13 Ways to Save Money on Your 2023 Disney World Vacation

Here’s how to save money on your 2023 Walt Disney World vacation, with tips & tricks for cutting costs on hotels, dining, souvenirs, and more. With these recommendations, you can trim the fat from your budget and get the most out of your travel dollars, with our 11 best tips to do WDW less expensively. (Updated December 23, 2022.)

Fair warning: it won’t always be easy–and “less expensively” is not the same as “inexpensively.” To the contrary, Walt Disney World vacations are more expensive than ever due to a combination of price increases and lack of discounts. If you haven’t visited in a few years or ever, you might be in for sticker shock when pricing out a trip on DisneyWorld.com.

The bad news is that travel costs are set to spike everywhere this year, as pent-up demand, shortages, and inflation persist. The good news is that this is starting to slow elsewhere where we’re pricing travel in 2023, discounts have already started to improve at Walt Disney World, and it’s highly likely that another general public promotion for next year will drop the first week of January 2023. With that in mind, here are other ways to save at Walt Disney World in 2023…

Regardless of your finances, it’s never a bad idea to consider ways to save more money. For some of you, cutting spending may be the only way you can afford a trip to Walt Disney World. For others, spending less might not be strictly necessary, but rather is a way to fund a slightly longer trip, a second Disney trip, or simply not waste money unnecessarily. (No one wants to do that!)

We have been in both positions. Although we’re able to splurge on trips now, I still vividly remember the days or ordering an extra bun so we could “split” a double cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s. These days, we pay careful attention to our spending and make every effort to get the most bang for our buck. After all, those wasted dollars could be the makings of another trip!

Here are some of our recommendations for saving money on your Walt Disney World vacation. Not all of these things will be for everyone. We each value different aspects of our trips differently, and what is unnecessary for some might be make or break for someone else.

These are just possible ideas, not across the board recommendations for everyone. Cost-cutting is not a good idea when it’s at the expense of the fundamental experience–if you cut things that are important to you, don’t be surprised if the amount of fun you have is negatively impacted.

We’ve arranged this list so that the best options are at the top (meaning #10 should save you the most money, and #1 the least), but there’s obviously a ‘your mileage may vary’ element. For example, if you’re basically a Coca-Cola guzzling polar bear, maybe #2 would save you more than #9. (Then again, you can use #9 to get your Coke fix, so maybe not.) Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves–here’s the list…

13. Stay On-Site

This is going to buck conventional wisdom, which is that it’s cheaper to stay off-site. When looking at hotel rates in a vacuum, that’s absolutely correct. Central Florida has a surplus of hotels, and you can score decent accommodations for $50 to $75 per night–far cheaper than comparable rooms at Walt Disney World. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotels in Orlando are a fraction of the price of on-site Deluxe Resorts.

Our most recent hotel stay was at All Star Sports and, honestly, it exceeded expectations. The rooms at the All Stars have recently been remodeled and the grounds are fun for kids. These are still very much budget motels that would not fetch rates this high if they were simply ‘real world’ hotels.

These are the cheapest hotels at Walt Disney World, with rates that are frequently $125 to $150 after discounts. That’s still at least $25 to $75 more expensive than their off-site counterparts. (This range varies widely, depending upon demand, season, and occupancy. Walt Disney World hotel prices do not spike with real-time demand, whereas other Central Florida hotels do.)

However, these are not apples to apples comparisons! Pretending like on-site hotels are the same as off-site ones, and rates should be set accordingly, overlooks the first three rules of real estate. More importantly, it overlooks the on-site perks and ancillary costs of staying off-site.

Specifically, if you stay off-site, you’ll pay for parking at the parks and transportation to them. This is a direct monetary cost, and one that closes the gap quickly. You will also pay indirectly in terms of time, both due to the commute and by not having access to on-site perks such as Early Entry. Don’t dismiss that as “only” 30 minutes–it can be a huge head-start, especially at EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

For our recent All Star stay, we paid ~$130/night during the holiday season after discount. That was only about $30 cheaper than other options. It would have easily cost ~$50/day for transportation and parking, were we to stay off-site and incur those costs–making the total cost for the cheapest off-site hotel more than the cheapest on-site hotel.

