Money-saving tips for your next trip to Disney
I just returned home from the Magic Kingdom and it was everything I had hoped it would be. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the looks of wonder and awe in my children’s faces as they met some of their favorite Disney characters. It was the trip of a lifetime. However, there are a few things that I wish I had done differently. I believe these minor tweaks may have enhanced our Disney experience.
I hope these tips save you some time and money on your next Disney Vacation.
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to get to the park.
Depending on where you’re staying in the greater Orlando area, it takes at least an hour to get through Disney’s main entrance. We stayed at a resort less than 5 miles away from the park and it took us exactly 1 hour and 5 minutes.
After driving through Disney’s Main Gate, there will be a line of drivers waiting to pay an attendant at a toll kiosk for parking. Once you’ve parked, you can either walk to the front of the park or wait to catch a tram. Then you will have to wait in the queue to pass through security. Next, there is a short walk up a ramp to stand in another line to take the monorail or ferry over to Main Street, USA (the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom). When you finally arrive, you will have to wait your turn to scan your admission cards or wristbands and your finger to verify your identity. Only after all of that, do you officially arrive at the Magic Kingdom. For us, that took exactly 1 hour and 5 minutes.
If you don’t mind shelling out extra cash you can pay more for the preferred parking option. The preferred parking option is more than double the cost of a standard parking pass. (Standard parking: $22 per day; Preferred parking: $45 per day.) The preferred section of the parking lot is across the street from the security checkpoint.
Do not buy groceries near the theme park.
I normally try to avoid buying any products or gas near touristy areas. However, after traveling with kiddos all day, I was eager to do some light shopping so we could get settled in for the night. Since our resort was only a few short miles from Disney Parks, all of the closest grocery stores were also near the park.
We decided to shop at my favorite childhood grocery store…Publix. While shopping there we noticed that a lot of items were 50 cents to $1 more than we would normally pay for them. But we opted to pay more for the convenience of the store’s location. If you have time and energy, it might be worth it to venture a little outside of the Buena Vista area.
This is a tough one. No one wants to spend precious vacation time driving around looking for cheap groceries. So in this case, the only alternatives would be to shell out the extra cash or ship a few of your family’s favorite non-perishable food items to your resort in advance.
Do not buy the park hopper tickets
My momma used to say, “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it.” When it comes to Disney’s park hopper ticket option, that adages are nothing but the truth.
Let me just say it is nearly impossible to see/visit any one Disney park in its entirety during the run of a day. I think even the younger, single version of myself would have a hard time getting through a park in one day. But trying to park hop with young children — Fahgetaboutit!!! There is NOway we could really park hop and enjoy it.
We spent an additional $200 (total) for the park hopper option. We used the option on our first day when we visited Epcot (to see one of our son’s favorite Disney characters) and the Animal Kingdom. But visiting those two parks on the first day wiped us out.
If you have small children, visit one park per day. If you think you can hit multiple parks in the same day, create a plan. Determine, in advance, which portion of each park you think you can tackle.
Do not assume you can withstand all of the walking.
Let me start by saying that I am a mom of a certain age. I did well on the first day even with the park hopping. But I paid for it the next morning. I could hardly get out of bed. Everything was hurting and sore.
Pace yourself and plan breaks. There are few cute play areas for the kiddos throughout the parks.
If you have multi-day park tickets, do not use them on consecutive days.
Do NOT try to be a supermom and visit the Disney parks on back-to-back days. Since we were visiting the parks over an extended weekend, we visited Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and the Magic Kingdom in two days. NO BUENO!
Space your park visits out with a day or two in between for rest and recovery.
Do not visit the theme park during peak season and/or peak hours.
We visited the parks during spring break which this year fell on the same weekend as Good Friday and the Easter Holiday. Needless to say, there was an influx of families with school-age children. The crowds made it impossible to ride without standing in line for hours. Even finding a spot in a shaded area was tough.
Use a Disney resource website like Undercover Tourist to determine the best dates, days and times of day to visit the parks. And register with the official Disney website and use the FastPass+ option to cut down the time spent in long lines waiting for rides.