Discover The Unknown Money-Saving Strategies For Your Walt Disney World Vacation

Walt Disney Parks are renowned all around the world for their excellence in first-class entertainment, rides attractions, and customer satisfaction,

Being a Disney fan myself this is going to be an unusual post to write but, I want to make you aware of some “hidden” charges you may not be aware of when budgeting for your trip.

In this guide, I’ll cover all the hidden charges I wish I’d known about upfront before my latest visit to the Disney parks.

Ok here we go, let’s get this started so you can start planning your magical visit.

Parking At Walt Disney World Theme Parks

Ok, so you bought your tickets and hired the hire car at the airport, you even paid for the upgrade you didn’t need and the extra insurance plus the extra to not have to return with a full tank of gas, yes, believe me, I really have been to Florida and visited the parks multiple times.

My first visit was in 1989 and trust me Disney has found some clever ways of extracting your cash since then!

So that’s it then, you can travel along merrily and park for free at the Disney Park of your choice? After all, you have your ticket, right?


Disney parking is currently $25 a day. Yes, that’s every day you visit. (prices January 2022)

So for 14 days, that’s a whopping $350.

Luckily you can visit multiple parks on the same day and use the same ticket for parking (as of Jan 2022) but with the current trend of Disney tightening its belt, we may soon also see changes to this.

This is my number one hate of Disney charges. I wish they would add it to the ticket prices personally.

For anyone that has cash to throw out of the window, you can also pay for “preferred parking”. This is currently $45- $50 per day.

This lets you park nearer the entrance of the park. I would advise against paying this fee as Disney offers a free tram service from all its parking lots to the park entrance, It’s actually a fun little ride.

Pro Tip – Be sure to write down on your phone or with a pen and paper (or both) where you are parked. The separate areas of the parking lot at Magic Kingdom park for example are labeled as Mickey, Minnie Goofy, etc and you can find which row your car is as it’s marked on the floor.

Can’t remember where you parked or what color or make the car is?

No problem wait until around 1 am when everyone else has gone and yours is the only car left! Not even joking. Write it down.

One other thing to note is that parking at both Disney water parks is completely free.

Here’s a video that shows the parking process at Disney Parks.

Parking Fees At A Disney Resort Hotel

Ok, this has to be free? I’m a Disney guest staying at a Disney resort hotel?

No. Disney now charges parking for all resort guests wishing to park a car outside the hotel they are booked into.

Furious right?

I can’t imagine working in the reception of these resorts and having to check guests in that have paid a small fortune to stay, and having to charge them to park the car.

This is not the start of a magical day. The “good” news is that as you are a hotel guest you won’t have to pay an additional fee to park your car at the parks.

In fairness to Disney, I believe they have started charging guests to park overnight as many savvy holidaymakers were parking at the Disney hotels for free and then using the complimentary buses and Skyliner to get to the parks.

Current (2022) prices for parking at a Disney resort hotel are as follows.

  • Disney Value Resorts: $15 per night
  • Disney Moderate Resorts: $20 per night
  • Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $25 per night

How To Park For Free At Walt Disney World

If you really want to avoid the parking charges and don’t mind losing some precious time in the parks you can still park at Disney Springs for free and use the complimentary bus service.

Why Is Water So Expensive At Walt Disney World

If you have never visited the parks in Florida before you will be amazed just how much water you will want, and need to drink.

Bottles of water are currently priced between $2.50 and $3.50 (2022 prices) in the Disney parks so using my math skills that’s up to $14 each time you buy a “round” of water for a family of 4.

As previously stated you will be craving water like never before so this is seriously going to add up over a two-week stay.

  • Pro-tip. If you have a freezer in your hotel room or villa buy bottled water in bulk from a supermarket and freeze it.

The next day you can pack a couple of bottles in each of your bags and take them with you.

They will defrost slowly throughout the day and you may find buying just one “round” of 4 bottles of water later in the day is enough to top up on top of your remaining ice.

