Are you wondering how to save money at Disney World? These tips from Allison will have you walking into the most magical place on Earth without breaking the bank!
Hi, Freebs! It’s Allison here with Wanderfar Travel, and I’m here to give you a few tips on how to save your hard-earned money at Walt Disney World! The House of Mouse isn’t exactly known for being a frugal destination. Shocked? I didn’t think so!
Disney is happy to take as much of your money as you’re willing to dish out, and it’s always adding to its list of ‘enchanting extras’ to make your vacation feel “special.”
Sure, you could spend years saving for Disney’s $12,000 VIP World of Dreams Tour (wait, what?!) and come away with memories that are sure to last a lifetime. And that price doesn’t include your park tickets, by the way. Or, you could pick your jaw up off the floor, preserve your kid’s college fund, and uncover some of the magical extras that can enhance your Disney vacation without breaking the bank.
Yes, it’s really possible! Keep on reading to learn 5 “secret” ways to stretch the value of your Disney dollar. You can thank me later!
HOW TO SAVE BIG MONEY ON A DISNEY PRINCESS MAKEOVER
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique has two locations, with one being inside Cinderella’s Castle, and is at the top of every aspiring princess’ wish list. I mean, what little girl doesn’t want to be made over into a version of their favorite princess inside the most magical place on Earth?!
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement when Fairy Godmothers-In-Training are hustling about the boutique doing hair and makeup in a space that looks like the backstage setting for a fairytale runway show. But the magic dissipates quickly when you see the bill for a princess makeover that includes a deluxe dress from your daughter’s favorite princess.
Cha-ching, anyone? So, I’m letting you in on a big secret. Ready? You can bring your own dress and shoes.
Is that not as exciting as you thought it would be? Maybe I should mention that boutique packages that include a dress will set you back about $200. Yep, you heard that right! Or, you can just have hair and makeup done (aka the Crown Package) for a much more reasonable cost of $65.
You’re talking about a savings of about $135 without losing the value of the experience. That’s enough for you and your princess to dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table afterward for breakfast, score!
SAVE MONEY AT DISNEY BY GETTING FREE GROUP PHOTOS
Disney Photopass photographers are scattered all over the parks at Walt Disney World. It’s hard to miss them; they’re the ones holding big cameras and dressed in khaki like a tourist on safari. They’ll gladly take your photo, scan your magic band, and you’ll see the picture appear in your My Disney Experience account from where you can conveniently purchase them.
Of course, the pictures aren’t cheap. Does that surprise you? To lessen the blow, Disney gives you the option of downloading ALL of your Photopass images by purchasing Memory Maker for just $199, or $169 if you purchase it more than 3 days in advance.
While the Photopass is a must-buy for some guests – especially those who want access to their ride photos and videos – it isn’t necessarily required if you just want a way to get everyone in the picture. Instead, you can ask a Photopass photographer to take a picture of your group using your smartphone! We always have that on us, right? The photographer will be happy to take the picture at no cost.
The quality of the photo may not be quite as good as the Memory Maker photos, because what smartphone is as good as a professional camera? But it’s a great way to get family photos that actually have Mom in the picture without spending the extra unnecessary money!
The Disney photographers do typically take two sets of photos, one with your smartphone and one using their professional cameras, but you are under NO obligation to purchase the professional photos.
GET BABY'S FIRST HAIRCUT ON MAIN STREET U.S.A.
In my opinion, one of the most unique opportunities at Disney World is also one that is very affordable. Few people know it, but you can schedule to have a haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop in the Magic Kingdom!
I know what you’re thinking: a haircut is a necessity – not a special experience. But what about a child’s FIRST haircut? Now we’re talking! Imagine being able to say that your child had his or her first haircut in the Magic Kingdom. It sure beats a department store salon!
I had my own daughter’s first haircut at the Magic Kingdom. She was two years old and was just starting to get enough hair to actually justify a trim. The stylist was so kind! She let my daughter play with light-up toys while she snipped away.
To top off the experience, she sprinkled “pixie dust” on my littlest princess and then handed over her very first set of Mickey Ears – they were even embroidered with “first hair cut.” The total cost for this special moment? Just $25, seriously! That’s barely more than the cost of the ear hat alone!
