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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Cagle

How to Save Money at Disney

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Is your Disney trip going to cost you? Yep. Are you going to make memories you will cherish forever? Of course! Do you have to spend a fortune on food? Not necessarily. Keep reading if you want to educate yourself on a smarter approach to doing Disney.


If you've come to terms with the fact that Disney isn't going to be cheap, GOOD! Transportation, resort rooms, and park tickets will add up fast. That's not even including the extras like food, magicbands, and souvenirs. And let's go ahead and add at least one "sick kid while on vacation" to the budget... (surely that's not just us, right?!) Take it from someone who has done Disney a lot. There are things we will gladly spend money on, like that amazing steak at Be Our Guest for example. But there are some things that just make you cringe, like spending four dollars on a single bottle of water (especially if you've got a large family!)


 

COOLER BAGS


Did you know Disney World allows you to bring in a cooler!? Amazing, right? So many other theme parks ban them, confiscate them at the gate, and force you to use their concession stands all day. The cooler bag we use at the park fits perfectly under our double stroller and holds eight bottles. Here are my tips to make the most out of your cooler bag! Your wallet will thank you.


  1. Freeze 2-3 water bottles the night before (if possible). They will work as an ice pack throughout the park day, and you can drink those last after they've thawed.

  2. If you're a soda person, make sure to include those, too!

  3. Florida is HOT 95% of the time. Some snacks that you wouldn't think would melt in a backpack will turn in to a mushy mess. (Granola bars and yogurt covered raisins... learn from my mistakes). Pop those in your cooler bag instead.

  4. Each of my kids have a thermos cup for the day. We fill those up before we leave the room! Using the bottled water from our cooler to refill throughout the day.


If you've been planning your Disney vacation up to this point, then I know you've heard it: 'Disney gives out free water!' And yes, this is 100% true. But let me speak some insight to this, Florida tap water is gross. You smell it before you drink it and it has an awful after taste. My toddler (who eats stale veggie straws out of his car seat) refuses to sip on it... so that should tell you all you need to know. Be smart and pack water, you won't regret it. We packed eight water bottles per day on our last trip. We were in the parks for five days.



$160 saved on drinking water... that could be your steak dinner at Belle's Castle!


 

COFFEE


If you're a coffee connoisseur like me, you're probably wondering where you can get the best cup of coffee at Disney World. There are plenty of options in the parks and at your resort, Starbucks and Joffrey's being the most popular. And while we DO enjoy a 3:00PM Starbucks pick-me-up, the most budget friendly option is to make it in your room.



All Disney resort rooms have some type of coffee pot. It may be a 12 cup classic pot, while some rooms have a keurig. Do your research before hand and see what type you'll have for your specific resort. We made a pot each morning in our room, since we both normally have 1-2 cups. Our entire trip was seven days long.




 

SNACKS


Let me preface this with saying, my family LOVES a good Mickey pretzel with cheese. And churros. And Mickey Ice Cream Bars. You get the idea. We definitely don't deprive ourselves of these staples while on vacation. But let's be honest, there's a limit to how many "theme park snacks" your gut can handle. Sometimes you just need some good ole peanut butter crackers from the backpack, ya know?


If you've got kids, then this adds a whole new layer to the snack scenario. Have you ever spent $8 on a pretzel, just so your kid can take one bite and say they're full? Ouch! Definitely hurts the bank account if you're having to hit up a snack stand every time you kid needs some nourishment. Let's say you have two kids, each wanting two snacks per day at the park. You are spending four days in the parks.



Here you see my five year old, enjoying some veggie straws and water from our cooler, waiting on the parade to start. We won't talk about the $30 pirate Mickey, the $20 sunglasses, and the pins around his neck. Thanks to all the money he saved on snacks he was more than able to afford those luxuries! When we do purchase snacks from the theme parks, we normally buy a couple of snacks and split them between the four of us. If it's something we really like, and the kids devour more than their usual two bites, you can always run back and get more!



 

BREAKFAST


The most important meal of the day, right? It is to my hangry toddler. On the days when you're able, I highly recommend doing breakfast in your room! Our last trip consisted of one sit down breakfast at Ohana, but other than that it was breakfast on the balcony. You can pack food or order from your favorite grocery delivery service (we used Walmart+). No matter how you slice it, this will save you SO much! Some of our favorite things to keep stocked in our resort room are:


  1. Instant Oatmeal

  2. Pop tarts

  3. Muffins

  4. Yogurt

  5. Fruit

  6. Granola bars

  7. Frozen waffles

  8. Toaster Strudels


My only word of caution on this; some rooms have freezers and others do not. Check the specifics on your exact room (resort, room size, etc) before ordering any freezer items!



Who doesn't love breakfast in bed?!



 

Doing Disney for cheap is a very objective approach. We definitely don't hold back when we are vacationing with our boys. I've had my fair share of ALL the Disney snacks, drinks, and good times. Here is what I have learned after being a Vacation Club Member for ten years. Bottled water is bottled water: whether you pay $4 per drink or $4 for a 24-pack. If I make my own coffee in my room, there's no room for error and it comes out just the way I like it (I may or may not pack my own travel milk frother... don't judge.) Mickey shaped food items are greater than all other snacks, but everyone has a breaking point.


Budget, family size, and trip length are all things that will help you prioritize where your money goes. Bottom line, you need to be mentally prepared that this trip will not be "cheap". However, with a bit of strategy, you can make the most out of every dollar.

Come home feeling fulfilled instead of drained.

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