Cheapest Way to Go to Disney

Updated on July 01, 2009
T.L. asks from Elmwood, WI
15 answers

We would like to take our kids to disney but are on a very tight budget. so I was wondering if anyone could give me some ideas on the cheapest way to go. should we get a package deal or do things seperate. We have the option of staying at my in laws time share but we are not sure if that really saves us much money. we are not planning on going until march of 2010 so if you have any ideas how to save some money I would love to hear them, also how long should we plan on staying. Thank you T.

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answers from Sheboygan on

Hello...We love Disney, but unfortunately it's usually not cheap. Over he years we found the most expensive thing is the food. We try to bring as much food with us as we can. Also there is a guide book at the book store that always worked great for us..Birenbaum's guide to Walt Disney. Feel free to call Disney for questions and prices. They are always a big help. Good luck and have fun!

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answers from Minneapolis on


The size of your family makes a difference. For your size family, I would recommend staying onsite. You get free transportation to and from the airport and the parks and that saves a bundle. The value resorts in the offseason go between $62-82 per night and you won't do much better than that offsite even without the free transportation.

The age of your children makes a difference, too. Age 10 is an adult in Disney's eyes and you will pay more for food and admittance, so you may want to go before your son turns 10.

We went the end of Jan/beginning of Feb and I would highly recommend that time frame. Disney is next to deserted. It was unusual to stand in line for anything. It is 60-70 degrees. I have been with college roommates in June and it is HOT and HUMID and we spent more time standing in line than anything else.

September is a great time if you are willing to take a little risk. Yes, it is hot and humid and hurricane season. But Disney almost never shuts down (maybe 1 day per decade) and it is the only chance at getting free Disney Dining package. If you have to pay for the dining package, it is $41 per day adults and $11 per day for kids. It is also lowest attendance month of the year.

I would recommend staying on site if you have no more than 2 children + baby. When you look at the cost of car rental and parking, it is cheaper to stay on site and take advantage of the free transportation. We stayed at the Pop Century Value Resort and really enjoyed it. It is like a 3 star hotel in Disney decor - nothing spectacular, but we were only there to sleep. It is at the lowest end of the Disney on site resorts (we paid $62 a night) but all the Disney benefits are there and the room was clean and all we needed. If you go up in price ($160-$1000+,) you get more hotel restaurant choices, better views & fancier grounds, more pools to choose from, and more transportation options to the park. (Buses every 15 minutes vs. buses and boats or trams.) My only complaint about Pop Century was that the bus stop was the furthest from the park. The more you pay the closer bus stop you get. But I guess that is fair, isn't it?

Buying tickets: I recommend at least 4 days in order to see a good overview of all 4 parks. Disney charges through the nose for the first 3 days of tickets, after that, they are nearly free - $1-3 per person per day to get in. It is to their advantage because after the third day statistically people start shopping and spending money and don't do as many attractions. Your airfare will be the same regardless, so you may just want to stay longer, especially if you can get free meals, too.
- You can upgrade to "park hopper" (visit more than one park in a day) and sometimes you can get this for free. If you can’t, I would just plan to see one park per day. If you get park hopper free, I would spend ½ day at Epcot and more time at the Magic Kingdom.
- You can upgrade to include water parks for a couple hundred dollars, but they are geared for older kids who can handle fast waterslides. There is stuff to do for little kids if they give you the upgrade for free, but I wouldn't pay for it because your hotel will have a heated pool open year round that your kids may like just as much. It’s cheaper to just take your kids to a local water park for the day. Sometimes you can get water parks in your package for free.

Small World Vacations Travel Agency is great for getting you a good deal. Saved us an extra $300 + free park hopper & water park after I searched deals for 6 months. and has great info.

If you stay onsite, Disney will give you free bus transportation to and from the airport and in between parks and hotels. If you use Disney’s free airport transportation, pack so that you don't need your checked luggage for several hours - they may not come to your room for 2-4 hours or more because Disney gets your checked bags for you. But now most airlines charge $15 each way per bag, so it may be better just to carry on smaller luggage.

