How to save money at Disney so you don’t go ‘bibbidi-bobbidi-broke’

Just like the vehicles on Dumbo the Flying Elephant, prices at Disney parks just keep going up. If I had a magic wand, I would use its powers to bring back all the things that used to be free at Disney, like airport transportation, MagicBands, and skip-the-line entry, to name a few.

Unfortunately, my fairy godmother seems to have misplaced my wand (or maybe it got lost in transit), so I don’t have any magical powers that I could use to make Disney more affordable. But I have the next best thing – a list of tips and tricks that can help minimize the impact of Disney’s soaring prices so you can do Disney without breaking your vacation budget.

How to save money on Disney tickets

The Undercover Tourist website shows how much you save on the entrance fee. UNDERCOVER TOURIST

Disney ticket prices increase almost every year, usually without warning. If you’re planning a trip and don’t buy your tickets before the prices go up, you’ll have to pay the higher price. Just recently, Disneyland quietly increased overnight rates, with the average cost of an all-day ticket increasing by $10.

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That might not sound like much on its own, but it quickly adds up when you factor in the number of people in your party and the number of days you plan to visit.

Related: How I Saved Hundreds on a Car Rental When I Bundled It With Theme Park Tickets

There is a workaround that will allow you to purchase tickets at the old prices, but you only have a short window of opportunity to take advantage of them. Reputable Disney ticket resellers like Undercover Tourist and Get Away Today usually have an inventory of tickets that they sell at the old price until they run out. Savings can be as much as $90 per ticket if you act quickly after a price increase. That’s potentially hundreds of dollars in your pocket for your hotel, food, souvenirs, and other Disney expenses.

How to get into the parks without paying for MagicBands

I could have spent all day playing Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters at Galaxy’s Edge. Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t much fun playing in the parks with Disney’s new MagicBand+. Like the old MagicBand, the MagicBand+ lets you get into the parks, open your hotel room door, access Lightning Lanes without waiting in line, link PhotoPass photos, and charge items to your hotel room bill. And you can also use it to play interactive games in the parks.

As you might expect, these perks come in at a price ranging from $34.99 to $44.99. You can save up to $10 with an upfront discount, and Disney Vacation Club members or annual pass holders can save 20 percent. Traditional MagicBands start at $19.99 before discounts, which only hurts because until recently, MagicBands were given to Disney hotel guests for free, and they always have been since they first launched in 2013.

You can use your phone, a plastic ticket, or a MagicBand to get into a Disney park. Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy

The good news is that you can still use any MagicBands you have lying around from previous vacations as long as the battery is still working. I have MagicBands that are two or three years old and still work perfectly.

Even better news, you don’t actually need a MagicBand at all. At Disney World, you can ask Guest Services or the hotel front desk for a Key to the World card if you are staying at a Disney hotel. Key to the World cards look like hotel key cards (but cuter) and perform the same functions as the original MagicBands.

The Disney app has everything you need for a day at the parks. WALT DISNEY WORLD

At Disneyland and Walt Disney World, you can use each park’s respective app on your mobile phone to do everything a MagicBand does, including billing your hotel account for select grocery and merchandise purchases. For all other purchases you can use the virtual wallet on your phone without ever having to pull out your physical wallet.

How to (sort of) save money on parking at Disney

Another freebie that’s disappeared from Disney World in recent years is free hotel parking for overnight guests. Disney World hotel guests now pay between $15 and $25 per night for parking, depending on which category your resort falls into.

When you park your car at Disney, you don’t have to wait for the bus or monorail. GENE DUNCAN/WALT DISNEY WORLD

If you’re parking a car overnight at a Disney hotel, there’s really no escaping this fee, but what you may not know is that hotel guests can park for free at Disney theme parks. If I have a car on property, I usually choose to drive my car to the park rather than wait for Disney transportation. When traveling with kids (and a double stroller), it can be more convenient to load up the car than lug everything onto one of the Disney buses.

See also: It’s a changed world after all: 9 things you need to know if you’re going to Disney World

It doesn’t change the cost, but the convenience of free parking at Disney World theme parks does make the pill a little easier to swallow.

How to save money on transportation to Disney

The Sunshine Flyer transports guests between Orlando International Airport and Disney World. SUNSHINE FLYER

Travel between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Walt Disney World used to be free for hotel guests on Disney’s Magical Express (may they rest in peace). A handful of alternatives have popped up in its place, but unfortunately they all come with a fee.

Of these, I’ve seen the best prices from Sunshine Flyer. Adult rates are the same as competitor Mears Connect: $16 one-way or $32 round-trip, but Sunshine Flyer’s child rates are significantly lower. Mears Connect is $13.50 for children and $27 round trip, while Sunshine Flyer is only $10 and $20 respectively. They also run the occasional promotion where kids ride for free with a paying adult.

Depending on how many guests are in your party, both services tend to be cheaper than taking Uber or Lyft from the airport, which can cost upwards of $70 one-way at peak times.

How to enjoy the parks without spending money on Disney Genie+

Disney Genie is a complimentary service available to all guests. DISNEY GENIUS

It still pains me to think back to the days when skipping the line at Disney World was free with FastPass+. Yes, there was some concern waking up at 6am 90 days before each trip to try to get the most coveted FastPasses and then updating the Disney app during my trip to snag a few more.

Unfortunately, FastPass+ went the way of the Dodo and was replaced by a paid skip-the-line service called Disney Genie+ in late 2021.

Lightning Lane inputs allow you to stream to the very front. Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy

Disney Genie+ is available at Disney World and Disneyland… for a fee. At Disneyland, Genie+ is $25 per person per day to use (FastPass was free at Disneyland, or you can upgrade to MaxPass for $15 per day, including photo downloads). When Genie+ launched at Disney World, guests paid $15 per person per day. Disney World recently transitioned to a variable pricing structure, with daily prices ranging from $15 to $22. Keep in mind that these prices do not include the additional cost of individual access to Lightning Lane for Disney’s most popular rides.

Most Disney rides still have a queue, but be prepared to wait. Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy

While it can certainly save you time in line, don’t do it to have to buy Genie+ to enjoy your Disney vacation. Along with Genie+, Disney also launched a free service called Disney Genie that helps you plan your day by showing low-wait rides, creating a personalized itinerary based on your preferences, and more. You may not hop on Disney’s most in-demand rides unless you’re willing to wait, but it offers an opportunity to try rides with shorter waits that you typically skip. You might find a new favorite.

And if you find that the parks are so crowded that you don’t want to wait in line, Disney has plenty of things to do outside of the parks (even without a park ticket).

bottom line

As with most things, there is no getting around the fact that visiting Disneyland and Disney World is becoming increasingly expensive. Sometimes you need to get creative to make your travel affordable, and these tips are a great place to start. You might even have a few bucks to spare to treat yourself to a Dole Whip (or two).

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