Disney World on a Budget - My Best Tips

Disney World Epcot
Hello! I am a mom and a wife who has a confession to make. I am addicted to Disney World vacations. There I said it... As you read the information I have in my blog, keep in mind I have spent countless hours researching so my family will have a magical vacation. My family consists of my husband, my 11 year old son, and myself. We have visited Disney World 3 times since 2008. Each time we visit we find something we have not seen before. As we plan for our 4th trip to Disney World, we are just as excited as we were for the first trip! Read my blog to discover how your family can visit Disney without breaking your budget.

I think what makes Disney World so magical is there is something for everyone - thereby making everyone happy!  Do you want a 0 to 60 mph experience or do you prefer the slow moving It's A Small World or something in between?  Do you want Broadway caliber theatrical productions or to simply sing and dance with Disney Junior stars?  Disney delivers all of this and so much more.  This is why I choose to take my family back time and again!

So you have chosen to find a little magic at Disney World? Listed below are some of my favorite tips/ideas I have seen over the years of planning trips to Disney World. I hope it helps to make your trip every bit as magical as mine.

NEW TIP - You can move between theme parks using Disney transportation even if you are not staying at a Disney hotel. Plan 1  to 1 1/2 hours to move between parks on a busy day.
Magic Kingdom park & Epcot are connected via monorail
Epcot & Disney's Hollywood Studios are connected via boat
Magic Kingdom park & Disney's Hollywood Studios are connected via bus
Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park is connected to the 3 other theme parks via bus.
NEW TIP - You can use someone else's Disney MagicBand or park ticket for Fastpass+. For example you can use your son's MagicBand for a FastPass+ that he does not want to ride.  The only time the MagicBand must be on the correct person is at the park entrance. 
Sam's Club has Disney Gift Cards at a discount. You can get $150 worth of cards for $142.88. I used them to pay for my hotel room and bought some extra to use on the trip. I saved $160 using the gift cards.
You will need a minimum of 1 day per theme park at Disney World and there are 4 parks! Plan to spend at least 5 days at Disney World.
The more days you spend at Disney World, the lower the daily ticket price becomes.
If you are celebrating something while at Disney World, make sure you go by guest services or tell the desk clerk at check in so you can get your FREE Disney pin for your celebration. Wear the pin around the park where you will be greeted by cast members as well as potentially get a FREE cupcake or dessert in honor of your celebration.
If you are on the dining plan you will want to make reservations as soon as you can so you eat at the best Disney restaurants.
You can send a letter to the this address: BEFORE the trip and a character will send you a postcard: Walt Disney World Communications P.O. Box 10040 Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040
Create a My Disney Experience account. Download the app on your smart phone as well. You will need it for FastPass+ as well as other planning. FastPass+ will make your trip much more enjoyable since you will not have to stand in line.
3-5 days BEFORE you are scheduled to check-in CALL the Disney hotel you are staying in and request the building you would like to have a room in. If you have the dining plan you will have the free refillable mug and you won't want to have to walk FOREVER to fill it up from your room. You can research which building has your type room in it at http://wdwprepschool.com/how-to-get-the-disney-world-resort-room-requests-views-rooms/
Dollar Tree is a good place to buy Disney stuff such as buy glow sticks. Take the glow sticks with you for the Electric Parade and fireworks.The kids will LOVE it! You could probably even find a small Disney theme spiral that would be great for getting character autographs. Buy a RETRACTABLE sharpie the large size because that is easier for the characters to hold on to when signing your autograph book.
Another idea for autograph book is to use the Disney Junior Encyclopedia. This book has pictures & facts for of over 150 Disney characters. We had the characters sign their own picture when we met them at Disney World.. You can buy it at Amazon or Walmart online for $10. Check out our Merchandise page.
Get your souveneirs from the outlet mall right at the Disney exit. There is a Disney Outlet store in there that sells Disney Park merchandise for a fraction of the cost in the park.
WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES & CLOTHES & LOTS OF SUNSCREEN.. The last thing you want is to have blisters and sunburn after a day at the park.
It rains every afternoon in Florida - don't leave the park because of rain, others will do that leaving the whole park to you!. Get ponchos at Walmart before the trip. Take a sharpie or permanent paint and paint some identifiable logo on the back of the parka. EVERYONE at Disney has the same parkas and it's hard to find your family in the crowd.
We usually take 1 backpack into the park with us so we can keep the parkas & autograph books etc in there.
Buy Gatoraide or KoolAid in the packets so you can add it to the water if you or your kids don't like plain water. You will dehydrate FAST drinking only sodas at Disney.
Take non-perishable snacks like beef jerky or trail mix into the park so you can save money on snacks.
When you are eligible for signing up for the FastPass+ do it. Don't wait until you get to the park to get them. You don't have the option to FastPass+ all attractionss so you will have to look and see which you are most interested in seeing. See my blog about FastPass+ for more details.
If you are staying at a Disney hotel, it will have lots of activities going on throughout the day and evening - plan to spend at least one afternoon or evening enjoying those amenities.