Because of the dining package, we did some character meals - WAY FUN! We had the best time at the Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom. The rotating restaurant and the underwater restaurant and the princess character breakfast are the best in Epcot. We did Cinderella's castle (last meal before they doubled the prices / voucher points) and it was a bit of a disappointment. You could tell that Cinderella & Godmother were a bit burned out from all the brats they had to deal with. Hopefully they rotated their cast members and brought in new ones. We didn't do any other character stuff, the meals were plenty and saved time for other things.

Where to eat: If you can go between late August and early October, I would highly recommend getting the free dining package. It comes with staying onsite and each family member gets 1 fast food meal with drink and dessert, 1 restaurant meal with drink and dessert and 1 snack per day of your visit. Disney offers huge meals and any but the “all you can eat family style” character meals can be split. We didn’t need to purchase any additional food while we were there. We did attend some character meals and had a blast. Liberty Tree in Magic Kingdom and Coral Reef at Epcot were the best. If you can’t go in the fall and have to pay to eat, fast food meals are about $9-11 for adults and $5-8 for kids. You can still split. Cosmic Ray’s in Magic Kingdom and Sunshine Seasons in Epcot give you ½ an entire chicken plus two generous side dishes for $9. That can be enough for 2 people. You can also bring in food you pack as long as it’s not in glass containers or in a big cooler. (And no straws in the Animal Kingdom, including juice box straws.) Character meals are $30 and up for adults and $10 and up for kids, so get the dining package if you want to do those. Paying for the dining package costs $40 for adults and $11 for kids per day.

As far as shows, parades and fireworks go, you can't go wrong. They are all really good. I would highly recommend Storytime with Belle. Hardly anyone knows or goes. It is surrounded by trees - quiet and secluded and a good break from the Disney chaos. Belle tells the Beauty and the Beast story and invites kids to come on stage, dress up and do the parts. It was wonderful! The only things I wouldn't recommend attending are Ariel's Grotto and Stitch's Great Escape - I'm not sure if they are even still there, but our only disappointments the whole week.

I wish we would have brought rain ponchos like everyone says to. We got caught in a bad pour. If you are trying to pinch pennies, go to the Disney Store, Target, Walmark or eBay and prepurchase souveniers to bring along. We had all sorts of Disney trinkets and new Disney PJs for our kids - paid a couple bucks on clearance and the kids were thrilled. We also brought our own glow sticks for the parades. I bought brand new autograph books on eBay for $5 including shipping - they are $16-20 at the park. We had matching Disney outfits for the kids everyday. It was fun, they were easier to keep track of, and we were able to overcome the temptation of buying $28 t-shirts for them in the park. They wore those outfits at home afterward until they literally fell apart. You could also get Disney t-shirts ahead of time for a few bucks. might get you the best airfare. I have seen flights from MSP to Orlando for $169. We used because we had saved up point for two free tickets, then used their "travel deals alert" on the website to know when to purchase. is a good predictor, too.

Use fast pass. Fast pass is a ticket to come back and ride later without having to wait in line. You will see this for popular rides and busy days.

My last bit of advice is to RELAX and ENJOY YOURSELF. If you are anything like me, there is a temptation to do it all, see it all and get your money's worth. That can ruin a Disney Vacation, especially with little kids. We did 4 days at the parks and got to see a lot, but not all of it. Just get in what you can.

You can go to the Disney website and see attractions and order a free DVD that's a lot of fun to watch before you go. It comes with a very helpful map.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me.

Have fun,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

We managed to do very well (I think!) and everything was a package. We ended up going last September during their "Free Dining" promotion and it was great.

I am a super frugal person so going on their dining plan helped me relax, enjoy and eat some amazing food at places we would NEVER have gone without it. (we upgraded to Deluxe - which is probably unnecessary for the ages of your kids, you will want to spend way more time on rides than we could) However, our situation was a bit different as our daughter was only 3 (huge princess fan!) so the character meals etc were the highlight of the trip.

