Looking for ways to save money on your Disney trip? It is possible for Canadians to do Disney on a budget! Use this helpful money saving guide to reduce the cost of your next Disney vacation!
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This past March, we decided to gather up the family and head to the most magical place on Earth. Well, we actually stayed in Florida and spent a couple of days on Disney properties, but nevertheless, it was an amazing trip full of memories.
Now, it goes without saying that Disney ain’t cheap. While we only spent a day at Epcot and a day at Disney Springs, I knew without a doubt, it was going to cost a pretty penny. Until I started reading up and planning, I had no idea just how pretty that penny would be.
We are not a Disney family. Neither my husband nor I grew up with Disney princesses, but we know some of the characters and I had watched a few of the movies as a child. Now our daughter on the other hand is Disney Princess obsessed.
When I started planning the trip, I figured we’d do a day at Disney. I had no idea that Disney is made up of a number of parks, all of which require separate entrance fees or an upgraded park hopper pass to access.
Since we were travelling with a large group comprised of grandparents, aunts, uncles (none of whom had any interest in Disney) and us, we decided to only do one day at a park. We struggled choosing between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but ultimately chose Epcot since our children are Frozen obsessed and that’s where the Frozen ride and pavilion are.
Even though we only spent a day and a half on Disney properties, I still wanted to do the trip as frugally as possible. So after countless hours of research, here’s some of the best Disney World saving tips I discovered that work for Canadians!
Not knowing much about Disney World, I did a lot of research to learn about the parks and attractions. Initially, I thought it was all one big resort, but quickly learned that was not the case. As I researched more, I learned about Disney Springs. If you are as Disney ignorant as I am, Disney Springs is an outdoor shopping complex with a Disney theme. It is also free to park at and access!
We rented a house off of HomeAway, and decided to spend the time before check in hanging around Disney Springs. We aren’t big shoppers, so we wandered around, had lunch and got princess/prince makeovers.Disney Springs is a great place to visit for a low cost (even free) Disney experience.
Pass on Photo Pass
One of the coolest things about Disney is all of the awesome photo opps!
There are gorgeous backdrops, characters to meet and talk to and so many in the moment memories to capture.
Disney recognizes this and has professional photographers throughout the park ready to take your pictures.
You can purchase the photographs that they take over the entire trip for $199 ($169 if you order 3 days in advance).
While this is pretty cool and a great price for capturing the memories, you can also have your picture taken by the photographers with your device for free!
The photographer will first take your picture with their camera for the Photo Pass (they will keep trying to sell it to you long after your trip is over), but afterwards, they will take it with your device.
This is a great free way to make sure everyone in your group gets in on the photo!
Bring Your Own Costumes
When we visited Disney Springs, we went to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where our oldest two had Disney Royal makeovers.
This was not cheap.
To save on the experience, we brought our own Disney princess dress from home and only bought my son an outfit, which still worked out to be about the same price as just my daughter’s makeover. Since my son was getting a new outfit, I bought a new-to-us dress off of Facebook Market Place to surprise her with.
To save even more, we bought Disney Gift Cards from Sobeys with our Scotia Momentum Visa. We used them to pay for the makeovers, which gave us an automatic 4% savings.
Another way to save is to simply ask your kids if they’d be interested in the particular event beforehand. Since my daughter had recently become obsessed with princesses and makeup, I thought she would love it!
She did not.
Nor did my son.
They tolerated the process but immediately wanted some of the magic taken out. So yeah. Lesson learned!
Buy Souvenirs Offsite
I was pleasantly surprised by the stock of Disney souvenirs at the Walmart near our house rental. I was also extremely pleased with the cheaper prices for official Disney paraphernalia there.
I picked up autograph books for my kids from Amazon before our trip. These Disney Encyclopedias were great, as they characters could sign beside their pictures and it gave them something to talk about with my super shy and quiet kids.
Buying offsite will save you quite a bit on those great keepsakes that your family will treasure.
Penny Press for Inexpensive Souvenirs
As you walk through the parks, you will notice many penny press machines. They vary from 50 cents to a dollar (plus the penny).
My kids went absolutely crazy for the penny press machines and loved getting to choose the character for their coin and then watching the machine press it.
Bring some American quarters and pennies, and then press a few of your favourite characters for cheap, yet fun souvenirs!
