25 Tips for Saving Time and Money at Walt Disney World

Now that it’s September and people are starting to prepare for the fall season, do you know what it’s the perfect time to Go on vacation Disney World! That’s right Disney World, savvy travelers and Disney fans know that you can get great hotel discounts, and get on more rides with shorter lines by traveling during the off season. Want to learn more secrets check out our 25 tips that will save you time and money on your Disney World Vacation listed below:

1. Know when to go: you will get to do and see much more of Walt Disney World if you travel during the “off season”. If you can travel in January, September, or October you will be visiting during the least crowded times. Hotel prices, airfares and many entertainment options in Orlando are greatly reduced (including rooms on site at Walt Disney World).

2. Plan in advance: decide which parks you wish to visit and how many days you wish to tour. Develop a general idea of how you want your spend your time in Orlando. Once you do this you will be able to book flights, hotel rooms and park tickets to cover you time on vacation. Last minute changes to your plans will cost you money.

3. Learn the layout: spend time reviewing each park you wish to visit. The sheer size of a park like Animal Kingdom is daunting, especially to first time visitors. If you are able to research the attractions in advance you will be able to spend your time enjoying the parks instead of trying to figure out what you want to see once you arrive at the Magic Kingdom, or any one of the four major Disney Parks.

4. Use FastPass: this Walt Disney World attraction system, allows park guests to avoid long lines on top attractions. FastPass is free to all park guests and allows you to return to an attraction during an assigned period of time and avoid the general attraction line. It is very easy to use and will definitely save you time in the parks.

5. Use FastPass Wisely: once you get the hang of the FastPass system you will find that there are ways to save even more time at the parks with FastPass. Two things to do with FastPass are when you enter the park and race (okay, walk briskly) to your favorite attraction before you enter the general line, grab a FastPass for a return visit later on. If it is your favorite, you will want to ride more than once. Second tip on FastPass is grab a FastPass for an attraction before you sit down for dinner or before you sit and watch a parade. This way after you are done, your time will most likely be up for the wait and you can go right to your attraction.

6. Eat your meals at “off” times: when touring it is difficult to see an entire Disney park in one day, especially if you stop for sit down meals. A big time saver is to plan one meal at counter service (for fast food) and one sit down meal. You will save a lot of time if you are able to eat lunch early – 11am and dinner early 4pm or late 7pm or later.

7. Set a budget for souvenirs: the array of options for souvenirs is abundant, even overwhelming when visiting the theme parks. You will save money if you are able to develop and stick to a solid budget on spending. This is very important when traveling with children, who will want everything they see. At $0.51 a pressed penny is about as cheap as souvenirs get, a collection of 6 princess pennies will cost you $3.06 it doesn’t get much cheaper than that.

8. Park Ticket Options: research park ticket options before traveling to Orlando. Once you know how long you will be visiting Orlando and how many days you plan to spend at the parks, it will be easier to purchase the correct tickets. Disney offers many options on their passes from park hoppers, no expiration options, etc. Many people waste money on options they do not need. Others do not purchase the best tickets for their trip and wind up dissatisfied that they “waste” days on short days at the parks.

9. Research travel deals: the internet is a great source for finding the best pricing on airfare, hotels and rental cars. If you are thinking about a trip to Orlando, sign up for offers and discount deals with all rental car companies and airlines online. You will start receiving deals via email.

10. Snacks: Although Disney does have a policy on not allowing outside food and drinks into any theme park, they do understand guests will bring in small snack type items and bottled water. If you do not overdue it with the volume of items you are carrying in, you usually will not have a problem. It is especially important to bring snacks when traveling with small children, who will probably be off their normal schedule for eating times and will require quite a few snacks during the time you are visiting the park.

11. Park Maps and Times Guides: these are provided to you as you enter the park. They will help you greatly as you tour the parks. Consult the maps for locations of attractions, restrooms and restaurants. The Times Guide will detail what shows and parades are being performed that day. If you are looking forward to a certain performance you will want to schedule your day around it.

12. AAA/AARP: These organizations can help you save money when booking a vacation to Orlando. In addition to package deals on travel, they can get you discounts on hotel rooms and tickets.

