25 Shockingly Easy Ways For Families to Save Money on Disney Trips

A Disney trip is the quintessential family vacation, but it can seriously drain your bank account. After spending hundreds of dollars for tickets, buying gas or airplane tickets for the journey, and paying for a hotel room, you might start to wonder how anybody could consider visiting the Disney parks more than once in a lifetime!

However, with a bit of theme-park savvy, you can save enough money on your trip to truly make Disneyland (or Walt Disney World!) the happiest place on earth. Here are the best ways to save money on your family's next Disney trip.

Flickr user lorenjavier

  1. Collect free souvenirs before buying: Did you know that you can get a few free items throughout the Disney parks? Ask your Jungle Cruise guides for a map, and they'll happily present your kids with one, and most Tom Sawyer's Riverboat captains will give a certificate to guests who ask to pilot the boat.
  2. Hang on to your receipts: Some receipts from park restaurants include same-day discounts for Downtown Disney retailers in the fine print, so be sure to inspect yours before tossing it. You can use these discounts to buy marked-down toys and costumes for your kids!
  3. Get discounted tickets for various memberships: Disney offers discounted rates for military members, D23 fans, AARP members, and AAA users, so never buy your passes before checking your eligibility.
  4. Have your picture taken for free: While the Disney Photopass photographers are there to sell professional pictures, they're happy to take a cell phone snap of your family if you ask politely.
  5. Disney Vacation Club members eat cheaply: If your family is big on Disney, you might want to consider sharing property through the Disney vacation club. While it's not cheap, the membership means that you'll enjoy discounted meals, tickets, and even spa treatments every time you visit a Disney resort.
Flickr user prayitnophotography

  1. Use the Disney shuttle to skip parking fees: If you're staying at an off-site hotel, there are plenty of shuttle options to get you to and from the parks. Plenty of families use these buses to avoid the $17 parking fee at the resort.
  2. Enjoy the perks of D23 fandom: D23, the largest Disney fan organization in the world, distributes cards to its members that can result in discounts from local establishments. Your family can eat and see films on the cheap because of your die-hard Disney fandom!
  3. Get your sundae on: A Mousesavers user suggests that families with a sweet tooth split the Earthquake sundae at Florida's Downtown Disney Ghirardelli ice cream shop. "It's an 8 scoop sundae. Not only can you choose the flavors of ice cream, but also all the toppings," the user states, adding, "When we figured the cost of 6 individual sundaes, the Earthquake at $29.95 is a real bargain. We all had fun and made a mess at the same time."
  4. Locals get cheaper tickets: If your family resides in Florida or Southern California, you can get discounted tickets at your local Disney resort. Simply prove your residency and enjoy the perks!
Flickr user uhhhlaine

  1. Visit the parks during Summer for longer hours: To get the most for your money, visit the parks during the Summer season. Because it's light later, the Disney parks stay open longer! However, the lines will be longer due to peak season.
  2. Eat breakfast before entering the park: Whether it means choosing an inn that serves continental breakfast or keeping milk and cereal in the hotel room, your family can save tons of money by avoiding the pricey breakfast options at the Disney parks.
  3. Check the Disney site for discounts before arriving: On occasion, Disney will offer deals for savvy visitors. Check the discounts and deals page before planning your family's trip, because there might be some lucrative options to save.
  4. Open a Disney Rewards Visa card: By joining Disney's credit card program, you'll get discounts throughout your vacation process. From no-interest vacation packages to percentages off resort dining and amenities, it's worthwhile to snag one of these cards.
Flickr user lorenjavier

  1. Buy your kids' souvenirs in advance: While coming home with new Disney gear can be superexciting, prices within the parks tend to be exorbitant. Try buying your kids new Disney toys and clothes from inexpensive retailers, packing them, and surprising them with new stuff at the start of your vacation! You'll save money, and they won't feel left out.
  2. Skip the stroller rental fees: Be sure to bring a stroller that falls within Disney's size parameters (36 inches by 52 inches) so that you're not forced to pay $15 per day for a rental.
  3. Try annual passes: If you visit Disney with your family often, it quickly becomes reasonable to acquire annual park passes. In addition to more visits, pass holders also receive substantial discounts on food and merchandise throughout the park during their visit.
  4. Avoid data charges on your cell phone: If you're taking the kids to Disney World, you'll want to post photos on social media. Skip the data fees for large uploads by utilizing WDW's free WiFi network, Disney-Guest.
Flickr user aloha75

  1. Spring for inexpensive memories in the park: The cheapest Disney souvenirs are by far the pressed pennies — encourage your kids to collect every one! It's a fun (and cost-efficient) activity that they'll remember forever.
  2. Check Costco for gift certificates: As Costco members know, one of the best ways to save in the store is by purchasing restaurant gift cards at a discounted rate. Before visiting Anaheim or Orlando, check your local Costco to find gift certificates at Downtown Disney restaurants like Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump.
  3. Dress the kids up yourself: While Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a favorite of little girls everywhere, the princess makeovers offered are quite expensive. Make your kids feel special by bringing out their Halloween costumes and some face paint for the park visit!
  4. Evaluate the benefits of a resort hotel: Usually, off-site hotels are a better bargain than Disney's offerings. However, if your family desires a bit of magic every night, you should consider the benefits of resort lodging. Rooms usually come with extended park visiting hours, free parking, and even the option to send park souvenir purchases back to your suite at no charge.
Flickr user buzzymelibee

  1. Bring your own food: While you'll definitely want to enjoy some snacks in the park (Dole Whip, anyone?), you can save tons of money by bringing your own water bottles, sandwiches, and snacks. The cash you can save this way is astounding!
  2. Make your own autograph book: Instead of springing for official Disney autograph books, get crafty with your little ones to create unique pamphlets that their favorite characters can sign. You'll make memories before even entering the park!
  3. Rent a house for large groups: Travel and Leisure recommends that big families consider rental homes instead of multiple hotel rooms during their vacation. Often, you'll pay the same for a four-bedroom home as you would for a night in the Grand Californian hotel!
  4. Budget your kids: A great way to avoid overspending while teaching your kids the value of a dollar is to budget them. Mousesavers suggests that before your trip (even for birthdays or holidays), you should give each child a Disney gift card. Make it clear that they can spend theirs how they please in the park, but once they're gone, they're finished buying things during the vacation.