Four Things Worth Spending the Extra Money on at Walt Disney World

Four Things Worth Spending the Extra Money on at Walt Disney World

It’s been 6 weeks since our surprise family vacation to Walt Disney World and we’re all still reeling from excitement. My girls can’t stop talking about how much fun they had! I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World since their free-admission-on-your-birthday promotion back 2009 and I was a Florida resident then (and didn’t have kids). Well, a lot has changed and navigating everything during the planning phase felt slightly overwhelming at times. In an effort to help you not feel so overwhelmed in planning your upcoming Disney World vacation, here are four things I think are definitely worth the extra money.

MagicBands

MagicBands are bracelets that you link to your My Disney Experience account. You can link your park tickets, FastPasses, photos, and (only if you’re staying at a Disney Resort) a credit card. If you choose a solid color MagicBand, they’re only $12.95. You can buy them at the gates of the park but I recommend buying them beforehand and having them shipped to your home so you can have everything linked to them when you arrive. If you lose your band, you can use the My Disney Experience mobile app to deactivate it while you either look for yours or buy a new one. Also, MagicBands are reusable so be sure to keep them for your next trip!

Pro Tip: When you arrive to the park on the first day of your trip, you’ll have to use your fingerprint which will then be programmed to your respective band for future admission. I recommend using your fingerprint for your small children, too, to avoid delays at the gate.

Memory Maker

Hands down, this was the best purchase of our entire trip. I am so happy that I bought Memory Maker. As you may know, there are Disney PhotoPass photographers spread all over the Disney parks, including at all of the character experiences; your photo is taken on some of the rides, too. With Memory Maker, you can have any of the Disney photographers snap your photo at any time and you get to keep all of the photos! Unlimited photos, y’all. It kept me from having to take my camera with me to the park every day and it ensured that I got to actually be in the photos! Once the Disney PhotoPass photographer takes your photos, they scan your Magic Band or card and then the photos show up on your My Disney Experience account so you can download them. You can access them through MyDisneyPhotoPass.com, too. We were able to download photos from rides, all of our character experiences, and my girls’ experience at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! This is definitely something you should purchase online at least three days before your trip, though, so you can save. Memory Maker is $169 if you purchase it 3 days or more before you use it or $199 to start using it immediately. Worth. Every. Penny.

>> Related Post: The Ultimate ‘We’re Going to Disney World’ Surprise

Walt Disney World Resort Accommodations

While planning our trip, I wanted to spend the least amount of money as possible and found an amazing resort not far from the Magic Kingdom’s gates. Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I should have spent the extra money to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. When you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort…

  • your family’s MagicBands are complimentary.
  • you can link your credit card to your MagicBand and use it to pay for everything at the parks.
  • you can have your in-park purchases sent directly to your room so you don’t have to worry about hauling them around. (Pro Tip: If you stay off the resort, you can have your purchases sent to the front of the park for pick-up when you leave; it takes 2-3 hours for your bags to make it up there.)
  • you get to take advantage of “Extra Magic Hours” (when the park closes to the public but remains open for resort guests during certain times of the year).
  • you get early access to make your FastPass+ selections – 60 days before your trip vs. 30 days as a non-resort guest.
  • the monorail and ferry both stop at some of the resorts (and there are shuttle buses to the others) so you don’t have to worry about driving and/or parking. Not having to drive and/or pay for parking alone is worth it, in my opinion. My girls had just turned 3 and 5 at the time of our visit – they needed naps to make it through the day. Being able to jump on the monorail or ferry right back to our hotel would have made life so much easier for us.

All of that said, I’m pretty sure we’ll be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort for our next trip.

