$1,835. That’s how much we paid for our last Walt Disney World vacation! That includes our stay at the Polynesian Village Resort (a deluxe resort at Disney World) for six days, with four-days of park passes, and our flight from New York to Orlando. For our family of 4!
It is possible to do Disney World on the cheap!
Read more to find out how you too can save on your next Disney World trip and learn all the tips and tricks to get the best deals!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Evaluate options for booking
- Compare quotes you’ve received
- Additional ways to save (using points for airfare)
- Additional ways to save (getting deals on gift cards)
- Summary: How we did Disney World on the Cheap
How to Do Disney World on the Cheap: Evaluate Options for Booking
The first, and possibly the largest place for saving money on your Walt Disney World vacation is where (meaning with whom) you book your resort stay. (For the sake of this post, I am focusing on staying onsite at a Disney World resort, but there are plenty of cheaper options if you choose to stay offsite.)
I’d suggest that you price your stay under several options.
Direct Booking with Walt Disney World
You can price your trip out on the Walt Disney World official site and get an instant quote. If there are no deals available to you, this will likely be your more expensive option.
However, at various points throughout the year, Disney offers coupons and other discounts (like free dining) which may make this a more attractive offering.
Rent Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Points
This is often a much cheaper option than booking directly through Disney World. You can either work directly with a DVC owner (if you know someone personally) or you can use a point rental company to facilitate the rental.
The two most common companies to use are David’s Vacation Club Rentals and DVC Rental Store.
You can often save a lot of money by renting points rather than booking directly with Disney but note that there are several pros and cons to renting DVC points.
If you go with this approach, I’d encourage you to learn more about the process, and what’s included in your stay. Disney Tourist Blog has a great article on Tips for Renting Disney Vacation Club Points if you’d like to learn more.
Note that your ability to rent points does depend on availability. When we looked into this option for our last trip, the prices were great, but there was no availability for the resorts we wanted in the week we desired.
Book with a Travel Agency That Offers Agency Exclusive Deals
This is what we did!
Most travel agencies will book your trip without any additional cost to you. There are some that also offer agency exclusive deals, which offer you significant discounts during various times of the year. (You do want to ensure you are working with an authorized Disney Vacation Planner and do your homework to make sure they are legit!)
I’ve had personal experience working with Magical Vacations Travel and booked our last trip with them (and upcoming trip as well). I’ve also had many friends and family book through them and have experienced nothing but good things!
It’s free to obtain a quote and very simple. If you are interested in learning more, be sure to check out their website or you can email my favorite travel planner, Sue at [email protected] for a quote and tell her Jaclyn of Jac of All Things sent you over!
Side note: They typically offer a Labor Day deal with the steepest discounts of the year. If you are willing to travel mid-to end of August/early September, this is a deal to check out!
Related: 5 Things You Must Do Immediately When You Check Into a Hotel Room
Other Options for Booking
It would be impossible to list every place/website where you could book a trip. I would start with those mentioned above, but if you are interested in more, you can check out vacation deals at your local wholesale club (like Costco), deals offered through travel aggregator websites (like Orbitz), or other travel booking sites.
Under all options, you should review the terms and cancellation policies and ensure that you are comfortable booking. Each option has its pros and cons that you should research in advance of booking.
Related: Packing for Disney? Don’t forget these items!
Getting the Best Deal at Disney: Compare the Quotes You’ve Received
Use the quotes you collected in step one to compare and find the cheapest option. It is best to compare apples to apples, but you may have to do some manipulation to the numbers if they are not identical.
For example, if one quote includes the dining plan where another does not, you will want to either remove the cost of dining plan from your quote or add in the estimated cost of meals to the quote without dining so you can compare on like terms.
This is the table I created when comparing the quotes, I received for my last trip. (Note, we were not interested in the dining plan so it is not included below, but if you are, I’d suggest including a row for the cost.)
- 2 Adults, 2 Children (ages 2 and 1)
- 6 days, 5 nights (in September)
- Resort: Polynesian Village Resort
- Park Tickets: 4 Days
(Note, you do not have to pay for children under three, so we purposely booked our trip weeks before our daughter turned three for this added savings.)
