It’s vacation planning season again, and no doubt, there are tens of thousands of people planning their Disney World vacations right now, just like you. It’s never too early to get started when it comes to budgeting for your getaway to the most magical place on Earth. That’s because Walt Disney World is a lot of things—a place where dreams come true, a place where families can spend time together, a place where thrilling rides and captivating attractions are around every corner. But Disney World is not inexpensive. And if you and your family plan to stay at a Disney Resort hotel, eat all of your meals in the parks or at Disney restaurants and purchase multi-day Park Hopper tickets, a trip to the parks could easily become one of the most expensive trips you’ve taken. But don’t let that scare you away—the Disney experience is worth every penny. You’ll just need to include a few things in your budget when planning your trip to get the most out of those pennies. Here are 7 things to consider in your budget.
7. Cost of your multi-night stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel
Staying on Disney property during your time in the parks is an experience unparalleled. It’s fun to wake up with Disney all around you—even before you get to the parks. It’s nice to have huge, themed pools right at your hotel, should you decide to have a rest day from the parks. But all of those niceties do come with a price tag, and that price tag can vary wildly, depending on the resort hotel you choose. Disney offers Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa accommodations—Value Resorts being the least expensive and Deluxe Villas being the most pricey. For example, a 6-night stay during summer peak season would cost approximately $1,300 for Pop Century Resort (Value), about $1,750 for Port Orleans—French Quarter (Moderate), around $3,100 at Saratoga Springs (Deluxe) and right at $3,600 at Disney’s Old Key West Resort (Deluxe Villas). Note: for this comparison, the same 6 nights in June during peak season were used for each resort listed. There’s no wrong Disney Resort Hotel to stay in—they’re all out of this world, but the prices can be too, so you’ll want to include this in your Disney budget.
6. Cost of your meals in the parks or at resort restaurants
If you’re staying on Disney property, you’re likely to eat many meals in the parks or at other Disney restaurants. There are counter-service restaurants (CSR) and table-service restaurants (TSR) all over the Walt Disney World Resort serving up anything you could crave. CSRs tend to be less expensive than TSRs, but your costs will depend on how many people you are feeding, whether you have some in your party who can eat kids’ meals at the restaurants, and they will depend on the restaurants you are visiting. A family of four (2 adults, 2 children) can expect to pay around $50 to $60 at a CSR per meal, plus tax. That same family can expect to pay anywhere from $110 to $130 (plus tax and tip) at a buffet-style character dining experience in the parks. And at a TSR, a family of four could pay from $75 to $100 per meal plus tax and tip (lunch is slightly less expensive than dinner). Meals and dining experiences will account for a large part of your expenditures at Disney, so including them in your budget is imperative.
5. Theme park tickets
Park tickets are a must—they are the keys that unlock the door to all the fun in the four theme parks. The cost of tickets is also a big part of the expenses of a Disney World trip. And ticket prices only vary based on how many days you will be in the parks and whether you want the Park Hopper option. Tickets are sold at a preset, non-negotiable rate. For a family of four (2 adults, 2 children), 5-day Magic Your Way park tickets with Park Hopper (which allows you to visit all four parks each day if you choose to do so) will cost you $1,960 including tax. Needless to say, tickets are also a very important part of your Disney World vacation budget.
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4. Transportation to the Orlando area
Unless you live relatively close to Mickey’s house, transportation to the Land of Magic will take up space in your budget too. Transportation costs will vary depending on whether you drive or fly to Disney. If you choose to fly, your ticket costs will depend on what time of year you’re traveling and how many are in your traveling party. Save a little by booking early. Last minute flights are not only sometimes hard to find—they can also be very expensive.
3. Essentials for your park bag
Disney World pros know that having a backpack in the parks is very important, and a smaller part of your budget will be for the essentials you’ll need in your bag—ponchos, one pair of dry socks for each family member, sunblock, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, canisters of quarters and pennies (for pressing), gum (it isn’t sold in the parks) and a very good portable charger. “Very good” means one that you spent more than $10 on. I’ve taken the less expensive charger into the parks, and when it came time to charge my phone, the charger itself needed re-charging. Never again—I spent about $50 on a really good charger with 2 USB ports. It can charge two devices at one time and live to tell about it! The expenses you’ll have on your park bag items is obviously a smaller portion of your budget, but just as important, nonetheless!
Souvenirs will take up a part of your Disney budget. How much? That’s entirely up to you. (Actually it’s probably more up to your kids and their abilities to appeal to your sense of “they’ll only be young once.”) If yours is the family that has to have a t-shirt, cap, lanyard and knick-knacks from every vacation destination, your souvenir budget will grow exponentially. That’s because Disney rarely has any sales on their park merchandise inside the parks—unless you’d like to purchase a Disney World Christmas sweatshirt in January or February. It’s also because Disney World is an emotional place where lots of emotional purchases are made. Most Guests in the parks are high on magic, fantasy and dreams coming true. Just be sure that you budget for those souvenirs because somehow that credit card statement that comes three weeks after your trip doesn’t feel so magical.
1. Various other ways your money tries to escape your pocket
There are other things that can come up during your trip for which you’ll want to budget. We will just call this the “miscellaneous” portion of your Disney trip budget. Any number of things can fall under that heading—some happy things and some not-so-happy things. A pesky headache in the parks might mean a purchase of a small packet of Advil, which has an astronomical cost per pill, should you decide to calculate it. A souvenir you never planned on purchasing just has that certain something that helps you to justify the purchase. Should someone get ill on your trip, and you have to see a doctor, you’ll have the expense of a visit plus any prescriptions. And what about all those yummy Mickey head ice cream pops? Dole Whips? Other yummy treats you want to enjoy in the parks? That Mickey head times the number of people in your traveling party. (And if you should see a Joffrey’s Coffee and Donut stop along the way, you’re going to have to buy a pink donut and an apple fritter—trust me.) It’s safe to say that budgeting for some miscellaneous things will help you, and if you don’t have those expenses, then you’ll come out a winner on your budget!
You can budget for any number of things when it comes to planning your trip to Disney World, but these points will get you thinking about costs and expenditures for your vacation. Remember that planning a budget helps eliminate the nasty surprise of a high credit card bill once you get home.