Will Saving Money Hurt My Disney Experience?

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While scanning a recent Quora feed, I came across the question, “What are some ways to save money at Disney World without taking away from the experience?”

Over the years, I’ve seen countless requests for money saving tips and read scores of articles proffering advice on how to save money on Disney travel, but very few of them address the quality-of-experience topic. So I’m here to discuss whether saving money will negatively impact the quality of your Walt Disney World vacation. I’ll preface my discussion by saying that almost all of this is subjective. One man’s minor sacrifice will be another man’s major drag.

The main areas of potential savings are: transportation, lodging, food, souvenirs, and tickets. Here are my thoughts on whether utilizing common money saving tips in these areas will negatively impact your trip.

Saving money by not renting a car can be no big deal or a giant drag, depending on where you're staying.

Saving money by not renting a car can be no big deal or a giant drag, depending on where you’re staying.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Common Savings Tip: Drive instead of fly.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Maybe. Depending on the number of people in your party and the distance you’re traveling, driving instead of flying can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. However, if you’re driving for more than 8 or 10 hours, you’re losing a day of vacation time on both ends of your trip. You’ll also likely arrive at Walt Disney World somewhat tired from the concentration of driving or the frustration of dealing with “Are We There Yet” children.
  • Common Savings Tip: Use Disney’s free transportation instead of renting a car.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: It depends on where you’re staying at Walt Disney World. If you’re at one of the monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian) or one of the Epcot resorts (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club), your travel time to more than one of the theme parks will be shorter using Disney transportation than it would with a car. If you’re at these hotels and spending most of your touring at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (plus DHS for BW, YC & BC), then not having a car will be no imposition at all. However, if you’re staying at a Saratoga Springs Treehouse, which requires two steps just to get to one theme park, or at one of the larger moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs) with multiple internal bus stops, then having a car will be a big plus for you.
  • Common Savings Tip: Bring only carry-on luggage.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Probably not. There are laundry facilities for guest use at every Walt Disney World resort, as well as a range of personal care items for sale in the resort gift shops. I’m no fan of chores on vacation, but most of the laundry rooms are located near the resort pools, so you can spin while you swim. This means that very little fun time will be consumed by clothing maintenance. (And yes, I know that Southwest and JetBlue fliers generally get free checked bags, but not all areas are served by these carriers.)
The value resorts can be a good money-saving option for many guests.

The value resorts can be a good money-saving option for many guests.

LODGING

  • Common Savings Tip: Visit during off-peak times.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: No! Much to the contrary – visiting during off peak times will likely save you time as well as money. The lowest hotel cost times are also the lowest crowd times. The only possible negative is that Disney often uses the off season for attraction maintenance. You may find that a favorite ride is out of service if you visit off peak.
  • Common Savings Tip: Stay in a Disney value resort.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Only if you’re a prima donna. Guests who are used to Four Seasons comfort may be underwhelmed by Disney’s value resorts, but they’re perfectly fine for those of us living here on earth. The value resorts are clean, fun, and include all the perks of staying on Disney property including free Magical Express transportation, resort merchandise delivery, access to Extra Magic Hours, free theme park parking, and more. And if you’ll be spending most of your time touring the parks, you may barely notice that you’re in an economy-style room.
  • Common Savings Tip: Stay at an off-site resort.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Maybe, maybe not. Offsite guests won’t be able to take advantage of Disney perks like Magical Express and Extra Magic Hours. Depending on the location of your hotel, you may spend extra time in transit, particularly if you plan on taking an afternoon nap at your hotel. On the other hand, some guests like breaking out of the Disney bubble at the end of the day, or have accommodation needs that make on-site stays impractical.
  • Common Savings Tip: Put the maximum number of adults in a room.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Probably. Each Disney resort hotel has a stated maximum room capacity. For example, the value resorts allow four guests, plus an infant in a crib, per room. The value resorts are great if the occupants are a single, a couple, or a couple and small child. However, four large adults sharing a 260 square foot room, two double beds and one sink/shower/toilet can feel very cramped, very fast. If you plan to put four adults in a value room, make sure you’re very close friends.
  • Common Savings Tip: Share lodging with extended family.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Maybe. There’s a lot to consider when you’re vacationing with relatives. If your touring styles are totally in synch, then economies-of-scale savings can be substantial, particularly at off-site lodging. However, mismatched personalities can turn a great vacation into torture. Consider whether any amount of savings would make bunking with your grumpy brother-in-law worth it.
  • Common Savings Tip: Use PIN codes or special offers.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Nope, go for it! Disney often releases special PIN codes, bounce-back offers, annual pass discounts, or other promotional discounts. If you’re able to find these, enjoy the savings.
  • Common Savings Tip: Use travel aggregators such as Orbitz, Expedia, or Travelocity to book your room.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: No. Even without special codes, you can often find discounts on Disney lodging via the major travel aggregator websites. Last year I priced a stay at the Pop Century resort on the Disney World website and then priced the same stay on Expedia.com. The Expedia price was 15% lower for the exact same room, with all the same perks and amenities. Guess where I booked?
Bringing your own snacks can reap big savings, but you may want to budget for a few iconic treats.

