Going on a family vacation to “the most magical place on earth” costs a pretty penny for families, and the price has gone up yet again. This year, Disney increased the price of admission into its U.S. theme parks by about 9 percent on average. Forbes reports that Disney increased prices “to help regulate crowd sizes throughout the year in hopes of reducing the wait at the parks,” which are among the most highly attended theme parks in the world.
They are also among the most expensive theme parks to visit in the U.S. According to our calculations, a five-day trip for a family of four could easily cost $4,000, including park admission, lodging and food – and that’s without any travel costs or extras, like souvenirs.
But the high costs don’t keep the Disney faithful away, and many have devised savings strategies when making the trip to Disney World in Orlando every year. We spoke to Disney enthusiasts to get their best savings tips for anyone planning a Disney World vacation.
Use apps and services to earn extra money
Trying out apps that help her save money, like Ibotta, and earning money through side gigs like mystery shopping has helped Christine Meade, 35, of Long Island, N.Y., earn more than $2000 toward her family’s Disney World vacation this year. She credits websites like Swagbucks, among others, and says she finds them helpful towards earning some extra income.
“I’m always making the extra money with going to Disney in mind,” says Meade.
Use credit card points on flights
If you plan ahead, you can choose a rewards credit card that lets you earn rewards towards your flight down to Orlando. For example, Meade applied for a travel rewards card about two years ago and earned enough points to entirely cover their last two round-trip tickets to Orlando. An important reminder: pay off the card’s balance monthly to get the most value from your rewards.
Book with a ‘bounceback offer’
Disney offers a special promotion called a “bounceback offer” to those staying at a Disney Resort hotel on their current Disney vacation. It’s a discount provided only if you book your next stay before you leave. Meade says her family used a bounceback offer on their last trip in November 2017 and saved 25% on their room for their next vacation.
Keep in mind, bounceback promotions change over time. You may receive an offer for a different discount than the Meades received, or a voucher for a free dining plan, which the couple has received in the past. There may be a pamphlet left in the hotel room with information about a bounce back offer, or you can dial x8844 from your Disney Resort hotel room to find out about the bounceback offer.
Split a Memory Maker
Search Facebook for another family going to Disney World around the same time and see if you can agree to split the cost of a Disney Memory Maker. The Memory Maker costs $169 for the length of your trip and gives you unlimited downloads of all your Disney PhotoPass photos and video taken by Disney’s photographers.
Stay at a Disney Hotel
You can save a few bucks by using perks that come with staying at a Disney hotel, like free transport to and from the airport, extra FastPasses (for shorter wait times at the parks), MagicBands (radio-frequency enabled bracelets that serves as your park pass, hotel key and more) and extended park hours, called Magic Hours.
Use discounted Disney gift cards
“You can plan your whole trip in advance and pay it all off with gift cards,” says Cora Helton, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, about the “gift card hack” – her main Disney World savings tactic.
Several retailers sell discounted Disney gift cards. At Sam’s Club, for example, Disney gift cards valued at $500 are often sold at a discount. Target, too offers a 5 percent discount on Disney gift cards for its REDcard holders. If you combine offers, you may save even more. Helton combines the rewards program at her local grocery store, Kroger, and uses a 3% cashback card, to save a total of $85 on a $500 Disney gift card.
Become an annual passholder
Do the math to figure out if becoming an annual passholder would reduce the overall cost of a visit to Disney World for your family. If you visit Disney World more than once a year and your vacations generally last longer than about four days, a pass may be worth purchasing to save money.
There are two tiers of annual passes for access to Walt Disney World’s four main parks: the Disney Platinum Pass ($849 per person) and the Disney Platinum Plus Pass ($949 per person). The Platinum Pass offers a 20% discount on some dining and merchandise purchases. It also rolls in things like a park hopper pass, which allows you to go visit multiple parks in a day, and rolls in Disney photopass downloads.
Plan and split meals
Choose your restaurants carefully at Disney World and share meals when you can to cut back on spending. You can go through the entire menus of restaurant options and choose what you’d like to eat before you decide on a restaurant. Preview Disney World dining options online, where you can filter the restaurants by park. Disney also provides each restaurant’s menu online and you can filter this search by price-per-person for an easier time budgeting for food.
Find a way to save money on at least one meal a day. Get groceries and eat breakfast in your hotel room. Baltimore resident Andrea Tucker, 48, says her family of four uses a delivery service to order food ahead of time and have staple items, like cheese sticks, milk, yogurt, bananas, water and things they can heat up in a microwave, delivered to their room.
When it comes to saving at Disney, it’s all about setting your priorities and doing research in advance. These tips can help you save some money on your trip if you use them, but at the end of the day, it’s your vacation. Getting a good sense of what you want from your trip before you book will help you save overall.
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MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.