Two of the most frequent questions about Walt Disney World that I get asked are, “How can we save money on our trip?” and “How can I avoid high crowds when visiting WDW?” Not knowing the answer to either of these questions could be the make or break between staying on budget and keeping your sanity or staying home and wishing you were there. I’m all about saving money at WDW (more money in my pocket= more trips!) and avoiding crowds while my family is there, so I’ve compiled my favorite Disney travel hacks to save money and avoid crowds. The solutions are super easy, too.
Here’s my seven favorite ways to save money and avoid crowds while visiting Walt Disney World!
Saving Money at Disney
Start Before You Visit
This is my #1 tip for saving money at Walt Disney Word: it begins in the planning stage and how flexible your dates are. If you can be flexible by, say, a week or two or even a month, you’ll have so much more success with finding better rates and perks. The best time of year to visit is during the WDW off-season. Off-season is generally the week before or after a major holiday, the week when most kids go back to school, most of January, etc. Think about when the kids are in school- that’s off-season, basically. These are the times when resort room rates are the lowest and when Disney releases special offers to pull folks into the parks. How can you stay on top of these offers? Read #2.
Request a Disney Planning DVD
Disney planning DVDs are my favorite way to save and here’s why: by requesting one you’ll undoubtedly be put on the WDW mailing list which ups your chance of receiving offer codes in the post or email. We have scored free dining and decent resort room discounts this way as long as you book within the selected dates. Depending on which level of onsite resort you’re planning to stay will determine the free dining level. In general, Quick Service freebies go with Value Resorts, and the Disney Dining Plan (mid-tier) will go with Moderate and Deluxe Resorts.
Take Advantage of Freebies
Walt Disney World offers so many freebies, so why not take advantage of them on your visit? From interactive games to shows to celebration buttons and stickers to, my favorite, glasses of ice water, there’s plenty of free to go around.
Avoiding High Crowds at Walt Disney World
There are times of year when you can’t even think about avoiding high crowds and, on a scale of 1-10, the crowd levels are a high 10. So high, in fact, that folks not staying on Disney property will be turned away at the gates. Knowing the right times of year to visit and having flexibility is key.
I Have Date Flexibility. When Should I Visit?
So, let’s create a scenario for a sec. Say you want to visit WDW in the spring right around Spring Break or Easter and you can play around with dates. The first thing I do is check Disney crowd calendars like Undercover Tourist. They’ve got the lock down on peak dates and days. Then I check my family’s calendar. Thankfully we have flexibility when it comes to dates so that’s half the battle. Plan on visiting when crowd levels are low and you’ll do just that.
I Know Crowd Levels Will Be High, But I’m Going Anyway. How Can I Time It Right?
If you know there’s going to be super high crowd levels (Fourth of July, Christmas Day and Easter, New Year’s Day), hit the park at rope drop, aka when the park opens. Actually, do yourself a favor a hit the park way before that. Even on low crowd level days my family likes getting up super early to catch the Welcome Show at Magic Kingdom, and sometimes we’re one of only a few handful of families waiting for Magic Kingdom to open. There are perks to that:
- Great view of Welcome Show- the Welcome Show is so much fun and ends with a countdown and fireworks for Magic Kingdom’s opening. One of our favorite moments ever.
- First Family- If you know what First Family is, you’ve undoubtedly been curious as to how you receive the honor. We were lucky last autumn and were picked.
- Photos with no other families in the background- LOVE this one! If you have Memory Maker, ask a Photopass photographer for a frame-worthy shot. Didn’t purchase Memory Maker? They will still take your pic with your camera or phone.
Watch the Park Ebb and Flow
If you’ve visited a Walt Disney World theme park before, you can start to see a pattern for crowd levels. Crowds are generally low at rope drop and right before the park closes (most folks leave immediately after the fireworks displays at night), start increasing before lunch, peak at mid-afternoon, and then taper after dinner. We love heading back to the resort after lunch, taking a nap or break for a couple of hours, and then return at or after dinner to catch the shows and fireworks.
If you don’t have/don’t want that sort of flexibility and have your heart set on staying in the park all day, there’s some ways to take advantage of the ebb and flow of Disney guests:
- Try to hit rides and attractions during parades, fireworks, and shows. Folks will be lining the streets to catch them, leaving less people in attraction queues.
- When it comes to dining, if you want to avoid standing in long queue lines you’ll probably have to change your family’s normal time to eat meals. We generally eat lunch and dinner early (think 11am and 5pm) and that always helps with saving time in line or looking for a table.
Schedule FastPass+ Selections in Advance
If you are staying on-property during your WDW vacation, when you select FastPass+ times can make all the difference between getting to ride the super popular rides or passing because of long wait times in the standby queue. When you book a vacation that includes theme park tickets, here’s the general rules for FastPass+:
- If you have purchased theme park tickets before your first day of arrival, you can start making Fastpass+ selections 30 days out. Have a Walt Disney World resort reservation? That gives you even more time to begin making choices. If you book a resort stay and tickets, Walt Disney World allows its guests to begin choosing Fastpass+ selections at 60 days out from their first day.
- If you really want to ride the popular rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Midway Mania, make sure you start selecting on the first day they’re available so you can have the best time option for your family.
Need a refresher course on FastPass+ and My Disney Experience? We’ve got tips and tricks for those, too!
Do you have a tip or trick to save money or your sanity when visiting Walt Disney World? Please let me know in the comment section below!