Disney theme parks are notoriously pricey, but these proven tips and tricks can help you save hundreds

how to save tips on disney vacations

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  • Disneyland and Walt Disney World have reopened to all visitors.
  • The parks are notoriously expensive, but you can save hundreds with some creative planning.
  • Here are our top 14 expert tips for saving money on your next Disney Parks vacation.
  • Head to Insider Reviews for more travel recommendations

There are no two ways about it: Planning a family vacation to the Walt Disney World or Disneyland resorts can be an expensive proposition.

The cost for tickets, food, and souvenirs alone can rapidly add up; it skyrockets when you factor in airfare, hotel, car rental, parking, and other incidentals. For a family of four, for a five-night stay, the average price of the trip is approximately $4,500 and can quickly increase by the hundreds, if not thousands.

While there are few discounts on admission, there are proven ways to save significant money elsewhere that won’t hinder the enjoyment or limit the experiences. After all, not having to stress about money makes for a far more enjoyable time – the key is to plan ahead and know what to expect.

As a travel writer who has covered Disney vacations extensively for over a decade, I have figured out the best ways to maximize the fun while keeping costs down. These top tips, based on what I’ve learned over the years, can help ease the damage a Disney vacation could have on your bank account.

In addition to money-saving tips for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I’ve also included a few that are unique to each property. Here are the best tips for saving money on a Disney parks vacation.

disney carousel

Top tips to save money on Disney vacations

Pick the right time to go

As with any popular destination, prices for resort stays tend to rise during peak season, especially during school breaks in the summer, Thanksgiving week, and the days around Christmas and New Year. Weekends are always more expensive as well. Traveling during non-peak dates may be a challenge, but you can save an average of $400 a night.

Forgo the Park Hopper

Disneyland and Disney World are comprised of multiple parks, each with its own entrance fees. As the name suggests, Park Hopper is an option that lets you visit multiple parks per day, but you will pay significantly more for this privilege. The difference between a single park ticket and one with Park Hopper can be up to about $85 per day; for a family of four, that’s a savings of $300 to $350.

Another reason to skip the Park Hopper concerns logistics. There’s plenty to do at each of Disney’s parks, so I recommend dedicating an entire day to one park, instead of stressing to rush to another. You can take it slow and enjoy all the amenities of a single park. This is especially true for Walt Disney World, where the parks are located far apart and you would waste time shuttling from one to another.

Explore your ticket discount options

While Disney doesn’t generally offer discounts on park tickets, there are a few money-saving options to explore before paying full price. First, nail down how many days you plan to be in the parks; there is a price break depending on how many days you visit. For example, if you go to Disney World for just one day, it would be about $109 per day. If you opt to go for five, the price drops to $88 a day. Keep in mind that the standard tickets don’t include water parks, golf courses, and other non-theme park areas.

Know a friend or relative in Florida? State residents can save 40% off a four-day ticket in addition to other discounts. The catch is that the resident must be present and show verification at the time of entry, so they will need to be included in your group. If it’s a close family friend or grandparent, that may not be an issue. From time to time, Southern California residents may also receive a similar offer.

Make wise restaurant choices

There is a large selection of dining options at either resort and prices range from budget to premium. For example, a New York Strip at the upscale Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel costs $58 (that is just for the steak, sides not included). But at the casual Bengal Barbeque eatery inside Disneyland, you can enjoy a delicious Bengal Beef Skewer for $5.49.

The key is to research the various food outlets available at the park you will be visiting, basing it on your budget and family’s eating habits. If you don’t care about sit-down meals and can run on hot dogs and churros from a street cart, you can cut down on food expenses.

Note that some restaurants, such as the aforementioned Steakhouse 55, are still temporarily closed.

Get food delivered

Another option for cutting down on food costs is to have groceries delivered to a hotel, as many rooms have mini-fridges and microwaves – great for stocking up on water, sodas, snacks, and even quick-heat and pre-made meals and alcohol. If your room has a full-sized kitchen, consider cooking some meals “at home” or for bringing inside the park (see our tip above). Amazon Prime delivers to hotels, while Garden Grocer specializes in Disney World deliveries.

