How to Save Money at Walt Disney World
Consider this your Disney price hike survival guide.
If it looks like things are getting pretty pricey over at Walt Disney World all of the sudden, you’re not mistaken. For the past three weeks, rumors have been swirling and announcements have been made about guests shelling out more dough for everything from tickets to parking to current complimentary services. Some have attributed it to offsetting Shanghai Disneyland Resort’s rising costs, others are just calling it a money grab, but either way, one thing is certain: things are about to get more expensive, like it or not.
If Disney’s latest price increases and offerings have you concerned over how you’ll afford a trip back to The Happiest Place On Earth, we assure you, it won’t be as detrimental as you think. Certain bookings, dining, and tickets may cost more than you anticipated, but there are plenty of creative (and budget-friendly!) ways to save the extra cash you’re slated to spend.
With creative hacks to offset those soon-to-be climbing ticket, resort, and transportation fees, prepare to outsmart any increased cost that comes your way this year:
One-day tickets to Walt Disney World parks are now offered on a seasonal scale, and are priced based on demand. While a single day ticket to Magic Kingdom used to cost $105 every day of the year, it can now cost up to $124 during peak park times, marking an increase of $19 per day with a $17 increase on peak days at Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. The price increase does not currently affect two-day or more tickets, but Magic Your Way price changes are rumored to be coming soon.
How to beat it:
It goes without saying that it’s wise to visit on a Value day, but that can be more complicated than it sounds, especially since there aren’t any until the end of August. If your day trip includes a night at a Walt Disney World resort and some park hopping, plan to visit the parks on a Friday, which typically has both morning Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom and evening Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios, allowing up to 16 full hours of park access, three of which are for resort guests only. If you’re visiting sans children and can’t swing Friday, opt for a one-park ticket on Wednesday instead, when the Magic Kingdom typically stays open from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. for Extra Magic Hours and offers miniscule wait times throughout the night. Planning a trip soon but have not yet pulled the trigger? Multi-day ticket increases could come at any time, so consider booking a future vacation at current prices while you still can. You can change the dates down the line and a room package with tickets (sans airfare) is usually refundable up to 30 days out, but be sure to double-check cancellation restrictions when booking. Plan ahead, and you could be on your way to saving hundreds down the road.
Daily preferred parking
Walt Disney World is now testing Premium Parking at the tune of $15 dollars per day, on top of a pre-existing daily $20 parking fee. These preferred spots would put guests within walking distance of park entrances and the Transportation and Ticket Center, allowing them to skip the parking tram altogether. At the end of the week, saving fifteen-or-so minutes in the lot each day will cost guests $245, an $105 increase atop the standard seven-day parking fee.
How to beat it:
Premium Parking is completely optional, so you can pocket the $105 without worry if you don’t mind a little extra strain when entering the parks. But, if door-to-door travel is of importance, consider using UberX or Lyft to arrive at the parks, and utilizing Disney Bus Transportation to travel between them. If your off-site hotel is in the vicinity, each ride will cost somewhere between $6 and $12—so, even if it’s surge or you hit a bout of traffic, you’ll be able to get VIP treatment for at least ten bucks less than what Disney’s offering.
Dining on property
All three Disney Dining Plans—Quick Service, Standard and Deluxe—have seen increased rates for 2016. The uptick in cost is only about 3%, but for a family of four (two adults, two children) on a week-long vacation, it’ll cost an extra $52 for the Standard Dining Plan, and nearly $88 more for the Deluxe Dining Plan.
How to beat it:
If you’re a DDP regular, consider taking a break for a year to see if the increased price is actually worth it. Employ some age-old Disney money-saving tips, like packing granola bars and trail mix to offset those snack credits or using a local grocery delivery service to enjoy breakfast in your room prior to hitting the parks, and your budget definitely won’t be blown. Splitting meals is easy at Disney, too, and eating anywhere with a fixin’s bar is key, like Restaurantosaurus or Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, where massive portions allow for two hungry adults to easily share a plate. Even better, you may find that by opting out of the DDP you’re able to splurge at a few nice table-service restaurants of your choosing, which either cost too many credits before or simply didn’t take the plan, enhancing this year’s trip even further. And, if the biggest DDP perk was not getting carried away with spending while at Disney, simply act like you’re still on the plan. After all, your children are probably used to only being allowed one snack or treat per day, so keeping them within those guidelines will keep costs down.
Resort room fees
Disney sent out a survey this month asking how guests would feel about being charged a $15 resort fee, which is intended to cover amenities such as MagicBands, hotel parking, Disney’s Magical Express, and Wi-Fi throughout the hotels, all of which are currently complimentary. While nothing has been officially announced, these surveys tend to softly introduce changes that are already on their way, meaning guests on a one-week vacation would now be shelling out an extra $105 as part of this new nightly charge.
How to beat it:
We’re hoping Disney allows for an opt-out on this one, but if this truly goes through, consider splitting your vacation between a Disney-operated hotel and one that’s off-site. It’s a weird loophole, but according to booking regulations, if you stay on-property for part of your stay, you’ll be entitled to most of the same MagicBands, early FastPass+ reservation and dining reservation perks as if you were there the entire time, while saving about $50 on extra fees.