Disney Deconstructed | How to Spend Your Money in the Parks

One of the biggest hurdles for any vacation is money. Most of the time, you have a limited amount to spend on food, trinkets, experiences, etc. There is that rare vacation that you can splurge on anything, but I've only ever had two of those...and one happened to be at Disney World. This post will give tips on how to stretch your limited spending budget on your next visit to the parks. As always, these are my opinions and should be taken as recommendations, not hard and fast rules. If you're new around here, I must tell you that Disney is near and dear to my heart. I write about it from time to time and make no apologies about it. ;)

Things to buy:

  • Iconic food items. One of my favorite things to do during my visits is eat Disney-exclusive treats. A Mickey Ice Cream Bar, Dole Whip, Mickey Pretzel, or bag of Werther's Caramel Popcorn are my must-haves. You can get a hotdog anywhere. Their regular popcorn is good, but pretty much the same any movie theater in America has to offer. Pick things you can only get on Disney property.
  • Specialty jewelry. Call me crazy, but I love my Pandora charm bracelet. I love looking down at my Nemo, Mickey, and Cinderella charms. I don't always buy one while I'm there, but I always take time to browse the selection. And bonus: if you're a Pandora charm collector, Disney parks have an exclusive selection, but you have to get them before they sell out.
  • Visiting a water park. This was 100% from my husband. Let me be clear, I don't like water parks. I'm one of those weird people who hates walking around in a bathing suit with thousands of other people walking around in bathing suits. BUT since the standard park ticket or basic hopper pass does not include entry to the water parks, you should consider adding it to your trip. This is an especially good idea if the 4 main parks are estimated to reach peak crowds.
  • Resort refillable mugs. Seriously. Get one, but only get one if you'll be there longer than 3 or 4 days. If you stay on Disney property, you are eligible to purchase a mug that you can refill as much as you want for the length of your stay. Here's the catch: you can only refill them at the resorts, BUT you can refill them at ANY resort hotel. If you stay at Pop Century, but spend a day visiting other resorts, you can fill your mug up at any of them. Cal and I spent an afternoon at the Boardwalk once and filled our mugs at least 5 times that day.

Things not to buy:

  • Balloons. I've stopped a balloon cast member before to take a picture with one, then I handed it right back to him. Haha! Who wants to carry one of those around all day? You can't take them on rides, they are annoying in sit down restaurants, and at $10+ EACH, I promise there are better ways to spend your money. Please disregard if your child's one vacation wish is to get a balloon at Disney World. In that case, buy the stupid balloon.
  • Stuffed animals. PARENTS: Buy these ahead of time...from Walmart or Target. Stuffed animals are waaaay overpriced in the parks, at resorts, and in Disney Springs.
  • T-shirts. You know that drawer in your dresser at home? Yeah, the one that can't possibly house another t-shirt? It doesn't need more. Again, just my opinion. T-shirt collecting might be your thing. If it is, go on with your bad self.
  • Tours or guided experiences. Every time I visit Disney, I see a family being corralled around by a cast member. I don't think less of these people and I totally understand why it might be beneficial to take a behind-the-scenes tour. The thing is, I read a lot of Disney-inspired blogs where one can learn basically anything about the parks. Want to know all the ins and outs of how Cinderella's Castle came to be? Google! The one exception I might make is the Segway tour around EPCOT.
  • Parking. One way to save $20 per day is to stay in a resort hotel. You'll get a pass for your car, drive up to the booth, and the cast member will wave you on. Or you could take a bus from your hotel. Even non-Disney hotels have shuttles to the parks, though I can't comment on their reliability.

So there ya have it! I'd love to hear some of your additions to these lists. What is something you'd pass on? Or a favorite thing to splurge on while you're in the parks.

For more Disney posts:
Where to eat in the parks
How to plan your Disney vacation