Many will argue that a Disney World Vacation is a splurge in and of itself. It’s true that Disney can be quite expensive, but if you decide to take the plunge, these splurges just might be worth it!
1. Upgrade your hotel.
I will almost always suggest to opt for a Disney Resort Hotel over any off-site for the many free things you get including Magical Express, MagicBands, Disney Transportation, Extra Magic Hours, and more. However, there are times when it makes sense to upgrade to a higher end hotel.
You probably know that Disney World Hotels are separated into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value Resorts have basic amenities including a couple pools, standard motel-style rooms, and a food court. Moderate Resorts will have better themed pools, larger rooms, and more dining options. Deluxe Resorts have the best themed pools, the largest rooms arranged hotel-style, and signature dining options. Value resorts have cartoonish themes and large character statues that will be nonexistent at Moderate and Deluxe Resorts, which will feel more adult-like. Deluxe Resorts will be in prime locations meaning better access to and views of the parks. Some Deluxe Resorts even have great views of Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom Area Hotels and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot Area Hotels.
If you’re upgrade from a Value Resort to a Moderate Resort, you’ll spend anywhere from $100 – $200 more per night. If that seems like too much of a splurge, consider staying at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. While still a Value Resort, Art of Animation will give you many of the amenities available at a Moderate Resort.
If your upgrade is from a Moderate Resort to a Deluxe Resort, you could spend upwards of $200-$300 more per night depending on resort. This may be out of your price range, so consider a split stay. Begin your vacation at a Moderate or even a Value Resort and spend the bulk of your time there. Then transfer to a Deluxe Resort for the last couple nights. Avoid beginning at a Deluxe Resort since it will be quite difficult to go from luxury amenities of the Deluxe Resorts to the basic amenities of the Value Resorts.
2. Purchase party tickets.
Disney World offers two seasonal holiday parties: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Both parties feature excellent parades, unique firework shows, special character meet and greets, and freebees. Guests attending the Halloween Party receive free candy trick-or-treat style, and those attending at Christmas time will get free cookies and hot cocoa or juice.
In addition to these treats, guests to these hard-ticket events will also find smaller crowds since there are a limited number of tickets sold for each event which run are select nights from October to December.
Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members receive an extra discount, and nights farther away from the holiday itself will be less expensive than events closer to the holiday.
Tickets for either event can be as high as $70 per person, but instead of considering this a splurge, use it as a way to save money instead! With just your party ticket, you can enter Magic Kingdom as early as 4pm on the day of your event. From 4pm-7pm, you can enjoy the park along with everyone else. After 7pm, only those with tickets for the event will be allowed in the park. Since the parks close early to regular guests on these days, the crowds are usually much lighter to begin with, and once the park closes to regular-ticket guests, crowds go way down. The park is also usually open late into the night for party guests. Theoretically, you could get up to eight hours in the park for just $50-$70 per person! If you use this day as your only park admission, a family of four could save almost $150 by purchasing a party ticket instead of a One-Day Pass.
Using the rest of your vacation time enjoying your upgraded resort (see what I did there) and enjoying everything else Disney World has to offer like shopping districts and mini-golf could save a lot of money.
3. Try a Signature Restaurant.
Dining at Disney World could easily be a vacation in itself. Hundreds of dining locations are scattered around Disney World property, and they serve so much more than a burger on the go. There are several very nice restaurants (what Disney calls Signature Restaurants) offering a variety of cuisine and style.
Crystal Palace, a Character Dining experience, is an amazing meet and greet opportunity with Winnie the Pooh and Friends.
Instead of splurging and wasting money on a buffet, consider a Signature Restaurant like Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian. At Narcoossee’s, each person orders individually, and a children’s meal can cost anywhere from $7.00 for a kid’s meal cheeseburger, tater tots, veggies, and a drink to $13 for a kid’s flat iron steak, roasted potatoes, veggies, and a drink. This is about half of what you would spend at a buffet-style meal. Adults can enjoy entrees of steak and seafood averaging about $45.00 per person. Again, this dinner totals about $120 as well.
If the kids are heartbroken about missing the opportunity to meet Winnie the Pooh and Piglet too while munching on their pancakes and eggs, book your dinner reservation about 45 to 60 minutes before Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. As soon as the lights dim, the music starts, and the first firework booms in front of their very eyes, they’ll forget about the missed opportunity (as long as they can meet Pooh later at the 100 Acre Wood). What’s more, you’ll get to see the Electrical Water Pageant just before Wishes begins.
If you are a Florida Resident, an Annual or Seasonal Passholder, or a DVC Member, consider purchasing a Tables in Wonderland card. This card will give you a 20% discount on food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) at over 100 restaurants in Disney World, complimentary resort valet and theme park parking, and invitations to special events. A card will cost you about $100 dollars, but it can save you quite a bit of money on your Disney World dining.
4. See La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil.
It’s hard to justify spending money to see a show in Disney World when so many shows are included in the purchase of your Magic Your Way ticket, but La Nouba just might be worth the extra money. It is not only unique to Disney World, but it is also unique in Walt Disney World. The actors are mesmerizing and the entertainment keeps you on the edge of your seat. If you feel like you’ve had character overload, this is a great show for you. Tickets range anywhere from $50 to $160 depending on where you choose to sit.
5. Go during Christmas.
Christmas is a great time to visit Disney World. The Resort Hotels are magnificently decorated, Main Street U.S.A. is truly magical, and the characters dress in their Christmas best. You might even catch a glimpse of “snow” falling from the sky!
If you think you can’t afford to visit Disney during Christmastime, you might be pleasantly surprised. The best time to go is between Thanksgiving and Christmas and especially the first couple weeks of December. All of the decorations are up and you’ll enjoy all of the special Christmas activities, but you’ll find lower prices and smaller crowds.