We stayed in a value hotel "Pop Century" - think Holiday Inn, roomwise. But the grounds were awesome. There was a food court in the hotel and honestly we walked around the buildings at least twice a day and saw something new each time. I don't think we would ever go back and not stay on site. The shuttles were worth their weight in gold... easy come, easy go. Especially for mid day naps or breaks. (and no rental car)

The other budget tip was to buy souvenirs at the Disney Store (or anywhere). We bought my daughters princess costumes and jewelry for the meals at Target (and we have gotten a TON of use out of them since!). Purchased all of the t-shirts from the Disney store, even some fun Disney themed things for her to bring on the plane. She never asked for one thing in the ever present gift shops because she got something (generally little) each day.

It was a blast. First family trip for us and everytime my husband and I see a commercial we start planning the return trip!

(Oh - are a must for a first time trip!)

Have fun!



answers from Minneapolis on

Your right when there is an inexpenive lodging it still seems an issue to visit entertainment places such as Disney in FL and Busch Gardens in VA and FLA area and Universal Studios in FL.

We stayed at a big Condo location on a low cost rental basis in Virginia and felt it pricey to buy the tickets for three at Bush Gardens but the concierge at the condo was able to get us two adults in at a slightly reduced price and our child in for free (for one day). (we grabbed it) Else it would have been pretty pricey for one day.

What you have to realize when going to Disney or other such places they are lumping together many many shows and acts and different types of entertainment and what you are buying is really like many shows lumped into together one full day. To enjoy the Area along with Disney probbably need at least 4-5 days in case of bad weather or tired from travel. (1, 2-3 days at Disney) However going to Disney for 2-3 days after the first day is spendy. What you should look for is a multi-day ticket discounted. Seach on Google, etc.

You are right that it seems silly staying at a friends when if you pay for a affiliate hotel or condo stay you get the entertaiment at a greatly reduced price. Here is another option! Staying at the location to meet its terms for the mimimum required nights of stay and staying the rest of the time at your relations location Disney is right not recently running some extra good specials but no one can tell you that is 2010 the same thing would be offered. It is all about supply and demand which is constantly changing.

If I were you I would try to go this summer not knowing how the travel business might do next year. Someday they are poised for a come-back.

We all know the airlines cut flights and seats on planes and capacity to better handle their fuel costs and did not have to sharply lower prices when many of us needed that as incentive to Fly. We drove all the way to Virginia as it not a very common flight path we were near and was pricey. We got to do two mini-vacations on the way by driving! (It also helped to break of the motonony of the road) (27 hrs going 24 hrs approximately returning)

You could also write directly to Disney Vacations and ask what they could do as per getting you a preferred discount rate in advance. They dont want their numbers at the Gate to decrease and each customer is important no less 4.

I have a feeling if we did not buy those tickets they might have been sitting there for a day or two more. The condos buy them in advance in Bulk which is why they could get me a better price than I could on my own. It became in the interest of the condo then to sell the tickets they prepaid for. Think of unused seats on a plane...

Good luck! We went to Disney a few years back I still remember parts of it and having really enjoyed it.
Had not been there as a child.



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi T. - the options available for Disney vacations are overwhelming. I did a ton of research and realized the best thing to do was go through AAA. I'm not sure if you are a member but they are fantastic. They help you line everything up, give you some extra deals with being a member, and they just know what sites to look for things. The other book you might want to check out is the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World Vacation book. It gives you all the ins and outs - where to stay (on or off Disney property), budgeting ideas, and ideas on how to plan your day at the DIsney parks. It worked great for us and was a HUGE help!!! The guide really helps any traveler and you can just read the parts that relate to your family's needs. If you're being offered the timeshare (free or at a reasonable cost) - I think I'd go with that. If you have a kitchen - you could even get by w/spending just 1 meal at the park each day. Honestly, even tho you aren't going until March - it's best to plan ahead!