13. Consider the Disney Dining Plan: this option is available to guests staying at a Walt Disney World hotel. It allows you to pay a set daily fee for your meals. The basic plan is about $35 per day for adults and includes one counter service meal, one sit down meal and one snack each day. Credits can be exchanged for high end restaurants or dinner shows (2 table service meals can be exchanged for the popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue Show).

14. Find Free Things to Do: Although a visit to Orlando can certainly put a strain on any travel budget, the Walt Disney area does have many things to see and do that do not require a fee. All resorts on site are worth a visit, just to see the extensive theming and attention to detail two favorites are Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge. The popular Boardwalk resort at Walt Disney World is a perfect location for a nighttime stroll. The Grand Floridian Resort has a breathtaking lobby where you can sit and enjoy music after a long day of touring the parks. Downtown Disney is another great place to spend time.

15. Annual Pass: consider purchasing an annual pass to the parks, if you are planning to visit more than once in a year. The cost of the pass pays for itself on your second visit (just time your trips to be within 12 months). Also having an annual pass will get you room discounts, in addition to discounts on shows, and park tours.

16. Know when to buy your tickets: avoid buying your tickets at the front gates to the parks. Buying in advance can save you money, as advanced tickets are discounted. It will also save you a lot of time, as you will have one less line to wait on!

17. Single Rider Option: one of the best kept secrets at the parks is that if you riding an attraction alone, or are willing to break up your party and ride as singles, you will not need to wait on general lines. Attractions such as Mission Space and Test Track have single rider lines that move much more quickly than general line.

18. Baby Swap: another great secret on avoiding extra time waiting on attraction lines is the Baby Swap. Families with small children can wait on line together, when boarding the attraction one parent stays off with children too young to ride. When they return, other parent swaps off and rides without any other wait time. This works great for families with both young and old children, as older child can ride with each parent – getting a two for one wait ride!

19. Bring your own sundries: you will need sunscreen, film, water bottles and other basic necessities. Whenever possible bring your own into the parks, it will save you time and money. If you cannot bring them from home, purchase locally in Orlando. Publix and Winn Dixie are conveniently located right outside the Walt Disney World resort area.

20. Save money on calls and internet: travel with your own cell phone – using the phone service in the hotels will cost you an arm and a leg. Also, if traveling with your laptop, research and bring a local dial up number to access.

21. Pace yourself: one of the biggest mistakes visitors make is trying to do too much when the visit the parks. Cramming too much into your day (especially if traveling with small children) will just upset your entire group. Avoid the temptation to cover ever inch of the parks, rather concentrate on what attractions and shows are on your “must see” list and take the time to enjoy them! Also, if you are spending several days at Disney work in a day for relaxing at the hotel pool – back to back days of park touring can burn even a seasoned traveler out.

22. Strollers & Car Seats: Bring your Own If your child is small and will want to spend most of the day in the stroller (translation: Mommy, I don’t want to walk), then you should travel to Orlando with your own stroller. This will save you money on the daily rental fees and will enable you to have a stroller in places you need it most  the airport (Orlando International Airport is HUGE) and traveling into the theme parks  and more importantly out of the theme parks after a long, hot day. Also bringing your own car seat or booster seat saves you $7.00 per day that the rental car company will charge. It is easily checked with your luggage – and not difficult to travel with.

23. Meals: If you or your kids are not big eaters, you can ask for ala carte items at most counter restaurants. For kids meals, this works well when you have more than one child and may not want to order each a full meal. A childs chicken nugget meal with fries and drink can be ordered with nuggets only (kids can share single order of fries). This saves you money and prevents wasting food.

24. Character Meals: Disney has many character dining experience that guest love, but are quite costly. If you are looking to save money, consider a lunch meal with the characters  this is cheaper than the dinner option and kids will still get to eat with their favorite Disney Princess.

25. Save Early – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you are trying to save money it is a good place to save. Consider eating cereal, oatmeal or other items in your hotel room. This will save you money on eating breakfast out and will save time as you can travel directly to the parks and not have to stop for food. Buying food items locally and storing in your hotel room (even if you have to pay a daily fee to rent a refrigerator) is worth it.

Bonus Tip: Anyone can save time and money when traveling to Walt Disney World and many people do. A valuable tip is to talk to people about their trips, whether it be with friends, neighbors or relatives. Search travel related websites where people post info and tips about their trips and experiences at Walt Disney World – the more you know about Walt Disney World the better your trip will be!

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Flickr/fortherock