That being said, cutting out soda and bringing your own water makes things a bit cheaper. Better for your health too. But if that's not gonna fly, then try eating at least one meal at the hotel if you have a fridge or cooler where you can keep food from a Super Market.
LOL! Team Disneyland for the win :-)
Good advice, but for many, Disneyland is seen as the next tier resort. As you said WDW is the theme park resort to beat.
Maybe those from far away can combine the WDW with a road trip. If there are any friends or family along the route, maybe stop by (and spend the night :-) & see America on the way to Orlando!
Going cheap means exactly that; however, there are limitations. It is hard to get Disney tickets cheaply. That's why you should buy only enough tickets that you can go at any given moment. Best to buy a 7 day ticket with no park hopping. The price difference between a 4 day ticket and a 7 day ticket is barely $20 based on how Magic Your Way works. Even if you don't use it up, you have the option to go more frequently later in the week. Nonetheless, the sweet spot for Disney ticket is in the $250 range. This is pure Disney profit. Disney has got you from day one.
Staying off-site with a rental car gives you plenty of options. You eat breakfast and dinner where you live. (Try to stay at a hotel that gives you free continental breakfast like Best Western.) You bring your lunch. Only occasionly will you find yourself buying an expensive on-site meal.
Buy your Disney souvenirs at the outlet stores on International Drive.
Watch your wallet. The less you pull it out, you succeeded in going cheap.
I am still a little weary on the Theme Park tickets. Disney really does not like to give discounts on tickets for Walt Disney World (Disneyland is a different story). AAA and Military appear to be the areas where you can get some significant cash off.
The true way to save at Disney is to make investments for future visits and to find the value in what you are paying. I will elaborate:
1. Defending my DVC honor (LOL), DVC members technically end up getting their rooms for free after some time due to value and investment. I will not mince words, DVC is incredibly expensive up front, but as long as you go at least once a year using the points, it will pay off in no time. While my family put up the cash in 92, we are now staying at Disney world for about $200 a week. Is this for the once in a lifetime traveler? No, but if you know that you wouldn't mind visiting once a year or going on a cruise, its a good option.
2. Getting value: Robert did touch on this with the pictures, but if you know that you at least want 15 of the photos, then getting the Photo CD would be a great return on investment. The CD costs about as much as 14 regular priced photos at Disney World. They also throw on some extra professional pictures.
The meal plan also falls under this. For the amount of food you get and the price they charge for food, it is worth it.
Of course I don't recommend breaking the bank but through sites like themeparkinsider.com, I've learned to have it all with proper planning.
...this sounds like I work there - I dont! (I live in UK and just know a bargain when I see one!)
Sometimes it isn't an issue of saving and planning. What if you can't save enough to stay on-site for that exclusive Disney experience. A once a year extravagant vacation isn't possible for many people. I will not do that even if I can afford to. A dollar saved will be spent on other more important things.
Theme park vacations are not yearly things. They are once in a few year trips. However, for some that do want to do it yearly or a few times a year, doing the budget cheap trip is the best way.
Correction "The Value resorts are affordable for some budgets."
If you want to go cheap, you CAN do better. Disney's Value resorts are at the upper end of the budget resort category. You can stay at an off-site budget resort for half the price of the Value resorts. The savings can be substantial and can offset the price of park admission.
True...But you do need to perform some calculations to ensure you're getting the best deal. A lot of guests do forget to include parking when camparing on-site and off-site hotels. Even though on-site guests do have access to the Disney Transportation System, they also receive free parking at all four theme parks, which can be a HUGE timesaver over the busses. Now, the price of parking is spread out over the numnber of people in the car, so it's more valuable to have free parking for a couple than it is a family of 4 or more.
It's also important to note that free WiFi is now part of Disney on-site hotels (used to be $10/day), and no longer needs to be considered when comparing on-site and off-site value.
In our most recent trip (October 2012), we were able to find a Hampton Inn near Universal for $50/night. However, that was a pretty low rate (discounted because of a recent renovation), and in general, guests are going to spend somewhere between $50-75/night for a budget off-site hotel. A lot of hotels do advertise shuttles to and from the parks, but my experience has found that those shuttles are more annoying than they're worth. They rarely get you to the parks before rope drop, and always require you to leave the parks before closing. The also run few and far between over the course of the day, meaning you have to eat lunch on Disney property. Therefore, even if I'm staying off-site, I assume that I will drive to the parks each day, and add the parking fee to my nightly hotel rate. We only stayed at the Hampton during the non-Disney portion of our vacation, and actually stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter at $129/night with free dining (effective cost of $47/night after subtracting food costs).
So, if you're staying in an off-site hotel at $50-75/night that has free breakfast, the savings in the meal is probably offset by the cost of parking at Disney each day. An on-site Disney Value hotel is going to cost somewhere between $75-100/night. However, if they're running a free dining or 30% off promotion, the cost is probably on par or even a little lower than an off-site hotel. Plus, on-site guests have the advantage of being right there, saving an extra 30 minutes each day of not having to drive on and off Disney property.
However, if Disney is not running a promotion, it's almost always cheaper to stay off-site.
-(Anon Mouse will hate me...) I would definitely choose Value Disney Resort: it gives you free transportation from the airport, free parking if you have a car, free transportation if you don't have a car and extra magic hours so you can spend more time in a park with the ticket you bought.Also, they have wonderful activities for the kids as well as amazing pool, you can actually spend a whole day there and never get bored. All that for only 100$/night if you go on "lower seasons". I think that's pretty cheap.
-When we go in the seasons around halloween/christmas, we buy 1 park ticket + park hopper (very useful when the park you chose is too crowded or if you're done... and if you combine this with the Extra Magic Hours, you can get up to 16 hours in HS/AK/Ep!) On top of that,we buy a ticket for a special event like Halloween or Christmas Party (Free hot cocoa, juice, apple slices and cookies by the way!) at MK(that way you get 8 hours of Magic Kingdom for 30$ less than a regular ticket). I don't know about you but it's more than enough themepark for us!
-If you stay at the Disney hotels and you think you're going to spend more than 3 days in the park, buy your tickets online on the Disney website. After 3 days, the tickets only cost you 10$ each.
-I think the Dining plan (expecially the Quick Service Dining Plan) is cheap if you eat a lot because the meals are usually HUGE and it gives you more than you need. And sometimes they just give it to you for free when you stay at Disney hotels!
But if you don't eat big portions, I think it's easy to buy a meal in a QS and just share it with you spouse/friend/kid.
(So okay, to my opinion the Magic you way Package --Value Resort+QS Dining plan+type of tickets you want-- is the cheapest way to go)
-Plane tickets: Shop for it a long time in advance because the price changes a lot. Suscribe to newsletter so you know when they have sales. I've always done it with Air Canada because I had better quality for lower prices. I got YUL-MCO for 650$ the first time (I did not know the prices changed this much at the time), after that, I never bought it higher than 400$ to 425$...