If you’ve never been to Disney World or if you’ve already been and are just gathering info whilst crunching the numbers, you might have noticed that prices for the, “most magical place on Earth,” are now out of this world. Like, if you’re a family of four going for a week, your holiday has potential to break the bank. In say this, I must stress that to most Americans, Disney is a right of passage, and for good reason: A lot of the American mythos was created and magnified by Disney. Disney is the American utopia at it’s best. For example, upon you enter the Magic Kingdom Park in Florida, guests are transported back in time thanks to the help of Disney magic! Guests travel back in time thanks to the 1900’s style architecture, cast members doting Main Street, USA all whilst magical music from hidden speakers surround you. Disney is cool… Disney is fun and it’s totally over the top – but in a very good way!
If you do decide to go to Disney World, you’ll notice that every park is different. There’s different themes and experiences. Now if you’re not American, you might not understand the significance of Disney to an American and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve had loads of friends who grew up in far flung places on Earth and just don’t get the Disney thing… However, in saying that, if you’re a bit of an American history buff, you might want to divulge more into this part of American culture. I’m only say this because once you put the pieces together, you’ll discover that the historic significance to the American life is pretty frickin cool. I’ve only scraped the top of this, but I feel it’s worth mentioning – if you want to dive deeper into the Disney psyche, have a look at this article produced by the Smithsonian Institute:
Ok, so back to why you’re here…. How can you have a magical family week (or two) in Disney World that packs a punch and doesn’t send you bankrupt? I recently had a chat with a good friend of mine who is pretty much a Disney expert.
Jamie is what I call an insider. She knows Disney, she’s been around Disney long enough to know how it works and I would also like to add that Jamie is a dole whip connoisseur. See below… and, once you discover dole whip, you’ll understand what I mean!
Now if these tips work for you and you want to know more about Jamie, I suggest you follow her on Instagram. (She also runs marathons – so if you’re on the fence and after some marathon running inspiration, she’s your girl!)
So, how can you travel hack an incredibly expensive place and still have a great weekend? Here’s what Jamie had to say:
– If you plan to visit any other Orlando attractions (Universal/KSC/Sea World, etc.) or have a rental car for any other reason, I highly recommend booking a non-WDW hotel room from a site like hotels.com. I’ve even found rooms on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, which is walking distance to Disney Springs, for cheaper than rooms at the All Stars. And there are decent (clean but not necessarily fancy) places on 192 in Kissimmee for $50-75/night. BUT if your hotel doesn’t offer transportation to the parks, it costs $20/day to park.
– If you really want the full Disney experience, look to the value resorts and skip the car. Disney transportation is reliable, if slow (give yourself an hour to get anywhere), and Disney has its own buses to/from the airport. Plus, the parks offer assorted days with early park entrance/late hours exclusive for resort guests. My favorite value resorts are Art of Animation and Pop Century. Even the All Stars are cute and fun, and the food court is fine. NOTE: Disney just instituted a per-night parking charge at resorts, so budget $20ish more per day if you’re going to have a car there.
– If you have a car, load up on snacks/drinks at a grocery store. This will save you from dropping $4 on a bottle of water or ice cream cone multiple times per day. You’re allowed to bring food/drinks into the parks, but no glass/alcohol/knives. A comfortable backpack is good, because you can store your souvenirs, snacks, a rain jacket/poncho, sunblock, etc., and most rides allow you to put it at your feet while you ride.
– There are lots of quick-serve places in the parks and resorts that have GOOD food for half the price you’d spend at a sit-down restaurant. (my favorites include Sunshine Seasons at Epcot, Columbia Harbor House at MK, and Flame Tree BBQ or the new place in Pandora at Animal Kingdom — Studios is a constant food disappointment to me, except burgers/chicken strips)
– Splurge on a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar, Dole Whip, Turkey Leg, or Mickey Waffles during your stay. 🙂
– If you’re staying at a Disney resort, check the price of the various dining plans. Sometimes they are discounted. Even if not, they CAN be a good deal if you are a person who tends to eat an appetizer/entrée/dessert at every meal.
– The more days you go into the parks, the less you pay per day (at one point, the price difference between a 6 & 7 day ticket was like $5). If you plan well and only do 1 park per day, you can get away without adding the park hopper option. The only legit ticket discounts I know of are through orgs like AAA. Don’t even try resale places on the side of the road – odds are you won’t be getting into the park with anything you buy there!
…and I’ll add one more suggestion, from an economy of time standpoint: If you get to the park at opening, you can get more done in the first 2 hours than you will for the rest of the day. If you’re traveling in the summer, this also gives you the chance to escape mid-day and nap by the pool and recharge for the afternoon/evening. (you pretty much can’t pay me enough to be in the parks between noon-4pm in the summer)
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!