The crowds start arriving at the parks around 11 AM. IF you are early risers you can beat some of the crowds by getting there early. IF you are night owls then you could stay late, if there are Extra Magic Hours. Some people leave the park mid afternoon and go back to their hotel to swim etc. then go back to the park later in the afternoon. I have never done this but think I might try it this year.. Just remember traveling from the theme parks to your hotel and back will take a lot of time out of your day.
Water is FREE at any theme park. Just go up to the counter and ask for it.
There is a place in Epcot called Club Cool in Future World where you get free samples of Coca Cola from around the world. DO NOT try Beverly - you have been warned... 
It will usually take 1 hour to get from your hotel room into the park. So if you want to get to the park at 9 AM you should plan to leave the hotel room no later than 8 AM. This is excluding hotels on the monorail.
After the fireworks in the theme park each night people try to bolt to the exit to try and be first in line for the bus back to the hotel. If you need to get back to your hotel fast then choose a spot to watch the fireworks that is near the exit, otherwise just spend a little time in the park after the fireworks just going through some of the shops or getting some ice cream.
I have read A LOT on Disney World and this year I am going to avoid the Extra Magic hours for most of my days at Disney. UNLESS you bought the Park Hopper option & can leave the park then I believe you will have bigger crowds to deal with if you go to the park with Extra Magic Hours. It's a theory that I am testing this time - we have always tried to visit the Extra Magic hours park in the past and found especially Magic Kingdom to be unbelievably packed that day... - I will update my blog after this trip and let you know if my plan worked. UPDATE: We did not find the parks to be overly crowded when we visited on non-extra magic hour days.  In the future I plan to avoid the theme parks with extra magic hours UNLESS I have park hopper.
You can only get Dole Whips in Magic Kingdom by the Jungle Cruise ride. It is soft serve ice cream that is great! (and only found at Disney World) UPDATE: I received a FREE Dole Whip on my birthday just because I happened to have my birthday button on & a Disney Cast member saw the button.  The cast member walked up to me & gave it to me.
We first visited Disney World when my son was 4 years old. He did not know our cell phone numbers. So I made a badge with his name, our cell phone #s, the hotel we were staying at, ect. and put it inside a clear plastic badge holder with a safety pin back that I purchased at Office Depot. I then pinned the badge to the inside of his pants pocket. THANKFULLY he never needed it, but it was there if he did need it.
You can purchase Disney PhotoPass BEFORE you arrive at Disney World for $169. If you wait until you arrrive at Disney World the cost will be $199.
The Disney PhotoPass photographers will take a picture of you with your camera too - even if you have not purchased the PhotoPass option.
Don't follow the crowd! If the crowd is moving clockwise go counter clockwise and vice versa. Try starting at the back of the theme park and come to the front.
At Magic Kingdom arrive at rope drop and ride the WDW Railroad around to Frontierland or Fantasyland and head back to the front of the park. You should miss most of the crowds. I tried it on my trip in 2015 & it worked!
At Magic Kingdom take the time to go to Tom Sawyer's Island. It is a great escape from the crowds and your kids will LOVE going through the caves and over foot bridges.
Use the single rider option on rides that allow you to do so. It will save you a lot of time if you don't have to ride with your entire party.
During the summer at Hollywood Studios go to the early Lights, Camera, Action show. The stadium really heats up as the afternoon gets later.
During the summer at Animal Kingdom, plan to see Lion King & Nemo in the afternoon. Both shows are air conditioned and it will be nice to get a break from the heat.
During the summer at Animal Kingdom, visit Kilimanjaro Safari early in the morning before the day heats up. More animals are out and moving around in the morning.
At Animal Kingdom take time to walk the Discovery Island Trails, Pangani Forest Trail, & the Maharajah Jungle Trek. They are similar to a zoo with lots of animals and habitats to see.
To make Epcot World Showcase interesting to children complete the FREE Kidcot stations at each country. Your children will have the opportunity to color a mask and get a stamp from each country while visiting with a native from the country.
Epcot has a FREE (with daily admission ticket) adventure called Agent P's World Showcase. You are given a cell phone-like device and you must go around the world showcase finding clues. This is a great way to keep tweens interested in the world showcase. My son had fun completing the activities.
Magic Kingdom has the Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom game. You get FREE packets of cards with different Disney characters on them. You then take the cards to locations around the park and unlock your next clue. The cards are one of a kind souvenirs! My husband and son had a blast collecting the cards and playing the game. Visit the Firehouse on Main Street, U.S.A. or behind the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square, where you’ll be given all the tools you’ll need to help you on your quest.
Disney's Fort Wilderness Campgrounds has FREE Chip 'N Dale Campfire sing-a-long followed by a classic Disney movie EVERY NIGHT. Your child will get to meet Chip & Dale and then watch a movie. Normally character meals are $30+ but this one is FREE for everyone - not just Disney resort guests.
Take time to ride around the monorail. Even visit a resort or two that is on the monorail. Haven't you always wondered just how "grand" the Grand Floridian is?
Don't think you will see it all in one visit. I believe you could spend a month and not see it all. Just enjoy your time together and let the "magic" of Disney be yours.
Disney World Magic Kingdom