WHILE a Disney trip is on everyone's bucket list, it can quickly become an expensive holiday if you aren't careful.
Tickets to Disney World have recently gone up in price -but there are still savings to be had.
I managed to save AT LEAST £7,000 on my recent Disney trip. Here’s how you can too by making some BIG changes.
I was excited when Virgin announced direct flights from my home city of Edinburgh – but was shocked to receive a quote of almost £7,000 to fly direct.
After shopping around, we managed to secure indirect flights with hire car thrown in for £3,000.
Other advice is to look for flights into Tampa – which is an hour’s drive away from the action in Orlando – for a more palatable price.
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Explore other theme parks
Orlando is home to some of the best theme parks in the world but not all of them are Disney.
Harry Potter fans won’t be able to miss a trip to real-life Hogwarts at Universal Studios Resort and younger guests will want to visit Peppa Pig in her brand-new theme park as well as Elmo and friends at Seaworld.
Although not exactly cheap, you’re more likely to get a good price or even a deal on the ‘other’ Florida parks.
At Universal Studios, there are often deals directly on their website where you can get days free and or a percentage off ticket prices. But the same rule applies to all the parks: book in advance for the best price.
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There are some exclusive and brand-new restaurants in Disney Worldsuch as Space 220 in Epcot but can be expensive, with the prix fixe menu costing $79 per person.
If you’re not fussy about sit-down meals all the time, Disney do have some pretty good ‘quick service’ (fast food) eateries, and I also signed up for a Landry’s Select Card in advance of my trip which offers discounts to members in certain restaurants, including Bubba Gump Shrimp in CityWalk at Universal Studios and Rainforest Café in Disney Springs.
Food and drink
Most theme parks are fine with your bringing food, and you can also get free iced water at most food locations so squeezable diluted juice is a good idea to keep the kids hydrated on the cheap.
Soda fans, head to Club Cool in Epcot – the store offers free tasters of Coke drinks throughout the world – while you can get a refillable cup at Universal Studios.
As a family of six – four adults and two kids – we needed a lot of space and wanted to have the option to cook our own meals as well as have a private pool to relax in after long days at the parks. We initially priced up options within DisneyWorld but quickly ruled it out due to cost.
Instead, we stayed at a three-bedroom villa with private pool 15 mins drive away from Disney. A villa this size on Disney property is priced at around £2000 per night – which was the price of our entire two-week stay.
For UK guests, it can be hard to book single-day tickets for the parks as every site offers package deals. However, if you don't want park hopper tickets and only want to go to the parks for a couple of days, there are ways to buy individual tickets and save a couple of hundred pounds.
Undercover Tourist is a good site and always, always buy in advance. On-the-door ticket prices are no joke.
Just like tickets, buying merchandise should be bought in advance if possible – but for our trip, I managed to bag exclusive Disney ears on AliExpress for £4 each – the exact same Minnie lugs cost $34.99 in the parks.
I also managed to nab a Harry Potter costume for free on Facebook Marketplace for my daughter to wear at Universal Studios and picked up a cheap Moana dress from Tesco.
Orlando also have some of the best outlet shops to save cash.
Although the pound was at its weakest when we were there, Disney Character Warehouse in the Orlando International Premium Outlets is the spot to pick up official merchandise from the parks themselves.
My daughter used some of her spending money on a (ridiculous) pair of oversized slippers shaped like Mickey Mouse’s shoes. They were $10 in the outlet store, and we were surprised to see the exact same pair in Hollywood Studios for $30.
Parking and transportation
Parking is expensive but if you have the willpower and the time to spare, you can park for free at Disney Springs and take a free shuttle to the parks.
Bear in mind though, there is no direct bus and so you’ll have to go via one of the hotels. This can add hours to your day to think carefully before you try this money-saving hack.
The best advice is to download Lyft and Uber before you go. The prices fluctuate on both ride-share apps so check both for the best price.
Universal Studios offers free parking after a certain time – usually 6pm.
If you have little kids, you can skip the water parks -our villa at Storey Lake Resort had a free water park onsite which means we didn’t have to fork out for a day at Typhoon Lagoon or Universal’s new Volcano Bay, and the kids were just as happy.
However, if you’re not lucky enough to have an on-site water park, there are plenty of combo tickets that include water park access.
Legoland and Peppa Pig World both have waterparks in the middle of the theme parks themselves so don’t require a separate ticket.
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Skipping the Queues
The Fastpass system is gone in Disney and in its place is a paid-for Genie Plus service where guests pay around $20 each per day to skip the queues – but the new tech can go wrong.
Disney has addressed this by setting up various blue umbrellas throughout the park for guest services where if something goes wrong, they almost always offer a ‘free’ lightning lane to compensate.
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