A getaway to the most magical place on earth—Walt Disney World—is just about the most fun you can have on planet earth, but it’s no small undertaking. Because of its massive size and its limitless offerings in family entertainment, rides, attractions, live entertainment, restaurants, night life and more, planning is essential before taking a trip to the parks. A trip to Disney World can also bruise your pocketbook just a bit if you aren’t careful, so pre-planning your trip isn’t just about choosing your FastPass+ selections and booking dining reservations. It’s also about planning what you’ll spend and on which things. But somehow, there are times when even the best planning can’t prepare you for things you didn’t see coming, such as unforeseen expenses on your trip. Let us help you be as prepared as possible with this list of 8 unexpected expenses you might face at Disney World. (Then perhaps they won’t be so unexpected, and you might even be able to dodge a few!)
8. Resort parking fees
Surely the price you paid to stay in one of Disney’s amazing on-site resort hotels included incidentals like parking, right? We thought so too. And until recently, that might have been true. But earlier this year, Disney began to charge overnight parking fees for Guests staying at resort hotels. Depending on which resort you choose, you will pay between $13 and $24 per night to park there. There is still no fee, however, to park at a resort hotel if you’re there for a dining reservation or to go shopping.
7. Tips and gratuities
Tipping is a customary part of many transactions. When you eat out, you tip your server as an expression of gratitude for his service—the better the service, the better the tip (at least it should be that way). The same is true on a Disney World vacation. When you enjoy a meal at a Disney table-service restaurant, you will enjoy world-class dining and cuisine and unmatched service to boot, and it’s appropriate to tip your server. Parties of six or more dining at a Walt Disney World restaurant incur an 18% gratuity on their bill at the end of their meal. And when you receive your copy of the credit card authorization for your meal, you’ll notice a space to add a tip in addition to the gratuity before you sign. That’s up to you—different Guests feel differently about that. If you’re staying in a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, the “Mousekeeping” staff will be sure that your room is clean each day, that you have clean towels, etc. It’s a nice gesture to tip your Mousekeepers as well. Don’t forget those tips at the airport—baggage handlers that assist you before you get to the terminal often look for a tip for their services as well.
6. Sunblock and over-the-counter medications
No matter what time of year you visit Disney World, you’re sure to be exposed to the sun at least some, and sunscreen can be your best friend. But you can’t use it if you don’t have it. If you forget yours and need to buy it in the parks, be prepared for a nominal mark-up. The same is true of over-the-counter medications like Advil and Tylenol that can come in handy for those minor aches and pains. And unless you bring your own, you can expect to pay more for these and other non-prescription medications when you purchase them at your resort hotel than you would at your local store.
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5. Theme park parking fees
Just like the parking fees at the resort hotels, you’d probably think that parking would be included in the cost of your theme park tickets at Disney World, but, alas, it is not, and parking at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom can cost between $25 per day, per vehicle. And no, that does not include anyone parking your vehicle. It’s self-parking at that rate, and whether you park right up at the gates or so far back you’re the last drop on the tram, you’ll pay the same rate. It can get expensive—figure six days in the parks at $25 per day, and before you’ve ever even gone into the parks, you will have spent $150. Wow!
4. Snacks in the parks
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with not packing snacks to take into the parks. There is no shortage of choices in drinks, snacks, desserts and other offerings at Disney World for when the munchies strike. But when you figure that a Mickey ice cream bar costs nearly $5—as does a donut from Joffrey’s and a Dole Whip from Aloha Isle—you’re looking at some pretty pennies, especially if you’re traveling with a family. An ice cream bar here and a gelato there can run you $25 to $40 per snack, depending on the number of family members you have. Do that once a day (or more) during a 6-day trip, and you’re looking at a minimum of $150 to $240. For snacks. Let that sink in.
3. Bottled water
A bottle of Dasani water at Disney World will cost you $3.50. SmartWater costs closer to $5.50. It’s your choice—you can bring your own refillable bottles or a rich relative. Either way is fine—make the experience yours.
Florida rain showers are a bit of a legend. They don’t usually last very long, but what they lack in duration, they make up for in intensity. And it’s very common to have sunny skies all morning that give way to huge thunderheads in the afternoon, and you can be caught completely unprepared for a downpour. If you don’t bring your own ponchos, don’t worry—Disney has you covered. But like the snacks, over-the-counter medications and bottled water, you’ll pay a heftier price for a Disney World poncho than you will for one you bought at Target. Again, it’s your choice, but ponchos are one of the most frequently incurred unexpected expenses by Guests in the parks.
1. Souvenirs you can’t go home without
Beware the Mickey ears. And the ear hats. And the tops and tees and sweatshirts and hoodies. Be careful around the Christmas ornaments, the housewares, the jewelry, trading pins and stationery sets. Disney World is a proverbial buffet of souvenir choices. There is something for everyone. There are many somethings for everyone. And if you haven’t planned ahead for your souvenir purchases and set a limit on how much you’ll spend for them, you can easily incur unexpected expenses. Those little monsters will hide in your mailbox on your credit card statement, lurking in the envelope, just waiting for you to open them. Plan ahead and set a monetary limit for souvenir purchases before you ever step foot into a park to avoid a very unmagical surprise once you get home!