answers from Minneapolis on

We went to Disney this past October. We had free airfare (Frequent Flier miles) and free hotel (Hilton Honors points) and it was still an incredibly expensive trip. Make sure you check to see if your employer is part of any discount groups because that helped a lot with Disney tickets and other activities.



answers from Milwaukee on

Hi T.,

We just took our kids in March and it was relatively cheap. We drove from WI to Orlando (straight thru- left at 7PM and got in roughly 5PM the next day) The package we found was for 5 day Magic Your Way staying at one of the Disney Resorts but the best rates started when checking in on Sun. So we found a cheap hotel across the street from the grounds and checked in Sun. I would highly recommend staying at one of the Disney resorts for some perks. The parks will stay open late, or open early for resort guests. We got through all of MK in 1 day b/c of that! Also, we had in our package a $200 Disney gift card that we received when we checked in. This we used for food and small souveniers and it lasted us thru Wed. (for a family of 4!) We took a small backpack in the park with us that had snacks and drinks to help cut costs within the parks. We didn't really spend a ton of money and the whole family had a great time! Hope you enjoy your trip!



answers from Minneapolis on

I'm sure you'll get lots of advice, so I'll limit mine to a few areas. We went to Disney a year and a half ago - in November, right before Thanksgiving. This is a "low time" so the airfare and the resort rates were lower. Bonus, the park was uncrowded and the lines were really short. I really felt like we did NOT get our money's worth with the food plan. We had too much food when we did not need/want it and still ended up buying some evening meals. They sell it well, but If you bring some of your own snacks and refillable water bottles, you'll be fine. Last, the "park hopper" option is extra, but you can get away w/o that. We had it and used it one day out of 5 - only because we could. It is easy to spend a whole day at one park so you might as well. Plus you lose a lot of time moving from one park to the next.
Have fun!



answers from Minneapolis on

We just went to Disney on 2/7/09. We paid for a AAA membership for the year which was $75.00 with just my husbands name on it. We then booked our trip through them on their web site. Check it daily and often as the price for airfair and hotel change quite often, when you see the cheepest price for when you want to go, book it! If you don't someone else gets it and that price may never come back! We booked hotel and airfair through them together, so for my husband, myself and 7 year old daughter we paid $989.00 for air/hotel. Word to the wise, DO NOT book the hotel with Fun Spots hotel at fountain park, it is a dive! Book one of the hotels that are the themed ones like the disney sport, music or pop culture. They are on disney property and have a bus that takes you to the parks. We also waited to purchase our tickets to the parks when we got there. We sat through a 90 minute time share thing and saved over $200.00 on the park passes! Check with the hotel you stay at, many have a place in the hotel that you can buy the tickes through, ask if they have any special going on that are not advertised, many times they do. Rental car information, We got a rental car at the airport, we went and got ours from Dollar rental car, it is located right in the parking ramp at orlando airport, check their web site, they have specials going on. They were the cheepest of all of them and pretty nice cars! Be aware that most of the hotels that are on Disney property charge a fee for taking their bus to and from the parks daily, it is like $3-5 dollars per person, their web site will tell you what it is or call the hotel and find out. I priced around big time when we went and found that booking through AAA was the cheepest and we went for 6 days. Had a great time! Good luck on your quest for prices and geting the best deal, they are there if you take the time to look and do your research. P.S. If you decide to get a rental car so that you can dive around and check out the other places near by, make sure you have a ton of change for the toll booths! Also make sure you check out the town of Celebration that is close by! It is like the town that the desperate hosewives live it! Very nice! Florida ans so many places to see and lots of things to do. Have a great time and if you have any other questions feel free to email me!



answers from Minneapolis on

Get a Disney (Chase) rewards credit card now and use it for everything you can to earn points. You'll be able to use your points towards souveniers on the disney website. Buy some souveniers in advance and bring them along - it's a lot cheaper than buying them in the park.

