9 Tips For Saving Money on Your Disney Vacation

Cinderella's castle looks magical at night!

While Justin and I definitely took advantage of some of these ideas when planning our trip to Disney World, I thought I would share a few tips I've read about in the time since we've gone to hopefully help you save more money than we did. Disney vacations are expensive and each little piece adds up quickly. It helps to know what you want and book as far in advance as possible. Maybe some of these tips will help you to have a free or very cheap visit to Disney in the future!

1. Get the Disney credit card. 

After spending $500 on the card in the first 3 months, Justin and I received a $200 credit or the equivalent of one night in a hotel on Disney property. Because we were spending the $500 anyway, it was nice to see a return of 40%.

Make sure to look at what the card is offering before signing up though. Sometimes they offer Disney gift cards or less money for spending the same amount. I've heard reports of receiving a $50 Disney gift card in exchange for spending $500; is that worth it?  I guess $50 in a Disney gift card is better than nothing, but there may be other credit cards that offer more. Be sure to check them out. Also, if you struggle to pay your credit card on time, I recommend skipping this option. Neither $200 cash or $50 in a gift card is worth going even more into debt!

2. Other credit cards might offer a better return on investment.

See the Sapphire. They are currently offering 3x the points for travel (through the end of this month), 2x the points on restaurants (and travel after December), and 50,000pts. when you sign up. On the website, they claim that the 50,000pts. is good for up to $675 in cash, but with the 1:1 transfer to hotel chains, you can easily get a lot more for your points than that! I recently found a 50% discount on a hotel if I book through Sapphire! How awesome is that?

The Venture is another great credit card. You receive 2x the points for any purchase and can redeem those points towards travel you've already done … or  towards Amazon gift cards (for Christmas, yes?). You receive 40,000pts. for signing up which is equivalent to about $400 towards travel or Amazon, $200 towards other rewards (or straight cash back). This could easily cover 2 nights at a Disney hotel.

Two other cards that may be worth considering are the Chase Freedom and Discover It. Both offer 5% on varying categories throughout the year. Discover It provides options for rental car discounts with the cashback you earn ($20 for a $40 rental car coupon), and the Chase Freedom points can be transferred to a Sapphire account and be used in conjunction with those points. Currently both cards are offering a percentage back on Amazon purchases, but in the past they have provided a discount on retail stores, home improvement stores, grocery stores, and gas.

3. If, for example, you have a credit card that offers a percentage back at a specific store (like the grocery store Kroger), you can buy Disney gift cards at the store prior to your trip to Disney World for use on Disney property. There may be a difference between Disney store gift cards and Disney property gift cards, so make sure you do a bit of research and make an informed decision when purchasing.

Purchasing gift cards through Kroger when they run
their 4x the fuel points promotion is a great way to
save on gas.

4. Use Disney gift cards in the park.

In the moment it can be easy to just spend, spend, spend. If you have a gift card, you will always know exactly how much you've spent in the park. I don't recommend putting more on a gift card than you expect to spend though.

5. Get everything you need (including souvenirs) outside of the parks.

I promise, it feels like there is a "Disney tax" when you are in the parks. Everything practically doubles in price. You'll save yourself from a financial breakdown if you buy all of your needs outside of Disney property.

6. Speaking of which, eat outside of Disney property.

Yes, I understand that food inside the parks just tastes better. There's nothing quite like buying a beer from a guy with a German accent or learning about French wine from someone who actually speaks French inside EPCOT, but refrain. Unless, that's why you are going to Disney World in the first place. A drink that should only cost a $1 or so will easily run $3 in the park. And don't get me started on food…

7. If you are up for it, sleep outside of the parks as well.

Basically, if you learn anything from this post, it's that Disney makes everything more expensive. You can get great deals by going through companies like Costco. Many hotels, not on Disney property, will offer you a shuttle ride to Disney. Plus, if you stay at a chain, you can use points to stay there for free! Some chains come with perks like free breakfast, so you might be able to make up for lost time with the free food.

8. If you want to stay in the parks, consider booking with third party sites like Expedia, Orbitz, or TripAdvisor well in advance of your trip.

First of all, Disney hotels fill up fast. Second of all, prices go up for hotels as they fill and as events are scheduled. If you know, like I did, that you are attending an event on a specific date in the next year or so, go ahead and start looking for a hotel deal. Take advantage of coupons. (I used a $75 off $300 coupon with expedia to book a room at Disney last year at this time.) And before you book, compare with sites like Kayak or TripAdvisor. If you go through a portal, you may be able to get even more money back on your purchase. An additional 20% off after using a $75 off coupon? Heck yes! I'll take back all of the money they want to give me! (And even some they don't!)

Woot! Tickets!

9. Buy your tickets from Undercover tourist.

Recently Amex offered money back for the purchase. Either way, you will save money by purchasing your tickets from there. BUT be careful. Don't purchase tickets from ebay or people on the street. You might be able to get some for free from hotel chains for sitting and listening to them attempt to sell you property. The hotel ones are cool (if you are willing to sit through a boring one hour presentation), but don't buy used tickets (or tickets that could have been used without you knowing it!). Disney tickets are non-transferable which means if your fingerprint (or theirs) has been scanned along with that ticket, your fingerprint won't work. You will have wasted money and will need a new ticket. Don't fall into that trap! Undercover tourist is licensed to carry Disney tickets and they provide discounts; use them!

So, are any of these tips helpful to you? Will you be planning a cheap trip to Disney in the future? Do you know of any other tips that I might should have included?

I hope you have enjoyed my series on Disney travel. Perhaps some of the information I have shared will be of use to you as you plan your magical Disney vacation. Stay tuned for my Disney hotel reviews of Port Orleans Riverside and Coronado Springs in the new year!

* I'm participating in Susannah Conway's December Reflections. Are you? Today's post was a response to #21 on the list "Numbers". :)

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