In short, spending a little more upfront on your hotel can potentially save a lot over the course of the trip–while also having a superior experience and getting more done in the parks, in a more efficient manner. This is not to say that staying on-site is always for everyone–it’s not. In fact, we frequently stay off-site and recommend others do as well. Rather, it’s to suggest that you take a holistic view of costs and benefits, rather than simply a cursory glance at sticker prices. You actually need to do the math and take everything into account.

Which brings us to #12 on the list, which is arguably the biggest and best piece of money-saving advice for Walt Disney World…

12. Never Pay Full Price for Hotels

For most people, hotels are the single most expensive component of a trip to Walt Disney World. If you plan on staying in a Deluxe Resort, your hotel could eat up more than half of your entire vacation budget. While we love the Deluxe Resorts, we hate their pricing, and (frankly) think they are not worth their rack rates. We have four alternatives to paying full price for Deluxe Resorts, with the best option last, so you have plenty of options if you “need” posh accommodations.

First, consider “downgrading” to a Moderate Resort. Two good options for this are the new Gran Destino and Caribbean Beach Resort. Both are essentially “Deluxe Minus” hotels, albeit for very different reasons. Gran Destino has upscale amenities, fine dining, and feels reminiscent of a Las Vegas tower.

By contrast, Caribbean Beach has beautiful grounds, a relaxed setting, and efficient transportation via the Skyliner gondolas. The rooms and dining aren’t on par with what you’ll find at Deluxes, but this is a distinctly Walt Disney World resort, and it shows. It’s now often overlooked, but perfect for anyone wanting a relaxed setting for their vacation and easy access to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

If you want an actual Deluxe resort at a Moderate price, your best option is renting Disney Vacation Club (or DVC) Points. If you want to know more, we cover the exact steps for doing this, and why we recommend it, in our Tips for Renting Disney Vacation Club Points post, which offers a great way to stay in Deluxe-caliber on-property rooms for significant savings.

Perhaps the most straightforward way to save on accommodations is simply booking a stay at the third-party Swan & Dolphin, which is located on-site within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios and actually offers better perks than Disney’s Value and Moderate Resorts. As we discuss in our Swan & Dolphin Review, these hotels are incredibly nice, just lacking in “Disney” theme. Yes, they have a bunch of annoying fees, but the net price is still significantly less expensive than the nearby Boardwalk Inn or Yacht & Beach Clubs.

11. Skip Genie+ (Sometimes)

Genie+ and Lightning Lanes are Walt Disney World’s line-skipping options, which are controversial as they’re essentially paid FastPass. While these can save you a ton of time, they are also clunky systems that can cause you to backtrack or wait around for return times. Everything you need to know is covered in our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World.

From a money-saving perspective, that covers when not to buy Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes. While many Walt Disney World fans are outraged over and have boycotted Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, that’s not our perspective. We aren’t “for” or “against” the system. Rather, we recommend utilizing these options strategically (alongside itineraries, rope drop, early entry, etc.), and not wasting money on Genie+ or Lightning Lanes when they’re not necessary.

To that end, check out Best Time-Saving Strategies for Walt Disney World, which is the result of extensive ‘testing’ to determine the best and worst ways to beat the crowds as of this Christmas. Genie+ is only the clear winner at Magic Kingdom. In the other 3 parks, there are superior strategies for saving time waiting in line. Even Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which has a lot of popular rides with long lines, has equal or better ways to beat the crowds.

10. Avoid Upcharges

We love Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and have attended these events every single year that they’ve been held since 2007. We wouldn’t miss either one of them, and that’s despite both parties roughly tripling in price during that time and getting more crowded.

