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11 hacks for navigating Walt Disney World this summer

Every child dreams of going to Walt Disney World, and every (most?) parent dreams of taking them there.

For many families, though, the cost of the trip can seem insurmountable: gas if you’re driving there, plane tickets, and the cost of visiting the park itself.  

And Disney isn’t helping. In February, Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom announced that regular ticket prices would rise from $115 to $119 per person per day. Using the park’s three-tier system, peak tickets jumped from $124 to $129 and value tickets increased by $2 to $109.

For the other parks (Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom), the price of a regular one-day ticket increased from $107 to $114.

Disney isn’t cheap, but there are some ways to trim expenses. Laura Begley Bloom, chief content officer of Family Traveller, a travel magazine designed to help families plan vacations, has traveled to Walt Disney World many times with her family. She shared some time-saving and cost-cutting hacks, and general tips to get the most out of your Disney trip.

Walt Disney World

1. Avoid the crowds

Don’t visit Magic Kingdom on a Monday. That’s when crowds are at their peak. Save it for later in the week when crowds are smaller.

2. Stay local

By staying at one of Disney’s hotel properties (there are more than 25 of them), you’ll get to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours, when parks open early or stay open late. “Another advantage of staying in a resort hotel is that you get early FastPass+ access,” Begley Bloom told Yahoo Finance. “So you can book the most popular rides (Avatar: Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After) before anyone else.” (A fast pass lets you reserve access to park rides and attractions ahead of time.)

At a Disney hotel property, you can also start the day on an exciting note — with a free wake-up call each morning from Mickey or Stitch via the in-room phone.

3.  Download the My Disney Experience app

This app links your reservations, lets you search ride wait times, book dining reservations, and purchase souvenirs that can be sent to your room or mailed home. It’s also linked to your photo pass.

4. Hydrate for free

Orlando can get super hot, especially in the summer. Instead of buying bottled water, bring refillable water bottles to use throughout your vacation. Ice water is free from any café.

5. Order from the kids’ menu

Adults can always order from the kids’ menu, which helps save money and satiate smaller appetites. The Citricos menu at the Grand Floridian hotel has some great options, in addition to spectacular view of the fireworks.

6.  Get your (free) caffeine fix

Epcot’s Club Cool attraction offers eight flavors of Coke products from around the world, and you can try them all for free. Current flavors include: Guarana Kuat (berry flavored), Inca Kola (bubblegum flavored), Sparletta (raspberry cream soda), VegitaBeta (apricot and passionfruit), Bibo (kiwi mango), Fanta Melon Frosty (melon), Beverly (bitter aperitif), and Fanta Pineapple (Greek pineapple).

7. Take unique family photos

The view from Main Street USA of Cinderella Castle is the most popular photo opp, but you’ll be sharing the spot with tons of other tourists. Instead, check out the view from the bridge to Tomorrowland. “If you don’t want to buy the official Disney photos, you can get the Disney photographer to take a snap with your personal camera to save money,” Begley Bloom says.

You can take great photos at Disney World without paying for them. Photo:  Cornelia Bazley

8.  Shop strategically

Buying souvenirs is an easy way to increase your spending. Though it takes the fun out of the on-the-spot retail thrill, one smart money-saving tip is to order discounted Disney merchandise online from Amazon or on sale at the Disney Store, then bring the souvenirs with you. Your kids will never know, and you can rock your affordable mouse ears.

It’s also a good idea to check the fine print on your restaurant receipt. Disney sometimes adds discounts to park stores at the bottom of restaurant receipts.

9. Shorten your wait in line

Many rides have a “single rider” line that is much shorter than the general line. If you don’t mind sitting with a random person on the ride, you can cut your wait time down significantly.

10. Stay in the park after closing

Timing is everything when it comes to finding shorter lines at Disney. Attractions don’t close when the parks close, so jump in a line at the end of the night and you could save a little time.

11. Visit Disney Springs

To get a better feel for the Disney parks, check out Disney Springs — a destination for shopping, great restaurants, and entertainment. It’s about a 15-minute drive from Magic Kingdom, and if you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel, there is a complimentary bus service. The best part — admission is free!

Brittany is reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @bjonescooper

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