Doing Disney on a Budget with Lou Mongello – EP 329

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Make your Disney dreams come true! Jen & Jill team up with Disney expert Lou Mongello to uncover the ultimate secrets of doing Disney on a budget. From trimming down ticket costs to revealing the secrets behind scoring budget-friendly hotels, dining, and adventures, we’ve got all the insider tips to make your Disney experience unforgettable. Grab your mouse ears and listen in.

If you want your children to remember this Disney trip that you’re paying a lot of money for, they better cry by the time you leave!


  • 13.1 miles. Yes, you could drive 13.1 miles in 20 minutes or you could take multiple hours to run it. I mean, some people can do it in less but if you’re me it’s multiple hours. You can listen to a lot of Frugal Friends over that time. Don’t have time to run 13.1 miles? Don’t fret. Get everything you love about Frugal Friends and more in The Friendletter.

Lou Mongello is a former attorney who is the host of WDW Radio, a podcast that is dedicated to celebrating the magic of the Disney Parks, Disney Cruise Line, Marvel, and Star Wars since 2004. He is also the founder of the, which has raised more than $550,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. Lou Mongello is an author, coach, keynote speaker, and founder of the Momentum series of events and workshops. 

Magic on a budget with Disney tickets and Genie+

The big keys to going to Disney on a budget are knowing when to go, where to stay, and having a strategy for buying the tickets and approaching the parks. Lou recommends avoiding going to Walt Disney World during the summertime, July 4th, spring break, Christmas, and Easter holidays to save the most on tickets and advises people to strike the best balance between value, crowds, and weather. The best times to go to Walt Disney World are September, January, and February, as they have the least expensive prices for tickets, the crowds are fewer, and the weather is good. 

Genie+ is a paid, optional fast pass to popular attractions where you get priority return times for a specific dollar figure ranging from $10 to $27 per person per attraction.

Budget-friendly hotel hacks for your Disney adventures

Just like Disney tickets, the time of year you stay at hotels will save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Lou lists off resort options: value resorts, moderate resorts, deluxe resorts, and Disney Vacation Club accommodations, ultimately recommending staying on-property to get the complete 24/7 Disney experience. If on a budget, he suggests the Formosa Valley Resorts, while Jen has also heard great things about Fort Wilderness Resort’s Campgrounds. Another great place is the Coronado Springs Resort, with the new Gran Destino Tower perfect for those who want a luxury stay complete with fine dining.

Luxury Disney dining on a dime

Lou swears that calories still count at Walt Disney World. One of the best ways to save on food, says Lou, is to be strategic in how you dine. Going to counter-service restaurants instead of sit-down table-service restaurants will save you a lot of time and money – even some of the best meals Lou has ever had anywhere are at counter-service locations in Disney parks and resorts. You could also take snacks and water bottles into the parks. Lou recommends the EPCOT seasonal festivals for food samples from around the world, the Columbia Harbor House and Japan Pavilion at Magic Kingdom, and the loaded tater tots at Woody’s Lunchbox in Toy Story Land, which Jill also swears by.

Thrifty family fun in Disney parks and beyond

Lou reveals that the longer you stay, the less expensive your day-by-day ticket is. Having written a free guide about 102 things to do in Walt Disney World, Lou says there are at least 40 free things to do, see, and eat, while there. One of the best activities is to visit different resorts because they have themed decorations depending on the holiday, and if you ask the front desk, they’ll give you a list of daily activities, from craft-making to culinary tours where you can get free food samples. Lou also gives a tip on saving on souvenirs: go to the nearest Walmart or Target in the area to buy cheaper but authentic and licensed Disney merchandise. 

What is your most memorable Disney park experience?

  • Lou: Crying while seeing his daughter, who was born on Mickey Mouse’s birthday, covered in ice cream, wide-eyed watching the Disney parade go by.
  • Jill: Dad getting yellow Indiana Pacers hats for the entire family so it’d be easy to spot them in the crowd if they got lost at Disney, and Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts yelling at her.
  • Jen: Crying at runDisney half-marathon finish lines.

Bill of The Week

Thank you for sharing your bill about ‘Disney bills’ that were Disney dollars to use at the parks!

Thanks so Much for Listening!

Thanks so much for listening. Many of you know we have a private community where we do monthly money challenges and offer accountability groups. We want to congratulate one of our members for a big win.

Declutter Challenge Win

I was surprised how hard it was to let go of my shoes, spent too much time thinking of the memories attached and not how they aren't used any longer haha! Ultimately, so glad I did it, not planning to stop at the 7 days/75 items so I can keep the clutter down.

Congrats! If you want to check out our monthly challenge community head to to see what challenge we have coming up next.

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