Bring a refillable water bottle

With all the walking you will do, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially during the hotter months in Florida and California. Skip the bottled water the park sells (a bottle of Dasani costs around $4) and opt for a money-saving and environmentally friendly refillable water bottle instead.

You can fill water bottles at restaurants or one of the refill stations. But keep in mind, refill stations are few and far between, and due to COVID-19 cleanliness protocols, it is harder to fill your own water bottle.

Insider Reviews recommends the Vapur Element and Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle because they are lightweight when empty and easy to pack.

Collapsible Water Bottle (small)Collapsible Water Bottle (small)

Stick to a souvenir budget

Disney is skilled at dividing guests from their money, especially when it comes to keepsakes. In most areas of the parks, you won’t be able to go more than 20 feet without being lured by the siren song of souvenirs. It can be very tempting to walk away with a droid from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge ($99) or a replica of the Enchanted Tiki Room Sign ($150), but try to keep those temptations at bay.

Instead, spend your money on less expensive, classic park items that will hold their value (in sentimental ways), such as a pair of Mickey Mouse ears with a name embroidered on them (about $23) or, my favorite, a hand-cut silhouette from one of the artists on Main Street ($10).

Walt Disney World

Tips to save money at Walt Disney World

Stay at a value resort

While Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are lovely, they are also expensive – the Grand Floridian starts at around $400 per night. If a hotel is purely a place to sleep, Disney’s Art of Animation or Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort are two of the more inexpensive options inside the Disney bubble, starting at around $179 a night.

Check out all our choices for the best Disney World hotels here. If you’re willing to stay at a non-Disney resort, there are also many excellent hotels in Orlando and Kissimmee from as low as $66 per night, depending on the season.

If you want to go deluxe, consider renting DVC points

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is Disney’s popular timeshare program that lets you rent studios, villas, and suites at one of the deluxe resorts. Membership is a big investment, but my friends who joined have been pleased with the program. Here’s a secret: You can take advantage of the program without being a member, by renting DVC points.

When you rent DVC points, you are essentially booking through a DVC member, not Disney. For a negotiated fee, you get access to their points and preferred rates (a member has a set number of deductible points that must be applied in order to get those rates), which can make those deluxe resorts drop down drastically in price.

For example, the price for a deluxe studio at Disney’s Riviera – depending on the date – is $559 a night, but you can rent points and pay about $275 for the same night. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a studio is $616 a night, but with DVC points you pay $380. You are basically getting the same room for almost half the price. And, it’s not just for Florida: DVC also includes California properties.

Companies such as David’s Vacation Club Rental and the DVC Rental Store can facilitate the points rental from DVC members, and the booking process is similar to a regular hotel reservation. There are plenty of caveats with this system, so make sure to go over all the restrictions and conditions from the broker or DVC member.

Schedule a non-park day

Save on park tickets by scheduling a non-park day. There are many ways to get a Disney resort experience, including spending hours by the pool, checking out the lobbies and restaurants at hotels, and heading to the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment center. Keep reading for our suggestions on free stuff to do at Disney World.

disneyland reopening

Tips to save money at Disneyland

Stay at a Good Neighbor hotel

There are only three Disney-owned hotels within Disneyland – the Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier. While the hotels are fantastic and convenient, they are also expensive. For example, rates at the Grand Californian start at $586 a night. Thankfully, there are lots of affordable options surrounding the park. Read our roundup of nearby hotels ranging from the budget-friendly Hampton Inn & Suites to the new JW Marriott, which, even though it is a four-star property, is about half the price of the Grand Californian or the Disneyland Hotel.

Splurge on the MaxPass (when it’s back)

While the MaxPass program is currently on hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, the MaxPass is well worth the extra $20 per ticket and will enhance the experience by saving you time. The MaxPass allows you to make FastPass selections from your phone and eliminates the need to trek over to the attraction to manually pick up a FastPass from a kiosk. A FastPass, for those unfamiliar, allows you to join a much shorter line for a ride (the feature is also paused).

Get the Disney experience for free

Admission to Disney’s parks is expensive, but there are several fun attractions you can check out that don’t cost a penny. They add to the overall Disney vacation experience while keeping the cost down. (Some of these places and activities may be temporarily closed or unavailable.)

