Walt DisneyWorld on a Budget


What family with young children doesn’t want to go to Disney World?  Doing Disney on a budget can be challenging, but NOT impossible.  (I’ve learned a few things on our trips there. )   Now, there’s really NO WAY to do Disney ‘cheap’, but it CAN be done for less than some people think…and for less than most people do it.

First Things First:  For the most thorough and updated information on what’s going on at the parks, refer to the Disney World website. It’s VERY detailed!  There’s no need to re-write that information here.  This will be personal insights on things not on their website…

Some OTHER GGGGRRRREAT websites for discounts and the planning process:

  • MouseMisers:  GREAT sit for discounts on all things Disney (Disney World, Disney Land AND Disney Cruises.)
  • Allears: ditto above  AND contains menus AND PRICES to all the restaurants on Disney properties
  • Disney has created an excellent Planning Guide
  • My Disney Experience app:  This has helpful information on park activities, special events and wait times on more popular attractions.

No, I’m not advertising for or compensated by these sites….just fyi.  🙂

Buying Your Tickets Tickets are less per day the more days you purchase.  On our trip in 2009, we had originally planned to buy a 4 day ticket until I realized that we could add an extra day for only $3pp. The cost of an added day is more now, but then, for$12 plus the cost of 1 more hotel night and food, we had an extra day in the parks. If your schedule allows for this, it’s great!

AAA Members can get discount tickets to Disney parks, but they MUST be purchased from a AAA office. They are NOT available at the park.

Tickets can be purchased at all the parks, Disney Hotels, online at   http://disneyworld.disney.go.com  or by calling 1-407-W-Disney.   Note:  There is $5  S/H charge added for tickets mailed to your home.  There is no charge for the ‘Will Call’ option.

Food and Snacks:  Keeping tummies full can be a major expense in Disney World.  As would be expected, prices are “theme park” prices (i.e. grossly over-priced).  Now, that being said, the quality of food in Disney parks is EXTREMELY GOOD!  It is possible to eat with special or restricted diets or eat healthy fare if you wish.  You will find an abundance of grilled meats, vegetarian selections and WONDERFUL ethnic fare, as opposed to burgers, fries and ice cream as in most theme parks.  Perhaps that will make you feel a little better about paying more for the meals.

But….Is there a way to save money?

YES!!!  First, Snacks….  Disney now allows outside snacks to be brought into the park. (that’s a change)  I always bring high protein snacks (nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter)  to fill up little tummies so they aren’t begging for everything in sight.  We eat a BIG high protein breakfast then postpone lunch until early afternoon.  Then, dinner can either be a lighter meal or postponed to later in the evening (7 pm) — or we leave the park and run through a drive through for a more reasonably priced meal.  Though that’s less healthy, it’s also less expensive than a meal in the park.

In budgeting, plan to spend approx. $12-$15/adult per counter service meal in the park…..more for the upscale restaurants.  Children’s meals are priced $6-7. (2017) We found that our 2 children could split an adult meal and have the same amount of food for less than the cost of 2 children’s meals. If you’re able to switch things up a bit like that, it will save significant money over the course of your trip.

Probably the single BEST money saving tip concerning meals is to consider portion sizes in various venues.  Many of the full service restarants have meals that can easily feed 2 adults (CERTAINLY an adult and child….)  It’s cheaper to buy 1 meal even if that meal is a little pricier if you can feed TWO people with it.  For counter service, some of the sandwiches served are HUGE.  They can easily be split between 2 people….or 2 children.  Along these same lines, adults can order from the children’s menu… They offer some appetizing options, not just hotdogs or grilled cheese…and portions are plenty for most adults (unless you’re just a HUGE eater).

Eating at Downtown Disney is less expensive than eating in one of the theme parks.  It’s a 15 min. bus ride.  If you have time, that’s a good place to go at supper time.

If you simply MUST do a Character meals, breakfast and lunch are more economical than the evening meal.  The menu will be slightly different, but the characters are the same..and it’s the characters you were going for anyway, wasn’t it?  …and isn’t it great that the kids probable won’t even CARE about the menu!!!  🙂 🙂

Now….just a brief mention of the Disney Meal Plans.

Disney Meal Plans:  

These are only available to those staying on Disney property. When you purchase one of these plans, you receive ‘meal credits’ to use in the parks.  Yes, Disney advertises these as the “greatest deal since sliced bread”, but to make that determination for yourself, it’s important to know the ‘details’….the ‘fine print’.

Things To Note:

  • To get your money’s worth, it’s necessary to eat ALL your meals on Disney property. (especially with the larger plans)  With the larger plans, this can possibly ‘control’ your vacation…
  • Every person over the age of 3 in the room is required to purchase the plan (to eliminate the possibility of ‘sharing’)
  • Beverages are included with meals.  You also get a refillable cup, however, it can only be used at the HOTEL…not in the parks.
  • Daily meal credits expire at the end of the day.  No carry-over
  • Table service and character meals take a lot of time…  If you do many of these, it may be necessary to add a day or two to your vacation to see and do all you want to in the parks.
  • Character meals require advance reservations (made up to 180 days in advance) especially at the more popular venues/times.

There are several different plans to choose from.  The smallest plan, Quick Service Plan, includes 2 counter service meals and 2 snacks.  The mid level plan covers 1 table service meal and 1 counter service meal along with the 2 snacks.  The Deluxe Plan will provide you with 3 meals per day.  Character Dining meals will ‘cost’ TWO table service meal credits…

Check the Disney website https://disneyworld.disney.go.com for meal prices to see if you’re really saving anything with these pkgs… To me, it seems to be a small savings…but not by much. Confirm that with your own research though 🙂

All of this….and that fact that we stay off property (nice places, but less expensive) means these plans are not part of OUR plan.   🙂

Character Meals:  These require advance reservations – which can be made up to 180 days in advance.  Because they take a chunk of time out of your day, you may want to add an additional day in the parks to see/do all you want to.

A Word About Eating at Epcot :  Epcot dining is a truly wonderful experience.  The World Showcase offers a variety of ethnic foods…my favorite is the Quiche  (and pastries) in France  🙂   The chocolate in Germany makes wonderful gifts but it’s necessary to buy some for yourself – to make sure that ‘gift’ is still there when you get home.   🙂

….and Drinks:  Bring empty water bottles to fill at water fountains. (Though they allow you to bring in full water bottles, they’re heavy to carry!)  🙂


Timeshare Presentations are a Dime a Dozen in Orlando:   Orlando is FULL of timeshare companies. Though I would NEVER suggest purchasing a time share, (MANY reasons which I’ve detailed in Timeshares)  the presentations can work to your advantage if you have the time.  They offer many incentives (WDW tickets, free meals, local tourist activities)  if you give them 2 hours of your time for their sales pitch.  (Don’t fall for the ’90 min. promise…. It NEVER works that way)  Especially in Orlando, they will have a room for childcare with caretakers, toys and/or movies.  Parents may not enjoy the experience, but the kids will have a blast!!!!  🙂  We’ve attended our share of these and they ARE REAL and LEGITIMATE!  You WILL receive what you are promised….  but it will cost you in “time”.   It’s a decision you have to make – but don’t worry that they are scams.  They aren’t.

Next Post:  More Walt Disney World Tips


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