even if that means splitting up your family and friends for the length of the ride. Many times, you'll find smaller groups stay together anyway. Single rider lines can cut your wait time in half -- sometimes by even more at peak wait times. Look for the option if you think your family situation will allow it.
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  • 05 of 10

    Consider a Disney Fast Pass

    Consider a Fast Pass at Walt Disney World.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Remember in elementary school when you would ask a friend to save you a place in line? The Disney Fast Pass makes that proud tradition an official park policy -- for free! Here's how it works: You approach an attraction with a long line, but the sign at the top will give you a Fast Pass range of times when you could come back and skip most of the line. If that range is acceptable, you insert your park admission ticket into Fast Pass service machine and receive a time stamp. Then, simply come back within the time range, present your ticket to an attendant, and approach the front of the line. Others with Fast Passes might be ahead of you, so you won't necessarily go to the very front. Remember that everyone in your party must have the Fast Pass stamp, and it can only be used at selected attractions in the various parks. Look for the electronic sign, choose your time, and execute a Fast Pass.

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  • 06 of 10

    Stay Hydrated at Disney

    Be certain to stay hydrated at Walt Disney World.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler
    Experienced Disney-goers avoid the intense heat of an Orlando summer. But many of us have little choice in when to visit. School schedules and work routines lead us to Central Florida in June, July or August. Standing in line and walking on hot pavement can sap the energy of the most hearty visitors. It is important that you stay hydrated. Naturally, vendors in the parks will sell you bottled water at premium prices. If you can't bring your own water, buy what they're offering and take small sips at regular intervals. Another favorite vendor item here is a squirt bottle with built-in fan ($8). Again, these are sometimes available in your local department store for several dollars less than what you'll pay at Disney.
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  • 07 of 10

    Use Disney Food Services Sparingly

    Use food services sparingly at Walt Disney World.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler
    Some people complain about Disney food, but it's possible to enjoy a very nicely prepared meal in many of the restaurants here. Epcot's France and Italy venues are blessed with some excellent restaurants for celebrating special occasions. Expect to pay $25-$30 per person at those places. Naturally, there are far less expensive venues that are similar to fast food restaurants. They serve chicken nuggets or hamburgers for several dollars more per person than you would expect to pay outside the parks. When you consider the expense of bringing in food and hiring people to serve large numbers of hungry visitors quickly, it is perhaps unfair to say Disney cuisine is overpriced. But there is no doubt you can eat food of similar quality for much less outside the parks. Eat a hearty breakfast at your hotel, snack at Disney and perhaps have a late dinner after you've left in the evening. It won't work for every itinerary, but it's worth considering.
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  • 08 of 10

    Look Into Disney Group Discounts

    Investigate discounts for group visits to Walt Disney World.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Group planning at Disney is a time-honored tradition. For years, the people here have catered to Grad Night couples, church groups and tours from every corner of the world.  In terms of Disney accommodations, deluxe villas will sleep up to nine guests. Disney Group Getaways will make discounts and arrangements available to groups "of any size who book and occupy at least 10 guest rooms during one night of their stay." With a larger group, there can be added benefits to staying at Disney as opposed to finding less expensive accommodations off-site. The logistics of moving a large group are easier within Disney, where you get free transportation to the parks.

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  • 09 of 10

    Visit in the Off Season

    Visit Walt Disney World in the off season, when crowds are thinner.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    We've established that Summer is not a good time to visit Disney World. Neither is Spring Break or the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. If you must visit during those times, be aware of the crowds or the added heat. If you have any flexibility whatsoever, opt for May or October, when lines will be shorter and the climate is apt to be more friendly, too. Strolling uncrowded sidewalks or boarding a half-full boat can make the Disney World experience far more enjoyable. True Floridians know this. Since they can make the trip more often, many buy seasonal passes that reward them for avoiding the busiest days and months.

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  • 10 of 10

    Plan for Disney Special Events and Discounts

    Plan for special event discounts at Walt Disney World.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Calculate the costs of bundling hotel and park admissions or park hopping. Keep in mind that the longer you stay, the cheaper your daily costs. If you can commit to an entire week, your daily costs over a one-day visit will be cut in half. There is also a Disney Dining Package in which you prepay for various kinds of meals and receive discounts of up to 30 percent. But these packages are designed to keep as much of your money inside their parks as possible, so be careful not to get too carried away with the promised discounts.

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