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Be Aware of These Hidden Costs at Disney

hidden costs
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Traveling to Walt Disney World isn’t cheap. There are vital tips and tricks when creating a budget for Walt Disney World. There are specific areas that you know you’ll need to budget for: flights, a Disney resort, a Disney park ticket, a dining plan, and a few souvenirs are all part of a Disney budget. Although most of us know about these big items to budget for, what can surprise many are the hidden costs you want to budget for at Disney.

These hidden costs can sneak up during a Walt Disney World vacation if you are still getting ready. You will want to budget for some of these smaller, hidden fees just as you do for those larger expenses, such as flights and Disney resort stays. As you plan for which Disney resort you want to stay, there are options from a value resort such as Disney’s Pop Century to a Disney moderate resort.  Choices allow you to stick to your budget.

tree of life walt disney world's animal kingdom

Credit: Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Park Hopper is another more prominent item that you can plan for. As we head into 2024, guests can also plan for dining. The dining plan will be back in 2024, an excellent way for guests to plan their meal budget in a theme park. Guests can also plan for Disney souvenirs by purchasing a gift card. This can help make a Disney World trip more straightforward to budget. The challenging part comes when hidden costs show up.

By preparing for these hidden fees that many guests don’t always know about, you will have less shock when you are trying to experience the magic of Walt Disney World.

After setting a budget for the more significant items, such as your Walt Disney World Resort hotel, theme park tickets, and flights, please review some of these hidden items and budget for them. Not all of them will affect everyone traveling to Walt Disney World, but when they do, it can be a significant blow to the budget.

If you have a limited budget, you will want to consider if some of these additional hidden costs are experiences that will be important to your trip. Some extra budgeting will need to occur for guests who find the additional expenses and fees essential to a Disney vacation.

Mears connect

Credit: Mears Connect

Transportation

The first significant hidden cost you will come across when getting ready for your Walt Disney World vacation is transportation. This might seem confusing as you have probably read, heard, and seen how Walt Disney World offers free, complimentary transportation throughout the Walt Disney World Resort Property.

This is true. Walt Disney World does offer free, complimentary bus, boat, skyliner, and monorail transportation throughout the Walt Disney World Resort Property. There is no additional fee for taking the Disney bus to Magic Kingdom or riding the Disney Skyliner to EPCOT.

So then, what transportation cost do you need to prepare for when traveling to Walt Disney World? The hidden transportation cost comes in getting to the Walt Disney World bubble. For those flying into Orlando or Sanford International Airport, you must budget for transportation. that will get you from the airport to your Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.

Since January 1, 2022, when Disney’s Magical Express service ended, Walt Disney World no longer offers complimentary transportation to and from the airport. Luckily, numerous options make finding something for every budget and experience easy.

Mears Connect

For a family-friendly and budget-conscious option, Mears Connect is available. This service is offered 24/7 at Orlando International Airport. Pricing for Mears Connect is $33.60 for adults round trip and $27.30 for children ages 3 to 9 years of age.

This is a shared service, so even though it is the most economical, it won’t be the fastest process. Guests will have to wait at the airport and might have multiple stops before getting to their Disney resort.

Mears Connect also offers an express option that starts at $250.00 for up to four people. The express service heads directly to your specific Walt Disney World Resort Hotel, making no other additional stops.

Private Transfers

There are private transfers for those traveling with a larger party or looking for a more VIP experience. There are a lot of companies to choose from, but make sure you do your research. What is included in your fee, and is it private and direct? Cost for private transfers ranges in price depending on the size of your travel party, but for a family of four, budgeting around $200 to $250 would be wise.

Person using the Uber app

Credit: Disney Dining

Finally, ride-share options are also plentiful at the airports if you travel solo or don’t need to book something beforehand. Lyft and Uber drivers are available at both Orland and Sanford International Airports. If you are traveling during a busy time of year, you might come across surge pricing. This could double your typical $50 trip, a vast hidden expense.

With Walt Disney World no longer offering free, complimentary transportation from the Orlando airports, guests need to plan this additional fee into their budget. This is costly, so adding it to your budget is critical.

guests looking down at their phone and smiling, castle in the background

Credit: Disney

Genie+

Another additional cost that guests must budget for when traveling to Walt Disney World is Genie+. Genie+ is a great way to avoid long lines for top attractions at Walt Disney World. By purchasing Genie+, guests can use the Lightning Lane entrances for rides, skipping out on the longer standby queues throughout the day.

As the price fluctuates daily from $15 to $35 per person per day, this can be a substantial additional cost for guests traveling to Walt Disney World. Even though it is an optional cost, having or not having Genie+ during your Walt Disney World vacation can impact your overall Disney vacation experience.