Likewise, we think the After Hours events are good hassle-free ways to accomplish a lot. Just recently, we recommended the 2023 After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as the easiest way to beat the crowds there, better than Early Entry, Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, or staying late on a regular night. So, what gives?

The reality is that none of these things, or any other upcharges, are necessary in order to have a great trip to Walt Disney World. There are always alternatives to beating the crowds or outsmarting the masses. When it comes to planning and social media, there’s a pervasive sense of FOMO that drives many people to spend large sums of money on unnecessary experiences at Walt Disney World. Planners see other fans rave about these things or how quickly the events/reservations sell out, and assume they’re must dos. 

That is not true. While many upcharges will enhance your trip, they’re far from necessary to having an enjoyable vacation. To the contrary, most of them are (objectively) not worth the money. Sure, they’re a fun splurge–but if your vacation dollars are limited, you should absolutely put those towards the core experience (tickets, hotels, dining) rather than the extravagences.

Consider the demand for upcharge offerings at Walt Disney World a form of keeping up with the online Joneses (or Kardashians, these days). This is exacerbated by certain popular experiences booking up quickly, but that’s less a reflection of quality and demand than it is limited supply and the FOMO machine. Don’t buy into the hype–it’s almost always exaggerated.

9. Grocery Delivery

Basically, for a small delivery fee, these stores will deliver groceries you order (you choose from a limited menu of what they offer at price points they set). It’s more expensive than going out and shopping yourself, but it’s cheaper than buying groceries from Disney gift shops. Plus, you save time (and potentially the cost of a rental car) by having the groceries delivered.

We cover all of the ways to get groceries in our Tips for Buying Groceries at Walt Disney World post, with our current favorite being Walmart Plus. If you don’t want to use a grocery delivery service or visit a store, and just need smaller snack, another option is mailing yourself an Amazon package (details here).

Many of you probably don’t want to cook on vacation, and that’s completely understandable. That’s not our recommendation, anyway. Instead, it’s a good idea to order items for a cold and quick breakfast in your room. This kills multiple birds with one stone. It’s cheaper than eating in the parks or your hotel food court, it’s faster and more efficient, and offers the opportunity to eat a well-rounded meal with fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options you might not get at Walt Disney World restaurants.

As covered in How to Avoid Getting Sick at Walt Disney World, eating a good breakfast can be a gamechanger. There’s also the opportunity cost, or lack thereof. With a few exceptions, breakfast is the weakest meal at Walt Disney World. You aren’t missing much–unless you enjoy powdered eggs and rubber bacon–by eating breakfast in your room. Put that savings towards better lunches and dinners!

The one-two punch of renting Disney Vacation Club points and doing grocery delivery can pretty easily cut the cost of your Walt Disney World vacation in half. (If not save you even more!)

8. Use Credit Cards

This one could rank higher, but we recognize it’s not for everyone, and also comes with an opportunity cost (if you use the points at Walt Disney World, you can’t use them elsewhere). Nonetheless, we think leveraging credit card rewards can be a great way of getting “free” airfare or hotel rooms…or just paying for some meals.

Many proponents of saving money are opponents of credit cards. This is ludicrous. I will acknowledge that others have dramatically different views when it comes to credit cards, but we view them as glorious tools that, like water balloon launchers, have the potential for humans to abuse and misuse.

We have earned tens of thousands of dollars in rewards on credit cards, without ever paying a cent of interest (although we have paid annual fees on certain cards). We cover which credit cards we recommend using to save money on travel in our Best Credit Cards for Disney Travel post.

Beyond travel-specific credit cards, getting a good “everyday” credit card for daily purchases can be a great way to earn money that you can earmark for vacations. This gives a different meaning to “saving” money, but it’s an idea nonetheless. Rather than using the Disney Chase Visa credit cards that are popular with many Disney fans, we recommend cards like the Chase Freedom Rewards or Amex Blue Cash for everyday use. Also, you don’t necessarily want to avoid cards with annual fees–quite often, the added perks or superior cashback or other rewards more than offset the fee.

