We recently had the pleasure of visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida with Rachel’s family as a precursor to our backpacking adventures in Central and South America. In order to save a bit of time and money at the notoriously fun (yet expensive) theme world, we would recommend some of these ideas as they definitely came in handy during our time there. Here are some hints and tips for saving both time and money during your stay at Walt Disney World:
Use the Quests, Scavenger Hunts, and Treasure Maps to win Fast Passes
We stumbled across this whilst exploring Magical Kingdom and it really was a great way to immerse yourself in the lesser-seen areas of the park whilst having a bit of fun (and winning prizes of course!).
To sign up, find the designated area within each land (in Magical Kingdom) to start your adventure. A cast member will provide you with a map with clues to find, and your wrist band will be all you need to scan each clue as you find it. For example, in Adventureland you can use your pirate treasure map to solve the clues in finding the treasure!
Ultimately, once you complete 2 of these adventures in each land you will be presented with a fast pass for a specific ride (Adventureland is for Pirates of the Caribbean for example) for you and your group – what a time saver!
Fast Passes (FP+)
This might seem like a pretty generic tip for Disney World, as everyone can access fast passes in the parks and it comes free with your entry ticket. However, there are some ways to stretch your fast passes to take full advantage of your day and save yourself some time waiting in line.
The obvious first tip is to make use of the scavenger hunts mentioned above, which will give you an extra fast pass whilst also being a source of fun for you and your group. Beyond this, you can book your fast passes up to 3 months in advance through the Disney website, and depending on the park you can book up to 3 for each day. We would definitely recommend this as some rides book out weeks in advance – especially ones like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Cart roller coaster in Magical Kingdom.
A final way to make use of the fast pass system is to download the Disney app, so that on the day you can quickly book more fast passes for your party once you’ve used up the previously booked ones. This will save you time trying to find the fast pass booking kiosks which are spread sparsely throughout the parks.
Stay Outside the Park
We stayed in the park at the Disney All-Star Sports Resort, which was fantastic and though described as a ‘budget’ option for Disney it exceeded our expectations and was the perfect place for our family getaway. However, if you’re coming as a backpacker on your own there are certainly other options available to you if you wish in the Orlando (or Kissimmee – where Disney is located) area to help you save some money.
Keep a look out for cheap hotels, AirBnB options, and even hostels in the area where you can then transfer to the parks via an option such as Lynx buses (the public bus system in Orlando). These buses are also great for getting you into Orlando if you are staying in the Kissimmee area.
Get Groceries Before you Arrive or Outside the Park
It is quite difficult to find groceries within Walt Disney World, but there are some options available to you either before you arrive, or when you get here. These include:
- Pre-order your groceries and get them delivered to your hotel / hostel upon your arrival – the best services for this include Amazon Pantry (only for ‘dry’ goods and cheap delivery), Garden Grocer (though the delivery fee is steep), and Walmart (be careful with them as they don’t seem to deliver all products, though the delivery fee is low).
- Go and get your groceries when you get here – there are several grocery stores nearby to the parks (in the Kissimmee region), though the closest to the parks include Publix (on Orange Lake Blvd) and Walmart (on Vineland Road). The easiest way to get to these is to either utilise the Lynx bus service above (there is one that goes to Walmart), or Uber (shameful plug – if you click on that link and sign up you will get $10 off your first ride!).
Club Cool at Epcot
There aren’t a lot of things that you can truly get for free at Disney World, though fortunately there a few gems along the way. Club Cool at Epcot is one of these, where you can sample popular different flavours of Coca Cola from around the world. That’s right, get your fix of Cola as many times as you like throughout your day at Epcot without spending a penny!
Order Your In-Park Meals Thoughtfully
Disney may be the happiest place on earth, but we wouldn’t disagree with you if you also said it was one of the most expensive, especially with some of the meal prices in the park. Of course it’s nice to splurge out every now and again and try all of the different foods on offer (especially the worldly creations in Epcot!), but as a backpacker you are on a budget so here are some options to help you save some money in the park:
- Bring snacks with you – if you went grocery shopping by using our last tip, make sure you buy some snacks! This will stop you from overspending throughout the day
- Order a kids meal – most of the meals in the park are quite large (gotta love those USA portion sizes), and the kids meals can easily fill an adult. These generally come with some sides and a drink and can be up to half the price of the adult equivalent. Obviously adults aren’t meant to order the kids meals, but at quick service restaurants the staff usually don’t bat an eye
- Share a main meal – this works great if you are in a couple like we are, have a look at what others order and see what meals are the largest. This way, you can both share the main and still be full! Another tip that we’ve read about is to order a double burger with an extra bun to create two burgers (filling up each with free salad from the ‘salad bar’). This may work, but there are also reports of some Disney restaurants selling buns for up to $4 so be careful.
- Order an appetiser as your main – same as above, check out what other people order and if it looks big enough to be a main meal, go for it.
Overall, there are many options to help you save time and money in the Disney parks. The above are just some of the ways that we found to do so, and ultimately you will probably stumble across more as well. The main aim of course is to have fun, and enjoy your time at this amazing place.