For those of us who are, shall we say, a little loose with our wallets when it comes to Disney, MagicBands are basically like taking your first car for a spin. It’s all fun and games until you return home and drive right into your parent’s mailbox, and then suddenly everyone thinks you’re an irresponsible driver.
But MagicBands are ingenious because they remove the part of a purchase equation where you feel like you’re spending money. You’re not physically handing over your credit card, or saying goodbye to dollar bills forever. No! You’re just tapping a colorful Mickey bracelet onto a machine that has another cute Mickey face on it! Well done, Disney.
I’ve come to accept that I’m powerless against the lure of the Magic Band for everyday items under $15 during my vacation. So I try not to stress about it and just laissez le bon MagicBand temps roulez for that stuff while at Disney.
Instead I focus on saving on bigger-ticket items:
1. Sign up for Disney Visa Card from Chase and earn a $200 Disney Gift Card after you spend $500 with the card in the first 3 months from account opening. You can use that $200 to buy park tickets before your visit and food/merchandise while at Disney. If you want this deal, send me a message that includes your email, and I’ll forward you the signup link.
2. Vacation when most people—especially families with school-aged children—don’t want to. I’ve had the best luck with late January after MLK Day, and early September, after Labor Day.
3. Buy tickets more than three weeks out.
4. Use IGA Matrix software by Google to find the cheapest combo of length of stay and specific dates.
5. Skip the dining plan unless you want to do character meals every day. You’ll most likely get more food than you’d normally buy.
6. Stick to quick service restaurants. A table-service meal or two is nice, but really only on a day when you’re not going to a park. Otherwise the cost-benefit value doesn’t add up: you’ll be too lightheaded from riding Space Mountain ten times in a row to sufficiently savor your $67 butter-poached lobster tail with filet mignon.
7. Buy a loaf of bread and peanut butter/jelly in your hotel and bring sandwiches, granola bars, and refillable water bottles into the park.
8. Buy other snacks like granola bars, etc. on Amazon using a Prime account and have them shipped to your Disney hotel a day or two before your arrival.
9. Kids under 3 won’t remember their Disney vacation, but that’s never stopped me from taking advantage of the fact that they get free park entry.
10. If you’re spending 3+ days at the parks, save a few bucks by buying tickets through undercovertourist.com or parksavers.com
11. Spend a day at a water park. The tickets are a little cheaper, they’re just as entertaining, and they’re a nice break from the stimulation of the other parks.
12. If you’re doing a short visit from September through December, cut a day off your base ticket and buy a separate ticket for a holiday party—Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. You get access to the Magic Kingdom for about 8 hours starting at 4 pm, with shorter lines and exquisite theming for less than the cost of a regular day’s entry. Plus you can sleep in without feeling like you’re wasting time and spend time chillin at your deluxe resort pool.
Wait, deluxe resort?! Yeah you heard me.
13. Rent DVC points through David’s Vacation Club Rentals or DVC Rental Store and stay at certain deluxe Disney resorts for around the price of a moderate. Sure, you could stay offsite, but you won’t get the free airport transfer or the “Disney magic”, and you’ll spend more of your precious vacation hours in transit. You could also stay at a “value” Disney resort, but the cost savings isn’t massive. I also find the value resort theming to be a little too much after a day at the parks, like going out for ice cream after a Thanksgiving dinner.
Readers always have great tips. So if you’re both reading this and have a great tip, please drop those wisdom bombs in the comments.