18 Sneaky Ways Disney World Gets You to Spend More Money
The most magical place on earth has a few tricks up its sleeve.
They force you to exit through the gift shop
To exit almost any Disney attraction, you’ll have to walk through an appropriately themed gift shop. This isn’t an accident, says one anonymous former Disney employee. It’s one of the park’s most successful strategies. “These gift shops are made with younger guests in mind,” says the former employee. “For example, little girls who just got off the Frozen ride in Epcot won’t feel satisfied from just seeing animatronic Anna and Elsa. They’ll want to dresses to become Anna and Elsa. Thus, as soon as you exit the Frozen ride, the first pieces of merchandise you see are $40 to $60 dresses at a young girl’s eye level.” These are the 23 secrets Disney employees won't tell you.
They open the doors in the rain
Most Disney vacationers know the park is famous for its afternoon rain. And if it’s pouring outside, it’s only natural to want to duck inside. Disney even makes things easy for you. “The doors of nearly every gift shop remain open to give guests quick access in and out,” says a former employee. “Open doors also give guests a way to dodge rain and keep an eye on the weather.” Unfortunately, many guests also blow their budget during these showers. Spending almost $30 on a pair of Minnie Mouse ears seems a lot more reasonable when you’re forced to look at them for an hour.
They hike up the price of rain gear
Don’t want to spend the entire afternoon cooped up to avoid the rain? Purchasing a poncho from a street vendor might seem like a good idea—until you see that Disney’s ponchos sell for around $10 a pop. For a family of four, that’s about $40 down the drain. Bring a raincoat or dollar store poncho instead. This is the Disney dress code you had no idea existed.
They sell water—when you can get it for free
Water is a must for a hot day at the park. But at $3 a bottle, the cost can start to add up. Instead of buying multiple bottles to supply the entire family, pack a reusable water bottle or get a few cups for free. Every quick service restaurant at Disney is required to give out free cups of water. You can also get free water at Starbucks (there’s one in every park).
They catch your kid's eye with glow toys
While waiting for fireworks, you're likely to notice an abundance of glow-stick items. “It’s no surprise that kids would rather play with a glow toy than simply sit and wait,” says former Disney employee Brittany DiCologero, author of Brittany Earns Her Ears and founder of Castle Party Blog. Luckily, DiCologero has a helpful tip. “I found that the most helpful parents in these situations were the ones who were clearly teaching their kids about how expensive these items were and how to best budget for them,” she says. “In these instances, parents often purchased gift cards with set amounts for each kid, and before they made purchases they’d reinforce, ‘If you buy this now, you’ll only have x amount left, so you may have to get something much smaller later.’” Glow-stick crisis, averted.
They don't tell you it's OK to bring snacks
With airport-level security and tons of all-inclusive deals, it might seem like it’s against the rules to bring your own snacks to Disney. Turns out, it’s totally fine. “In a world where even local movie theaters and sporting events do not allow outside food, it’s understandable why some guests assume it’s not allowed and forgo packing a lunch,” says DiCologero. “If you are looking to save money though (or even if you just have kids who are picky eaters), there is nothing wrong with packing sandwiches, snacks, or whatever else you need to bring into the parks.” Want to splurge? These are the VIP Disney experiences everyone needs to have.
They push the Park Hopper Pass
While individual park tickets will only allow you to visit one park a day, the Park Hopper Pass allows you to visit as many as you want, for around $70 more per day. “Many guests purchase Park Hoppers because they assume that paying more to have the flexibility of visiting more than one park per day is a must,” says DiCologero. “It isn’t—and while it’s certainly convenient, some families buy Park Hoppers only to seldom ever park-hop. Kids get tired, plans change, even the parents get tired, and sometimes park hopping isn’t as doable as you thought it would be.”
They offer complicated meal plans
Nothing was more controversial among our Disney experts than the Disney Dining Plan. For some, the convenience of the all-inclusive service was too good to pass up. But for others, especially those with smaller appetites and picky eater kids, it was a no-go. “It's really only worth it if you plan on dining at some of the best eateries the place has to offer and [eating] the most expensive dishes,” says David Bakke, a travel expert at Money Crashers. “Otherwise, you'd be better off going without.”
They play up the prix fixe
Decided to opt out of the Disney Dining Plan? Now it’s time to decide if a prix fixe meal is worth it. “In just about any restaurant you go to anywhere in Disney World, all the meals are prix fixe,” says Eileen P. Gunn, founder of travel advice website FamiliesGo!. “Luckily a waiter tipped us off that you can ignore the prix fixe and just order what you want, and they’ll charge you accordingly. So if the breakfast combination was $14, say, an egg sandwich and coffee might have been $10.” These are the 25 healthiest foods at Disney World.
They profit off your forgetfulness
Because it can be hard to snag a table at some high-demand Disney restaurants, many travelers overbook dining reservations so they know they’ll have someplace to eat. That’s fine, unless you forget to cancel the ones you don’t actually attend. You’ll be charged $10 per person if you don’t cancel with at least one day’s notice. “The trick to not forgetting to cancel reservations is to keep an eye on your My Disney Experience app and set mobile alerts,” says Allison Reinert of ALR Marketing Solutions. “Our group always has a 'dining conversation' about what we want to do the next day so we can be sure to cancel any reservations we don’t want to keep.”