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18 Sneaky Ways Disney World Gets You to Spend More Money

The most magical place on earth has a few tricks up its sleeve.

NEW YORK - CIRCA MARCH, 2016: inside of Times Square Disney Store. Disney Store is an international chain of specialty stores selling only Disney related items, many of them exclusive.Sorbis/Shutterstock

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.

Orlando, Florida, USA - July 29, 2016: Entrance of Walt Disney World near OrlandoJerome LABOUYRIE/Shutterstock

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.

Cloudy skyCara-Foto/Shutterstock

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.

VARIOUS Model Released - People filling bottles with water from the drinking fountains at Disneyland Paris in France: Photofusion/Shutterstock

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).

Tokyo Disneyland Parade, Japan - 24 Sep 2015Hitoshi Yamada/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

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.

Mother packing food into school lunch bag indoorsAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

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.”

Maria & Enzo's Press Event, Lake Buena Vista, USA - 04 Jan 2018Roberto Gonzalez/AP/Shutterstock

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.”

Disneyland, Tokyo, Japan - 04 Jan 2016Timo Jaakonaho/Shutterstock

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.

VARIOUS Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World ResortimageBROKER/Shutterstock

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.”

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