“How much does it cost to go to Walt Disney World?” It’s one of those frequently asked questions that, without any other details, is almost impossible to answer.
Cost depends on many different factors. When are you traveling? How long of a trip are you planning? What are the ages of the children? Which Resort would you like to stay at? The list goes on and on…
But, because it’s such a frequently asked question, I’m ready to take on the task of attempting to answer this question.
The majority of Disney Guests who ask this question want the full “Disney experience” on a budget. So, that’s what I will be taking into consideration. After all, with 2 growing kids and a moderate income, I have plenty of experience looking for deals.
I find it easier to understand things when I have an example. So, I thought I’d use a fictitious family to show you through the planning process.
If the Carousel of Progress can take us from the turn of the century through the “future”, we can certainly give this family a magical vacation.
What we know: The “Smith” Family will be traveling with 2 adults and 2 children, ages 10 and 6. This is their first trip to Walt Disney World. They don’t have the largest budget, but they still want to be able to have fun in the Parks without exhausting themselves too much. They have decided to go for 1 week at the end of summer, before their kids go back to school.
How much are Park Tickets? Seems like a straightforward answer, right? Well, there’s a little bit more to that.
Walt Disney World tickets are now date based. So, price can change day to day. Also, the more days you purchase, the less you pay per day. And that’s before figuring out whether or not you want to use Park Hopper or go to the Water Parks.
See why Guests get so confused?
Park Tickets make up a large chunk of your budget. So, you don’t want to choose more than you’ll be able to use.
The Smith family said they didn’t want to exhaust themselves, so I recommended 4 Theme Park days. This gives them one full day in each Park, with an extra day to relax and spend how they wish. Since this is also their first trip to Walt Disney World, I also suggested skipping Park Hopper.
If you think you can handle going to the Parks every day of your trip, go for it. It’s your vacation. But, speaking from experience, it’s exhausting. Remember, you don’t want to plan so much that you accidentally ruin your trip by running around until you drop.
Along with your Theme Park Tickets, your Resort is going to be your biggest expense. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that which Resort you choose will drastically change how much it will cost to go to Walt Disney World.
Since the Smith family is trying to stay within a limited budget, the best choice for their family will be the Value Resorts. For this example, they chose the All Star Movies Resorts based on price and the fact that they just got a complete remodel.
If you’re not sure which Resort you’d like to stay at, you can find all of the Disney Resorts on Walt Disney World’s website.
Assuming that you’re a reasonable distance away from Walt Disney World, the debate over whether to fly or to drive may come into play.
Driving to Walt Disney World
If you opt to drive, remember that Disney now charges overnight parking fees for Guests who have a vehicle. The cost is added to your room charges at the end of your trip.
Prices are currently:
- $15 per night at Disney Value resorts
- $20 per night at Disney’s Moderate resorts
- $25 per night at the Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts
On the bright side, a perk for staying at a Disney Resort is free Parking at all of the the Disney Theme Parks. With a $25 per day savings, that’s a pretty good perk.
Flying to Orlando
Disney’s Magical Express, a free shuttle that takes you to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO). Since transportation around Walt Disney World is also free (with the exception of the Minnie Van), the only transportation you have to pay for is your flight.
When it comes to flights, it depends on where you’re flying from. We currently live in Houston, so $99 per way is the target price I look for. This means my family of 4 can fly to Orlando for about $800.
To be honest, looking for flights can be a bit nerve wracking. It takes patience to get the flight that you want before it sells out, but not buying it until a deal is released.
To keep an eye on the deals, I set an alert on Google Flights. Once the price drops, they will email me. However, Southwest isn’t included in these alerts. So, I check that one separately.
The Smith Family was able to secure a deal on their flights, so they have decided to fly. They’ve also decided to take Disney’s Magical Express to their Disney Resort, so they don’t have to pay any more transportation costs.
A standard Disney trip has 3 main costs: Transportation, Resort, and Theme Park Tickets.
However, there’s other “extras” that you may want to budget for.
2 Popular extras include Memory Maker and the Disney Dining Plans. We’ve recently explained both of these extras and why or why not you might add them to your Disney package. So, if you’re looking for that information, please visit Disney Vacation Planning for Beginners – Part 2.
