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Disney vacation tips: 6 ways to save on your stay

Ami is a writer who is also a childbirth educator and former doula. In addition to her love of all things birth and babies, she is addicted to celebrity news and isn't ashamed to admit it. Ami lives in Chicago with her husband and her te...

6 ways to save at Disney

Looking for a magical family vacation that won't break the bank? Lou Mongello doesn't work for Disney, but he sure loves the Magical Kingdom. Mongello is host of the award-winning WDW Radio Show, author of the Walt Disney World Trivia Books and editor of Celebrations magazine. Here are six of his insider tips to make the most of your Disney vacation.

Disney vacation

1Plan

Mongello says this is the most important way to save money and time during your Disney stay, but stresses that, even with top-notch planning, seeing and doing everything in one trip -- whether short or long -- is impossible. Know that going in, and you'll all have a much more enjoyable time.

To experience most or all of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, you should allow for at least two days in the Magic Kingdom, two days for Epcot, and a day for Disney's Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom Parks. A "day off" at your resort or pool is always nice -- at the very least, try to enjoy some down time so you don't head home needing a vacation from your vacation.

2Know when to go

If you're at the mercy of the kids' school vacation schedules, you can still have a blast with the understanding that you'll be visiting during Disney's peak season. The best deals are available during the off-season, so take advantage of this if you have a more flexible schedule.

quotation mark open By planning correctly and together, everyone can have a great time, experience the resort together, and create lasting memories. By keeping these things in mind and savoring every moment during your vacation, you will come to a true understanding of the Disney 'magic.'"quotation mark close

3Lodging

You can get a great deal -- especially during off-peak seasons -- at Disney resorts. From value hotels to lux resorts, there are benefits to staying at Disney properties, such as extended hours at the parks and special meal plans.

4Meals

Knowing when to eat is as important as knowing where. "If you choose to eat a very early dinner, you may be able to take advantage of a lunch menu at a sit-down restaurant, often with almost identical entrees as the dinner menu but with reduced prices. Buffets are another great option; they offer excellent, all-you-can-eat dining, often at prices lower than a single entrée at other restaurants," Mongello says.

"Of course, taking part in the Disney Dining Plan may be your very best bet. When you purchase Magic Your Way Tickets, you can add on the dining plan for around $40 per adult per night, which entitles you to one table service meal, one counter service meal and one snack per day. Used properly, it can save you literally hundreds of dollars in food alone!"

5Maximize your time

If you can travel during non-peak seasons, you will save countless hours standing in long lines. But if you just have to go during the holidays or breaks, use Disney's FASTPASS system. This free service allows you to put your park ticket into a machine at the entrance to an attraction and receive a FASTPASS ticket with a return time on it. When that time arrives, you can return to the attraction and bypass the stand-by line. These passes can be found at a kiosk in front of most of the popular attractions at all four WDW theme parks.

6Have fun

Mongello knows that fun for the family is the point of visiting Disney, yet he can't stress its importance enough. "By planning correctly and together, everyone can have a great time, experience the resort together, and create lasting memories. By keeping these things in mind and savoring every moment during your vacation, you will come to a true understanding of the Disney 'magic.'"

More on planning your Disney vacation

Tips for Disney World first-timers

More ways to save money on a Disney vacation

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