I worked at Disney World for 2 years. Here are 10 things I wish tourists would stop wasting money on.
  • As a former Disney World employee, I’ve discovered a few ways to save money in the parks.
  • You don’t need to buy expensive bottles of water or multiple refillable popcorn buckets.
  • Parking, fancy resorts, and impulse souvenirs can also add unnecessary costs to the vacation.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As an avid Disney goer and former park employee, I’ve discovered several ways to save money on my vacations.

With park tickets, accommodations, food, and transportation, a Disney trip can quickly add up. And that’s before you even factor in fun bonus buys, like souvenirs and treats.

Read on for some purchases I think you should skip if you want to save money at the parks.

Don’t bother wasting money on water bottles – you can ask for a free cup

Water is essential to any Disney World park day because spending time in the Florida heat can leave you dehydrated.


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But instead of buying a $5 bottle of water every time you’re thirsty – and trust me, you’ll be thirsty – you can go to any quick-service dining location around the parks and ask for a free cup of water.

I remember when I worked on Casey’s Corner on Main Street in Magic Kingdom, we would have trays of cups filled with ice water on hot days so they’d be ready to hand out.

Take advantage of this. Depending on the size of your group and how many days you’re spending in the parks, this could honestly save you hundreds of dollars by the end of your trip.

You could also simply bring a water bottle of your own and fill it up at any of the water fountains around the property. I recommend this so you’ll always have a cold beverage by your side in the hot Florida sun.

Pins are one of the most popular Disney souvenirs, but you can get them cheaper online

For those who aren’t familiar, at Disney, there’s a concept called “pin trading” where guests can trade pins with employees and sometimes other tourists.

If you’re someone who collects Disney pins and brings them to the parks specifically to trade, there are ways to save a little money.

Some park workers will have a lanyard, corkboard, or even a traveling trash can full of pins that people can trade for. When I worked in the parks, this was one of my favorite ways to interact with guests.

To save money on pin trading, I suggest investing in a bulk bag of cheap Disney pins online or buying whatever the cheapest pins are at the merchandise locations. Then you can trade away those cheap pins that you don’t like with the Disney employees.

I saw so many guests buy $15 pins and trade them away when you could buy a pack of four for $15 instead and do the same thing.

By doing this, you’re trading up in resale price and trading away pins that you don’t like for the ones you do.

You don’t actually need all the cute toys and merchandise items you think you do

I can’t tell you how often I walk out of the Disney parks with merchandise I never intended on getting.

Sometimes when I’m in the Disney stores something comes over me, and I feel the need to buy everything in sight.

But I’m here to remind you (and myself) to practice some self-control and ask yourself if you’ll ever use the souvenir again, outside of Disney.

Before you set a budget and make a list of what you think you want, just ask yourself if you really need it. Or else you, like me, just might find an unused Buzz Lightyear bubble blower in the back of your car a year after your Disney trip.

Disney apparel can be expensive, so if you want everyone to match, buy your T-shirts outside of the park

When I was working at Disney, I saw plenty of families decked out in matching T-shirts they bought on property.

I get it, it’s cute and makes for awesome photos. But all I can think is that this family of five just spent around $125 on T-shirts alone.

Instead, what you can do is go somewhere like Walmart and buy similar matching T-shirts for about half the price. You could even go on Etsy and have personalized shirts made, and they’ll still probably be cheaper than buying park apparel.

You can get great pictures of your trip without buying the professional prints

A lot of Disney goers end up paying for Photo Pass pictures at the end of their trip, which can be very expensive depending on the package.

Having photos to commemorate your Disney vacation is important, especially since you paid a lot to make those memories. But you don’t need to purchase the professional photos to accomplish this.

Every Photo Pass employee can take pictures for you from your personal device, like a phone or camera. All you have to do is ask.

This goes for photos anywhere, from in front of the park icons to character meet and greets. And you can get all the beautiful photos you want for free.

You don’t need more than one refillable popcorn bucket

Disney offers an array of decorative popcorn buckets to choose from – seasonal ones, Mickey-shaped ones, standard ones – and it’s tempting to collect them all.

I hate to break your heart, but you do not need multiple popcorn buckets. One will do the job.

There were so many times that I heard guests say they buy new buckets every year or every trip, and if you’re collecting them as a hobby, then buy away. But you don’t need to do that.

You could bring the popcorn bucket you bought years ago, and they’ll still refill it for you.

If you’re a fan of the Disney popcorn though, investing in a bucket is a great way to save a little snack money because they bring down the price of a refill from around $5 to around $2.

But again, you don’t need multiple.

Don’t waste your money on a fancy Disney resort if you’re just going to spend your days in the parks

Disney has a wide array of on-property resorts to choose from, offering different themes, characters, dining options, locations, and prices.

Some of the cheapest resorts can be as low as $150 a night, but the more expensive ones can be thousands of dollars a night.

If your sole purpose of staying at Disney is to go to the parks every day, why would you spend all of your money on a resort when you won’t even be there for the majority of your trip?

One of the quickest ways to cut down your Disney bill is to simply choose a cheaper accommodation.

All of the Disney ones offer free buses to the parks, water parks, and other resorts, and even the cheapest options have fun themes, dining locations, and swimming pools.

If you’re staying at a resort, make use of it by buying a refillable mug

If you’re spending the money to stay at one of the on-property resorts, you can at least make the most of it.

Each Disney resort sells refillable mugs that come with unlimited refills for the length of your resort stay.

Even though the mug costs $19.99, trust me when I say it’s best to just buy one at the beginning of your trip. You can end up saving so much money.

To put it in perspective, each fountain drink at Disney ranges from $3.99 to $4.49, which means if you get five fountain drinks during your resort stay, the refillable mug is already worth it.

On my recent Disney trip, I probably got at least two drinks per day at my resort, and I stayed there for five days. That alone made it worth it, and you also get to keep the mug as a cute souvenir.

Parking can be free if you’re willing to put in a little more time and effort

Disney parks tickets alone already cost more than $100 per person, but that doesn’t include parking.

If you don’t want to shell out an extra $25 per car per day, and you have a little extra time, there are ways around this expense.

First, parking at Disney Springs (the big shopping and dining center at Disney World) is free, so if you go there first, you can hop on one of the free Disney buses to any of the parks or resorts on the property.

At the end of the day, just take the bus back to Disney Springs, and you’ll never have to pay the $25.

You can also skirt around the parking fee by making a breakfast reservation at any of the Disney resorts. Of course, that means you’ll have to pay for breakfast, but if you need food anyway, you may as well kill two birds with one stone.

You can start your day off with an amazing breakfast – I recommend the Grand Floridian Café at the Grand Floridian Resort – and then you can take a free Disney bus or Monorail to whatever park you want.

I love parking at Disney Springs or a resort because it’s free, and you get to avoid the crowds. Plus you won’t have to wait in the long lines for the parking trams at the end of the night.

But if you’re set on the convenience of parking in the actual lot, just be sure to keep that parking pass with you if you change parks or have to leave and come back. It’s good for any of the Disney parks for the whole day, so you won’t have to pay double.

Make a detailed packing list so you don’t end up paying park prices for things you already have

One of the absolute easiest ways to save money at Disney is just to make sure you pack everything you need for the trip. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending an outrageous amount of money on things you already have at home.

For example, make sure to pack things like sunscreen, pain medication, swimsuits, sunglasses, enough clothes, and aloe.

Disney sells all those things because it knows some tourists will need them, but you’ll be paying an inflated price for something that would be cheaper to bring yourself.

Make a list of necessities and check it twice before leaving to avoid wasting your vacation money.

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