Friday, June 11, 2010

Poor College Student Part 2: How to Save Money at Disney

On Wednesday, I wrote about different ways to make or save money at Disney Parks.  For college students, however, this is only half the battle.  Going to Disney can be extremely expensive if you don't know what you're doing, so I'd like to give a few suggestions on how to have a great trip and not break the bank.

1. Stay at a value resort or off property.  Where you'll be staying can be easily half your budget, so definitely do your research on which resort will be the cheapest.  On Walt Disney World property, these are the value resorts, and you can often find great deals in the surrounding area as well.  Keep in mind, however, that if you choose to stay off property, you will usually have to provide your own transportation.  This can be pricey and difficult if you're too young to rent a car.  Which brings me to point number two...

2. Use provided transportation if possible.  If you're staying on Disney property, use Disney's Magical Express as well as the other provided Disney transportation (for the values, you'll be using the bus system).  Yes, driving is usually faster, but Disney transportation is always free-er.  Some off property hotels may have complimentary transportation as well, but if they don't, weigh the price difference between staying on property and using Disney transportation and staying off property and renting a car (if you can).

3. Share meals.  Meal sizes at Disney are huge, and if you can agree with someone else in your party on what to eat, you should definitely consider sharing an entree or an entree with an appetizer/extra side.  Also consider having just an appetizer as a meal.  Budget conscious guests should avoid Signature Dining experiences, and if you're very budget conscious, you might want to avoid table service restaurants in general.  If you really want table service, though, consider going during lunch time.  Entrees are usually similar if not the same as dinner time, and the prices are lower!

4. Buy pins, Vinylmation, and other collectibles on eBay.  If you're a collector, it can get pricey.  One way to save on your collectibles is to buy them on eBay and then trade the ones you bought for the ones you want.  This can really save you a lot of money, but beware of fake merchandise.  Like I said in my previous post about pin trading, make sure you trust the seller.  Scouting with the Mouse recommends always checking the seller's reputation, and if you plan on buying a large number of pins from one seller, buy a small amount first to make sure that they're legitimate.

5. Crunch the numbers.  This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you for saving money at Disney.  The minutes that it will take you to calculate the prices of different hotels on and off property, different deals, etc could save you hundreds of dollars.  If you're not great with numbers, get a travel agent to do the work for you.  That's what they're there for.  The worst possible thing you could do is book your trip with an offer that seems good and leave it.  There are multiple offers out at every given time, and you don't want to miss one.

And those are my five ways to save money at Disney.  What do you think of them?  What are your ways to save money?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

This post is part of the sixth Disney Blog Carnival. Click the link to see more great Disney articles!


  1. Any tips on how to save money to get to Disney? Like when you arrive at the airport? I am not sure how to actually get to Disney... like what is the cheapest mode of transportation?

  2. If you're staying on Disney property and arriving at Orlando International Airport, Disney's Magical Express is free. I wrote a post about it here if you want more information.

    If you're staying off property, it could be tricky. You might have to see if renting a car (if possible) or taking a taxi would be cheaper. Also, many off property hotels can be accessed by Mears shuttle, which is definitely cheaper than a taxi.

  3. I totally agree with the tip about sharing meals or eating appetizers! Now I'm craving some sticky wings from Kona!

    It probably lumps into the tip about staying in value resorts, but I know I have saved money by signing up for the newsletters that Disney sends out with special offers (or just checking the site now and then when planning) as my dates got closer. Some people seem to find it annoying to be checking for discounts often instead of just booking and sticking to that, but I can't imagine why. Saving money is saving money!

  4. Being a college student myself, I know some tips to help save $$.

    A great tip that a lot of people dont know about, is that disney lets you take food into the parks.

    What I did on my recent trip was bring a plastic water bottle and a bunch of those little powdered drink packets. I never bought a drink or went thirsty. It was about $6 for a weeks worth of strawberry lemonade drink packets, and of course I just used water from the fountains.

    Stopping at a grocery store and picking up snacks ahead of time and making sandwiches for lunch can really help you save cash. The downside might be a. getting to a grocery store and b. having a fridge to store food. In my budget, I saw that renting a fridge ($60 at ASMu for 7 days) was worth it.

    Another tip I have is if you are staying on property, don't charge stuff to the room. Its easy to get carried away and not know how much you spend until you see that bill at the end of the trip. Ive always used my debit card so I can see each of my purchases on my phone every day and if I spend too much one day, I know to cut back the next.

  5. Anna, I totally agree. If you care about money, it seriously pays to do a little research and try to get the best deal.

    Kim, those are all awesome tips! Thanks a lot!

  6. I thought of another one! If you are a lighter eater like me, don't hesitate to order off the kids' menu at counter service places. I've never been stopped and asked, "Is this actually for a child?"

    Using Pinocchio Village Haus in MK as an example, I am one of those weirdos who loves Disney pizza. A plain cheese pizza is usually what I'd order, and it runs at $5.99. A drink is up to $2.50 added on if you don't have water or anything else with you. But the kid's cheese pizza (only slightly smaller than regular) with a (kid-sized) drink and choice of carrot sticks, grapes, cookie, french fries, or applesauce is $4.99. This is a perfectly Anna-sized meal, and I'm sure others would probably be just as satisfied with it. Food courts are another area where this would probably be useful.

    But if you know that the kids' meal just wouldn't suffice, then go ahead and get the larger portions! :-D

  7. Ooh, a very good idea, especially if you're going to have something simple like a burger or pizza, like you said.

  8. I agree with bringing food with you. I always eat breakfast before I head to the parks, and pack snacks and sandwiches (and water), and then the only food I need to buy is dinner (although who am I kidding, I can't walk around all day without buying a snack or two!). This works best if you're staying off property so you have a kitchen for making breakfast plus a fridge/freezer (frozen water bottles or juice boxes are great!), and if you're not at any parks for a day or two you can make dinner as well.

    I also encourage people to do some number crunching when it comes to flying versus driving... I'm always surprised how much CHEAPER it is to drive (we did calculations and it was cheaper for my boyfriend and I to drive from Toronto this past March then to fly- and that's just with two in a car!). Plus then you can drive to grocery stores for cheaper snacks/breakfast foods :)

  9. Oh and I agree with the kids meals as well, unless I'm REALLY hungry a kids meal is usually the perfect size for me :)

  10. One thing that my wife and I discovered on our last trip is buy your t-shirts at the Disney outlet store, off-property.

    We don't buy a lot of souvenirs but I always like to grab a t-shirt as a memory of the trip. I bought a black Mickey shirt on-property during our October visit. When my wife and I went back in December, we stopped at the outlet store that I had read about online. Yep, there was my shirt . . . for about half the price I had paid in the park. DOH!

    Next trip, the outlet will be our first stop after checking into the condo!


  11. Angela, great tips, thanks! And yikes, you drove all the way from Toronto? You must have a lottt of patience.

    Jamie, that's a great idea. You can save lots of money that way!