Walt Disney World
Ticket savings: Always buy advance, multiday passes. A one-day walk-up ticket is $99, vs. $60 a day for a five-day pass purchased online. Check UnderCoverTourist.com, an authorized Disney ticket reseller, before booking; you may luck into a discount. But skip the $35 park-hopper add-on, which allows you to visit multiple parks per day. “You’ll be too exhausted,” says Susan Kelly of Travel Magic.
Hotel strategy: Surprisingly, one way to save at Disney is to stay at one of the more affordable hotels within park grounds. For instance, Disney’s Pop Century Resort starts at $122 a night during summer. These properties include transportation from the airport and to the four parks, easily saving you $50 a day, says Kelly.
To cut costs even more, visit mid to late August, when some schools are already back in session. Crowds thin out, and onsite hotel prices drop 25% to 35%, says Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. A room at Disney’s All-Star Movie Resort starts at $150 a night in early July, vs. $95 in late August.
Eat Cheaper: This is another place where staying at a park hotel will help you. Disney hotels offer meal plans ($63 per adult and $19 per child) that include two daily meals and a snack in the park, cutting the cost of chow by up to 40%. Staying outside the gates? Now that Disney no longer bans outside food, it’s worth toting in munchies and drinks. You can always rent a locker ($5) if you don’t want to carry everything all day. Another way to save: Skip table service. At Liberty Tree Tavern you’ll pay $14.99 to sit down with your BLT entrée. At to-go eatery Earl of Sandwich, a BLT is $5.99.
Located on Lake Erie, Cedar Point is known for its 17 thrilling roller coasters. Tickets are a relative bargain at $59 ($49 online). Book at a Cedar Point resort (starting at $169) and get daily tickets for $39 or a two-day park and water park pass for $75.
Busch Gardens (entry: $72) has a solid mix of rides and is easily paired with Colonial Williamsburg ($44), home of an 18th-century village. Save with a package: A family of four can spend three nights at the Historic Powhatan Resort for $1,100, including tickets to both attractions.
Little kids will love this park’s jaw-dropping Lego creations and tame rides. Buying tickets online will save up to 10% (advance adult ticket: $76). Or join Club.Lego.com for free; members can access deals like buy-one-get-one-free tickets.