Bringing your own snacks can reap big savings, but you may want to budget for a few iconic treats.

FOOD

  • Common Savings Tip: Bring snacks into the park.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Probably not. Disney allows guests to bring their own food and beverages into the theme parks. In my mind, a water bottle and an apple are the same whether you pay $3.00 for them in the park or $1.00 at a local grocery. However, some snacks, like the iconic Mickey bar, have no portable equivalent, so you may want to work a few bonus snacks into your budget.
  • Common Savings Tip: Bring meals into the park.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Maybe. Toting a few snacks into the parks isn’t much trouble, but once you’re talking about full meals, you have to start thinking about serious shopping and food storage, which can cut into your vacation mindset. There are also a number of dining experiences (character meals, dinner shows, themed venues such as the Sci-Fi Dine In) that can be big fun. You may feel that you’re missing out if you avoid those entirely.
  • Common Savings Tip: Cook in my room.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Probably. You should first be aware that most appliances are forbidden in standard Disney hotel rooms. If you bring your hot plate, waffle iron, electric skillet, or crock pot into a standard room, you’re violating a slew of fire code regulations and are subject to eviction from the hotel. If you’re in family suite or villa (or many off-site accommodations), cooking is OK, but do you really want to be washing pots at Walt Disney World? For folks facing severe food allergies, cooking on your own may be your best alternative. For many others, cooking will be a big vacation downer.
  • Common Savings Tip: Eat meals at off-site restaurants.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: It depends on where you’re staying and where you’re eating. There are many wonderful and not-so-wonderful dining venues both on Disney property and off. Guests staying on Disney property without a car will find off-site dining untenable. But if you have a car, there are a number of good, affordable restaurants within a 20 minute drive or so. If you don’t mind stepping out of the Disney bubble, and you avoid obviously dicey dining spots, then you’re probably OK with this one.
  • Common Savings Tip: Share meals.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Probably not. Disney portion sizes are notoriously large. It’s often possible to share an entree between two adults or three small children while fully satisfying the appetites of all involved. If you have light eaters in your party, sharing meals is a great way to diffuse costs.
  • Common Savings Tip: Get free dining.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Maybe. You should first read Tom Bricker’s excellent analysis of whether free dining is really a cost savings. Then consider whether your personal dining style matches that of the dining plan. For example, the dining plan includes lots of dessert. If you’re not a dessert eater, this may not be for you. Or if your favorite restaurant is not part of the plan, then you may feel frustrated. This one requires lots of research to assess its true value.
  • Common Savings Tip: Eat only quick service meals.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Probably not. The quick service options at Walt Disney World have improved considerably in recent years. If you’re dining on St. Louis ribs at the Flame Tree BBQ, Tacos de Carne at La Cantina de San Angel, or a lobster roll at Columbia Harbor House, chances are you won’t even notice that you’re having fast food.
  • Common Savings Tip: Use coupons or discount programs.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: No. A number of Disney and related entities offer dining discounts as part of their plans. If you’re a DVC owner, Annual Pass holder, D23 member, or AAA member, you’re entitled to many dining discounts. There are also coupons in the back of the Birnbaum Guide to Walt Disney World and some local Orlando publications. Assuming that you were going to eat at those restaurants anyway, why not enjoy your meal at a reduced price.
Bypassing souvenirs is a relatively painless way to economize.

Bypassing souvenirs is a relatively painless way to economize.