Walt Disney World


Consider waiting until next year

While Disneyland and Walt Disney World are open for business, to get the most bang for your buck, it might be best to wait. There’s a case for going now: reservations are required and capacity is controlled to promote distancing, so it’s less crowded than normal. But parades, fireworks, most live entertainment, the ease of the FastPass system, and close-up character encounters have yet to return. Dining options are also limited, and some hotels haven’t reopened.

Instead, take this time to plan and save up for the trip. When all of the parks’ amenities return, you and your family will have a more memorable experience.

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Walt Disney World is reopen to all visitors – here are the 13 best Disney hotels and resorts within the parks

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Walt Disney World hotels
  • Walt Disney World is open to all visitors. If you’re planning a visit, here are the best resorts.
  • There are 35 resorts and hotels within Walt Disney World but not all are created equal.
  • We selected 13 Walt Disney World hotels that offer value through convenience, perks, and amenities.

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Travel has changed considerably amid the pandemic, but a Walt Disney World vacation is still as enjoyable as ever and many official Disney hotels are open and accepting visitors.

Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida covers about 47 square miles, which is about the size of a city. Within these grounds, there are 35 resorts and hotels, 29 of which are owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company. A Disney resort offers a one-of-a-kind experience with immersive dining and amenities that provide a transformative experience. Feel as if you’re staying in a safari camp in Africa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, or whisked away to New Orleans’ French Quarter at Disney’s Port Orleans.

As a travel writer with expertise in covering Disney, I have stayed at many official Disney hotels. To narrow down so many choices, I combined my experience on the ground with extensive research to compile the following list of the best official Walt Disney World hotels for every budget and type of trip.

Browse all the best Walt Disney World hotels below, or jump directly to a specific area here:

These are the best Walt Disney World hotels and resorts, sorted by price from low to high.

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

disney's coronado springs

Book Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort finds inspiration from Spanish, Mexican, and Southwest American cultures visible throughout the public spaces, room decor, and on-site dining venues. One of the biggest draws of this hotel is their large pool area that features a 50-foot replica of a Mayan pyramid and a huge outdoor hot tub that fits 20 people. 

The resort recently underwent a massive remodel, updating guest rooms and grounds. The addition of the new Gran Destino Tower, debuted a brand new collection of guest accommodations to choose from, which is our pick when choosing a guest room here. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

disney s art of animation

Book Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

 The Art of Animation resort, one of the more affordable, budget-friendly options within Walt Disney World resorts pays homage to the colorful characters of Disney and Pixar movies.

Themed rooms and suites are modeled after movies such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” “Finding Nemo,” and “Cars.” Rooms and grounds are a bit more standard and bare-bones and not as immersive or luxurious as other Disney properties. However, you’ll still enjoy prime Disney perks, especially being adjacent to the Disney Skyline, making this a good option for those who want easy access to the parks but don’t have the added budget to splurge on an expensive resort.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside

Book Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

While Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter celebrates New Orleans proper, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside is an ode to the rural Louisiana Bayou.

All the rooms still have a bit of N’awlins flair, but we suggest upgrading to one of their Royal Guest Rooms, which includes more opulent furnishings and tributes to Tiana from “Princess and the Frog,” alongside other classic Disney princesses.

COVID-19 procedures are available here. This hotel is temporarily closed.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter

disney s port orleans

Book Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter

Channel the soul of New Orleans’s historic French Quarter at this sprawling Disney resort themed after the Big Easy. There are festive Mardi Gras touches throughout the property from party beads to the jazz music wafting through the public spaces, and even the scent of magnolia blossoms. 

On-site amenities steal the show. Adults will love Scat Cat’s Club Lounge serving Crawfish Étouffée, Mickey-shaped beignets, and Southern-inspired cocktails, while the expansive pool complex with a water slide is a winner with kids. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here. This hotel is temporarily closed.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Book Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my personal favorites when it comes to themed hotels, not just in Walt Disney World, but in all of my travels. I’ve stayed here a handful of times, and it always feels like I am on a safari.

