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Trip Planning 101: Budgeting for a Walt Disney World Vacation

Spending some time planning your Disney World vacation is one of the best ways you can help make your experience the best it can be. (Don’t think you need to have a plan? Read This.) One of the most important factors of your trip planning that should be number one on your to-do list is figuring out your vacation budget. Why? Your vacation budget will greatly influence lodging, ticket, dining and transportation choices. If you don’t have a general idea of how much you can spend it will hinder your decision making process and possibly lead to some costly mistakes. There’s nothing worse than being 75% of the way through your trip and realizing you are going to run out of money. Here are the seven major areas that you need to consider for your budget for a Disney World vacation.

 

1 – Lodging

You’re going to need a place to sleep while at Disney World and room rates, whether at Disney or not, vary greatly and are seasonal.  When budgeting for your room expenses remember to budget for taxes and fees. You’ll want to decide whether or not you will stay on Disney property or whether you will stay “off property.” This decision will greatly impact other areas of your budgeting, such as ground transportation from the airport if you are flying (see #2) and parking fees at the parks. We are huge proponents of staying at Disney. Read here on why you should stay on property.

If you have decided to stay on property, then you’ll need to decide on what kind of resort you would like. Disney has three different resort categories: value, moderate, and deluxe. Read this article to better understand Disney resort categories and expenses.

2 – Transportation Expenses

You need to figure out how you are getting to Disney World and then how you’ll get around while you’re there. Do you live close enough to drive? Do you need to fly? Keep in mind the following transportation expenses.

  • Driving to Disney:
    • Fuel, maintenance, and tolls
    • Meals/snacks while traveling
  • Flying to Disney:
    • Airfare for each person, including parking fees at the airport
    • Meals/snacks while traveling
  • Getting Around Disney:
    • Rental car, fuel, and tolls
    • Shuttle/town car/taxi
    • Stroller or Wheelchair rental
    • Golf cart rental (if staying at Fort Wilderness Campground)
  • Free Transportation from Airport – Disney Resort Guests Only
    • Disney’s Magical Express
  • Free Transportation to all Guests
    • Disney Transportation: buses and boats

Once you decide on your lodging (see #1) you’ll be able to decide what type of ground transportation you will use when you arrive at Disney. Staying on Disney property includes some money saving options here. Disney offers it’s Magical Express Service which will transport you and your luggage from the airport to Disney World property free of charge. You’ll also be able to use Disney’s transportation once on property as well. You need to decide if you want your own transportation that would allow you to visit other areas in Orlando that are off Disney property.

3 – Admission: Park Tickets

You’ll also need to budget for park tickets. Read here on choosing the right park admission for your family. You’ll need to decide on how many days you will be in the parks. You may not want to go to the parks everyday of your vacation because there are so many other things to do on property. Also, you’ll need to decide if you want to add the Park Hopper option. Finally, consider seriously an annual pass. It may be the right ticket for your family and it will save you quite a bit of money. Read here for the reasons why you may want an annual pass.

 

4 – Special Experiences, Tours, and Recreation

You may also want to enjoy the many different recreation options at Disney—special tours and experiences. Read here about some of the tours and extras you may want plan and budget for.

5 – Dining

If you are staying on property you’ll need to decide if you will purchase the Disney Dining Plan. There really is no right or wrong answer here. Read our article, “Is the Dining Plan Worth It?” for help in making this decision.

For those without the dining plan you’ll need to budget for meals while visiting. There are two kinds of meal options at Disney: counter service (fast food) and table service (sit down meal with a waiter or waitress). Generally, you can plan on a counter service meal costing about $15 per person (a meal and a drink). Not all of these meals come with fries and other extras and almost never come with a drink, so you’ll want to plan for those. And of course, if you want a small dessert plan for that as well. You can check the Disney website for menus and prices for most restaurants on property.

Table service meals have prices that vary greatly. Best to do some homework and decide first how many table service meals you want, and which restaurants you want to visit. Again, look on the Disney website for menus and prices.

Disney uses a dollar sign “$” system to rate how expensive their restaurants are. Use these ratings to give you a general idea of how much you need to budget for meals. Here is the breakdown per person:

$ – $14.99 and under

$$ – $15 to $29.99

$$$ – $30 to $59.99

$$$$ – over $60

Finally, don’t forget snacks and extra drinks in your dining budget.

6 – Souvenirs & Photos

Finally, you’ll want to budget for souvenirs and photo packages. You may want to over-budget for souvenirs, especially if it is your first visit to Disney World. You can easily get swept up in all the great offerings Disney puts out there. Besides clothing and toys, don’t forget to include money for things like Disney pins if you think you would like to pin trade.

Also, you’ll want to consider whether or not you’ll take advantage of Disney’s Memory Maker Photo Pass package. For a flat fee you can download all of your pictures that have been taken by Disney’s Photo Pass photographers. An advance purchase of this package will save you around $30, but you can always buy the package during your vacation. You also don’t have to purchase the package. Photos can be downloaded individually for a fee.

7 – Understanding Packages

Disney offers special room packages that will include lodging, park admission and even the dining plan. You can save money by purchasing these room packages. Packages can be a source of significant cost savings but be sure you know exactly what’s included and if it’s something you’ll take advantage of. For example, purchasing an annual pass and taking advantage of the discounts that come with it may be a greater value than a package that includes tickets and dining.

Keep on the lookout for our “Trip Planning 101” series where we’ll guide you through the different areas where you need to spend some time planning and making decisions before your trip. Make sure you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out!

Have more questions? We highly recommend booking with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner to ensure you are well taken care of and get all the discounts available to you. For more details and help booking your vacation, call our travel partners Magical Vacation Planners at (407) 442-0227. You can also get a no obligation, FREE vacation quote by clicking here.  Their services are free to you and they can answer any questions you may have.

For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at (407) 442-0227. You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.


 

About Cindy N

Cindy N. I’ve been a crazy fan of all things Disney since I was a very young girl. I was lucky to marry a guy who loved Disney just as much, or more than I did. After years of dreaming and waiting, my first trip to Walt Disney World was in 2004 and I fell even more in love with Disney. We made multiple trips, year after year. Another dream came true in 2010 when our family moved to Orlando and Disney World became our backyard playground. We love visiting often and learning more tips to share. I am a mom, teacher and endurance athlete and especially enjoy RunDisney events. I am also an amateur photographer and have thoroughly enjoyed taking thousands of pictures at Disney World!