I get asked lots of questions about Disney. One thing everyone asks about it how to make Disney affordable. People are always shocked when I tell them that a Disney vacation can be affordable – it just takes a little planning. Having a budget for your Disney vacation is the first step. Whether it’s your first trip or fiftieth, there are still things to spend money on when you go to Disney. Here are some things you’ll need to include in your budget:
Getting to Disney
You’ve got lots of options to get to a Disney park. Flying and driving are the two most popular options so I’m going to break those down for you.
- Plane tickets
- Airport parking (or transportation to the airport)
- Baggage fees
- Getting to the parks (if you’re not staying at a Disney resort using Magical Express)
- Vehicle maintenance (it’s always a good idea to have your vehicle checked out before you go on a road trip)
- Stops along the way (food, lodging if you’re staying overnight, ect)
- Parking fees (at your resort, at the theme parks, ect)
Disney offers a couple of different options when purchasing tickets – regular theme park tickets or park hopper tickets. Regular tickets offer you the opportunity to visit one theme park per day. A park hopper ticket lets you “hop” to multiple parks during the day. The price difference isn’t huge and it might be more affordable to purchase a ticket for fewer days with the hopper option, giving you time to relax at your resort or explore Disney Springs. On the other hand, if you’re only planning to visit one park each day, skipping the park hopper and adding extra days to your ticket could be the better option for your visit. If you’re still not sure what park tickets you’ll need for your visit, check out this post where I share more in depth information.
Disney has a very generous policy that allows guests to bring outside food and drinks into the parks. That means you don’t need to spend $15 on a counter service lunch if you’d rather bring your own lunch into the park with you. You’re also able to reenter the park with your ticket (if you don’t have the park hopper option, it has to be the same park or you’ll use another day on your ticket) so you can eat lunch at your resort if you’d prefer to do that.
For guests who want to eat in the parks, there are a couple of different options to think about while budgeting. Will you be using the Disney Dining Plan or not? Guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort can opt to add the Dining Plan to their reservations as part of a package (that can also include park tickets). Basically, the Dining Plan allows you to pay a pre-determined set amount per credit and you can use those credits on what you’d like to. For example, if you want to use your snack credit on a Dole Whip you can do that. You can also use it on a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. Disney doesn’t care. As long as the item qualifies as a snack, you can use your credit for that. The same goes for meals if you choose a dining plan with that option. It doesn’t matter if you order pasta or steak, so long as it’s on the menu and the restaurant accepts the Disney Dining Plan.
To budget for food, determine if you’ll be using the Disney Dining Plan. If you are, it’s a set price and you’ll know the amount. If you’ll be paying out of pocket, for budget sake, use the following average prices to help you plan:
- Snack – $5
- Counter Service Meal – $15
- Table Service Meal – $35
Using a service like Garden Grocer allows you to pre-order groceries and have them delivered to your resort. This can help you save on your food budget by bringing some snacks into the park with you or allowing you to eat breakfast in your room before hitting the parks.
For more information on eating at Disney, you can also check out this post.
Deciding where to stay can play a big part in your budget. Staying on Disney property might be slightly more expensive, but when looking at the benefits of staying on property, it might become worth it. Staying at a resort off Disney property can be less expensive, but might wind up costing you more in both time and money during your visit. Check out this post to help you learn more about how to decide if your family should stay on property or not during your visit. And if you need help picking the best Disney resort for your visit, check out this post.
This is going to vary greatly for every person visiting. Some people want to bring something back to help them remember their magical vacation until they’re able to return again. Others collect something particular from everywhere they visit and going to Disney is no different.
While you’re at Disney, there are lots of opportunities to make other purchases or add on additional experiences. For example, one of my favorite ways to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks (especially Hallowishes) is from a fireworks cruise on Bay Lake. This is an additional cost but is such a fun way to spend an evening. Other things like Photopass photography, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Pirate’s League, pirate cruises, and gifts from Disney Floral and Gifts are other great options to help make your visit more memorable.
Getting Back Home
When it’s time to head back to reality, there are expenses related to that too. Based on the information on how to got to Disney, budget for getting back home.
What other things do you include in your budget for your Disney vacations?