This really does work well and saves you a small fortune.

Check out this article that discusses the tap water in Florida and the Disney Drinking fountains.

Can You Drink Free Water FromThe Disney Drinking Fountains?

I have written a separate article on this subject you can read it here.

In short though, yes you can drink the water from the fountains but it tastes ghastly, and more often than not it gives me an upset stomach.

Many Florida residents still don’t drink the water straight from the tap in their own homes!

Where To Get Free Drinks At Walt Disney World

Epcot has a shop/attraction called Club Cool. You can sample selections of drinks from around the world for free in here and drink as much as you want (from a tiny paper cup).

Here’s a YouTube video that shows you around!

Also, the counter service restaurants will provide a cup of water for free if required. Again I avoid this as it is likely tap water and likely to lead to an upset stomach.

  • Pro Tip. When purchasing a soft drink ask for no ice. This will still be plenty cool enough and you will get much more for your money rather than a cup full of ice with 20% soda in it!

Disneys Genie + Is It Free?

Disneys much loved free FastPass + system has now been replaced by Genie +.

This is essentially the same process as the old Fastpass system but it offers a paid option to use the “Lightning Lane” to skip waiting in line. The basic version of Genie+ is free but the paid version that allows you pre-book ride times is $15 per person per day.

Be aware though that the $15 per person per day does not include skipping the line for attractions such as Rise of the Resistance in Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Pandora over at Animal Kingdom.

To do this type of premium attraction and skip the line you will need the $15 per person per day Genie + plus pay an additional fee of around an extra $15 per person per ride.

And, if the ride breaks down there are no refunds and you can’t just get back in line any time the ride is back up and running!

This system is not popular amongst Disney park fans. There is much debate about it online. My personal choice is to get to the parks early and wait in line!

Here’s a video from Disney on how the Genie+ service works.

Why Is Disney Food So Expensive?

This is a common question.

There are so many choices of restaurants throughout the Disney parks that it could be considered subjective whether it is expensive or not.

One option I do really like is mobile ordering so you don’t need to wait in line for your food. This is currently free to use!

Here’s a Youtube video of how this system works.

Usually, I take my own food into the parks.

Yes, that’s right. Disney allows you to take your own food into the parks, so long as the food is not in glass containers and does not require heating, reheating processing, refrigeration, or has overly strong odors.

Often I pick up a Subway sandwich on the way to the parks and take snacks from the villa!

I have written an article all about Disney food. You Can read it here.

Is Disney Memory Maker Free

If you haven’t heard of Memory Maker before it is basically where every photo you have taken by the Disney cast member photographers or on-ride photos are stored.

This is a great service but it doesn’t always come for free. You will need to check with your ticket provider to make sure this is included. Otherwise, this service will need to be paid for.

Here’s a YouTube video on Disneys’ Memory Maker.

Disneys Cancellation Fee For Missed Dining Reservations

Disney charges $10 per person for missed dining reservations not canceled 24 hours before the booked table.

Not all guests are aware of this so If you have made plans you now know you cant keep you need to cancel with 24 hours’ notice to avoid paying the penalty. This applies to table service reservations only.

Make sure you allow plenty of time to arrive at your booking especially at the Magic Kingdom as you will have to allow extra time for crossing the seven seas lagoon by monorail or ferry boat.

Whilst Disney does not have a strict dress code for dining they do have a dress code for entering the parks. Check out this article for more information.

Is Disney’s Magical Express Coach Service Free?

It was.

Sadly this free service for resort guests ended on January 1st, 2022.

This has now been replaced by a Mears Connect service. You can book tickets here.

The cost of this service (which is exactly what the free magical express was) is now $32 per round trip for adults and $27 per round trip for children.

So for 2 adults and 2 children this now costs $118. There’s nothing magical in that. This is definitely one you may have not budgeted for.

