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Disney World on a Budget: The Affordable Magic

Ashley Fritz | Dec 2, 2021

disney character castle

How to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth without spending more than you need to.

There is no better time to visit Mickey and Friends than right now during Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. The parks are decorated with glitter, sparkle, and extra magic for the celebration.

Many shy away from the thought of a Disney trip due to the costs that can seem overwhelming to even the most seasoned “Disney Adult”. Luckily, there are ways to reduce costs here and there and still capture scrapbook-worthy moments that don’t empty your wallet. Follow along for a few tips that I have picked up along the way while growing up in a devoted family of Disney World lovers.

Stay Outside of Disney Property

While staying within the confines of the Walt Disney World Resort can be convenient, it’s certainly not necessary. Especially if you plan on bringing young kids who may not necessarily remember their stay in a Walt Disney Resort, you may consider looking at nearby Airbnb or Vrbo rentals. You may also consider this if, on the flip side, you're planning a trip without young kids and can handle not being immersed in the magic at every moment. On a recent post-graduate trip with my own 20something friends, we found it was cheaper to simply find an Airbnb just minutes off property. The parks will charge you around $20 to park a car for the day, but if you plan on splitting the cost amongst your party, this may end up being just as – if not more – cost efficient than staying in Disney housing, even with their free park transportation.

Find the Secret Firework Locations

We can all agree the fireworks that shine over Cinderella’s castle each night are one of the most magical parts of Magic Kingdom whether you’re 2 or 92. Avid Disney goers may already know of some locations on Disney property where you can get a good look at the show without paying the ticket price to actually enter into Magic Kingdom. For that matter, you don’t even have to be a guest of Disney at all to explore Disney property and find some good firework spots.

One of these is the beach of the Polynesian Resort. You can sit right there on the beach and get a perfect few of Tink flying over the park while Mickey-shaped fireworks light up the sky. For the most part, you don’t have to be staying in the resort to enjoy the beach, but you may want to check policies if your trip occurs during one of Disney’s peak holidays.

If you’re looking for a free spot to catch Epcot’s closing fireworks, there are plenty to choose from. One of my favorites is the Disney Boardwalk that is open to anyone. Grab a sweet treat from Beaches and Cream and enjoy the show. The staff usually even plays the show’s music so you can get the whole experience without bothering with the park’s crowds!

Shop at Disney Springs

This is not a super secretive tip, but it’s a good one if you’re in need of a little Disney on your Florida vacation, but you don’t want to pay the price. Walking around Disney Springs is completely free, unless of course you are easily swayed into purchasing the best Disney merch at World of Disney (which I am). Take a walk around wearing your Mickey ears, duck into the shops, get a cupcake from the Cupcake ATM, and feel good about not spending money on a park ticket. This is a great option if you're only in town for a day or two but want to give your kids a taste of the magic.

Exchange Pins

Here’s a cheap souvenir trick. My family’s love for Disney Pin Trading originates with my Grandpa, a fan since the very opening of Disneyland who has collected hundreds of Disney pins. You can purchase pins throughout the parks and even in some nearby Orlando shops. It doesn’t cost much to purchase a starter pack, and from there you can trade up FOR FREE. Cast members who work throughout the Resort are actually required to trade pins with you if you ask. So, if you want to take something home but can’t splurge on the life-size plush Stitch, you can start by spending a few on pins and finding Cast Members to trade with to get the more coveted pins. Soon, you’ll have a collection!

Ask for a Celebration Button

This is another souvenir you can take home for free just by asking a Cast Member. You’ve probably seen them in pictures or maybe even received one yourself, but Disney has special buttons just for you to commemorate momentous visits to the parks. You can ask for a button if you’re celebrating a birthday, a first visit, a marriage, or really anything if you ask for a blank “I’m celebrating” button and tell them what to write for you! This is not only a free takeaway but a fun way to get recognized by other Cast Members and maybe even your favorite characters when you wear them. On my trip with my friends, we asked for “I’m celebrating college graduation 2021!” buttons and got many congratulations throughout the day.

There are so many other simple tricks that can save you money on your next Disney trip. These may seem like obvious ones, but there are countless other hacks you can find online by reading blogs, watching videos, and asking your own network. Start looking now and you could save some serious cash on your next vacation.

Above all, don’t forget to get protection before you visit The Mouse. Whether you use these tips or not, you will want to ensure your trip costs are covered in the event that your trip gets cancelled or interrupted. Our Get Away USA insurance plan offers Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption protection, baggage loss and delay coverage, and medical coverage. Customize the plan to fit your needs so you can sit back and enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth.

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