Before adding it to your budget or seeing the price and choosing to skip it, we highly recommend diving into what Genie+ offers. Think through the goals of your trip. Is it to experience as many rides and attractions in a day? Then, Genie+ might be a good investment.

Do you plan to take it easy and focus on snacks, shows, and the park’s atmosphere? Then maybe you can skip it for a day. You can better determine if Genie+ is your best investment by thinking through your goals.

cosmic rewind entrance (left), TRON lightcycle run attraction (right)

Credit: Disney

Individual Lightning Lanes

Like Genie+, Individual Lightning Lanes are additional costs guests must budget before their Disney vacation. In each of the four Disney Parks, specific rides aren’t included with the purchase of Genie+. To use the Lightning Lane queues for these rides and avoid long waits, guests must purchase an Individual Lightning Lane.

These range in pricing, starting from $7 for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom to closer to $30 for rides like Tron Lightcycle Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

If these extremely popular rides are essential to a happy and successful Walt Disney World vacation, then adding money to the budget for them will be necessary. As with Genie+, look at the rides to determine if they are a must-do for your group.

Caring For Giants Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

Adding Magic at an Additional Cost: Tours

Are you celebrating a birthday or your anniversary, or just looking to add some additional magic to your Walt Disney World trip? This means you must budget some additional money to make these experiences happen.

Going on a tour is a great way to add magic to your experience in the Disney Parks. Walt Disney World tours are a fantastic way to experience Disney Park uniquely. Each Disney Park has special tours that guests can choose to book.

Magic Kingdom Tours

In Magic Kingdom, Keys to the Kingdom takes guests throughout this iconic Disney Park as they discover some behind-the-scenes magic. This is a five-hour, in-depth look at Magic Kingdom’s history.

Guests on this tour get to experience the famous underground service tunnels. The Utildor allows Disney Cast Members and supplies to be moved around the Magic Kingdom without being seen by guests enjoying their day in the park.

The cost for this tour ranges from $129 to $149, depending on which time of year you are visiting. Keep in mind this cost is in addition to your Disney World ticket.

EPCOT Tour

For a cheaper tour, guests can book Behind the Seeds. This tour in EPCOT’s The Land Pavilion takes guests through the gardens that make up Living with the Land. This is a shorter tour that happens throughout the day at EPCOT. Guests can visit each of the four greenhouses and learn about gardening and natural sciences.

Being a shorter tour, Behind the Seeds costs $39 to $45 per person, making it slightly more affordable. Two other affordable tours take place in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Caring for Giants and Up Close with Rhinos costs $39 or $49 per person, making these hour-long tours more budget-friendly. During these tours, guests can learn about the care of either the elephants or rhinos that make Disney’s Animal Kingdom home.

Tours can be a great way to add magic to a Walt Disney World trip, but their cost requires additional planning and budgeting.

Magic Kingdom Fireworks Dessert Party

Credit: Disney Dining

Adding Magic at an Additional Cost: Experiences

Another way to add magic to your trip is by having extraordinary, exclusive experiences. One of the more popular ways to do this is by booking a dessert party for one of the nighttime shows at Disney Park.

At Magic Kingdom, guests can experience the magic and wonder of Happily Ever After, the fantastic nighttime show, without the crowds by booking a dessert package. Guests can choose from a few options depending on what they want during their evening.

If guests are looking for a relaxing way to sit back and enjoy desserts and the fireworks, then the Seats and Sweets option is for them. This allows them to remain at their table during the fireworks show.

The best option for those wanting to be directly in front of Cinderella Castle during the show is pre- or post-party. These allow guests to experience Happily Ever After in a designated area on the hub grass before or after enjoying delicious treats.

The price for this experience ranges from $99 to $129 for adults and $59 to $75 for children in the 3 to 9 age range. Although it is a fantastic way to experience Happily Ever After, adding to a trip is a considerable expense.

If you want to experience the fireworks but don’t have the need to be in Magic Kingdom, a cruise is a great way to do so. Disney offers specialty cruises that allow guests to charter a private watercraft.

EPCOT and Magic Kingdom offer these cruises as guests can cruise around the World Showcase Lagoon or Seven Seas Lagoon. Both experiences provide a unique and extraordinary way to enjoy the nighttime shows.

Capture Your Moment Disneyland

Credit: Disney

Adding Magic at an Additional Cost: Pictures

Pictures are an essential part of any vacation. At Walt Disney World, guests can capture their magical moments by purchasing a Memory Maker at an additional cost; for an additional $189, guests can add a Memory Maker before their Disney vacation.

Once purchased, guests are given access to all their on-ride photos and all pictures taken by Disney PhotoPass Photographers.

Guests can add a Capture Your Moment photo session for even more magic. Now available at all four Walt Disney World parks, guests can celebrate all their special moments with a special photo session.

