Walt Disney World: The happiest place on earth. For the children at least. For parents, or at least the ones old enough to understand the concept of money, Disney is a cash vacuum.
I recently planned a Disney vacation for my family and I in Orlando, Florida for my younger brother's eighth birthday. Since I'm in school right now and still relying on my parent's support, we had to cut as many expenses as possible. Now if, like my parents, you're a little technologically challenged, having a millennial do your planning might be a good option. Anything we needed to know, I managed to find out and with a couple smart maneuvers, we were able to lower the price of a typical Disney package.
Spirit Airlines — no matter what you've heard about them — is probably your best bet. Their Bare Fare can be as low as $60 per ticket (from Boston, MA to Orlando) and it comes with a small carry-on bag. If you want to check in a bag or have a bigger carry-on, it'll cost you. If you absolutely need something bigger, I'd go with a checked bag because it's cheaper than a carry-on.
Other avoidable fees are tacked onto reserved seats, earlier boarding times, overweight bags and checking in at the airport. Be sure to check in online and print your ticket to avoid them!
We chose to stay at the Clarion Inn at Lake Buena Vista and not a Disney resort because it was way cheaper, but still super close. Rates were from $100 per night which really isn't bad compared to the other resorts. Breakfast and dinner buffets were cheaper than $15 for adults and free for kids under nine, taking care of the food. Also, the hotel staff are super friendly and even pointed us towards an event that gave out free Visa gift cards!
A shuttle from the airport was about $18 per ticket which was way better than the Uber for $50 (Orlando International Airport only allows Uber Select). Even though the free shuttles that go from hotels to parks aren't available, Uber's are all under $10 if you're close enough like we were. Be careful of the taxis since their rate per mile is much higher than Uber during non-Surge hours.
Disney tickets are the most annoying because there's no way to get them "off brand." Since I wasn't going to be staying the entire time, I bought a two day ticket instead of the four days, giving me more than an extra hundred dollars off. If you're not going during blockout dates, be sure to buy the cheaper water park tickets with those restrictions. With that in mind, our total for four people came out to be a little less than $1,500.
You should make this part the most centralized part of your budget due to the fact that it cannot be moseyed around.
Do not, I repeat, do not buy the food in the parks. Perhaps as a small treat or experience, you can buy an oversized turkey leg or refillable popcorn container, but other than that, small snacks and bottled drinks are overpriced and real money grabbers. Bring your own water bottle and refill them at the water fountains. Pack pre-bought snacks and lunches.
Full disclosure, we did make a reservation at a Disney restaurant because we wanted some of the experience of eating there without a Dining Plan, but it really is a luxury. The meal was priced at $50 per person and didn't include alcohol.
If you absolutely needed to, you could probably cut out most of the extra things I mentioned, but this plan is made to be customized. So, how would you save money?