>> Related Post: Five Things to Save Money On Before Getting to Walt Disney World

Premium Parking

If you decide to stay somewhere other than a Disney resort, I highly recommend paying $45 for premium parking vs. $25 for regular every day. With premium parking you get to park walking distance from the front gate instead of having to wait for/get on the tram that drives you from the regular lots to the gate. If you have a stroller – or in our case, a double stroller – premium parking will save you from having break down and fold up the stroller since you can skip the tram and just walk. You also get free mini water bottles when you enter the lot! We decided to do premium parking on the last day of our trip and it was definitely worth the money, especially at the end of the day when my girls were completely wiped out and exhausted; they fell asleep in their stroller on the way out so we only had to lift them out of it to get them into the car. We regretted not doing premium parking on the days before. Side Note: you only have to pay for parking once per day, regardless of how many parks you visit or how many times you exit and return.

Have you been to Walt Disney World lately? What other things do you recommend spending the money on? Tell me in the comments below!

This post was last updated on October 19, 2018.

 



Share This Post:

46 Comments

  1. Heather
    September 9, 2018 / 9:36 pm

    Get an independent guide to get you around the parks. I will never go without one. Best money I ever spent!

  2. PegP
    September 4, 2018 / 12:43 pm

    I have to disagree on the expense of the Memory Maker. It was the WORST expense I’ve made with regards to anything Disney. I paid $169 for basically five photos (not counting the stock photos they include with every Memory Maker package. The photographers were either impossible to find or had such long lines that it wasn’t worth wasting precious park time to stand in.

    We even had one time where we went to have a photo taken at the entrance to Hollywood Studios. Waited because there was a short line, only to be told he was going on break (and then he left!) No one came to take his place. When we were done at the park and left, there still wasn’t anyone there to take pictures.

    $169 for five pictures is RIDICULOUS! I could have done the Photo Pass and paid about $15 per pic and saved a LOT of money! Haven’t bought it since and have never regretted not getting it.

    • Shannnon
      Author
      September 5, 2018 / 5:04 pm

      Oh no! I’m so sorry you had that experience! We had so many taken and I loved the convenience.

  3. Brenda Gruwell
    August 26, 2018 / 4:36 pm

    Another thing to think of. Disney and other people, including me, suggest one member of your party purchase an annual pass if you are staying at least a week. It cost more but includes, depending which one you purchase, the Memory Maker, percentages off some of your meals AND purchases at certain eating establishments and stores. If you drive your own car, free parking at the parks. And if you are planning on coming the next year and renew your pass, a percentage off of it. Letters to keep you updated on special occasions and sometimes anual passes can get you discounts on certain Disney motels.
    It’s worth looking into. It was worth it for me. We go to Florida for a couple months, had a few health problems, where paying for a ticket and going all day didn’t work for me. This way I can go for as long as I want and can hop to other parks,in the same day, if I feel up to it.

    • Shannnon
      Author
      August 27, 2018 / 8:06 am

      That’s a FANTASTIC idea! Thanks for the tip!!

  4. MJ
    August 1, 2018 / 6:13 pm

    One of the biggest reasons to stay on site in a Disney Owned resort is the complimentary coach bus to and from the Orlando airport called Magical Express ! We have down from the North East to WDW on three different occasions and have used this service every time ! It saves is having to rent a car and pay for resort /park parking fees for the entire trip.

    We feel like we are really on vacation since we never have to drive once we arrive ! They even manage your luggage for you until you are ready to depart to the airport. Really can’t imagine staying off site with all those extra fees ! Its what kept us ciming back to Disney for each vacation .

  5. Heather
    July 22, 2018 / 7:11 pm

    Thanks for the tip on premium parking! We splurged for the premium parking, enjoyed the water, and being able to walk to our car… especially during a downpour at the end of the night! So glad we didn’t have to wait for a tram as well.

  6. Tina
    May 31, 2018 / 10:47 am

    I definitely agree with your recommendations! We flew in from California and took advantage of everything that was available and it was worth every penny not to have to deal with it when we got there. From the Magic Express to the dining plan, the Magic Bands to the Photo Pass! We also booked a desert party with fireworks viewing. Thanks for sharing so others can benefit. This is how I learned about all available, from blogs like this.

