As a new father, I cannot wait to take my son to Disney World for the first time. Since I’ve gone to Orlando many times with my sister and her kids, I know how magical it can be to bring your child to Walt Disney World and have them meet Mickey Mouse and go on it’s a small world. I also know that between the airfare, tickets, character meals, and oh-so enticing toys, the cost of going to Disney really adds up when you bring a small human along with you. Luckily, I’ve learned a lot of ways to save money at Disney World over the years, and as I started thinking about my son’s first trip, I realize that a lot of them apply for families going with their kids.

Want to save some money and focus on having fun with your children at WDW? Here are 14 ways to save money when going to Disney World with kids.

1) Kids under 3 get in free

You might not realize this, but Disney World does not charge guests under 3 years old to enter the theme parks. You do not need to purchase a ticket for babies and toddlers between 0-2 years old. We believe that this is entirely done through the honor system, as we have never been asked to provide proof. But if your child looks older than they are, it might be a good idea to bring a copy of their birth certificate with you just in case.

2) Kids can eat for free at certain restaurants

Kids under 3 also eat for free at family style and buffet restaurants at Disney World, which includes character meals.  Also, we’ve seen some restaurants at Disney Springs run “Kids Eat Free” promotions on certain days of the week, which includes bigger kids as well.

3-6) A few strategies for saving on souvenirs

Mickey Mouse Plush Toys - Disney World Souvenirs

The shops at Disney World are plentiful, and they are filled with so many wonderful toys. So one thing is for sure: your kids will want a souvenirs! A Disney World trip is expensive when you just consider the tickets, hotel nights, food, and transportation. Be sure to come up with a strategy/budget for souvenirs. Here are a few tips on how to save money while keeping your children happy.

  • For an easy way to save at least 5% on your WDW souvenirs, purchase Disney Gift Cards at a discount (click here for our guide on how to do that). This can also be a way to teach your kids about money. You can give them a Disney Gift card with their souvenir budget loaded onto it. This gives them the autonomy to make their purchasing decisions (maybe they want one big toy or a few smaller items), and once the gift card zeroes out, they know they can’t purchase anything else.
  • Sales don’t really happen at Disney World (unless you have an Annual Pass or DVC membership). Save some money by buying a Disney toy on sale at shopDisney or Target before your vacation. You can surprise your little one with it once you arrive, or when you’re checking in you can ask the front desk at your hotel to have the toy “magically” appear on their bed before you enter the room.
  • If you want Disney World merchandise at a serious discount, go to one of the two Disney Character Warehouse outlets located at 4969 International Drive and 8200 Vinelande Ave #1252 in Orlando. The merchandise they have at the outlet is much cheaper than what they have in the parks (and sometimes they sell the same items!).
  • A brilliant strategy a Guide2WDW reader shared with us was that they only let their children get a souvenir the last day of the vacation. This gave the children the excitement of picking out a toy in the parks, and they got to thoughtfully choose which souvenir to get throughout the trip.

7) Save a ton of money by pin trading with pins you buy online

 

Disney World Trading Pins

Pin trading is an awesome activity for kids. Here’s how it works: You can go up to any cast member with Disney Pins on their lanyard or on a pin board, and they will trade you one of their pins for one of yours. No questions asked. The kids in my family love trading pins, and it’s a great way to have some fun without waiting in line at Disney World. However, don’t make the mistake of purchasing a bunch of pins when you get to Disney World, as the pins they sell are typically expensive (sometimes $10+) and usually higher quality than the pins cast members are trading. Even the pin starter packs that Disney sells are around $20 just for a few pins.

Instead, you can buy a lot of pins online that are great for trading and much cheaper than what you can get in the parks. You can search for “Disney Pin trading lot” on eBay, but some sellers also offer them on Amazon if you’d rather shop there. Here are a couple of highly rated options for Disney Pins on Amazon:

Recommended Item: Disney Trading Pins 25 Piece Lot (Amazon)

Recommended Item: Disney Trading Pins 100 Piece Lot (Amazon)

8) Bring your own glowing gadgets and gizmos

We’ve had several readers send in this tip throughout the years. Disney rolls out carts of expensive glowing doodads before the evening parades, fireworks, and Fantasmic for a reason: some kids find them irresistible. And can you blame them? You can save a ton of money by buying glow sticks and similar items from your local Dollar Store or Amazon. Pack a few in your backpack, and give them to your kids after the sun sets. This will curb those “Ooo, can I have that glowing thing?” impulses, plus your kids will have a blast with them.

