One of the first things people think about when they think about Disney is the amount of money the trip will cost. While Disney trips do include money, if you’re prepared it won’t be nearly as overwhelming. You can also do lots of things to help make your trip more affordable.
A couple of things to keep in mind when reading through my suggestions: First off, I try to budget higher than what things will actually cost so I’m not caught off guard if something winds up slightly higher than I’d planned or there’s something unplanned that comes up. Secondly, you’ll have to prioritize what you’ll spend the most on. This is your budget for your trip so make it yours. When you’re spending a nice relaxing trip at the resort, you might spend more on the resort and look for a more inexpensive way to travel. If you’re set on travel via a specific means (you can only fly or drive), then you may spend less on a resort. Lastly, I budget for the “worst case” scenario. Again, I’d rather have extra money at the end of the trip then be scraping up to make something work.
Keep in mind you can budget a couple of different ways – either by having a total number in mind (our trip needs to be under x number of dollars) or starting to look at different things for the trip and develop your budget based on those things.
One last note on budgets. I’d go to Disney every day if I could. Sadly I can’t. My kids need me and I need to go to work so we can keep going to Disney. You shouldn’t make drastic decisions for a trip to Disney (please don’t max out credit cards or sell some family heirloom for a vacation). With enough planning and saving, you’ll be able to make your trip magical. Knowing you can’t afford the trip will only make it more stressful and something you may wind up regretting which isn’t special at all.
There are several things you’ll need to think about when creating a budget for your Disney vacation:
- Travel – one thing you’ll need to spend some money on is how you’re getting to Disney. With all things Disney, there are lots of options. For driving, be sure to budget your price of gas slightly higher than at home. For us, gas in Lake Buena Vista is about twenty cents higher than at home. You’ll also want to consider vehicle emergencies during your travels (purchasing a membership to AAA or a similar agency may be worth it if you’re traveling often) and make sure you account for that in your budget. If you’re flying, look for tickets and baggage prices. Don’t forget snacks or meals at the airport. It also wouldn’t hurt to include trip insurance or additional funds in case there’s a delay and you need more meals or a hotel stay. Don’t forget to include a rental car if you’re flying and not using Magical Express.
- Tickets – to get into the parks you’ll need tickets for your entire travel group. Disney’s websites will have the most up to date ticket prices and information about young children who don’t need a park ticket to be admitted. When I budget for “worst case” figure out the price for a park hopper ticket for every day you’re planning to be in the area. As you continue planning, you may not have a park day every day or learn that park hopping’s not for you. That’s ok – it just means that you’ll have money for something else.
- Food – you’ve got to eat at Disney and trust me, you’ll want to eat! There are so many amazing choices that you’ve got to try some of the goodies while you’re there. If you’re purchasing a package (tickets and Disney resort room), you’ll have the option to purchase the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). The DDP will making budgeting very easy. It’s a set price each day per person in your group. Not sure which dining plan? I bet you can guess what I’m going to tell you – budget for the more expensive option and modify it as you continue the planning process. When you’re paying out of pocket for your meals, be sure the prices you include in your budget include tax and a tip for your server. Don’t forget Quick Service (“fast food” style) meals, snacks and drinks while you’re in the parks or resort.
- Souvenirs – while not necessary, it’s hard to leave a Disney park or resort without picking something up. This is a tricky part to budget for. You’ll have to decide if you’re going to set a specific amount per person to choose what they’d like or research certain items and budget that amount.
- Supplies – this area will be different for everyone. When you’re driving, you’ve got more room to bring things along with you like bottled water, snacks and adorable matching outfits. Trying to keep the weight of your luggage down is always a concern when flying so it may be easier to go get some supplies once you arrive (if you’re renting a car) or having them delivered to your resort. When trying to pack lightly, consider shipping things to your resort (just be sure to budget for shipping things to Disney and back home). Other supplies to consider bringing are extra camera batteries, memory cards, fans and sunscreen.
- Extras – here’s the catch all where you’ll have to account for all the “extra” things like Memory Maker, mini golf, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Pirates League, ect. For first timers, it’s probably easiest to set a flat amount to start with and see what fits into that number. As you continue to research your trip, you’ll be able to update this number to better reflect. These extras can eat the budget up quickly so you’ll want to keep an eye on this spot.
- Back at Home – while you’re gone, life doesn’t stop. You may need someone to watch your home while you’re gone, board your pets while you’re away or help out in another way. Those costs should be accounted for in your budget as well even if it’s just bringing the coffee loving neighbor who got the mail a new Disney mug.
How you set up and track your budget is another personal preference. Some people prefer setting up a spreadsheet while some prefer just using plain old paper and pen. Another thing to decide is if you’ll keep track of the money you’re saving up or just what’s needed for the trip.
As you go through the planning stages, you’ll start to decide on what things are important to your family, what you want to buy in the parks instead of bringing from home and what things you’ll make for the trip. Make this budget fit your family’s needs and wants. If you have specific needs for a medical condition or situation, be sure to include those things too.
What else do you include in your family’s budget?