  7. Amanda Burge
    April 5, 2018 / 3:20 pm

    I understand that you wrote this last October, but I’m wondering where to buy the PhotoPass for less?? We’re going to Disney World in June…it’s been 10 years since we last went. Would love to save money any way I can!

    • Shannnon
      Author
      April 5, 2018 / 5:27 pm

      Hi Amanda! Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it for less anywhere. 🤷🏻‍♀️

      • Sarah
        April 24, 2018 / 2:31 pm

        I think she means for the 169.00 instead of 199.00 😜

    • Sandra
      May 30, 2018 / 12:06 am

      Are you a military family if you are the memory maker is pretty reasonable.

    • Kristin
      July 19, 2018 / 8:31 pm

      If you’re not a scrapbooker, i would reflect on how many photos you actually want from your trip. Photo Pass photographers will take your photos and put them in the online gallery linked to your magic band without Memory Maker and then you can buy individual images for like $20 each. We are only going to frame maximum 3 photos, so this worked out best for us. Also we had the photo pass photographers take photos with my cell phone too (just ask!) so that gave us some other photos to remember the trip as well.

  8. Katie
    March 14, 2018 / 8:41 am

    I loved reading your post. It is going to be my fiancé’s first time doing any Disney parks, and I am planning our trips.

    I am going to look into flopping our actual tickets into MagicBands. Might make the trip loads easier. Also I don’t typically carry anything other than my cellphone and battery banks. Will definitely look into someone taking our photos instead of just doing selfies.

    One thing though beyond what you mentioned to make a disney world experience so much better, ESPECIALLY if you are only doing 1-3 days, and are going to be running from park open-park close. Bring the characters to you.

    There are tons of hours to choose from, and you can book character meals at the same time as you book your room. It is one of the best investments I feel will make our trip. It is great because you get to sit, eat a very good meal, the characters come around to visit you. You can take your pictures, and the meals are always in a climate controlled building, so you get to relax in some AC during the warmer weather. There really isn’t much that someone could ask for. 😊

    • Marilyn
      June 15, 2018 / 9:17 am

      bring a back pack and bring snacks and food the food is pricy

  9. April
    January 26, 2018 / 4:42 pm

    Kingdom stroller is a cheaper rate and they bring it to resort and pick it up. Awesome deal

  10. Marisa
    January 16, 2018 / 1:44 pm

    My family and I have had the pleasure and privelege to visit Disney World 24 times over a 13 year period. Alot has changed over the years. But there are some consistant things that we have continued to do over the years, whether it is during Christmas or during the summer.
    1. Please do yourself a favor and stay at one of the Disney resorts. There is a resort for all budgets. The higher the Deluxe resorts, the more the cist, the amenities and the more conveniences and priveleges. You save so much time going back and forth and you get to enjoy your valuable time doing things.
    2. Pay for the Meal Plan. You can make your reservations up to 60 days prior and with so many great choices in the parks and at the resorts, eat between or after shows, events, parades, etc. or during fireworks, etc. Some restaurants offer seating during these fireworks times depending on their locations. Eating in the parks or at the resort ensures you have the fuel you need and you get to enjoy the parks longer in the day or nite. You also get to experience amazing foid, people and restaurants. Well worth the price. The quick service, snack and o e sit down per day per person is the one we have always purchased, and at the end of our trip we have enough snack vouchers to buy candy and marshmallow treats as gifts, without spending extra. We are big fans of the meal plan, and it costs more to pay cash than to pay for food upfront.
    3. If you have young kids, keep them hydrated and take a stroller, or you can rent one daily at WWW. They have single and double strollers, and try not to rent just one if you have 2 kids and expect them to take turns…kids usually fall asleep in tandum, they can sleep in the stroller while Mom and Dad eat relax or shop. We never went back to the resort, not even when our kids were toddlers. Waste of time, energy and MONEY.
    4. Take a light jacket or poncho depending on the weather. Disney ponchos are expensive as are the hoodies, gloves, umbrellas and toques.
    5. Backpacks are best, not fashion bags, keep your hands free, and easy to slip on and off for rides. If you need to buy a small lightweight, backpack the vinyl flat pouch/drawstring ones at Disney are affordable and very useful during and after the trip.
    6.Plan Plan Plan…ahead. Plan your day, and your trip so that members have a schedule or itinerary. Have a budget for each member, either buy a Disney loadable gift card, write the persons name and the amount on each, and kids will learn hooefully how to budget and how quickly they can spend their money or how to think it out before wanting the first thing they see. We taught our boys thus simpke financing scheme at the young age of 3, and they still use it today. Once spent keep the empty card for a souvenir. I could go on and on, but I think I have said enough for now. Oh, I forgot to say…please try to take your kids to at least one character breakfast, or lunch or dinner. Mom and Dad get to relax , eat and watch your kids faces glow when the Disney characters come to them at your table, no waiting in line for hours. Have your autograph books and pens and cameras ready at all times!! you can check the Disney website for locations, prices and times for character breakfasts. Our favorite is Hollywood and Vine, where you get to see Mickey, Minnie and the whole Gang. It is an all you can eat and it is great.Have fun….leave your worries behind…

