12 Ways to Find Discounts for Disney
Updated August 26, 2019
Disney parks don't grant many discounts. They don't need to—they're packed year-round. There aren't even reduced prices 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 trip to Walt Disney World in Central Florida or Disneyland in Southern California more affordable.
Now, first of all, it must be said that hotels and food are always cheaper off Disney-owned property. But let's assume you want to remain on the premises. Here are some smart ways to save money.
For a few months of the year (usually summer to mid-December), Walt Disney World and Disneyland typically offer what they call the Armed Forces Salute, which knocks off half the cost of a Park Hopper entry ticket for four or five days at the Florida theme parks or for three or four days at Disneyland. This is valid for all military members, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired military, spouses, and their accompanying families. Those guests can also get 30–40% off Disney resorts of all price levels (although rooms can sell out).
Additionally, there's a small military-only resort, Shades of Green, situated just west of the Magic Kingdom in Florida. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, this was the Golf Resort, one of the first Disney-run hotels. Today it's the only Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) in the continental United States.
No other Disney discount is as deep as the military discount. The rest are peanuts compared to this one.
These 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 for $5 less than the original price. Ask through your local AAA club.
Per-day prices for theme park tickets get lower the longer you stay. While single-day tickets cost more than $100, passes for six days or more come out to around $70 per day. 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 if you stick around. But then, if you spend more overall, you're not really saving money, are you?
When you call Disney to book a vacation, ask if there's a special going on. Disney phone operators are trained not to volunteer such information—but they will tell you about deals if you ask a direct question. You might feel a little like you're in a fairy tale where you have to trick a troll living under a bridge, but this is how Disney does it. So ask about sales.
Discounts come and go, and they always fall in the quieter season when schools are in session. But Disney has been known to shave 30% off the nightly room rate or add on a food package for no additional costs.
Sales for Walt Disney World in Florida are usually listed at disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers. For Disneyland in California, check disneyland.disney.go.com/offers-discounts.
Disney's cheapest hotels are termed "Value" resorts. They're 40% more expensive than comparable digs just outside the gates, but many guests want to stay on Disney property. To find the lowest room rate, make sure you're looking at Value hotels, which are any of the three All-Star resorts, Disney's Pop Century, and some rooms at Disney's Art of Animation resort (pictured).
Just as there are Value resorts, there are Value days when prices are lowest. Disney's ticket and hotel prices fluctuate—far be it from us to accuse anybody of price gouging—depending on how busy things are. Prices are lowest when schools are in session, so if there's some flexibility in your vacation schedule, look for January to mid-February and mid-August and September. Fall season (mid-September to mid-December) can also yield lower prices, and some think that's a better time 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.
There are lots of crooks on eBay and Craigslist who will tell you they offer discounted Disney tickets and then steal your money or send you worthless scraps of paper. Then there are those 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, but the amount they will save you will be scant, and not much better than AAA's deals. Those discounters include Orlando's offiical tourism office, Undercover Tourist, Maple Leaf Tickets, and TicketMomma. 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.
Like cruise lines, Disney frequently offers discounts to current guests who book followup trips while they're on vacation—say, $200 to $300 off their next multiday stay. The minute you check out of the resort, however, the deal is dead. Ask at your hotel if there's a bounceback deal available.
We're not going to suggest you run out and apply for a credit card—doing that too often is bad for your rating. But superfans who have a Disney-branded Visa are often given discounts on rooms; 30% off is common, but your selection may be restricted to second-tier hotels. Another perk: extra days free on multiday ticket packages.
If you have an annual pass for a Disney park, you'll also be eligible for random discounts—but if you already love Disney enough to buy an annual pass, you probably already knew that, so we're not counting that as a saving method.
Florida and California residents frequently have deals dangled in front of them for Disney World and Disneyland, respectively. Offers might include cheaper annual passes (with blackout dates) or spot sales on rooms (about 30% off is common). You must prove residency and these discounts may not always be available—they appear without warning and then vanish like Cinderella's Fairy Godmother. So if you see a resident discount worth taking, don't delay.
In addition to the parks' official deals, keep tabs on Disney discount blogs such as Mouse Savers, which lists all the current specials that the webmasters know about. Many offers will be the same ones 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 at one of the major travel sites such as Orbitz or Expedia, it'll be posted at Mouse Savers.
For more smart tips on saving money on a Disney vacation, grab a copy of the award-winning Frommer's EasyGuide to Disney World, Universal, and Orlando.