Disney's Orlando on the Cheap

Disney's Orlando on the Cheap photo

The prices for tickets to Disney World just went up — again. Yep, that's right. Now for your family to enjoy a vacation there, you may have to take out a loan. But it's possible to experience the Disney theme parks on a budget, if you know how to plan it right.

Let's face it, the main purpose of a vacation is to get away from the drudgery of work and the stress of everyday life. Many people think that keeping to a budget while on vacation is worse than not going at all. The secret is to keep everything in balance — include all basics, but also include one or two memorable splurges. Believe it or not, it's possible to do that within the Disney parks.

Depending on how close you live to Orlando, you may want to drive if you have children. If you live farther away and considering the cost of gas, parking at the parks, and wear and tear on your car, you may do better looking for airline sales and booking in advance. You won't need a car within Disney World.

Visiting Walt Disney World on a budget can be done if you are willing to search for discounts and visit during less popular times of the year. Theme park tickets and pricey Walt Disney World resort hotels will account for the majority of your Disney trip costs. By using some cost-cutting methods, you can lower the cost of your trip without significantly affecting the quality of your Disney vacation.

One of the most important ways to keep the cost of your Walt Disney World vacation down is deciding upon the right time to go. Plan to visit the Disney parks during off-peak times, such as September or January.

Look for value season rates, to get the best price on your Disney World hotel. Pick a resort after you have chosen the time of year for your visit. Or choose an off-site hotel, villa or vacation home close to the Disney gates to reduce your costs even more.

By booking a package, you can stay at a Disney Resort for prices comparable to many of the off-site Orlando hotels. If you plan to spend most of your time in Disney World, paying a slightly higher rate for an on-site resort may be worth it. You may think you're saving money by staying at a cheaper hotel, but remember you'll have to commute to the Disney parks — the cost of a rental car and gas plus your hotel may be more than staying on site.

Buy tickets for Disney World Orlando before your trip to avoid higher ticket prices at the gate. If you are hoping to spend multiple days on the Disney grounds, you'll find that the best deal will be to purchase multi-day/multi-park ticket, which allows park you to enter one park per day. You'll save money by staying in the park for a longer time since the per day cost decreases, the longer you're there. Purchase basic park tickets if you intend to stay within Disney main parks.

Do not look on Craigslist or eBay to buy unused days on someone else's Disney ticket. They won't work, and you'll lose your money. Disney scans the finger of whomever uses a ticket and won't let anyone else use that ticket to get into the park.

Get the most from your tickets by arriving when the parks open, spending the morning, then taking a break in the afternoon, and coming back in the evening when the temperature is lower and the lines shorter.

The Park Hopper option will allow you to visit any of the theme parks at your leisure, for the number of days your ticket is good. For example, a one-day park hopper allows you to visit all of the parks in a single day.

Sign up to receive email notifications of sales from the major airlines if you plan on flying to Orlando. Include several airports as your preferred airports to take advantage of the lowest prices for the area.

Shopping for necessities within Disney parks is expensive, so bring your own sunscreen, batteries, camera media cards, and such. If you're staying outside the parks and have rented a car, then you'll be able to shop at regular stores in Orlando.

Consider packing some simple food for breakfast each morning, such as cereal, fruit or breakfast bars. Purchasing food for every meal can get pricey, especially for a family of four or more, so look for counter-service over sit-down service within the parks. You can bring food into the parks as long as it's in a backpack. Again, if you're staying outside the parks, you'll have lots of choices. Perhaps consider eating at a nicer restaurant for your last night's dinner, to sort of wrap things up.

Look for free entertainment, especially if you have younger children. Above all, become a savvy Disney vacation shopper and look for the best deals.