Instead, save money by being prepared!
Prior to our trip, I picked up some of my favourite Avon bug spray and then other supplies from Walmart.
I got the convenience of home delivery and at the same time, saved money by bringing the items with me.
And on that note…
Bring Your Own Food and Beverages
The cost of food and drinks in park are definitely cheaper than other theme parks, but they are certainly more expensive than bringing your own.
Fortunately, Disney lets you bring your own food and drinks!
Not only does bringing your own save you money, but also time since you’re not stuck standing in line or waiting for food.
Only soft sided coolers are allowed (check out these great ones from Thirty-One Gifts), but they can be jam packed with all sorts of goodies!
The night before Disney, I picked up some 4L jugs of water and stuck them in the freezer. I also filled two zip lock bags full of ice cubes to toss in our coolers. This way we had ice packs for any falls, bumps and bruises; ice packs to keep food and drinks cool; and ice cold water for the end of the day when all our other stuff had been used up.
Fee Coca Cola at Epcot
The focus of Epcot is a journey around the world and as you travel through the park, you enter different pavilions inspired by different countries.
One of the reasons we chose Epcot for our Disney day was for this round the world adventure.
Prior to kids, I was an avid traveler, and immersing myself in other cultures is something I really miss. Of course, the Epcot experience is a little different than actually visiting individual countries, but it’s still a fun experience.
While you are at Epcot, head over to Club Cool, the Coca Cola exhibit in Future World at Epcot. There, you will be able to try different flavours of Coke from around the world for absolutely FREE! I particularly enjoyed the Melon flavour from Thailand!
Buy Discount Disney Gift Cards
This was a travel hack I kept seeing pop up in my research – but the only gift card discount deals I could find were for Americans. Buying gift cards at Sam’s Club and Target (gosh, I miss that place) are great options for immediate discounts.
But, what if you’re Canadian and don’t have a Red Card or Sam’s Club membership?
Initially, I lamented not being able to buy discount Disney gift cards for immediate savings. Then, I was walking through Sobeys and noticed Disney gift cards on display. I thought to myself, “gee, I wish there was a way for me to get a discount.” I went up to the cash and pulled out my Soctiabank Momentum Visa and had an immediate “ah ha” moment.
My Scotiabank Momentum Visa gives an automatic 4% cash back on all grocery shops!
I scurried back to the display, grabbed a gift card and added it to my order.
Now, I won’t actually get my 4% back until November, as they pay out once a year, but nevertheless, it’ll be a nice Christmas bonus.
This deal is made all the sweeter by a current promo Scotiabank is offering. Right now, new customers get 10% cashback on all purchases for their first $2000 spent in the first three months of having the card! This is a great way to get up to $200 off your trip!
Of course, you’re not limited to Disney gift cards! My Sobeys also has Hotels.com, Fairmount and Air Canada gift cards, which means you can get automatic cash back on your hotel and flight too!
Learn more about the Scotiabank Momentum Visa here.
Buy Discount Travel Gift Cards
You can certainly use your cashback credit cards at grocery stores to get discounted travel gift cards. This is without a doubt, a great way to save!
But, there are other ways to save on your non-Disney specific travel cards!
This is a great way to automatically save when you shop at the gift card provider’s store, and bulk up your payouts with each company.
I typically try and buy gift cards when Swagbucks has an event such as Swago or Team Challenges to get bonus points. However, I always flip between the two to see who is offering the higher cash back at any given time.
Sure, one or two percent doesn’t seem like that much, but when you’re spending thousands of dollars, those little bits sure add up!
Use Cashback Sites
This is an extension of using Swagbucks and Ebates above.
Both Swagbucks* and Ebates offer cashback when you shop online! All you have to do is sign up for the site (Ebates.ca here; Ebates.com here; Swagbucks here) and then look for the store you want to shop at. Click on the button and you will be directed to the store you want to shop at’s site.
Then you shop.
It’s really that easy.
You can use the site when booking your trip, buying supplies or even buying non-travel related items.
Then simply wait for your Swagbucks or money to come, and add it to your trip saving fund, or to pay off/refill your bank account after paying for your trip.
I use both Swagbucks and Ebates interchangeably. Both are great and easy to use. Since both sites often offer bonus cash back at various stores, I have accounts with both and shop with whichever site is offering more cash back at any given time.
