Prep for your next family vacation.
Steer Clear of Prime Time
“Disney considers summer peak season to be from the last week of May to the third week of July,” says Lauren Holt, a Disney Parks Moms panelist. (Yes, when it’s most convenient for families to travel based on the school calendar.) “If you can wait and go at the end of July or in August, you’ll typically find it less expensive and less crowded.” The old “Time is money” adage definitely applies here, since shorter lines mean you’ll be able to conquer the required territory in fewer days.
Cast a Wider Net
Scoring a discount on a ticket to one of Disney’s parks requires some digging. But hey, at least you can more readily control what you spend on lodging, right? For the biggest bargains, “consider booking your accommodations a few miles away from the park, like the Chatham Park neighborhood,” says Ryan Rabideau, an analyst at Vacasa, a vacation-rental management company. “It’s only about a 15-minute drive, and you can find a three-bedroom vacation rental there for around $109 per night.” Determined to stay at a Disney property but still want room to spread out? Try renting a Disney Deluxe Villa through a third-party source like DVC Rental Store or David’s Vacation Club Rentals. They essentially serve as brokers between tourists and the folks who own Disney time-shares, renting out the same lodging at roughly half of what you’d pay by going through traditional channels.
Skip the Rental Car
“Many hotels, not just Disney properties, provide airport shuttle service, as well as service to and from the park,” says Lissa Poirot,editor in chief of FamilyVacationCritic.com. Even without, it makes more sense to take a cab, Uber, or Lyft to avoid the rental cost and about $20 daily parking fee. (The taxi drop-off/pickup location for Magic Kingdom Park is located at the Transportation and Ticket Center, or TTC, near the monorail.)
Eat and Drink Like an Insider
Before ordering a full meal for everyone, take a look at the portion sizes: “Some of the entrées are big enough to share, and plenty of the side items are big enough for a meal and at least a few dollars cheaper,” says Holt. (Her most stretchable faves around $15 or less: the half chicken with baked beans, coleslaw, and cornbread at Animal Kingdom’s Flame Tree Barbecue and the steak-and-chicken fajita platter with rice and beans at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe in Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland.) Spring for the $10 reusable bucket of popcorn on day one and then buy refills in assorted flavors for $1.50 each from kiosks across the park.
Bring Your Own
Disney’s makeover stations—“salons” that can charge up to about $200 to transform children into characters via costumes, hair, and makeup—are irresistible to would-be princesses and pirates. Head those pleas off at the pass by bringing your own costumes. “You should also bring personal misters or fans for when it gets hot and glow sticks for nighttime,” says Holt. “It’s hard not to gravitate toward those light-up souvenirs, but this way you’re prepared with inexpensive versions.”