Guests are given 20 minutes with a professional photographer by booking a Capture Your Moment session. One session costs $99, and guests can book two back-to-back sessions for a more extended experience.

You must budget for Memory Maker to capture all those magical moments from your trip. Don’t miss out on those screams, laughs, and funny photos throughout your trip.

Bruce the Shark behind Cast Members in new costumes

Credit: Disney / Canva Editing

Tipping

Plan for tips while budgeting for your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation. Although most Cast Members at Walt Disney World aren’t able to accept tips from guests, there are a few exceptions you will want to plan for and want to have some cash on hand.

You will want a few dollars for those who help you with your luggage throughout the trip. Bell service at the Disney resorts will hold your luggage while you head to the magic and help you to your room. It is always nice to ensure you have some money for them.

In 2024, the dining plans will return to Walt Disney World. Even though this will allow guests to prepay for their dining, it doesn’t include gratuity. It is customary to tip between 18 and 20% at restaurants where you are waited on by cast members. Enjoying some meals at Walt Disney World, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table or Chef Mickey’s, can be a substantial additional cost if you aren’t prepared. Look over the menus beforehand so you can have a reasonable budget in mind that includes tipping.

early entry (1)

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Cancellation Fees

Two months before your Walt Disney World vacation, you were determined that you would be enjoying numerous sit-down meals. Now that you are at Walt Disney World, you quickly realize that maybe you went overboard.

Don’t get hit with hidden costs by forgetting to cancel your dining reservations. Walt Disney World did adjust its policy when it comes to canceling dining reservations. Guests can cancel dining reservations up to two hours before being charged a cancellation fee.

If you forget to cancel, Disney states that a $10 no-show fee per person will be charged to the credit card on file. To avoid those charges, you head into the My Disney Experience app and cancel those reservations you don’t think you’ll make.

Stroller ban Disney robbery

Credit: Disney Fanatic

Rentals

Another area that can often be forgotten when planning a budget is rentals. Suppose you need to rent a stroller, ECV, or even a locker; factor that into your budget.

You can rent both strollers and ECV/wheelchairs directly from Disney; however, it is often more cost-effective to look at a third-party company. Often, these companies can bring these items to your Walt Disney World Resort. This allows you to pay one upfront fee for the length of your stay and access the item at the Disney Parks and the Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney strollers range from $15 for a single stroller to $31 for a double. Guests do have the option to rent for multiple days, getting a slight (around $2-$4 discount), but remember, these items can’t be taken out of the Disney Parks.

If you want to save on the rental cost, consider bringing a stroller from home. This will also make it easy to use throughout the airport.

Hollywood Studios Rain Ponchos

Credit: Disney Dining

Necessities

The last hidden cost you can try to avoid during your Walt Disney World vacation focuses on being prepared. Ensure you have essential items when packing and preparing for your Walt Disney World vacation. By having these with you, you can avoid spending extra money on items you could have brought from home.

Raingear is the first example of this. No matter when you head to Walt Disney World, make sure you pack raingear. This might be ponchos, rain jackets, or umbrellas for everyone. By having these items with you each day in the parks, you can avoid having to purchase a cute, but expensive Disney poncho.

Make sure that you bring along essential medicine for the family. Even though Disney has medicine throughout the parks and resorts for purchase, it will be at a higher price. Pack stomach, allergy, and other over-the-counter medicines to avoid having to purchase it when at Walt Disney World.

By making sure you pack the necessities for your trip, you can avoid adding those items to your overall budget. Make those packing lists ahead of time and double-check them. Doing so can save you money.

A trip to Walt Disney World is expensive. Be aware of some of these hidden costs before your trip so you can also plan and budget for them. By being aware of these fees, you can budget and plan accordingly, making the hidden fees not so hidden after all. Walt Disney World is a magical place, but it can be frustrating if you feel it constantly costs you more than planned. Take time to dig into the different fees and budget accordingly. Doing so will set you up for a fun and magical Walt Disney World vacation experience.

About Jennifer Retzlaff

My name is Jennifer Retzlaff and I became a lifelong Disney fan during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 6th grade. From that moment, Disney became a big part of my life. I live in Iowa with my husband and two kids who are growing up too quickly for my liking. I started introducing my love for Disney early to my family with a Disney honeymoon and then trips when our youngest of 18 months. Since then, our family has been to Walt Disney World over five times and we continue to plan and dream for the next trip. I love the magic that Disney brings to people through the theme parks, cruises, adventures and movies they create. As a teacher, I try to bring that magic into my classroom to help kids believe that “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” I recently reached a dream of mine as I joined Magic Vacation Planner as a personal travel advisor. With this team, I can now help others plan magical vacations. As a passionate writer, I also have my own blog at magicalvacationsbyjen which is also where you can follow me on instagram for trip reviews along with tips and tricks for your next magical vacation.