Disney on Budget with a Toddler
Seeing Walt Disney World on a budget with a toddler seems impossible, yet totally doable! Having lived so close for so long, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to help save money while still making memories that will last a lifetime.
Avoid Pricey Orlando Hotels
Though there are numerous options outside of WDW cheaper, I highly recommend staying within the magical gates. Between early fast pass access, transportation and extra magic hours, the extra cost is worth it, especially if you stay at their Value Resorts. Pop Century and All Star are great economical options. As a Value Resort, the rooms are more basic and a bit smaller. Seeing as you aren’t spending a lot of time in the room, this is a great place to save. Downside is there aren’t any coffee makers inside these value rooms, though you can purchase coffee at their quick service for a fee. If the Value Resorts seem too basic, take a step up and check out the Moderate Resorts. My favorite is Riverside at Port Orleans. It’s like taking a step back in time and they even have some Princess themed rooms! An added bonus is their awesome playground, perfect for little ones. Rates for the hotels fluctuate so keep checking back for price changes as you have up until 5 days before to claim a cheaper rate.
Travel During Disney Free Dining Months
Each year, Disney offers a limited time free dining plan. This is huge as restaurants are not always economical and the dining plan is pricey. Imagine only having to pay for the gratuity and not the rest of the meal! Though there’s restrictions and limited availability, this can be a huge savings. Being so limited, this is where a travel agent could come in handy as navigating the world of free dining can be challenging and confusing. Most travel agents are free so for no extra charge, find a Disney Specialist to help you navigate.
Toddlers Love Snacks, Bring Them With You
Another huge savings is to bring snacks, lots of snacks! Pick a few special treats to try (the Dole whip and popcorn are my faves…there’s even a refillable popcorn bucket which is a great money saver) and bring the rest. The easiest way to pack snacks, especially if you’re flying, is to Amazon Prime (or other grocery delivery services) your needs. Order snacks, plastic snack baggies, drinks like bottled water, juice boxes (as you can bring anything except glass bottles or alcohol into the parks), breakfast foods, peanut butter and jelly for a cheap lunch, and fruits to name a few, as all hotel rooms have small refrigerators. This also comes in handy for any items you may have forgotten, such as sunscreen and aspirin. Though the hotel will have a store with necessities, you will pay a much higher price tag. If you do forget to bring water with you into the parks, ask any quick service location or beverage cart, which offers fountain beverages, as filtered water would be available for free. Just ask for a large cup of water, or two, and off you go. Much cheaper than paying for Dasani water bottles all day.
Disney restaurants are well themed so you won’t want to miss. Choosing your meals, be aware that as the day goes on at a table service restaurant, the prices get higher. For example, a buffet with the characters will be priciest at dinner, while breakfast will be the least expensive. Now by having a late morning bigger breakfast, you could skip lunch and enjoy some of your snacks, then enjoy an early quick service dinner. Try having dinner by the pool then watching a movie under the stars, the kids will love it! Most will want to have at least one nice dinner, so do your research and find one that’s perfect for your family.
If your child is under the age of the 3, he or she will eat free at the buffets! Another incentive to bring your little ones is they get in the parks for free under 3!
Ticketing Options For Parents
For parents, your best bet is to get a multi-day ticket, but NOT a park hopper. How many theme parks are you really going to see in one day with little ones? If you opt to leave the park in the middle of the day, say for nap time, you can always return to that park the same day.
Transportation For Kids For The Win
The transportation system is a great way to see the “World,” plus it’s free. Between the monorail system, buses, boats, and ferry, kids are so easily entertained.Add in the pool and some hotel hopping, and you have a day of free activities. It’s a great way to sight see without spending money as you don’t need to go to the parks every day.
Plan Time Of Travel Accordingly
Do take consideration on time of year traveling and avoid holidays, including ones that fall on Mondays and summer season. Also look online for suggestions on best times to visit and check the official WDW events page for the latest happenings. This gives good insight on times to avoid, such as marathon weekend. In slower seasons, one can save money on the same room and ticket. You can also find great airfare specials during this time while enjoying a much less crowded park.
Toddlers Love Souvenirs
Rather than your family buying matching shirts (as MANY do), opt to have them made before you go. If you have little princesses, be sure to check online for a less expensive version of the princess dresses. Do check reviews and make sure it’s decent quality. I also love the non-Disney Parks version as some are made of cotton, lightweight, and are more of a play version of the dress. Imagine your two-year-old traipsing around the park in a ball gown…gets to be a lot especially in 80 something degree weather. The play versions are cooler and are usually around $13, versus the $60 to $100 price tag at the parks.
If you think your kids will enjoy meeting characters, a popular souvenir is an autograph book. One can either make your own or bring your favorite Disney book. You can bring practically anything for the characters to sign, except for money, so let your budget savvy mind bring out your creativity.
My family and I absolutely adore going to WDW whenever possible. As a seasoned Disney going mom, I hope you find these tips helpful and venture into the World that is Disney in Orlando, Florida.