Most people are aware of how expensive it can be to visit Disney World — but some of those expenses can (and SHOULD) be avoided.
Whether you prefer a strict budget or are more open to making spontaneous financial decisions, there are definitely some pricey mistakes that you don’t want to make. But don’t stress! We’re here to tell you what we’d NEVER buy again, and hopefully, you’ll avoid making the same choices.
Separately Ticketed Events
Although many of Disney World’s After Hours Parties sound like a ton of fun, the truth is that you’re spending quite a big amount for a short window of time in the park for a few special perks and entertainment. If you want to spend the whole day in the parks, you’ll end up needing TWO separate tickets for the day.
Holiday parties like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party take place typically from 7PM to midnight on select evenings, and although you can enter Magic Kingdom as early as 4PM with a party ticket, you’d need a separate park ticket to gain entry before then. Party tickets have ranged from around $109 all the way to $199, which means for a single adult you’d be looking at spending around $250-$350 for a SINGLE day in Magic Kingdom.
If you still have your heart set on those exclusive party offerings (which can be really great!) but don’t have a hefty budget, there are ways to cut corners on the costs. For example, the cost of party tickets varies depending on the day, and the closer you get to the holiday the more expensive they can be. Select the earlier dates with the cheapest party tickets to shave off some cost, or choose weekdays that tend to be cheaper.
And you don’t HAVE to spend your whole day in a Disney Park before the party! Instead of purchasing a park ticket AND a party ticket, you could instead spend most of your day at your hotel or in Disney Springs, and then enter the park as early as you can — which is typically 4PM for most After Hours events. You can still ride rides during most parties, so you don’t even necessarily have to miss out on that part of your visit!
Ultimately, you don’t HAVE to attend a party. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy the holidays around Disney World without paying for a separately ticketed event, with the Christmas Tree Stroll in Disney Springs, gingerbread displays in various hotels, and even ride overlays like the Jingle Cruise or the special holiday soundtrack you can hear on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT.
Think about what you want to do most before deciding that an After Hours event is an absolute must-do.
All the Things at EPCOT Festivals
We love a good EPCOT Festival but keep in mind that you can EASILY overspend a ridiculous amount in a single day. From scavenger hunts to food walks to all the delicious dishes to try, your budget could explode if you’re not careful.
One of the best ways to avoid overspending is to plan ahead. Know what food booths you want to visit and what dishes you must try, avoid extra costs like the scavenger hunts or food walks, and set a budget ahead of time by purchasing gift cards. You can limit yourself to whatever amount is on your gift card, and you can even keep track of your balance via your receipt.
If you do want to participate in food walks, you can buddy up with a friend or a group to share the costs! Food walks typically task you with purchasing a select amount of dishes listed on your festival passport, and it can add up quickly if you’re spending your own money. But if you share with a friend or two, everyone can get a taste — and share the cost.
With festival scavenger hunts, you can purchase a game board and stickers for around $9 to $10 and receive a prize. You don’t HAVE to complete the scavenger hunt to get a prize, and you can also participate in the scavenger hunt without buying a game board. It’s really up to you whether the souvenir is worth it!
Whatever you do, make sure you review the festival menus and reviews (depending on when you visit!) before visiting, so that you know exactly what you want to prioritize.
Disney Genie+ EVERY Day
As much as Genie+ can be an asset to your day in Disney World, you don’t really need it for EVERY day of your visit — nor for every ride. When it costs between $15 to $22 per person, per day, that amount can add up really fast.
Genie+ gives you access to select ride Lightning Lanes for a single day, and there are also rides that can only be purchased a la carte for an additional fee. Make sure you review which rides are in which category so that you can budget accordingly.
Essentially, you need to ask yourself which rides are absolutely necessary for you to ride, and you also need to strategize your Genie+ purchase to get your money’s worth. You can purchase Genie+ on a daily basis, and you can begin making Lightning Lane reservations as early as 7AM. So don’t sleep through your alarm clock! And if you forget to buy Genie+ or get to the park and realize lines are LONG, it might not be worth it to buy Genie+ later in the day. By that time, many Lightning Lanes may be sold out.
If it’s a busy time of year and rides are absolutely must-do for you, Genie+ could be a worthy purchase. But if you’re visiting during a quiet time of year and don’t care about rides, that’s when Genie+ might not be necessary. We’ve also experienced days in Disney’s Animal Kingdom where we really didn’t need Genie+, when most of the ride wait times didn’t exceed 60 minutes.
If you do decide to go for Genie+, we HIGHLY recommend learning as much about it as you can before your visit. It can be really complicated and you might feel like you wasted your money if you don’t know how to use it effectively.
Park Hopper Plus
When buying your Disney World ticket, you have a few different options to choose from. Standard tickets include one park per day, Park Hoppers include the option to hop to another park after 2PM, and the Park Hopper Plus gets you access to all four parks AND the water parks, as well as a few additional experiences you can choose from per day.
If you don’t care about water parks or golfing, don’t get the Park Hopper Plus. Also, right now, some of the extra experiences are limited, like the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is closed, only one water park is open (depending on when you visit), and the two mini golf courses only allow access before 4PM.
If you’re planning to spend all your time in the parks or if you’re only visiting for a short time, you likely won’t have enough time to take advantage of those extra experiences, which you can also do in some cases without even purchasing the Park Hopper Plus ticket. But if you’re visiting during a cooler time of the year and have no interest in the water parks, you can probably skip this option.
In case you missed it, Disney recently released the MagicBand+ that now features lights, haptics, and even some interactive elements inside the parks. But while a standard MagicBand typically costs somewhere between $19.99 and $29.99, a MagicBand+ costs between $34.99 and $44.99. Additionally, you may have to charge your MagicBand+ daily to use it!
If you don’t care about that or don’t have the budget to spend up to $44.99 on a band you can only really use in the parks, you might want to keep your regular old MagicBand, or use the Magic Mobile tool on the My Disney Experience app — or even on your Apple Watch!
If you plan to use your band often in the future, it might be worth it to you. But if it’s solely a once-a-year trip for you and you have no desire to charge your MagicBand every night, you can probably go ahead and save the cash for a different kind of souvenir.
And speaking of souvenirs, we’re the first to say that we love a good Disney souvenir — but there are a few that are definitely worth avoiding. Whether it’s something really big that you don’t want to have to carry around all day or something you’ll probably never use again, it’s a good idea to consider what kinds of souvenirs you actually want to take home.
For example, we’re looking at you, bubble wands! While they are fun to use in the parks, you quickly learn just how easily they leak, and if you place a wand upside down or on its side, it may just break entirely. Let’s not even get into how LOUD they are, and you can’t adjust the volume.
Another souvenir we tend to steer clear of are shoulder pets! These pets come with a tiny plush character and a magnetic base, and if you set the magnetic part inside your shirt you can stick the pet on the top of your shirt. Basically, it looks like your character is sitting on your shoulder.
While they ARE admittedly cute, they’re also pricey at around $24.99 each, and they don’t work always stick as well as you’d think, especially depending on the type of shirt you’re wearing. They also don’t really work with backpack straps, which can be annoying. But we do know, some little ones love them! So it’s really a preference thing.
These are just a few things you may want to think through before your trip to Disney World. You may not want make the same mistakes we made and save your Disney World cash for other things! But we do know that what works for us may be very different for you and your family. These are just money spending things you may want to keep in mind.
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Have you ever regretted something you bought in Disney World? Tell us in the comments!