These cards have better reward rates, and you can allocate their cash back to your vacation account, or use the rewards for airfare or other components of a Walt Disney World vacation. Just because rewards aren’t in the form of a Disney gift card doesn’t mean that you can’t save them for Disney. Hate credit cards if you want, but there’s no arguing that paying your balance off in full each month and using credit cards responsibly can save you money.

7. Skip the Park Hopper

It pains me to say this since I love Park Hopping, but if you’re on a budget, it might be wise to skip it–depending upon what park ticket discounts are available when you book. It’s tempting to upgrade to the Park Hopper tickets because they usually aren’t that much more, but if you aren’t going to Park Hop much, it’s still a waste. Plus, for your family, the “small” cost of Park Hoppers does add up quickly, and you might be able to save $250 or more simply by skipping the Park Hopper option.

Determine whether this is something you need or can drop in our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. If we were not Annual Passholders, Park Hopping is not something we could live without, but your mileage may vary on that. We like to stay in the park that is open latest, and that usually means hopping to that park towards the end of the day. For us, it would unquestionably be worth the extra cost, even if on a budget, and even if that meant sacrificing something else.

Many guests, especially those with young kids, aren’t staying late at night anyway, and calling it an early night rather than park hopping to the one that’s open latest each night isn’t going to be a big deal to them. If you are on a tight budget, consider how important Park Hopping is to you, and whether you can do without it. The big caveat to this is that not having the Park Hopper option will significantly limit your chances of experiencing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. That’s definitely something to consider.

6. Eat Outside the Parks

This is another one that pains me, as we love dining at Walt Disney World. However, Walt Disney World raised restaurant and snack prices multiple times this year. And it’s possible another price increase is on the horizon in February 2023. That coupled with no Disney Dining Plan or Tables in Wonderland, makes it tougher to justify eating everything in the parks.

With that said, our recommendation here is not doing every single meal off-site. To the contrary, that would waste a lot of time–and time is money at Walt Disney World. (It’s important to realize the value of your time and not be too much of a cheapskate!) There’s also the reality that certain Disney restaurants are a ton of fun or serve delicious food and enhance the quality of your Walt Disney World vacation.

Rather, we recommend a more measured approach. First, consider doing more meals outside the parks during midday breaks. For one thing, this is a good opportunity to explore other resorts while also avoiding the most crowded times of the day. For another, resort restaurants often don’t have the same premium pricing as those in Magic Kingdom or the other parks. (Similarly, Disney Springs restaurants are more competitively priced, since they have to be more competitive with real world counterparts.

Second, do a couple of dinners off-site or in on-site third party hotels. The Orlando area has an excellent (and underrated) food scene, and our List of Great Restaurants Near Walt Disney World covers options that aren’t too far from the parks. This includes everything from spectacular steak to an Italian restaurant with old school EPCOT Center bloodlines.

5. Gift Card Hacks

This is one we learned about a few years ago and we’ve been utilizing since. There are a few different methods for saving money on Disney gift cards, and we cover all of the methods in our Tips for Saving Money on Disney Gift Cards post. Unfortunately, the best ‘hack’ of stacking Raise.com plus a Target Red Card to save ~10% has been closed, but you can still save around 5%, which is not too shabby!

You can save money at Kroger, Sam’s Club, and other stores just by making strategic Disney gift card purchases. These strategies undoubtedly work with other credit cards, too. We have cards with rotating 5% back categories and other time-limited incentives.

4. Plan a “Free” Day

There’s some duplicity of meaning in “free” day. Here it means both a day where you don’t have the theme parks on your schedule, and also a day when you focus on things that are free. The idea is that you do something that is actually free in practice, not just in theory.

Do a resort tour (we’re partial to this one around Christmas!), go swimming in your hotel’s pool, or go for a walk around the resort. If you want something fun that’ll offer transportation entertainment, consider our Disney Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll. We also have 1-Day “No Parks” Walt Disney World Itinerary that provides a plan of how you can enjoy a great day outside of the parks.