SOUVENIRS

  • Common Savings Tip: Don’t buy any souvenirs.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: It depends on your personality and the decibel level of your children’s pleas. Of course you don’t actually NEED any Disney souvenirs, so this seems like a relatively easy place to cut costs, but the unavoidable ubiquity of merchandise in the parks means that you or your kids are bound to find something that screams, “BUY ME.” More power to you if you can stick to your guns and skip souvenirs or acquire only free items (of which there are many). Remember that the best souvenir may be photos of your family enjoying time together. Take those with your own digital camera and incur no incremental costs.
  • Common Savings Tip: Buy Disney-themed items to give to kids during the trip.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Not if you’re a good planner. Low cost Disney-licensed merchandise is available in countless locations including dollar stores, discounts stores, and online. Some guests will buy trinkets and tees at these venues, and give them to their kids during vacation in lieu of the more expensive in-park offerings. If you’re a good planner and packer, this can be a viable alternative to big spending. For possibly disposable items like a princess dress, buying off-site can reap substantial savings.
  • Common Savings Tip: Set a strict souvenir budget.
There are many reputable discount ticket vendors. You can even add your discount tickets to your MagicBand.

There are many reputable discount ticket vendors. You can even add your discount tickets to your MagicBand.

TICKETS

  • Common Savings Tip: Buy park tickets from a non-Disney vendor.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Not at all. There are a number of reputable vendors of discount Disney tickets. These are the very same tickets you can buy from Disney itself, but at a lower cost. Our Least Expensive Ticket Calculator can help you find a deal that meets your needs. Of course, always do your due diligence before buying tickets from anyone other than Disney, there are some scams out there, but most vendors are above board.
  • Common Savings Tip: Don’t buy the Park Hopper Add-On.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: It depends. Check out the comments on our Park Hopper FAQ article. You’ll see that some guests wouldn’t visit Disney World without it, while other find it a waste of cash. See which touring style matches yours to make the best decision for your family.
  • Common Savings Tip: Pre-buy tickets ahead of a price jump.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: No. Disney typically announces their annual ticket price hike a few days in advance. If you’re on the ball, you can buy your tickets for next year’s trip during this time, effectively letting you in at last year’s prices. The expiration clock on Disney tickets does not begin until they are first used, so if you’re willing to tie up some cash, you can reap even more savings by pre-buying your tickets several years in advance.
  • Common Savings Tip: Don’t buy tickets to extra events like the Halloween and Christmas parties and the water parks.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Probably not. I’m a big fan of the Magic Kingdom parties, but if you’re a first time visitor you may find them overwhelming, or if you’ve done the parties in the past, you may have had your fill. And then there’s a myriad of things to consider if you’re thinking about doing one of the parties with small children in tow. In any case, there are enough things to do in and around Walt Disney World that skipping an evening party shouldn’t have an appreciable negative impact on your vacation.
  • So what do YOU think? Have you found that penny pinching put a dent in your fun? Or did being frugal make the fun all the better? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on October 2, 2013

23 Responses to “Will Saving Money Hurt My Disney Experience?”

  • Hi Erin — thanks for another wonderful post! With our Disney days well behind us for a long while :( I will share my thoughts. As you said, the question is completely subjective. I went to Disney about 5 times between the ages of 5 and 15. The first time (opening year of the Magic Kingdom) we camped in a pop up camper in an orange grove. No A.C. Florida. I understand my Mom hated it. The next times, we stayed at Fort Wilderness, which was delightful. In 2009, we took our young boys and stayed at CBR with the Deluxe Dining Plan. For people of our modest means, we felt like Rockefellers, eating appetizers and desserts with every meal! This summer, we rented DVC points and stayed in a studio at WL, eating most of our meals in the room and shared a few meals in the parks.

    My thoughts are that each and every Disney experience is different — unique. And it’s Disney! So each experience is WONDERFUL! (Spoken like a non-objective Disney-phile!) But truly, it depends on your expectations. If you are a person who gets excited goosebumps when you use a bunch of coupons at the grocery store, then the thrill of saving money will likely overcome the disappointment of a PBJ from your backpack. If you thrive on luxury and serenity, don’t stay at a value hotel.

    The best thing a person can do is read the Unofficial Guide cover to cover and search for Erin’s articles on the blog. If you know what you really WANT from your Disney vacation, then you can plan accordingly to get it.

  • Nice article. We always stay off site and rent a car, then hit off the supermarket for a case of water and snacks for our kids. This year we planned it that while my wife was getting herself and our daughters ready I did the shopping. We lost 10 minutes, if that, at the park that morning.
    Also some of the off site Disney Good Neighbor hotels have busses that run between the parks as well.