You can see that the quote received through the Agency Exclusive Deal (with Magical Vacation Travel) was more than $1,500 cheaper than booking directly with Disney World.
Related: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Park Hopper Tickets at Walt Disney World
Additional Ways to Save on a Disney Trip
Use Points for Airfare
You may be thinking, but you said your trip was $1,835 and that included flight; how does that add up?
We actually ended up flying for free as we exchanged in our credit card points and hotel points into airline points. We personally use the American Express Gold Card for this, but there are many credit cards that offer points that can be converted to miles.
We were very diligent about paying off our credit card in full each month and not carrying a balance, but we used our card for almost all household purchases to rack up points.
In addition, one of the benefits to the American Express Gold Card is a $100 airline credit to an airline of your choice, to use for added costs like baggage. We were able to completely cover the cost of our baggage as well as several snacks and drinks by using this credit.
We also took a look at the other points we had banked under various hotel rewards programs. We were able to transfer these points over to airline points as well.
(Note, while I say we flew for free, it actually cost $33.60 in fees to transfer points, but in the grand scheme of it all, the costs were nominal.)
Related: Earn Airline Points for Eating Out!
Purchase Disney Gift Cards at a Discount
Depending on how you book your stay, you may be able to use Disney gift cards to pay for your vacation. (This varies by agency or travel booking company, so ask before you book.)
The benefit to paying with Disney gift cards is that you can often purchase them for less than face value or receive other discounts and deals when purchasing them. This allows you to save even more money on your trip!
For the most comprehensive listing of ways to get Disney gift cards at a discount or even for free, this article is a MUST READ:
Discount Disney Gift Cards; Everything you need to know (2019)
Purchasing Disney Gift Cards at Less than Face Value
There are several places where you can purchase gift cards for less than face value.
- If you have a Target Red Card, you can purchase Disney gift cards at 5% off. (A $100 gift card would cost $95 dollars.)
- Wholesale clubs like BJs often have discounts when purchasing gift cards. (And you don’t have to be a member to purchase online at BJs.) (A $100 gift card can be purchased for $95.99 at BJs.)
Purchasing Disney Gift Cards in Conjunction with a Cash Back Deal
Several credit cards offer points for purchases, which you can in turn redeem for cashback. My credit card of choice for this is my Chase Card.
Each quarter they offer 5% cash back on certain categories of purchases, up to $1,500 in purchases. (Throughout the year, they offer 1% cash back on all other purchases.) This means you can purchase $1,500 in gift cards and receive $75 in cash back.
We used this method to purchase gift cards at our local grocery store (Stop & Shop) during the quarter where grocery stores were in the 5% cashback category. Because the categories that offer 5% cashback change each quarter, you may be more limited in your options on where you can purchase.
However, I’ve noticed that Chase Pay is typically always included in the 5% cash back deal. You can use Chase Pay at a variety of stores, one being Best Buy, which also sells Disney gift cards.
Related: 5 Things to Do With Unwanted Gift Cards
Purchasing Disney Gift Cards to Earn Fuel Points
Several grocery stores reward you with fuel points for your purchases. Typically (though this may vary by store,) you receive 1 fuel point for every dollar spent. (Keep an eye out for promotions throughout the year of up to 4x the points for each dollar spent.)
Points get redeemed for discounts on gas and every 100 points is $0.10 off per gallon. As an example, if you purchase a $500 gift card, you can receive 500 points, or $0.50 off per gallon of gas (usually up to a limit defined by the grocery store.)
You can save even more if you use your eligible credit card (with cashback deals) to purchase your gift cards, so you are receiving cashback from your credit card as well as receiving fuel points for the same gift card purchase.
(Note, upon further research this looks like gift cards are no longer eligible for gas rewards at my local grocery store, Stop & Shop, however do appear to be eligible at Kroger. Check your local grocery store for availability.)
Other Deals on Disney Gift Cards
You may come across other promotions and specials on gift cards throughout the year. At my local grocery store (Stop & Shop), they have run promotions on gift card purchases with a reward of a coupon to use at the store.