*Swagbucks works a bit differently, since there are so many ways to earn money there. Before shopping, you have to click on the “shop” button to go to the shop section.
Boost Your Trip Fund by Completing Offers
Swagbucks not only offers cash back for shopping and discount gift cards, but the site also provides many ways to make some extra money. Swagbucks pays users to watch videos, answer surveys, play games, review sites, and complete offers and various other tasks.
When it is time to cash in your Swagbucks, you can choose a PayPal deposit or gift cards from a selection of vendors. Some of the gift cards are for US stores and some are Canadian. The PayPal deposit is in Canadian funds.
There are of course many sites that operate the same way, but Swagbucks is by far the leader.
My next favourite get-paid-to site is Treasure Trooper. It works the exact same way as Swagbucks, but also has an interactive community, where you can talk to other members. Treasure Trooper also pays out in USD, which gives an immediate bonus on the exchange!
There are a few different ways to earn with Treasure Trooper, but ultimately the two avenues end up being PayPal or tokens which can be used for gift cards. Both the PayPal credit and gift cards (including prepaid Visas) are in USD.
And By Forcing Savings
After users connect their chosen bank accounts to the Moka app, it tracks their spending over the course of the week and then rounds up purchase prices to the nearest dollar. The round up change is then invested based on the profile established at set up.
It’s so easy to use. Simply set it and forget it!
Money can be withdrawn at anytime, which is perfect for adding a bit more savings for your trip!
Cash in Amazon.com Gift Cards for Other Gift Cards
One of the most disappointing things about Amazon.ca is that they do not offer gift cards for other companies.
Amazon.com does though!
You can also use Amazon.com gift cards to purchase gift cards for other vendors, if it is an electronic or email gift card. Physical gift cards cannot be purchased this way.
Since the gift cards are on Amazon.com, they automatically come in the USD currency and are ready to use on your trip!
If you head over to Disney Springs, there is a Rainforest Cafe and TRex Cafe where you can enjoy an edible meal in a really cool setting. Cash in your Amazon.com credit for a Landry’s electronic gift card which can be used at either location!
Love Olive Garden? We go every time we visit the US! Guess what? Amazon.com has an electronic Olive Garden gift card too!
Need some clothes for your trip? Pick up an Old Navy email gift card with your Amazon.com credit! You can use it in the US, or you can use it here in Canada! Old Navy automatically gives you the exchange and you can use their awesome coupons to save more!
Travel on Cheap Days
Just recently, Disney started a rate calendar. This calendar determines the price of admission on any given day. During busier times, admission prices are higher, and during the quieter times, it is cheaper.
Take some time to look at the calendar to find the most affordable days to schedule your trip.
Cheaper park admission days will likely also coincide with cheaper lodging rates too.
Another great way to save is by staying offsite.
Of course, this may take away some of the magic, but most would concur that they spend very little time in the hotel room on their Disney vacation.
We had a very large party with us for our trip, which would have necessitated many hotel rooms. This would have been quite costly for everyone involved. So instead, we booked a house through Homeaway. It was perfect as everyone got their own room, and we had our own pool and hot tub right in our backyard. We also had a BBQ, full kitchen and laundry, which cut down on many extra costs.
Avoid Parking Fees
If you stay offsite, then figuring out transportation to the park and back, and parking fees is something to factor in.
Parking at the park is $25 or $50 for preferred parking.
Opting for preferred parking is certainly an option, especially for the end of the day when your feet are aching and you’re ready for a nap. However, there are free shuttles that run through the parking lot to the front entrance, if you don’t want to pay the extra.
Some hotels have free shuttles that take you to the park. Be sure to investigate those when booking.
Another way to save is by using Uber. Drivers can drop you off and pick you back up, taking away the need for driving when tired and sore, finding a parking spot, and paying for parking.
Skip Housekeeping Onsite
If you do stay onsite, opt to skip housekeeping for all or part of your trip.
Be sure to tell the front desk the days that you are opting out of housekeeping when you check in. At this time, you will be instructed to sign up for the “Service Your Way” program and shortly after, you will be emailed an electronic gift card.
Your gift card credit will be worth $10 per night, after the first night (so 7 night stay, will be a $60 gift card; 2 night stay will be a $10 gift card).
This offer is only available at Value and Moderate hotels and for stays of more than 1 night.