Recommended Item: 100 Glow Sticks Bulk Party Pack (Amazon)

Recommended Item: Dragon Too Glow in the Dark Party Pack – 605 Pieces (Amazon) – this pack is cool because it comes with headbands that you can make your own glowing Mickey ears with.

9) Seek out kid friendly freebies

Wilderness Explorers - Animal Kingdom Attraction

We are a big fan of finding freebies at Disney World, and unsurprisingly, a lot of these freebies are great for kids. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Throughout Epcot, look out for the Kidcot Fun Stops in each country in the World Showcase. Kids can collect activity cards and learn a bit about each country’s culture.
  • In Animal Kingdom, do not miss out on Wilderness Explorers. It’s a scavenger hunt throughout the park where you can actually learn a lot of fun facts about wildlife. Guests get a free booklet and badges in the form of stickers for each activity.
  • Don’t just blow by the DVC kiosks. Ask the cast member there for a sticker for your kids (usually of Mickey Mouse)
  • Disney offers free 20-30 minute drawing classes where you learn how to draw a Disney character, and you get to keep your drawing as a souvenir at the end. This has moved around, and sometimes there are multiple ones, but right now the most permanent drawing class is The Animation Experience in Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom.

10) How to save money on character dining at Disney World

Mickey Waffle - Breakfast at Disney World

Character meals are a huge hit with kids, as they are a great way to get face-time with a variety of Disney characters. But they also range from expensive to ridiculously expensive. If character dining is a must on your list, here are a couple of ways to save money on these meals.

  • Character breakfasts are always cheaper than lunch/dinner, and they almost always feature Mickey-shaped waffles. Plus, if you do a very early reservation for a character breakfast in the parks, you can get into the park early and be first in line for the most popular rides.
  • Go for the less popular character dining restaurants. A meal at Garden Grill in Epcot or Tusker House in Animal Kingdom is going to be less expensive than Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom.

11) Pack snacks, drinks, and even meals

You are allowed to bring your own food into the parks. This is another way to save a lot of money on dining with kids. Some of the snacks at Disney World can be egregiously overpriced (I’m looking at you, $6 pack of sliced apples and carrots). Save your money on the Disney food that’s worth it like Dole Whips or Mickey Mouse ice cream bars by packing some kid-friendly snacks and refillable water bottles with you into the parks. You can even pack sandwiches and eat those for lunch.

If you’re bringing in anything you need to keep cold, just be sure to bring a Disney-approved cooler and reusable ice packs. Here are our recommendations:

Recommended Item: CleverMade Collapsable Travel Cooler (Amazon) – This cooler bag is lightweight and collapsible, making it ideal for sticking in a suitcase.

Recommended Item: Reusable Ice Pack – Allowed in Disney Parks (Amazon) – Disney doesn’t allow loose ice in your coolers. Use ice packs like these to avoid any issues.

12) Bring your own stroller

At $13/day for a single stroller and $27/day for a double stroller, a multi-day stroller rental can add up at Disney World. Save some money each day by bringing in your own stroller. Just make sure it fits in Disney’s stroller rules: Strollers cannot be larger than 31” (79cm) wide and 52” (132cm) long. Wagons are not allowed.

13) Have PhotoPass photographers use your camera/phone for pictures

We think that Memory Maker is a worthwhile upgrade, as it gives you unlimited downloads for all of your PhotoPass pictures. This is a great way to memorialize those moments of your kids on rides and meeting characters. But at $199, it’s definitely an upgrade. If you’d rather save some money, you can have the PhotoPass photographers take your picture with your phone or camera, so you can still get a great picture of your kids with Mickey Mouse without shelling out a couple hundred dollars.

14) Don’t spend every day in the theme parks

Fantasia Gardens - Disney World Putt Putt

One way to save money is to not spend every day of your vacation in the park. Especially if you’re staying at a Disney Resort, your hotel most likely has fun activities that your kids will love. Disney’s Resorts have amazing pools, outdoor movie screenings, and even some character interactions. Plus, there’s a ton of fun things to do around Disney World that doesn’t involve going into the parks. We typically like to break up our vacation with a “rest day” in the middle, since going into the parks all day every day can be exhausting, even for little ones. Save some money by buying tickets for less days in the parks and enjoying some of the other activities around Disney World.

Do you have any tips for going to Disney World with kids? Let me know in the comments below!

14 Ways To Save Money at Disney World with Kids - Graphic

Disclaimer: Guide2WDW may earn a commission from qualifying purchases through links on this site.

More from Guide2WDW

James

James is a lifelong Disney Parks fan. While at the parks, he loves finding new details, learning more about Disney World history, and taking pictures. His favorite WDW attractions include Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.
James is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.

All author posts

Privacy Preference Center