Personally, we always get Memory Maker. Of course, PhotoPass photographers can take the same photos with your phone or camera.
But, what we really use it for are the on-ride photos and the magic shots. These are things that you can only get when you purchase Memory Maker.
While it does add $169 to your vacation price, we still think it’s worth it.
Although the Smith Family has a strict budget, it’s also their very first Walt Disney World vacation. They want to capture the first time their children ride their favorite attractions, as well get some of those magic shots to remember their trip, so they decide to purchase Memory Maker.
Setting A Food Budget
Everyone has to eat, right? But, trying to figure out what your food budget should be is just downright frustrating. How are you supposed to know what (or where?) you will want to eat so far in advance?
Quick Service Meals run somewhere between $10 and $20. And Table Service Restaurants can cost about $60 per adult.
But, this is just an average.
From experience, I know that it can easily cost my family of 4 about $100 to eat at Be Our Guest for lunch. But, we can also make a meal from something that’s considered a snack credit on the Dining Plan.
Considering a Dining Plan?
Purchasing a Dining Plan eliminates the stress of “how much will this meal cost us?” since everything is already paid for. And despite what some people say, it is possible to get your money’s worth. It’s even easier now that you’re able to substitute your non-alcoholic drink for one beer, wine, or cocktail.
For many families, Dining Plans don’t save you money. And since Disney Dining Plans can easily break your budget, it’s important to consider everyone’s dining habits before purchasing a Dining Plan.
In the Smith’s case, they have 1 child over the age of 9. This means their 10 year old’s Dining Plan will be charged an adult price. This child will still be able to order off the kid’s menu. But, since kid’s menu items are cheaper, it’s likely that this child won’t be eating enough to justify the cost.
Based on their budget and their children’s eating habits, the Smiths are passing on the Dining Plans. They’ve decided to bring snacks and find ways to maximize their budget, so they’re not wasting food or money.
The Grand Total
So, how much does it cost to go to Walt Disney World?
|Disney Package- Resort, Tickets, Memory Maker||$2884.29|
|Food Budget (used Quick Service Meal Plan $ for example)||$1145.92|
|Flight (I used my target price, based on where I live)||$800|
Of course, this is just one example.
Look for Ways to Save
A food budget can easily change how much it will cost to go to Walt Disney World. Without knowing what the “Smith family” plans to do for meals, I just used Quick Service pricing as a starting point.
If they really want to get this price down, there are plenty of ways to eat Disney food without completely blowing your budget.
Or if they want to eliminate this cost altogether, they can travel when there’s Free Dining.
Although we can usually find some decent deals to Orlando, flying is still a big cost for a family of 4. But, since we currently live 14 hours from Disney, we prefer the 2 1/2 hour flight over 14 hours in the car.
But, we haven’t always flown. When we first started going to Disney, we made the 14 hour drive to Orlando.
While you will incur additional transportation charges for parking your car at your Disney Resort, many times it’s just a fraction of what you spend on flights.
If you’re paying full price for your Walt Disney World vacation, you’re doing it wrong. If you really want to get the cost to Walt Disney World down quickly, a room discount is the best way to do it.
Disney releases deals all the time. So, as long as you’re not traveling during Free Dining, make sure you’re saving money on your Resort.
While I do recommend purchasing tickets directly through Disney, you may save a little bit of money by purchasing them through a reputable seller, like Undercover Tourist.
Stay away from deals that seem too good to be true. This includes purchasing tickets through Ebay or at roadside stands near Walt Disney World. Many times, these tickets are not valid and you will not be allowed entry into the Theme Parks.
Purchasing your tickets through Disney or Undercover Tourist not only guarantees that your tickets will work, you’ll be able to book your favorite FastPasses prior to your vacation.
Discounted Gift Cards
Admittedly, this takes a little more work. But, since I pick one up whenever I’m out running errands anyway, the effort is minimal at best.
Several retailers give about a 5% discount on Disney Gift Cards. So, by paying off your vacation with Gift Cards, it’s like you’re getting an additional discount.