  • I have never understood the advice to not buy tickets to the parties. Of course, there are certain circumstances where NOT buying party tickets is the best way to go. But generally, the party tickets are around $60. You can get in at 4pm and the parties usually go until 1am. That’s 9 hours, in the cool of the evening, with generally less crowds, with a special party only parade, party only fireworks show, special treats, decorations, music and effects. And short ride lines! When you compare the cost of a one day ticket to Magic Kingdom to the cost of a party ticket and compare the experiences, you can start to see the value of a party. That being said, when you are buying a multi-day ticket, the cost of adding a 5th, 6th, and more days, is like $10 a day or something. So that changes the equation. Personally, I solve the problem by only purchasing party tickets with my Chase Disney Rewards Dollars, thus making my party tickets free to me. And on party days, I sleep in, swim in the pool, and have a nice lunch before heading over to the park. So, I don’t waste a regular park day off of my ticket.

    • I totally agree with this! My son and I rode Space Mountain SIX TIMES IN A ROW because there was no wait! (To be clear, we did have to exit the ride.) That was worth the extra expense and if you are a parade lover, the special parades are simply fabulous as well the the incredible fireworks! The short wait times are AMAZING.

    • I agree as well – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween was the highlight of our trip. Incredibly light crowds, best fireworks show we’ve seen at WDW (though we haven’t been at Christmas yet!) and an amazing parade. Can’t wait to go next Christmas!

  • Hi Erin

    Once again, great article. I hope you won’t mind some of our personal tips. When we go to WDW we usually stay in the one bedroom villa’s, being that our party consists of myself, my husband and my parents and staying in the villa at fully occupancy really does reduce the cost per person. As we visit other attractions offsite we rent a car, which is much much cheaper than taxi fares. Tickets for us are never really a problem as being in England we get a Britain only 14 day ultimate ticket which includes all the add ons and a free round of mini golf a day and disney quest aswell, all for around £200GBP per ticket. The dining plan also works out very well for us as my mother is a very fussy eat so only uses very few of the quick service credits freeing up more for the rest of the party and all her allotment of table service credits are available for the rest of us to eat at the higher end restaurants more often. Also, just to offer a quick money saving tip on Universal Studio’s and IOA, we worked out that its cheaper to by the two park ticket with express pass included than to buy them separately. Doing it this way we saved around 200 dollars by buying express passes included in the entrance ticket over buying both componants separately.

  • I think this is a great article and generally I agree with what you have said. One thing you did not mention was getting a Disney Visa card, which can give you some discounts in the stores when purchasing merchandise (as well as the free character M&G photo and a few other minor discounts). IMHO, the card actually enhances your experience, even if you are like us and you only use it for the perks (not your regular purchases).

    I’d also like to comment on the value hotel question.You state that staying in a value hotel will only worsen your experience ‘if you are a prima donna’. I’d like to counter that statement with our own experience. For us, the choice of Disney resort is heavily tied into transportation (which you discuss separately in your article). We are rope drop people, and as such it is important to us to stay as close as possible to the parks, to cut down on our transportation time in the morning. It’s difficult to get to a park 30-60 minutes before opening if you have to spend up to an hour just getting to the parking lot! So we always stay at deluxe resorts, not because we ‘turn up our noses’ at value or moderate resorts, but because the deluxe resorts have the best locations. Staying on the monorail line mere minutes away from the Magic Kingdom is priceless! Being at the ‘back door’ to Epcot and dropping in to dinner at the World Showcase every night is wonderful! Walking over to DHS in less than 15 minutes in the early morning is fantastic! We pay for the deluxe resorts because we want to make the best use of our time. In that sense, staying at a moderate or value resort that is not next to a park (or staying at a deluxe resort that is not next to a park) would severely impact our experience.

    Also, I’m surprised to see you touting EMH as a ‘perk’ of staying onsite. EMH is simply a guide of which park NOT to visit. EMH parks are much busier throughout the day, and are generally the worst park to visit on a given day if you wish to avoid crowds. I thought this was ‘common knowledge’ amongst the touring plan people?