If you wish to drive from the Airport to Disney you may want to read our article on how to get there. You can read this article here.

One other thing to mention is that there are two airports in Orlando. The largest of the two is Orlando International Airport and the other located a little further north is Sanford. Be sure to check out this article for more information.

For reference, Disneys Magical Express Service only ever operated out of Orlando International Airport.

Here’s a YouTube video that shows how to drive from Orlando International Airport to 192 Highway and the Disney area.

Stroller Rentals And Locker Charges At Walt Disney World.

Prices as of January 2022 are $15 per day for a stroller for kids that weigh 50lb or less. This price lowers to $13 a day if you take extended stroller rental for the duration of your visit.

Larger strollers are available (up to 100lb) for $31 per day or $27 per day if you take extended stroller rental for the whole of your stay.

Locker prices are different depending on whether you are visiting a theme park or waterpark.

Theme park locker rentals are $10 $12 or $15 per day depending on the size you require.

Water park lockers at Disney are $10 for standard or $15 for large. If you need a locker every day at the theme parks and water parks this can really add up. You will need to pay locker fees again if you switch parks.

Emergency Ponchos And Jumpers at Walt Disney World

If you have ever been to Disney when it suddenly starts to rain you will be familiar with the poncho brigade. If you get caught out and don’t want to get wet you will be dashing into the nearest shop and paying for a poncho for you and the family!

I would suggest purchasing one before you visit the parks and keeping it in the bottom of your bag!

Most people assume that when it rains you will dry quickly when the sun comes out, but if you have rides booked or have to suddenly wait in line for an attraction you will soon become uncomfortable with wet clothes in ice-cold air-conditioned attractions restaurants, and waiting areas.

You may also want to wear a poncho on Splash Mountain! Take a look at this article on how to avoid getting wet on Splash Mountain!

If you are visiting the Disney parks in Florida over the winter months you will want to pack a jumper or jacket. I know this isn’t something you probably want to think about but it does get cold at night.

You may occasionally want to wear it throughout the day!

If you are unprepared and plan to watch one of the nighttime shows such as Fantasmic (highly recommended) or Harmonious at Epcot you may find yourself having to purchase a new Mickey (or Minnie) mouse sweater for yourself or the entire family!

You can save some money by packing one warmer item each before traveling.

Keep in mind there are an incredible amount of Disney perks that are still free. Take a look at this great video from YouTube on 30 of these treats!

Keeping You In The Disney Bubble

Walt Disney World in Florida is 110 km² and consists of theme parks water parks, hotels shopping areas, and much more.

Disney wants to keep you in this bubble from the moment you step out of the airport until you return as they want all your dollars to turn into Disney dollars!

Disney encourages you to not hire a car by charging parking fees at the parks and resort hotels.

Disney wants you to use their free transportation such as coaches, monorail, and Skyliner as this keeps you within the Disney area and they can profit from you.

Don’t be put off visiting the Disney Parks, you will be amazed at just how many attractions there are as well as thrill rides.

It really is a magical place and with the right planning before you visit you can save yourself some additional costs.

One other tip is to make sure your tickets have not expired before you arrive! Check out this article for more information.

Time is also money at Disney so if you wait in line for a ride, you could be missing out on other attractions, for the larger guest they may want to check if Disney has a weight limit on any particular rides before standing in line.

Check out this article for more information.

Related Questions

Are Magic Bands Free At Walt Disney World?

Magic bands were free for all Disney resort guests until December 2020. You will now need to pay for a magic band if you wish to use one or you can also use a smartwatch.

I have written a separate article on what to do if you lose your magic band during your stay.

You can read this article here.

Can I buy a Sunpass Or Orlando International Airport?

If you are planning on visiting Disney and Orlando for an extended stay you may wish to purchase a Sunpass instead of having to stop at each toll.

You can find more information on this topic here.

I hope this article helps you with your planning and you do indeed have a magical day.