12 Ways to Find Discounts for Disney

Monorail at Epcot. Disney rarely discounts. Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
Disney doesn't grant many discounts. It doesn't need to—it's packed year-round. There aren't even discounts for senior citizens, and children are charged as "adults" when they're just 10 years old. But if you know some tricks, you can still nibble away at the overall price of a Disney vacation and make a Walt Disney World or Disneyland resort vacation more affordable.

It must be said that hotels and food are always cheaper off Disney-owned property, but let's assume you want to be on the premises. Here are some ways to save money on a Disney vacation in America.
Military Discounts to Walt Disney World Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
For a few months of the year (usually late summer to mid-December), Walt Disney World and Disneyland usually offer what it terms the Armed Forces Salute, which knocks off half the cost of a four-day Park Hopper entry ticket to the Florida theme parks. This is valid for all military members, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired military, spouses, and their accompanying families. The program also offers 30 to 40 percent off Disney resorts of all price levels (although rooms can sell out). Just west of the Magic Kingdom in Florida, there's also one small resort, Shades of Green. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, it was one of the first Disney-run hotels, the Golf Resort, but today it's the only Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) in the continental United States—it's just for the military.

No other Disney discount is as deep as a military discount. The rest are peanuts compared to this.
AAA Disney Discounts Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
Disney AAA discounts used to be a lot better, but Disney stopped selling cheap vacation packages through AAA. Your local chapter might offer a slight discount—say, a two-day ticket to Disneyland Resort for $180 instead of $185. Ask through your local AAA club.
Stay longer to lower per-day costs at Disney Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
Per-day prices for theme park tickets get lower the longer you stay, from over $100 if you choose a single-day ticket to less than $70 per day if you agree to buy five days or more. This is the "savings method" Disney wants you to choose because you'll be more likely to spend cash on hotel rooms, food, and souvenirs—and if you spend more overall, it's not really going to save you money.
Asking for Disney vacation specials Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
When you call Disney to book a vacation, ask if there's a special going on. Disney phone operators are trained not to automatically tell you—but they will tell you if you ask a direct question. This method feels a little like the fairy-tale method of tricking the troll that lives under the bridge, but it's how Disney does it: Ask about sales.

These discounts come and go, and they always fall in quieter season when schools are in session. But they have been known to shave 30 percent off the nightly room rate or add on a food package for no additional costs. Sales are usually listed on https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers/ (for Walt Disney World in Florida) and https://disneyland.disney.go.com/special-offers/ (for Disneyland in California).
Save money at Disney with a Value resort Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
Disney's cheapest hotels are termed "Value" resorts. They're 40 percent more expensive than comparable digs just outside the gates, but many guests want to stay on resort property. So to start with the lowest room rate, make sure it's a Value hotel, which are any of the three All-Star resorts, Disney's Pop Century, or some rooms in the Disney's Art of Animation resort (pictured).
Save money at Disney in low season Photo by Disneyland Resort
Just as there are Value resorts, there are Value days when prices are lowest. Disney's ticket and hotel prices fluctuate—one could say they gouge—depending on how busy things are. They're cheapest when schools are in session, so look first at January to mid-February and mid-August and September. Fall season (mid-September to mid-December) can also yield lower prices, and some think it's better than January because the weather's warmer and fewer attractions will be closed for maintenance. To save the maximum on your Disney hotel room, stay at a Value resort during a Value period.
Use a Disney ticket discounter Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
There are lots of crooks that will tell you they offer discounted Disney tickets and then steal your money (stay off eBay and Craigslist) or send you worthless scraps of paper. There are more who will truly give you discounts, but only after you waste hours of your vacation on a laborious timeshare pitch. A precious few outfits are legitimate—although the amount they will save you will be faint, and not much better than AAA's deals. Those include Orlando's offiical tourism office (www.visitorlando.com), Undercover Tourist (www.undercovertourist.com); Maple Leaf Tickets (www.mapleleaftickets.com), and Ticket Momma (www.ticketmomma.com). The few dollars you save will be wiped out by the cost of mailing the tickets to you, so the math usually only works for people who are staying longer than a week or also want to buy discounted tickets to other area attractions at the same time.
Grab a Disney "bounceback" deal Photo by Disneyland Resort
Like cruises, Disney will often offer discounts to current guests if they book their next trip while they're on vacation there—say, $200 to $300 on their next multi-day vacation. The minute you check out of its resort, the deal is dead. Ask at your resort if there's a "bounceback" deal on offer.
Discounts on Disney hotels on weekdays Photo by Jason Cochran
Disney hotel prices can pop up by 25 percent of more during the weekend.
Disney vacation discounts from a Disney Visa card Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
We're not going to suggest you run out and apply for a credit card—doing that often is bad for your rating. But Disney superfans who have a Disney-branded Visa are often offered discounts on rooms (30 percent is common, but your selection may be restricted to second-tier hotels), as are little carrots such as extra days free on multi-day ticket packages.

If you're an annual passholder, you'll also be offered random discounts—but if you already love Disney enough to buy an annual pass, you probably already knew that, so we're not counting it as a method.
Disney Florida and California resident discounts Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
Both Florida and California residents are frequently offered deals for their local resort. Those might include cheaper annual passes (with blackout dates) or spot sales on rooms (about 30 percent off is common). You must prove residency and these discounts may not always be available—they come off the menu without warning, so if you see a resident discount and you want to grab it, take it.
Watch the Disney discount blogs Photo by Walt Disney World Resort
In addition to Disney's official posted deals, check with a Disney discount blog such as Mouse Savers (www.mousesavers.com), which will list all the going deals that its webmasters know about. Many of them will be the same as what you see on Disney's site, but others will likely be new to you, and if there's a price glitch or surprise discount code on one of the major OTAs such as Orbitz or Expedia, it will list it.

For more smart tips on saving money on a Disney vacation, grab a copy of Frommer's' award-winning EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal, and Orlando.