Disney World Vacation Discount Secrets — How I Got a $5K Disney Vacation For Almost Nothing
Disney World vacation discounts are my second favorite thing — right after actual Disney World vacations. I’m a HUGE Disney World fan. If I’m not counting down to an upcoming Disney vacation, I’m planning the next Magic Kingdom trip. Over the years, I’ve learned how to get amazing discounts on Disney World vacations. This year, I’m planning a trip worth $5,100 that will only cost me about $1,500. Keep reading to learn how to save money on Disney World vacations.
First, Disney World and Disneyland offer great discounts throughout the year like the free Disney Dining Plan or discounted room rates. Are these Disney World vacation discounts the best choice for you? Well, that depends. Keep in mind, most of the time you must buy the entire vacation package from them to get the deal. It’s been my experience that I can save MUCH more money by piecing together my vacation. It could work for you, too, if you don’t mind the extra work.
How to save money on Disney hotels:
I find the best way to get a room at Disney World is to rent DVC points. You can rent them through individuals, but I ONLY recommend going through brokers like David’s DVC Rental or DVC Rental Store. Dealing with these brokers removes the risk of being scammed and you can save thousands of dollars.
For example, I plan on staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, a deluxe resort, in October for Food and Wine Fest. I’ll be paying roughly $800 for 6 nights in a studio room. If I purchased the hotel through Disney, I would pay roughly $4,000 for the same nights. I’ve already saved $3,200 and you can barely stay at a value resort for $800, much less a deluxe resort!
Pro tip: Shop around early for DVC points! People know it’s a great deal so things fill up months before the regular rooms do, especially during events like Food and Wine Fest, Christmas holidays, and Flower and Garden Festival.
How to save money on Disney tickets:
There aren’t a lot of ways to score discounted Disney World tickets, but if you look hard enough you can save a few bucks. The best deal for Disney tickets are the military tickets. Using the military discount at Disney for tickets and/or a hotel is amazing. If you’re military or retired military you can buy a 4-day park hopper ticket for $156 each. You can purchase up to 6 tickets, but at least one of the people using them must be an “eligible service member,” which is defined in this link. A regular 4-day park hopper ticket will cost you about $313.
If you’re not military, there are still ways to save on Disney World tickets. My preferred method is to use Undercover Tourist. The shipping is included in the price and you can usually save $20 or so dollars off the gate price of Disney tickets. They are one of the few reputable “discount” ticket brokers for Disney. They also sell tickets to Universal Studios, Cirque du Soleil, and many other attractions in Orlando.
Pro tip: NEVER buy tickets from strangers, eBay, or CraigsList. Disney uses a fingerprint scanner for each ticket. If your finger doesn’t match the original user, the ticket is invalid. You cannot use unused days from someone else’s ticket to get into the park.
How to save money on Universal Studios tickets:
This might be one of the best-kept secrets of all time. If you’re making the trip down to Disney World and you also want to go to Universal Orlando, there’s actually a special ticket that includes transportation from Disney World to Universal Studios Orlando. Do you need to rent a car or take a cab from Disney World to Universal Studios? No!
You can buy the Universal Studios ticket with transportation! It’s offered only through certain travel planners, but it’s ABSOLUTELY worth it. If you’re staying on or near Disney your ticket will include a bus transfer to and from Universal parks.
A regular 2-day park-to-park ticket to Universal Studios is $140. If you buy the ticket with park transfers, the ticket is approximately $160-$175, depending on the travel agent. That breaks down to about $10 per day extra for the transfer to and from the park. Much cheaper than paying for a cab or renting a car which could be closer to $100 for transportation. Never again do you need to search for shuttles from Disney World to Universal Studios Orlando. I’ve used this method from Magical Mouse Plans before and had no problems with tickets or transportation. Ask for Christine.
Pro tip: You’ll need to schedule your pick-up from Universal about 2 hours in advance. So if you want to be picked up at 4 p.m., you’ll need to call the bus line number (given to you when you purchase the ticket) around 2 p.m. at the latest. You can also schedule to be dropped off at various times during the day.
How to save money on food at Disney World:
The food at Disney is fantastic, but expensive. I find it best if I eat breakfast at the hotel, pack a lunch, then we can spend our money on a nice dinner instead of snacks throughout the day. Disney lets you bring coolers, food, and drinks into the park. Since that can get a little heavy, you may want to consider packing one sandwich per person (PB&J, cheese, or something else that won’t spoil if not chilled), one granola bar or candy bar for sugar, and drink mix like Mio. You can ask for a cup of water for free at any Disney restaurant. All together, it only adds a pound or two to a bag or purse.
Here’s where the savings come in. Garden Grocer is a grocery delivery service that will deliver to your resort at Walt Disney World and surrounding areas. The minimum order is $40 and there’s a delivery fee of $12 unless you buy more than $200, in which case, no delivery fee. You can grab things like Mio, breakfast bars, snacks, and other easily portable things to bring with you to the park. You’ll save a bundle not buying snacks and meals in the park. Save your money for a few terrific meals and not dozens of forgettable snacks and lunches. Garden Grocer will also deliver your goods to your resort so they’re waiting on you when you arrive. I’ve used them before and was very satisfied.
Another way to save money on food at Disney World is to purchase an Entertainment Book. It has a great, free smart phone app that you can use for many restaurants near Disney World and a few in Downtown Disney.
So here’s the breakdown of my savings for a vacation for two people:
Hotel through DVC: $800
Hotel through Disney: $4,000
Disney tickets with military discount: $312 (2 at $156)
Disney tickets without discounts: $626 ( 2 at $313)
Universal tickets with transportation: $320 (2 at $160)
Universal tickets no transportation: $280 (2 at $140) plus travel -$60-$120+
Groceries for breakfast and lunch: $60
Breakfast and lunch in the park: $100-$200+
Total cost without discounts – Approximately $5,100
Total cost with discounts - $1,492
Total savings: $3,608
For a seven day, six night Walt Disney World vacation including two days at Universal Studios Orlando, I’m paying $1,492 and saving a total of $3,608.
**UPDATE** Disney Visa is running a special through mail. If you apply for their Visa and spend $500 in the first month, you’ll get a $200 gift card and the annual fee waived! It’s only through the mail, not online. Signing up for more information on the Disney Visa will prompt them to send you an application through the mail. You can use the gift card on tickets, resorts, and other things around Disney and the Disney stores.
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