For example, one promotion I’ve seen in the past is receive a $20 coupon to use for your future purchases when you purchase a $100 gift card. There is typically a limit on how many you can purchase, and a small promotion period, but if you can catch one of these sales, they offer a great deal!
Important Note about Disney Gift Cards
You may end up with many gift cards if you decide to pay for your entire trip using them. To make things easier for you, you can combine gift cards onto one (or a few) using the site disneygiftcard.com.
Also, remember to save your gift cards and bring them with you on your trip to Disney World. (Even if they are empty.) If you need to be refunded, and pay with a gift card, your refund will be credited back to your gift card.
Summary: How We Did Disney World on the Cheap
$1,956 – Resort and Park Tickets
$33.60 – Airfare (fees to transfer credit card points to airline points)
($75) – Chase Credit Card Rewards (5% cash back on up to $1,500)
($40) – Stop & Shop Coupon for Gift Card Purchase (2-$20 coupons for 2-$100 gift cards)
($40) – Gas Discount for Stop & Shop Gas Rewards ($0.50 off per gallon, up to 20 gallons, done four times)
$1,835 – Total Cost
Voila! Disney World on the Cheap!
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Hey there! I was wondering what time of year you took this vacation. Was it January/February? I’m trying to plan a trip for next year, and I need to do it cheaply…but I also hate that the parks close so early in the winter!
Hi! We did September and are also doing May. In September we were able to catch a late night Halloween Party too, so we were out until around 11 pm.
Other things you can do are:
1. If Christmas and Birthday’s are approaching, buy Disney Gift Cards as “gifts” then they can be used for your trip.
2. If someone asks what you would like to have for your birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc., ask for Disney Gift Cards.
3. Sam’s Club also offers discounts on gift cards for Disney.
4. Check to see if Disney has discounts for your “state”. Sometimes they give discounts if you are from states that are close to Florida.
5. Check with your HR person at your place of employment. Some companies have agreements with Disney and other venues for discounts on tickets or rooms.
6. Disney will often times have discounts for service workers like, police, fire, EMT, and teachers. I was able to take advantage of a “get in free” admission to EPCOT by showing my teacher ID or my last paycheck stub confirming my employment. I still have a no-expiration ticket I can use.
7. If you are an active duty military, veteran, retired military, your family can get discounted tickets and discounted housing at the Shades of Green resort. There is more information on the Disney Website under “Special Deals & Discounts”.
When I go to Disney, I try to get the free dining and since their rules have changed as to what dining plan is connected to your resort, you can still purchase the regular dining plan if you don’t want the counter service options at a Value or a Moderate resort. I’m a “foodie” and I like to get the most expensive item on the menu (usually). By paying the difference between the free plan and the regular dining plan, you can save money that way too.
These are things I’ve used before to help fund my Disney trips.
What wonderful ideas! Thank you so much for sharing! I hope others benefit from them as well.
Military Salute ticket discounts are only offered to active duty and retired service members and their spouses/dependents. You can’t get them if you’re a veteran who didn’t retire. They can be purchased through the Shades of Green resort or at your bases’s IT office.
Active duty & retired can also stay at the Shades of Green resort on Disney property behind the Polynesian resort. They will offer rooms to non-retired veterans, but that’s only during a small window – during January & September only. And you’re charged the hire rate regardless of rank at discharge. So if you were an E-4, you’ll still pay the same rate as an officer.
If you are active duty or retired (or dependent of AD/retired with a military ID card) you can also get a discount on the Memory Maker. This can’t be purchased ahead of time, though. But you can get it at Disney Springs on arrival day or in the park. It’s a nice savings. For military, the Memory Maker is $98.
There are also some places at Disney Springs who will give a discount if you show a valid ID card. House of Blues (25%), Raglan Road, Cooke’s of Dublin, Wolfgang Puck Cafe (20%), and so on.
What month did y’all travel? And does every travel agency have those deals?
This was in September. The company we used, Magical Vacations Travel, typically offers their best deals of the year around Labor Day (which extends to a few weeks before and after.) There are other agency exclusive deals throughout the year too, but I believe that is the cheapest.