    Enjoy, cherish, love… Marisa and Family from Canada!!!

    • PegP
      February 15, 2018 / 12:09 am

      The cost effectiveness depends on where you plan to eat at and what you plan on eating. I’ve gone to Disney both with and without the Disney Dining Plan. Last year we didn’t get it because we weren’t planning on doing any of the character meals (which are quite expensive). I looked at all the menus from the various restaurants, both table and quick service, and found I’d save over $300 by not getting the DDP. It’s also not a great deal if your kid is at the awkward age of 10, where they now have to have an adult plan, but still eat from the children’s menu. You’ll lose a lot of money on the DDP, too.

      This year, though, we’re planning on hitting a lot of buffets and character meals like Biergarten, Ohana dinner, Chef Mickey’s, and 1900 Park Fare (breakfast and dinner), so I’ve included the DDP with our trip.

      Just know, it’s not always a good buy. Sometimes it can be $100s more than it would cost to pay out of pocket. And the $300+ last year I saved was only for one adult and one child!

  11. Cassie
    January 16, 2018 / 11:31 am

    I agree with you all the way! However, wanted to make sure you and your readers knew that there are only a couple of resorts that use the monorail to get to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Most resorts do not have access to the ferry or monorail. Also, all parks can not be accessed by the monorail and ferry. Disney does provide busses to get to and from all the resorts, all the parks and Disney Springs. And make sure you give yourself an extra 30-45 minutes to take the busses. While it doesn’t sound as magical as the rest of Disney, the busses do a fantastic job of getting places easily!

  12. Steph
    January 13, 2018 / 4:00 am

    Staying at a Disney World Resort is definitely worth it! My fiancé and I stayed on site and we never waited longer than 10 minutes for a bus back to our resort (usually walked straight onto one). It looked like a nightmare for parents trying to lugg their very tired children to the tram, then to the car, then to where they were staying after the Magic Kingdom fireworks! Also at some resorts their are also food packages included. We got two meals a day (including drink and desert) and two snacks a day (and we all know how big some snacks can be at Disney)!

    My top tip would be to book breakfast at the Beauty and the Beast restaurant inside Magic Kingdom – an earlier slot if you can. You get access to the park before it isn’t open to anyone else which means you get to walk down the spectacular Main Street with NO crowds. And I really do mean none! Plus the photographers are already out which means you can have as many pictures with you and your family on the way down as you like and there is nobody else in the pictures! It was really special to not have anyone block your view and to get photos without unwanted crowds in the background. It was definitely a highlight for our trip!

