4 Ways to Save Money at Disney World This Summer

The Cinderella Castle
A day at one of Disney's (DIS) Florida theme parks isn't cheap. The family entertainment giant bumped one-day admissions for its flagship Magic Kingdom to $105 earlier this year, and it recently sent a survey to park guests to see if they would be willing to pay as much as $125 to visit the park during peak period.

However, a trip to Disney's theme park haven doesn't have to break the bank. Let's go over a few of the ways to save some money on your next trip to the self-proclaimed happiest place on Earth.

1. Reschedule Your Trip

Party poopers will argue that the easiest way to save money on your next trip to Disney World is not to go at all. That's cruel, but there's at least some logic to putting off your trip beyond the peak summertime tourist season.

Disney charges the same prices for its theme parks all year long -- for now -- but that doesn't apply to its resort hotels, where there is tiered pricing throughout the year. A standard room at the resort's newest Art of Animation property has a rack rate of $183 on weekdays and $214 on weekends this summer, moving even higher during holiday weekends. That drops to just $129 on weekdays and $156 on weekends beginning Aug. 16, when kids start heading back to school.

A welcome perk of hitting the parks during the off-season is that the crowds will also be smaller, even if that also means that the operating hours of the theme parks could be shorter.

2. Stay at a Non-Disney Resort

Disney makes it awfully tempting to stay at one of the more than 30,000 rooms that it makes available at its massive resort. It offers guests complimentary transportation to its parks, saving them $17 a day in parking. It opens select parks an hour earlier or keeps them open two hours later for resort guests only. Disney also lets booked guests reserve access to expedited FastPass queues before day guests and annual pass holders.

However, you can naturally get a lot more bang for your buck by staying at a hotel just outside of Disney World. As many rooms and hotels as the family entertainment giant makes available, there are far more options outside the resort. This also makes the non-Disney resorts more competitive and promotional.

You have to work the math, of course. You have to take parking and on-site perks into consideration. However, you will also be staying near a broader range of cheaper restaurants and attractions.

3. Eat Smarter

Getting hungry at a Disney park isn't a cheap proposition, but there are ways to stretch your dollar. For starters, you may consider having lunch instead of dinner at sit-down restaurants, since pricing does change at many locations. Selections and portion sizes change, too, but it's a lot easier to settle for dinner at the counter-service eateries that stick to the same pricing all day long.

Another thing you can do is bring your own food to eat at the park. This doesn't have to be some clandestine smuggling operation. Disney allows guests to bring snacks and other food items that don't require heating, and there are plenty of tables around the park to host your unlikely picnic.

You can also eat outside the resort. Arrive when the park opens -- and that's naturally a great idea since park lines are their shortest early in the morning -- and you may be done by dinner. Families with young children often take a break during the day to go back to the hotel and get some rest or hit the pool, and that can also accompany an outside meal.

4. Make Off-Site Meals and Attractions Even Cheaper

Those staying outside Disney property -- or resort guests with cars to explore the area -- will discover a wide array of mini golf venues, go-kart racing tracks, and dinner shows out there. Orlando has overtaken New York City as the country's top tourist draw, and there's no shortage of diversions available.

There's also no shortage of ways to make many of those experiences cheaper. Complimentary coupon books are available outside many restaurants, gas stations, and hotel lobbies. They may look cheap, but the markdowns are real.

Another smart thing to do is to check into Orlando deals through Groupon (GRPN), Living Social, and other sites that offer prepaid vouchers for discounts on meals and attractions. Don't be the family that pays full price for an airboat ride or a round of putt-putt!

Yes, a Disney World vacation isn't cheap, but there are plenty of ways to make it less expensive.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. He's also spending the summer in Celebration, Florida, covering the industry at mouse level. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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