While not cheap, the four-star Animal Kingdom Lodge is ideal for families or discerning adults who yearn for something beyond a simple bed, bathroom, and four walls. Staying here is an experience, as the hotel grounds are filled with over 200 animals and birds from zebras to giraffes and exotic birds. The Savanna view rooms are a treat and worth the extra cost to see animals up close right from your guest room.  

The main pool is also massive, coming in at 11,000-square-feet with a waterslide. The food severed at the restaurants Sanaa, Boma, and Jiko is exceptional and a delicious sampling of African cuisine; the Indian style bread service at Sanna is a must. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here. This hotel is temporarily closed.

Read our review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

Book Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

For a rustic experience, consider Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. While you may opt to rent a space to pitch a tent or park your RV, the true delight in staying here is by booking one of the cabins at the Fort Wilderness Resort.

The fully furnished cabins sleep six and include a living room, bedroom, full bathroom, patio,  a grill, as well as a kitchen complete with a refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave oven. And don’t worry about doing the dishes; housekeeping does them for you.

Many recreational activities are on offer, but even if you don’t plan on going horseback riding, make sure to mosey on over to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and see where the many Walt Disney World horses and ponies live. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Disney’s Riviera Resort

disney s riviera resort

Book Disney’s Riviera Resort

This is Disney’s newest resort and was designed as a home away from home thanks to all-suite rooms that’s also part of Disney Vacation Club, however, anyone can book here.

The resort and suites are themed after the posh French and Italian Riviera, which evokes a sophisticated air, but it never feels stuffy. Instead, it has a beachy relaxed vibe.

The accommodations range from Tower Suites, which are small studios with Murphy beds, to a three-bedroom grand villa that can sleep 12 and includes a full kitchen, a formal dining room, and three full bathrooms. I was impressed by the one-bedroom suite, which included all the comforts of home as well as a luxurious soaking tub, which proved to be the perfect remedy after walking around the parks all day. 

Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera is a must-visit. I still daydream about their hand-crafted rigatoni with braised Chicken Sugo. Another big plus is that the Disney Skyliner stops at the resort and it is a short ride to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Read our full review of Disney’s Riviera Resort

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Book Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Inspired by America’s Great Northwest and the grand lodges of National Parks, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a beautiful escape elevated by natural elements and rustic touches. The lobby is majestic with a timbered multi-story courtyard complete with a little stream that flows under a wooden bridge. 

I’ve stayed here a few times and loved each visit, experiencing a range of rooms including a standard room, corner studio, and the unforgettable Cooper Creek Cabins, which are deluxe waterfront villas and well worth the splurge. They even come with a private plunge pool.  

There are superb dining options at the Wilderness Lodge too, from the raucous fun at the Whispering Canyon Café to the refined dining at Artist Point. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Book Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Located alongside Disney’s Boardwalk, which is teeming with dining and nightlife, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort is an ideal match for guests looking for a relaxed yet sophisticated experience with easy access to other attractions.

Inspired by classic New England-style yacht clubs, this waterfront hotel features tasteful nautical touches and a sand-bottom pool. It’s a short walk from Epcot and a leisurely boat ride to Hollywood Studios and is located on the Disney Skyliner line, making it a convenient choice for visiting multiple parks in one visit. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Read our review of Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

disney s boardwalk inn

Book Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn harkens back to the turn-of-the-century era of Atlantic City. It’s one of the more popular resorts for vacationing adults and couples, as the adjoining Boardwalk offers nightlife, bars and restaurants, a Coney Island-style boardwalk, and carnival games. I am a big fan of the AbracadaBar, a magic-themed drinking establishment located near the hotel. Speaking of magic, keep an eye out for the magicians strolling through the lobby who do pop-up shows every so often. 

As such, one of the best perks of this hotel is its location, next to not only the Boardwalk but Epcot and Hollywood Studios too, which are both are short walks away. 

The hotel also has the whimsical Luna Park pool, which recently was updated; they replaced bold clown theming for a more palatable Mickey Mouse theme. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Read our full review of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Disney's Contemporary Resort

Book Disney’s Contemporary Resort

The Contemporary Resort is the closest hotel to the Magic Kingdom, and although you can walk to the park, it’s more fun to hop on the Monorail that stops right inside the hotel. The style is retro modern. Those who enjoy midcentury design will appreciate the architecture and overall look. 