    Also – read up on FastPass+. Don’t forget that once you’ve used your three you can get extras on the day which at busy times make for much less queue time! Also make sure you have planned which parks you want to go to and book your FastPasses on the 60 day mark (or 30 if staying off site). Rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train have their FastPasses all booked up immediately so snap them up quickly!

  13. Melanie C
    January 8, 2018 / 11:14 pm

    Don’t forget, parking & transportation is free when you stay on property! If you get a good rate at a value tier property it’s less expensive if you are thinking about $40 daily parking.

    The main problem with memory maker ……. their system is wildly undependable.
    Especially when you consider the price they charge.
    On our trip several photos throughout our trip were missing. That included the photos of my son with Mickey on our first day. We were there celebrating his fifth birthday and this was the main reason behind the week long vacation. MICKEY.
    After several tearful phone calls when we got home and I realized , the Mickey photos were never found. They just dissapered. My husband had to have the moment recreated via photoshop.
    So…….. if you pay the money for this service and the photo is important I’d say back it up. But if your going to have to carry a camera anyway….. just save your money. Any park photographer will gladly take photos with your camera for free. Then just buy one or two enhanced photos that they take – instead of the package.
    I wish I’d done that.
    Especially when consider – you spend the money to go to character meals only to find out that of all places, there aren’t any memory maker photographers there.

    • LuLu
      March 27, 2018 / 9:29 pm

      I believe I read somewhere the Disney resorts are now charging for parking starting end of March 2018

      • Dean
        April 26, 2018 / 7:39 am

        I think what you may be speaking is that parking fees have gone UP about then. So allow for this extra expense in the budget.

    • Nichole
      April 12, 2018 / 12:38 am

      I agree with this wholeheartedly! When my family and I went I purchased the Memory Maker deal ($169) and did indeed love the fact that I could get in pictures I otherwise would have ended up taking.. also I had duplicate pictures, various angles and multiple facial expressions (if I happened to be taking a pic at the same time as the photographer). Considering I lost my camera on the bus after our first day at the parks (it was returned, God Bless the wonderful soul) I was super stoked I planned ahead and made that purchase. But what I DIDNT LOVE, though, was that some of the photos were missing AND WERE ONLY AVAILABLE FOR 30 DAYS AFTER OUR TRIP!! I went straight back to work after our trip so by the time I had a chance to look over our photos, a week had already passed! Then to call and try to inquire about the missing photos was a second week! All in all… I ended up being rather upset, not logging into the system due to frustration and by the time I cooled off enough to go back in and do something with our photos, I HAD LOST ALL OF THE PHOTOS FROM OUR FIRST DAY IN THE PARKS!! I never could have imagined that the word “Disney” could exist alongside so many expletives, but “Oh Boy”, it did!! Thanks goodness for taking my own camera and continuing to take photos alongside the photographer.. Ugh!! When we go back I honestly don’t know that I’d pay for that service again since the photographers *are* willing to take photos for you with your own camera and I think I’d rather have more souvenirs instead!

      • June 12, 2018 / 9:49 am

        Love the memory maker. So worth it for my family. It was our kids first time there so didn’t want to miss any memory. We took random pictures with our phones as well of our kids, but to have those special family photos together is priceless. When we went February 2017 one of our photos on a ride went missing. I called Disney they transferred me to the department that specializes in that. We had a fast pass for the ride so I told him the time of the fast pass he found it within a few minutes and attached it to our account. It’s Disney, nothing is cheap but it’s a family vacation I don’t care the cost. To see our kids faces on the rides they went on and meeting all those characters is beyond worth it.

  14. Jennifer Farrell
    January 8, 2018 / 11:49 am

    I would also add paying for Mickey’s Christmas Party if you’re there during November or December. Not only do you get to see the holiday parade and Christmas performances and fireworks at the castle, but you have access to the entire park (with a few exceptions of rides closed at night) with no lines. It was pretty amazing to be able to freely walk around and choose rides without worrying about lines or fast passes. Tip: Go stake out an area towards the beginning of the parade route (they’ll give you a map at entry) and avoid the crowds on Main Street. We got a front row view by doing this, and we’re close enough to the characters passing by that Elsa spoke to my daughter (which she still talks about 2 yrs later). The whole thing is well worth the extra money!

