I’ve Been to Disney World 3 Times and Have Saved a Ton of Money by Doing This One Thing

I never thought I’d be one of those people who takes their kids to Disney World more than once. When I travel, my preference is to get off the beaten path and seek out destinations that are remote and not filled with tourists. Disney is anything but.

However, because I love my kids, I conceded to visiting Disney not once, but three times over the past six years. And while those three trips definitely had the potential to break the bank, I made one smart move each time that led to a world of savings.

When you don’t pay a premium for a hotel

A day at Disney can be a really full one with morning to night rides, shows, and activities. When we planned our Disney trips, we knew we didn’t care about where we stayed.

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We didn’t need a high-end hotel with great amenities — we just needed some beds and a place to shower. So we opted to stay off-property — meaning, at a non-Disney resort. And it was a great decision for a few reasons.

First, there’s the money you’re spending for a place to shower and sleep. The cost of a night at a Disney resort can vary based on your travel dates and the property in question. For a week in September, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge might cost you anywhere from $466 to $651 a night, plus taxes, for a family of four. For that same week, a Marriott property just minutes from Disney costs $156 to $176 a night (plus taxes).

Also, when you stay at a Disney hotel, you’re pretty much trapped in the Disney ecosystem. This means that if you want anything from a quick breakfast to a sit-down dinner, you’re going to pay up. When you stay off-property, you can choose from any dining option outside the parks, which is generally likely to be much cheaper. And if your hotel has a kitchenette, you can even shop for groceries and prepare some meals at your home base, thereby adding to your savings.

Also, there’s the convenience factor. You might think that staying on property is easier, but that’s not necessarily so.

Some Disney hotels make it easy to get to and from the park because they’re within walking distance or on the famous monorail path. But in some cases, you might end up waiting a really long time for a shuttle to take you back to your room. And after a 10-hour day at the park when you have tired, cranky children to put to bed, you really do not want to be waiting for 45 minutes for a shuttle.

When you stay off-property, you may have access to a shuttle service with a much shorter wait time. Or, you can summon a rideshare. Sure, that might run you $30 or so. But if you’re saving $300 a night on lodging, you can justify that cost pretty easily.

Consider an off-property stay for your Disney trip

Staying off-property at Disney is something you should strongly consider if you want to spend less on your travels. To be clear, a Disney trip is never going to be a budget vacation. It’s important to get that out of the way, because even if you visit during the least expensive weeks of the year, you’re looking at potentially spending hundreds of dollars per day just to get in and give Mickey Mouse a wave.

But staying at a non-Disney hotel could make an otherwise pricey trip a lot more affordable, especially if you take a budget-conscious approach to dining. And that could make it possible for you to swing a repeat trip or two — that is, if you have the patience for it.

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