    Lastly, and this is a minor thing, if you book a Disney hotel room using another agent (such as Expedia or Orbitz) then the room is the same, but you cannot make any advance requests. If you desire a specific room location, view, extra pillows and towels, etc., you have to wait until you are checking into the hotel to make those requests, and by that time the rooms you prefer may be gone. It’s not a big deal, but it might matter to some people. (I found this out myself the hard way when I booked a discounted room through Orbitz and then called up Disney and tried to add requests to my Disney confirmation number.)

    • by David Davies on October 3, 2013, at 8:52 am EDT

      I don’t think anyone on the Touring Plans team would tell folks to avoid a park with Extra Magic Hours under all circumstances. EMH can definitely be a benefit (especially if you have a park hopper ticket and/or are visiting during a very busy time of year), but you have to use it wisely.

      See http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/extra-magic-hours for information and advice.

      • There certainly is a benefit to EMH. One of our family’s very best Disney memory is the time we grabbed an early dinner, took a late day nap, and went back to MK around midnight to enjoy EMH. It was so out of character for us to cut loose that much- we’ll never forget that magical night!

  • Great Article! I have to say though I really believe I NEED souvenirs!

    Seriously, though another tip: if you have a long vacation planned or plan to go more than once in a year, consider an Annual Pass instead of buying tickets. You get the park hopper, free parking, merchandise and dining discounts, etc… and if you’re like us and go every year – you can get two trips out of one annual pass. We bought our first one before a price increase so we had the benefit of “last year’s prices” and the renewals are cheaper than paying full price. PLUS you can buy Tables in Wonderland which gives you a dining discount in more places and allows more flexible dining that the dining plans (discount applies to alcohol, appetizers, meals and desserts where it is accepted – so if you’re not a dessert person but like a good glass of wine, you’re covered!).

    The biggest tip is to run all the numbers every way you can think of to make sure you are getting the best value for your vacation and still getting the vacation you want! For me, part of the fun is in the planning so it’s all worthwhile.

  • One thing we did this summer was my son and I drove down separate from my husband. He then flew down on a 1-way ticket and drove home with us. We are considering that for a December trip next year as well, except that I will drive down myself with my husband and son leaving after school on the 2nd day. This way, we save on airfare and still have our car. We are in Maryland, so it is a fairly easy 2-day drive. I wouldn’t try it in one alone.

    As for the transportation, we are new Disney Vacation Club members and stayed in a deluxe resort for the first time this year (Animal Kingdom Jambo). It was by far our worst bus experience. I spent longer waiting for a bus to arrive at that resort than I have at Moderates or Values in the past. This may have been a fluke, but after 2 days of waiting, I gave up and drove to parks.

    Finally, when my son was 2 1/2, we stayed at a Moderate with the assumption that we would spend more time in the room. At age 4, we stayed in a Value for 2 nights (just a quick, Magic Kingdom fix). We decided that we would pay for the Moderate in the future. Even with just 2 adults and 1 pre-schooler, we felt the size of the room. If it meant the difference between going and not, I would go back to value; but I would look are to find a way to go up to Moderate…especially since some Moderates now have queen size beds.

    The other thing we often do is share snacks. Many snacks are on the sweet side and too many sweets in the heat leave us feeling like sleeping, not riding. So, we buy one snack at a time and then get to try many more things. (It is only 3 of us, so sharing isn’t such a big deal.)

  • If you’re expecting Four Seasons luxury, then even some of the Deluxe resorts can be a bit disappointing. Unless there’s some specific perk you’re after, like monorail transportation, being able to walk to Epcot and Studios, or a savanna view, I don’t think Deluxe is worth it, even if you can afford it.

    That being said, I still stay at AKL, because I like relaxing and watching the animals. I book a basic (no view) room, and at check-in, ask if there are any upgrades available. Particularly at off-peak times, it’s pretty likely that there’s a chance of a free or paid upgrade. (There are a number of rooms where the view straight out the window is mainly of a maintenance area, but if you go out to the balcony and face sideways, you can see savanna, which works for me, and is usually a free upgrade.)