  15. November 1, 2017 / 7:32 pm

    Wow, you really did your homework and such great tips. I love the idea of the bands and photos. On our last trip to Disneyland the photos were crazy expensive!
    xo, Nicole

    • Shannnon
      Author
      November 1, 2017 / 10:34 pm

      Thanks, girl! Whoever came up with that idea at Disney was a genius!

      • Morgan
        January 12, 2018 / 6:23 am

        Disneyland doesn’t have memory maker only Disney World.

        • January 12, 2018 / 8:15 pm

          While they don’t call it Memory Maker, Disneyland does have their own service. You can buy it with 3 different names

          PhotoPass+
          https://disneyland.disney.go.com/photopass/products/

          This is the closest to Memory Maker as you buy for a number of days, and you get all photos taken on rides and all photos by photographers. You can buy for 1 week for $78.00 from the URL I gave above.

          Attractions+
          This is available at attractions for a lower price than PhotoPass+ but it only includes ride photos. Like PhotoPass+ it covers a period of 1 week and you get all the photos on rides for the week.

          MaxPass

          This is a ticket-add on sold at a rate of $10/ticket/day and includes 2 things.
          1) The ability to book fastpasses from your phone
          2) All photos taken both on rides and by PhotoPass photographers at the parks during that day.

          Annual Passholders can add MaxPass to their pass for the duration of their pass for $70.

  16. November 1, 2017 / 6:45 pm

    I’ve never been to Disney World, just Disneyland. I’m definitely using these tips next time we travel that way!

    • Shannnon
      Author
      November 1, 2017 / 10:34 pm

      I would think Disneyland is the same way, right?

      • Morgan
        January 12, 2018 / 6:26 am

        They are not the same!! Disneyland is much smaller. They don’t have magic bands. They used to still have the fast pass machine.

        • Dean
          May 30, 2018 / 6:48 am

          Please plan before your trip to WDW. The sheer size of the place can overwhelm even expierenced park goers. Get help and advice from a reputable travel agent. It’s amazing what you will see on your trip!!!

    • Dean
      April 26, 2018 / 2:34 pm

      Angela, get that planning started for a trip to WDW. You will see that the magic is everywhere. As some of this states, the Memory Maker for $169 is quite a program. Safe travels.

  17. October 31, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    These are such helpful tips! We are annual pass holders at Disneyland but hope to make it to Disney World in the near future, so I’ll be sure to keep this post handy!

    • Shannnon
      Author
      November 1, 2017 / 10:35 pm

      Awesome! I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was like 9 but I would think they two parks operate very similarly!

    • Shannnon
      Author
      November 1, 2017 / 10:35 pm

      Aw I hope you can get there soon!

  18. bellegabriella1
    October 30, 2017 / 11:16 pm

    I’ve never been to Disney, but I really want to go. These are great tips! The memory maker definitely sounds like a great deal! Thank you for sharing!

    • Shannnon
      Author
      November 1, 2017 / 10:36 pm

      I hope you go soon! The Memory Maker is seriously the best!

    • Shannnon
      Author
      November 1, 2017 / 10:36 pm

      Yes! Me too!

  19. October 30, 2017 / 5:13 pm

    I didnt realize you had to pay for magic bands if you werent staying at a Disney property! Its really worth it to just stay at a disney property. I would add its worth it to rent a stroller, esp if you have kids 5, 6, 7… who wouldnt normally sit in one, but Disney is SO MUCH WALKING!

    • Shannnon
      Author
      November 1, 2017 / 10:37 pm

      Yes! And I didn’t realize they were free if you stay on the property! Doh! Thanks for the stroller tip! I totally added that to my latest post about *saving* money on a Disney trip!

I love to hear from you!