I’m sorry, I’m not sure if others offer such deals! If you do a web search for “agency exclusive deals for Disney” there are a few other companies that come up, but I haven’t worked with any directly to know what they offer. If you find out more, I’d love to hear!
Hi there! I’m so confused by your amazing prices at a deluxe resort! We are going in january 2019, and the prices for a deluxe resort start at $350/night. We are using an authorized Disney vacation planner, staying 4 nights at a moderate resort with 4 days of tickets for a family of 3 and spending $2200. Thoughts?
1-They rented DVC points and 2-Their kids are free! Also, the article is talking about resort and tickets only, not food.
This post is great but will only work for a family of 4 if the children are under age 3. You also were able to fly using miles or points. So I understand that you paid under $1900 but that is so misleading given the fact that some people do not have children under age 3 and some do not have miles or points to exchange for air.
This point was already made but I have to say… this article is very misleading. From what I can tell, the point of your article is that you got a good deal from a travel agent? Your kids were free because of Disney pricing structure and you used points for airfare. Not much special to note here. Fall has travel deals every year. Whomp whomp.
Hi Nancy! I’m sorry you found my post misleading. I always aim to be helpful with my posts and hope to share knowledge or my personal experiences with others where I think it could help. I’m sorry this post missed the mark for you. Posts about deals are always tricky as some people are more familiar with how you can save money, whereas others are not. Many do not know that you can often get a better deal using a travel agent, or that you can trade in various points for airfare, or get deals for gift cards. While it may be common sense to some, I hope that this post can spread the word even further to those who may not be aware, and help them save money, as it did for us! I also wanted to share that I have a friend who followed these tips for her recent spring trip, and she saved thousands as well! (It’s not just limited to fall, though I do believe that’s when some of the biggest discounts apply.)
Hi Jac, Well I think you explained very clearly how you scored the discounts,. People need to understand that they can apply what works for them (Nancy). My husband and I are also going in Jan/2019 and you can bet I’m calling our travel agent to ask if they have special pricing! I would like to do a shout out to Nikki, there is lots and lots of construction going on at the moderate resorts in Jan. we had to be very careful choosing our resort , our top two choices had too much construction for us (pools and food court under heavy cunstruction due to the new transportation system going in). Jac I thank you for the helpful insights! I’m going to use every one that I can!,
We also found the time of year can impact prices. My kids are nearly grown and we’ve been many times and greatly prefer fall. Summer in Florida is too hot and too crowded for my taste. Best time we ever went was first week in December. Lots of vacancies and good pricing. Least crowded time I’ve ever been too. That time probably won’t work for everyone but that’s probably why it’s less crowded. The lines were so much shorter. The weather was generally in the 60s with a day or two warm enough for water rides.
I know Disney offers free dining usually through September- with your exclusive travel agent discount was dining included too? Trying to take my son next year right before he turns 3 and this price sounds like a dream come true!
Dining was not included in our offer! If it is available, I would run the numbers both by going through Disney with free dining and through an agency exclusive deal with meals out of pocket to see the difference. (There are several sites that offer a dining calculator where you can estimate your cost of meals if paying out of pocket.) Hope you get a great deal!
I just booked with Sue for my 30th bday in April and she was a whole lot better than who I found
THANKS so much
Yay! Glad to hear! Hope you have a magical trip!
One major budget category you forgot to add was FOOD. How much did you spend on food during your vacation? That’s where Disney is really pricey, so I think your final quote should have included that category to be accurate.
She likely used the gift cards she bought beforehand, so no her total wouldn’t have gone up because she’d already spent the money (and got cash back, as stated in the section about the credit cards). That was the whole reason she mentioned the gift cards, was to let people know “hey, buy gift cards when you can get fuel points and use those to pay for souvenirs and food.” It’s kind of common sense to interpret that from the post…..
Lots of good info. I would like to learn more about the teacher discounts.
I feel like this article is not very realistic. Your children were both under 3 so everything for them was free. It was basically for you and your husband. Most people that go have children older than that and will have to pay for them which would drastically up the price.
Very misleading. You paid that for 2 people, not 4. And it doesn’t even include food and souvenirs. Definitely not realistic at all!