Nearly every kid dreams of going to one of the Disney theme parks during their childhood years, but parents are usually a little more hesitant to book the trip because of the hefty price tag that accompanies it. If you are thinking about taking a trip to a Disney park and are looking to save money, check out the following ways to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your trip.  Keep in mind that Disney would like you to think that buying their packages is the best way to save money, but often you can save more by buying things separately.

  1. Stay off the Disney campus.  Surrounding hotels have lower pricing to entice travelers away from staying at Disney.  Keep in mind that you will need to have a way to travel back and forth from Disney if you stay off campus.
  2. Book your trip during the off season.  Disney has many seasons ranging from “Value” to “Peak”.  Unfortunately there isn’t a 3 month period that is considered to be the off season.  Weekdays during the fall months are cheaper, and the period after Thanksgiving and before December 21st, when “Holiday Season” starts, is cheaper to book as well.
  3. Book a hotel that includes breakfast.  While breakfast is one of the least expensive meals to eat out, it can save you a surprising amount of money by eating at the hotel.  Before heading back to your room, grab some extra fruit for a snack later in the day.
  4. Bring along a soft sided cooler.  You are allowed to bring in soft sided coolers to the park, and the ones that will fit in a backpack or are a backpack are ideal.  This allows you to bring in both snacks and lunch.  Plan to stop at a discount store or a grocery store to stock up on some food to take in for when family members start to get hungry.
  5. Plan to eat your evening meal outside of the park.  By dinner time you’ve spent the majority of the day at Disney and everyone is probably ready for a break.  Take this opportunity to head back to your hotel and let everyone rest a bit and freshen up.  Then, before going back to the park, stop and eat something.
  6. Bring a refillable water bottle and flavored packets.  There are water sources around the park that you can fill up a water bottle with, but it’s well water and doesn’t taste very good, so plan on bringing some flavored packets to sweeten up the water.  Staying hydrated at the park is very important since you will be outside much of the time.
  7. Check out local ticket hubs for discounted tickets.  Disney wants you to think that you can’t buy tickets anywhere except through Disney and their affiliates, but this isn’t true.  Keep your eyes open for ongoing deals.  Sometimes you can make a donation to an Orlando hospital and the hospital will give you tickets to Disney for your family.  Different programs like this pop up all year long so keep your eyes open for deals.  Local ticket hubs can save you 5 to 10%, which may not seem like much, but once you do the math it starts to add up.
  8. Join the Cirque club to receive 35% off of tickets.  Joining the club is free and you must buy your tickets 30 days in advance to receive the discount.  The discount is only offered for the Cirque de Soleil performances that are during the Tuesday through Saturday shows.  Check the online club for applicable dates.
  9. Go to Disney Quest for half price.  If you’d like to check out Disney Quest (a virtual-reality theme park in downtown Disney) you can check for a manager’s special.  Often if you go within 2 hours or less of closing you can save half off the ticket price.  It would be something different to do and if you can go for half price it might be worth it.  This discount isn’t always offered so check while you are there.
  10. When renting a car don’t get stuck on size.  If you plan on renting a car once you reach Disney make sure to check rental sites often, because specials do change.  Rebooking your reservation could save you a bundle.  Compact cars tend to rent out first so check the next size up; you can still end up saving because the rental companies may have a bunch of bigger cars they need to rent out and as such will give you a free upgrade.

When it comes to taking young children to Disney, Disney does offer some valuable perks. If you have children ages 3 and under, purchasing a package may get you the most bang for your buck. Children under 3 years old get into Disney parks free, and they eat free at the park buffets and family style restaurants. These perks can add up to tremendous savings for families traveling with young children to Disney.

Many of these tips apply to other big-name theme parks, as well.  The best advice is to do your research ahead of time.  Six Flags, Sea World, and many other theme parks are big attractions to families.  Keeping your children safe in these parks is another big responsibility.  I have noticed many families or groups dressing alike, with the same color tee shirts so they can be easily found.  For toddlers, be sure to have their name, parents’ names, address and cell phone numbers on their clothes just in case they wander astray.  Lastly, prepare a packet of first aid products (especially band-aids and sunscreen) for much-needed relief.  Our thanks to Carrie Dotson, with summernannyjobs.org for this good advice. pb