If you can’t do an entire day, the upside to this is that it doesn’t need to be the entire day. You can have it be the morning before a hard ticket event (if you feel these events are worth doing in light of your budget) so you don’t have to use a park ticket.

Even if you do have to use a park ticket, if you can stay out of the park for more than half a day, chances are that you’re going to save some money by buying fewer snacks, cheaper meals, etc. On long vacations, we are fans of the free day for recharging your energy for the rest of the trip, so even though this might not be a source of great savings (and we’ll be frank–it’s probably not), we still recommend it.

3. Skip Souvenirs

“Collect moments, not things.” This has become a mantra we’ve adopted over the last few years as we’ve prioritized great experiences over stuff. Mind you, we still buy souvenirs and a fair amount of things, but we’ve gotten rid of a lot of our junk, and buy far fewer souvenirs these days.

If this is a tough sell with your family, look at it this way: how many extra experiences or days in the parks could that souvenir budget buy you? The memories will last a lifetime, that Mickey Mouse bobblehead someone just had to have will wind up in the garage sale or on eBay in a few years.

There are two alternatives to this if you’re not ready to give up souvenirs cold turkey. First, advance-purchasing souvenirs when they’re on sale on Amazon or at the DisneyStore. Pre-purchasing Disney Pins is also popular, albeit controversial (details here). Second, consider making a trip to the outlet near Disney Springs for deep-discounts on parks merchandise–read our Disney Character Warehouse Outlet Tips for info & details.

2. Say No to Soda & Snacks

Large drinks at Walt Disney World are over $5 a pop (no pun intended–used in the colloquial sense, as I don’t want to start a pop v. soda v. coke debate!). If you’re soda-addicted, you could be spending $20 or more per day on soda. I speak from first-hand experience, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of this.

In looking over receipts from a trip a few years ago, I was so shocked at how much I had wasted on soda that I swore it off at Walt Disney World from then on. Since then, I haven’t purchased Coke in the parks a single time! If you need the caffeine, get your fill of coffee in the morning from your hotel room or get your fix at a restaurant offering free refills.

Snacks are now similarly overpriced, having increased in price more than anything else in the last few years. Don’t get us wrong–we love Dole Whips and other tasty treats, but pretzels, popcorn, and even churros just aren’t worth the hefty prices these days. You don’t need to swear off snacks entirely, but we’d recommend cutting out the ones that aren’t unique to Walt Disney World. If you’re hungry between meals, Mobile Order an entree from a counter service restaurant and share that.

1. Pick the “Right” Season

We highly recommend traveling during the off-season, or at least non-peak times, which we highlight in our 2023 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars. The obvious upside to visiting during the off-season is lower crowds. Intuitive but less obvious is that prices are more reasonable. Everything from airfare to park tickets to hotel rates to buffet prices is cheaper during the off-season.

While Walt Disney World has done a decent job of normalizing crowds throughout the year, so there’s no longer a “ghost town” off-season, in large part this is accomplished via aggressive discounting. On top of that, some off-season dates (like early November and December, January/February, and early May) are also among the best times to visit Florida in terms of weather. Lower crowds and prices…plus nicer weather–truly the best of all worlds!

Then there’s September 2023, which does not offer nicer weather, but typically has the lowest crowds of the year and will likely have better deals than any month before it. If you can get past the heat and humidity, we highly recommend September. There’s a reason it’s #1 on our Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World in 2023!

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to save money on your Walt Disney World vacation, and what works for one party may not work for others. How much you can save all depends upon which compromises you’re willing to make, and what parts of the Disney experience are really important to you. Some people may be able to save a lot, others may find that none of these tips will work for them (others still might already be doing all of these things!). Hopefully, there’s at least an idea or two here that’s helpful to you!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Do you have any of your own “quick tips” for saving money on a Walt Disney World vacation…or saving for a Walt Disney World vacation? How do you cut the fat from your travel budget? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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