    Regarding food, the #1 tip I have is to bring a water bottle, and refill it at the water fountains. Make a point of drinking at least something between every attraction, even if it’s just a sip. Not only does it save money over buying lots of Disney drinks, it’ll also make you feel better: a lot of Disney fatigue is really just overheating and dehydration, and drinking water frequently will also make you feel less hungry. I usually pack a piece of fruit per person for a 10 AM snack (especially if you’re following a touring plan, those headliners can be exhausting, and you don’t want to waste precious morning time in line for a snack). I bring a peanut butter and [jelly/banana/honey/fluff/whatever] for a light lunch, and some calorie-dense snack like trail mix or a granola bar for an early afternoon snack. And I’m not doing any of these things primarily for the money savings, I’m doing them to improve my Disney experience! It lets me go straight from attraction to attraction in the morning, and then avoid the dining peak at lunchtime. And as a bonus, since I usually make it to the middle of the afternoon without taking out my wallet, I’m much more willing to splurge on mickey bars, dole whips, or other things I can’t pack in with me. (Also, my bag gets lighter over the course of the day, which is always nice.)

    Food tip #2 is when you order counter service, don’t get the meal. It doesn’t say so on the menu, but declining the fries/apple slices/cucumber salad will save you a couple of bucks. More than enough to buy a REAL apple at the fruit stand.

    As for cooking in the room, if you’re an early riser, Disney days can start kind of late. Most sit-down breakfast places don’t open until 8, which can make it tough to get to the park for rope drop. Counter service breakfast isn’t always an option, and I’m not a huge fan of it, anyway, so I like doing breakfast in the room. If I have a room with a stove, then eggs are great, but I can make do with fruit and cereal, or maybe a muffin. Again, I do it for non-financial reasons, but it still saves money.

    Finally, something I hadn’t thought of until my dad pointed it out to me: even if you’re staying at an inconveniently located hotel, using Disney Transportation can improve your experience by giving you one less thing to worry about/think about. Yes, it takes a bit more time, but it also gives you more time to talk to your family about the plan for the day, take in the sights, or just shut your brain off for a little while.

    • I totally agree with everything with one modification that I just learned prior to my last trip. I didn’t carry water bottles, we just stopped at a quick serve and got a free cup of ice water. They give them to you in the small soda size cups, so I the weight of carrying water is now gone. I will admit that if I had been dying of thirst at lunch rush, I would have been a bit sorry, but we did fine with water fountains at that point. By the way, I have found the hotel restaurants serve breakfast before 8:00:)

  • You don’t have to be a “prima donna” to appreciate and prefer a nicer hotel. There are perfectly normal people who can afford and prefer deluxes over values.

    • I also have to take issue with the “prima donna” assessment. The Moderates and Deluxes offer more amenities that people may choose to pay for. If those amenities contribute meaningfully to the enjoyment of their WDW vacation, why are they then to be considered prima donnas?

      • by daffystardust on October 2, 2013, at 7:15 pm EDT

        I don’t think she meant to insult people who prefer a mod or deluxe resort. It looks to me that she was talking about someone who thinks staying at a value would RUIN their vacation.

        • Yes, exactly. Thank you.

          I usually stay at deluxe resorts myself. I prefer the proximity to the parks, larger beds, and having easy access to table service restaurants. That being said, a few times a year I find myself needing a Disney quick fix. When I make these lower budget visits, I typically stay at the Pop Century. Would I rather stay at the Poly? Sure. But staying at the Pop is perfectly fine as well.

  • For my son, Disney transportation is an attraction in itself. He loves riding the buses and monorails. So for us, we consider it not just a way to save money or get around, but part of our semi-annual Disney experience. :D

  • One of my favorite trips to Disney World was one I took on practically no money at all. I had worked for over a year with no vacation, and a friend wanted me to come with her and her daughter. I knew she would never be able to afford the trip, so on the side I planned my own (much cheaper) trip to FL. I went bare bones. I stayed in a dorm at the hostel in Kissimmee for just over $100 for 7 days. I bought a 5 day park hopper pass before the price hike for the year. I ate lunch and dinner at counter service restaurants in the parks, but I made my breakfast in the kitchen at the hostel before leaving. One unexpected surprise, I had a guy come with me to the park from the hostel for a couple of days. One of the services of a hostel, is that they will try to get guests together who are visiting the same place. Since I was driving, he paid for my parking. Plus, there were a ton of cast members waiting for their on site housing to open up who were staying in the hostel, so I got to hear a ton of insider information I might never have known. It was great! I actually went home with $100 of my spending money still in my pocket, and I loved every minute of the trip.

  • This is a very detailed and informative post, especially for newbies. I think in general the answer to the overall question is no, but there are parts of it that could have a different answer. Disney doesn’t want us to ask these questions for the most part, especially with staying off-site. We’ve had a great time driving instead of flying (saving a lot of money) from Missouri and staying off-site, but it depends on each situation.