FREE RESERVED NIGHTTIME SHOW SEATING
This little-known bargain is only applicable to guests who purchase the Disney Dining Plan or Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. Bonus points if you scored free dining as a part of your resort package! Disclaimer: if you plan to skip the dining plan and opt to pay cash as you go, this added-value experience will cost you some big bucks out of pocket. You may want to skip over to the next tip.
However, the dining plan is still a very popular package option! If you purchase one, you can maximize the value of dining credits by reserving a Fantasmic or Rivers of Light dining package (just make sure that it’s 180 days in advance of your trip). These dining packages include a meal at select restaurants combined with access to a reserved seating area for a nighttime show – all for the same number of dining credits as booking the restaurant alone!
For example: you could book a character lunch at Tusker House on your Animal Kingdom day, and it would cost you one table service credit on your dining plan package. Or, you could opt for the Rivers of Light Dining Package with a meal at Tusker House PLUS access to the reserved seating section at the show, and you’ll still spend just one table service credit! If you plan to view Fantasmic or Rivers of Light, then this is a great opportunity to take advantage of a rare Disney freebie by opting for the dining package when you get the chance.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON DISNEY SOUVENIRS
Everyone wants to come home with a few sacred mementos from their trip to Disney, right? But at what cost? A Mickey Ears headband can set you back $25 or more, and a simple t-shirt is likely to push you into the $30-45 range! Throw in autograph books for the little ones, a picture frame for home, a coffee mug for Grandma, a few bags of Goofy-shaped candy, and the Mickey spatula you just had to have for making Saturday morning pancakes, and you might quickly find yourself taking out a second mortgage for your souvenirs. Say what?
Fortunately, I’ve got a few tips that can keep you out of the red and help you stick to your budget and stay out of Disney debt in true Freeb style. Consider setting boundaries on souvenir purchases and actually having your kids earn money for their own items. If you need help, check out Jordan’s ADORABLE DIY Disney savings tutorial and ideas for raising souvenir cash!
SET A BUDGET
When the time comes, set a budget, but do it with boundaries. If you give your 5-year old $75 for souvenirs at the beginning of the trip with no restrictions, that money will be gone before you can say Dole Whip! And there’s sure to be tears by the end of the trip when they no longer have enough to buy a shoulder Banshee from Pandora.
Instead, you can take pictures of items your child likes in gift shops throughout the trip. Then before it’s time to leave, look over all of the pictures to remind them what all they saw. Only go back and buy the ones that your child liked the most. And to make it easier, the Shop Disney Parks app will let you search for specific souvenirs and find the closest gift shop to you that has those items!
WHERE TO FIND DISCOUNTED DISNEY MERCHANDISE
Did you know that there aren’t really any clearance sections in Disney gift shops? No, Disney isn’t selling every item at full price – you just need to know where to go to pick up Mickey merch at a discount. Oh, you didn’t know there were secret Disney outlets selling real parks items hiding in plain sight just minutes away from your hotel?! That’s the idea. Disney would love for you to keep forking out the change and spend $15.00 on a pin your kid will probably just trade later.
Head over to one of Orlando’s two Character Warehouse stores and you might just score a pin collector’s starter six-pack for under $10. On my own visits, I’ve seen major discounts on Dooney & Bourke purses, $4 t-shirts, $5 coffee mugs, Animator’s Collection princess dolls, and much more!
Many of the items in these stores are out-of-season, recently discontinued, or have perhaps undergone packaging changes. But they are still Disney through and through! The workers even wear cast-member badges. You can find the Character Warehouses at the Orlando Premium Outlets (8200 Vineland Avenue, Suite 1252) and on I-Drive (4951 International Drive).
Alright, well that’s all I’ve got for you today! I hope that you have a magical time at Walt Disney World, Freebs! And remember, you don’t have to spend all of your money to make memories – you could even save some with these tips. Do you have any secret Disney money-saving tips that you’ve come across? I’d love to hear them!
Want more travel tips?
- Learn about common travel expenses and how to avoid them.
- Read about Jordan's trips for traveling cheap!
- If you have problems getting back to the real world, then read on for how to get organized after vacation!