Go to and order Horizon brand milk (vacuum sealed containers, no refrigeration required), cereal, snacks, etc to keep in your room. You can usually request a refrigerator in your room to keep the milk cold. Eating breakfast in your room every morning is a big $ saver and a big time saver. If you order more than $25 you get free shipping and can have it shipped directly to your disney hotel so it's waiting for you when you get there. This way, you don't have to put it in your luggage, worry about spilling, getting crushed and since you now have to pay for all checked luggage per bag each way, you save on luggage costs too!

Good luck to you!



answers from Omaha on

We've taken our kids to Disney twice. I'm not sure that Disney and Cheap can go in the same sentence.

Get on-line and start looking for deals. For example, the first time we stayed at the swan and dolphin for $99.00 as a teacher discount. They had a nurses discount for $120 a night, which was great for that hotel. In the end though, we spent so much money, even though we did save a lot by early booking. With the flight trip included, I would expect to spend $4000 for a week - and that's on a budget.

Please don't take this wrong, I'm just being realistic.



answers from Omaha on

The Best way to go is through a travel agent. I prefer the Disney resort. No car rental needed and get a package deal that cover the parks you want to visit and the meal plan and transportation. Very very cost effective. Advise the agent of what your budget is and pay for your trip before you go. If you plan far enough in advance you can make monthly installments. No outstanding bills and what you want you pay for once you are at the resort (i.e. tshirts,etc). Make sure you ask for a Photo Pass when you arrive at the first park. (priceless) $129 CD you purchase at the end (they can explain, just ask). The rest is in the package. We had a great time and can use our timeshare for a visit at a different location. Plan ahead and have a great time.



answers from Minneapolis on

We are also planning a Disney trip for next spring and I have been researching affordability options. Picking an off time is probably one of the best things to do if at all possible - but may not be with your school schedule. If you're planning on just Disney, the value resorts can be less than $100 a night and you still get all the benefits of staying on the Disney site - namely the Disney Meal plan where you pay a discounted price for many of your meals and early access to the parks. The vacation packages for 2010 aren't available yet but you can probably find some good times at and other sites. We'are actually using Small World Vacations, a free Disney travel planning/agency service, to help us plan. The book your trip and then monitor any new deals to make sure you get the best deal on your trip. Good luck with planning!



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi T.:

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answers from Minneapolis on

We just went the end of April - and did it as CHEAP as possible! We stayed at a time share for $350 for the whole week (thanks to a friend of mine). That saved us tons of money! But... not staying on Disney property meant that the shuttles didn't run as often but it was totally do-able.

We bought our Disney Park tickets online and the more days you buy, the cheaper each day ends up being. So we bought 6 days and if we didn't use one - no big deal, it was only like a few bucks per person.

Since we were at a time share with a full kitchen, we went to Publix grocery store and just made all of out meals. We packed lunches and brought them with us to the parks (frozen water bottles too!) They allow soft coolers (we had a stroller so it wasn't a bog deal to bring a lot of stuff).

Also get a Disney Rewards Chase card, I ended up getting about $130.00 in points, so that was our spending money (that's all we spent besides at the grocery store!) ** If you do the Disney points then make sure you order the "points card" a few weeks in advance, we didn't and ended up going through customer serice at the parks - big hassel.

If you do stay on disney property then you can do a disney dining plan (sounded like a good deal).

And since you have a 6 year old daughter - for sure buy the Character Meal - at the castle in Magic Kingdom (you have to reserve it months ahead of time). The princesses come to your table and you can get autographs. By the way - you can buy an autograph book ahead of time or at the parks, but it is fun for the kids! Epcot has a place called Character Spot and you can meet like 5 characters at once!

Sorry for the long response, but there is so much to plan for! We cannot wait to go back!!! It was so much fun!!!!!

Let me know if you have any questions!

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