How to Budget for a Family Trip to Disney

Lindsay Brookshier
By Lindsay Brookshier 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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One of the biggest roadblocks for families when it comes to planning a Disney vacation is the high cost. But believe it or not, it is possible to pull off a Disney vacation on a budget.

Here are some money-saving tips to help you save at both Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Avoid eating in the park

Not everyone knows that you can bring your own food to the parks, store it in a locker and eat at one of the picnic areas outside the entrances.

Just don’t pack it in a hard-sided cooler — that’s where Disney draws the line. Also, plan on packing snacks to keep in your bag and enjoy throughout the day, and bring a water bottle to refill at drinking fountains. And be sure to eat breakfast at the hotel before heading in to save money and to avoid wasting time once in the park.

Choose the best ticket option for your family

There are two types of Disney Parks tickets: The 1-Park Per Day ticket, which, as the name suggests, allows entrance to one park a day, and the Park Hopper ticket, which allows entrance into multiple parks each day.

Park hopping is easier at Disneyland, where the theme parks are within walking distance. It’s a bit more complicated at Disney World, where the theme parks are spread out; a Park Hopper pass may be less necessary there.

Pick the right hotel

Disneyland is surrounded by hotels offering lower prices than the official Disney accommodations. Some of these hotels are even closer to the action than the official Disney resorts.

At Walt Disney World, though, you’re better off sticking with an on-site Disney-owned hotel to take advantage of perks such as dining meal plans, early entry and transportation access.

Buy Disney gift cards at Target

Disney gift cards can be used at almost all locations inside Disneyland and Walt Disney World for dining, Disney-owned hotels, park tickets and souvenirs.

If you sign up for a Target REDcard, you can save 5% on Disney gift cards and other eligible specialty gift cards.

Pack the essentials

Taking the time to stop at a convenience store or shop on Amazon before your visit can help you save money while in the parks. Think spur-of-the-moment purchases such as rain ponchos, fans/water misters, sunscreen and other weather-related items. These will cost you at the parks, so it’s best to come prepared.

Buy souvenirs in advance

If you have kids, buy that princess dress at a cheaper retailer before your visit. Buy glow sticks in advance so that you can hand them to the kids when they beg for the light-up toys sold before nighttime shows. You can also find a wide variety of cute (and cheap) mouse ears on websites like Etsy. As for Disney shirts, you can find reasonable prices for those at stores like Walmart and Target.

Experiencing a Disney vacation is a magical experience that every family should get to enjoy without breaking the bank.

Photo via Disney.

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