Disney history buffs like myself love to bask in the glow of the charming and colorful Mary Blair murals that tower over the lobby. The hotel is located on the Seven Seas Lagoon, which offers unobstructed views of the nostalgic Electrical Water Parade. 

The Contemporary also includes a Garden Wing, but I prefer rooms in the original A-frame building for the unique style. Additionally, the California Grill is considered to be one of the best dining experiences in all of Disney World and has beautiful views of the nearby Magic Kingdom, especially during fireworks.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

disney s grand floridian

Book the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

The most regal of all the Walt Disney World resorts, the Grand Floridian Resort reflects Victorian elegance and lavish style. As such, it’s also expensive. But despite being a luxury property, it still can cater to families, weddings, and couples looking for a romantic escape.

Inspired by the legendary Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California, this sophisticated resort features a majestic lobby, manicured grounds, a white-sand beach, a spa, and is just one stop away from the Magic Kingdom on the Monorail. The resort is also home to the award-winning Victoria & Albert’s, considered to be one of the finest dining experiences in central Florida. I am also a big fan of the relatively new Enchanted Rose, a whimsical “Beauty and the Beast” themed bar in the main building. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Read our review of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Book Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

The Polynesian Village Resort is an exotic South Pacific-themed oasis right in the middle of Orlando. Enter and be enveloped by lush landscaping and a tropical-inspired lobby as staff hands you a welcome lei and sends you off to comfortable rooms. It’s also one of the closest options to Magic Kingdom and has its own monorail stop, making it quite easy to get around the parks.

If you stay here, don’t forget to grab an exotic cocktail at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar, or catch the in-house luau, the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. For special occasions, you might want to consider one of the Bora Bora Bungalows, their overwater suites that include private pools with stellar views of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Read our review of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

FAQ: Walt Disney World hotels and resorts

Is Walt Disney World open?

All of Walt Disney World’s four parks — The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios — are open. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park is also open, although Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park is currently closed. Disney Springs, the shopping and dining area, is open for business too. 

What restrictions are in place at Disney?

While a face mask is not required for walking around the parks outside anymore, masks are currently required indoors except when you are actively eating or drinking.

To enter the resorts, both a park reservation and a valid theme park admission ticket for the same park on the same date are required. A hotel reservation does not guarantee theme park access. 

Is it worth it to stay at a Disney World resort?

There is something to be said about staying in the Disney bubble, which allows you to continue the adventure even after you’ve left the park.

Additionally, many Disney World resorts come with perks such as early park admission. There are also distinct advantages when it comes to transportation. Guests may hop on Disney’s Magical Express bus at the Orlando airport for no added fee, which will take you to any Disney resort. But, keep in mind that this service will be discontinued by the end of 2021.

While in Walt Disney World, you’ll be able to navigate the theme parks by utilizing buses, boats, monorails, and the newest mode of transportation, the Disney Skyliner right from official Disney hotels, too.

What is the cheapest Disney resort to stay at? 

On our list, the Art of Animation is the most affordable option, but at an even lower price point, consider the All-Star Movie Resort, All-Star Music Resort, All-Star Sports Resort, and Disney’s Pop Century. 

What is the best Disney resort for the money?

If you are looking at a resort as a destination and not just a place to sleep, the Polynesian has everything you need for a wonderful and memorable getaway with fantastic pools, great restaurants, a quirky tiki bar, and a beach with hammocks.

Otherwise, the Boardwalk, at a couple of hundred dollars less per night, is a great choice since it is centrally located, has a fun pool, and lots of dining and entertainment options.

What is the most luxurious Disney hotel?

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is regarded as the most luxurious of all the resorts at Walt Disney World and is popular for honeymoons, romantic getaways, and multi-generational trips. 

What is the best Disney resort for families?

It really depends on what is most important for your family. If your children are animal lovers, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a good option. If your kids spend a large amount of time in the pool, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and Disney’s Beach Club, both have 3.5-acre mini water parks.

I am partial to the Riviera since most of the rooms are suites with plenty of room for the whole family, as well as lovely pools, a character breakfast, and the Skyliner, which will make for easy transportation around the park. 

More of the best Disney hotels

disney world florida
Walt Disney World in Florida in 2020.

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