My family just got back from six days of vacation in Orlando, Fla. My husband has been home for two weeks of leave, so we took a vacation to celebrate having him back. We spent one day at the Magic Kingdom, one day at Disney Hollywood Studios and one day at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.
I have to admit that my family’s Disney and Universal trip was not as cheap as it could have been. It was planned last minute because my husband’s leave was delayed, and we did not get a hotel or tickets until we had his flight confirmation. But I’ve learned some great tips to save money at either location and want to share what I’ve learned.
This week, I will focus on saving money at Disney.
One of the best resources for saving money at Disney is a Web site called Couponing to Disney. The owner of the site uses her couponing savings to pay for her family’s weeklong Disney trip every year. She shares money-saving tips, tricks, cost calculators and how to use couponing to pay for your trip. I highly recommend checking out the Web site at www.couponingtodisney.com.
First of all, I learned it’s best to go for a long trip and choose one place. It’s simple, the longer you stay, the cheaper the tickets get per day. Our one-day ticket to Magic Kingdom was $95 per adult ticket and $89 for children ages 3-9, and Hollywood Studios were $90 and $84 a day, respectively.
However, if you get a five-day ticket pack, the cost per day drops down to $57.80 per day for adults and $54 a day for children ages 3-9.
The biggest savings that you can get at Disney is getting a resort during the off season. The resort prices per night can vary greatly. According to Couponing to Disney’s Disney Training Guide, the cheapest times to stay at a Disney resort are January and February, and mid-August to the end of September. During this time, a value resort will cost $82-$95 per night.
The next best time to go is the regular season. This is the first week of March, most of May, most of October, and the first two weeks of November and December. The prices are slightly higher. The same value resort room will cost between $105-$120 a night.
The room will cost you between $124-$144 during summer season (June 3 to Aug. 13), and $164 a night during peak season (mid-March to the end of April) and holiday season (last two weeks of November and December).
The value resorts fill up fast, so booking them far in advance helps secure the lower prices.
Since my family had to go a specific week and didn’t get our hotel until the last minute, we decided to find a hotel off Disney property since all the value resorts were full. I found a reasonable hotel through Hotels.com for $100 a night, which included a water park on the property. It was only 12 miles from Disney and 4 miles from Universal Studios. However, I saw a similar hotel offered on Groupon for $60 a night two months ago. So my advice is to really look around. We saw many hotels on Interstate 4 advertising hotel rooms for $65 dollars a night, so it might even pay off to find a hotel once you arrive.
For food options, Disney offers a dining plan if you stay at one of their resorts. Currently, it is offering a free dining plan when you stay in their resort for at least five nights and buy your park tickets in a Magic Your Way Package. This offer is held at the end of the summer and during other off-season times. My family and I spent $120 at a single character dining experience, but then did quick-service dining options such as Pizza Planet for our other meals. Those were about $45-$60 per meal. The dining plan averages about $155 a day for a family of four and includes one character or sit-down meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per day.