There is a lot of really good (and not so good) info out there, people trying to sell you things, and outdated advice about how to actually do Disney World on a budget.
Sure, you can compile a gajillion tips, but that also isn’t going to prepare you for Disney on a Budget.
So *how* then, do you go to Disney World on a budget, especially if you have a fixed income and no room to rack up debt?
With a simple and realistic plan, my friends.
Let’s look at exactly what to plan for, the unexpected costs, the things to cut, and see how to do Disney World on a budget.
What is a good budget for Disney World?
when considering tickets, where to stay, what to eat and some items to take home you can easily spend 6000. There are several ways below to get that total around 4000, but under budgeting can cost you more in the long run. On average, Disney increases between 5-10% each year as they raise prices across the board on lodging, food, tickets and souvenirs.
This post may contain affiliate links, read my full disclosure here.
How much should I budget for Disney World for a weeklong vacation?
For most people, a Disney World Vacation runs around 5000 dollars *just for tickets, transportation and lodging*. This figure doesn’t include food or souvenirs or random expenses like boarding the dog and buying new shoes because you lost one. In truth, most people are spending 6-8k on a trip when all the receipts are accounted for.
Let’s look at why Disney is that price, so you can better understand how to do a Budget Friendly Vacation while making all the memories .
So for a budget vacation, we’ll say that you are spending 1000 per person TOTAL for a family of 4 (but theoretically you could expand this for multiple family members, like my family of 5!) This means were looking at every receipt, and once your home you’ve only spent *4000* total on your trip!
Your budget could also be larger, and you have more flexibility in how you budget your trip (like getting lightning lane or purchasing a VIP to get all the rides in without several days in the parks).
It’s a good idea to maximize all the things you can do on your trip, like this up to date list of Free Items at Disney World, but even without including free things, there’s so much customization you can do on a trip.
And for full clarity- I do not work for Disney- but I believe that everyone should make memories on a Family Vacation the the Theme Parks. While that may look different for all of us, enjoying Disney is still possible.
First step for a Budget Disney Vacation… Park Tickets
Planning Tickets first seems like a weird place to start (most people start at hotels or transportation) but were starting here first for a reason! Touring plans are an integral part of a budget friendly vacation. Consider that you’re paying 3200 for a budget vacation… that means you’re paying 300 an hour to step foot inside Disney World for three days. ***Time is literally money in the theme parks! ***
First, get a list of weeks that you can go to Disney World. (The ‘cheapest’ months to go to Disney World are January, August and September, followed by June).
Second, You’ll want to head over to Disney World, and put those dates in to see what the prices are. (this is the site to check dates and prices at Disney!)
➡️ For our budget vacation to work, you’ll need to find the most convenient time for you mixed with the lowest price tickets for your family!
Let’s walk through it together. For this example I’m going to use May 2023. Tickets start at 109 per day, for everyone over 10 years of age if you use a park hopper, but that number is actually closer to 130 dollars per day if you pay an individual ticket.
If you choose a 3 day non park hopper (meaning, one park for one day), you’ll pay
about 350 per person in 2022. $395 per person in 2023. With these tickets, you can visit Disney World for three days at three parks, each park on one day.
note: I do not recommend adding on the water parks and sports options. Or the Park Hopper plus option.
If you bump it up a day, to a four day excursion to the parks with no park hopper, you’ll be around
460 per person in 2022 $505 per person. So all four main Disney World theme parks (not the water parks), one park each day.
But maybe the best option is a 3 day ticket WITH the park hopper option, as you can visit all of the parks! This is around
450 in 2022 $470 in 2022, and the advantage of this is to take advantage of open and close times!
So with the park hopper, you’d start in Animal Kingdom on day one, and end at EPCOT. Day two you can start in Magic Kingdom and end at Hollywood Studios. Then day three you can pick your favorite park to spend the whole day in, since you’ve seen all the other parks, or hop around to your hearts content.
➡️ Two notes about Park Hopping. 1. Currently you can only park hop after 2 pm, so a morning/lunch in one park, before heading to the other parks in the afternoon. You’ll want to start in a park that opens early and then take advantage of parks that are open the latest. 2. There is a time element to park hop- sometimes it can take over an hour to get to the next park. The easiest parks to hop to are Epcot/Hollywood studios (takes about 30 minutes) and Epcot to Magic Kingdom (30-45 minutes)
Total *Ticket Costs* for a family of 4 with 3 day park hoppers: $2000
Total *Ticket Costs* for a family of 4 with 3 day one park per day: $1650
Total Ticket Cost just to add one day of Disney World to an Orlando Vacation for a family of 4: $600
above prices include tax and were pulled from Disney World’s ticket price estimator
(It’s at this point that many people consider a Disney Cruise, as a family of four can do a three night cruise where you get to meet Mickey Mouse, and see shows, and have fun, for $3500. This price includes most foods and many activities. Bonus, you aren’t standing in the hot sun while waiting in line, as most of your lines are inside in the air conditioning. )
What about Budget Ticket Options?
This is a good question, and there are a few budget ticket options! Most of these ticket options are prepurchased, or advance purchase tickets.
➡️ For those of you in the military, you can get discounted tickets and discounted rooms through Shades of Green resort.
➡️ Some companies offer a discount, you’ll need to check with your employer or through your employee portal.
➡️ Florida Residents can get a discount too! Have family in Florida? They can use a ‘Grandparents’ clause, and purchase tickets for the kids at the Florida Resident Price (but not adults!) They will need to be there in person to redeem the tickets though, as proof of residency is required. Florida residents can also get discounted tickets for themselves, and annual passes.
Then let’s talk about where to stay for a Budget friendly Walt Disney World Vacation
There are several options for a Budget Vacation, let’s talk about the options, and some recommendations that will fit your family best.
In order for a Budget Vacation to work, you need to consider two things. One is your transportation. Do you have a vehicle? Are you relying on Rideshare options? Let’s talk about parking really quickly…
➡️Parking: If you are staying at one of the resorts and paying the resort parking fee, you get free parking at the resorts. If you are renting DVC points, you get to park for free at the resort and in the parks. If you stay at a Disney Springs resort, or elsewhere in Orlando, you will likely pay a resort fee AND a parking fee. You will not pay a parking fee at most vacation house rentals.
The second is what to do for food! If you are wanting to cook most of your meals, you’ll need something with at least a kitchenette, but a larger kitchen is prefered!
➡️Ideally, for this budget to work, you need a kitchen, but it’s not required. There are a lot of hacks for eating your food in the room without a kitchen. There’s a nearby Walmart, Target, Costco and Publix (who all deliver) where you can get easy and quick foods at 1/5 of the Theme Park cost.
Ideas for a Budget Stay:
Budget Stay One: Value Disney World Resort May 2022 (my recommendation)
|Pros||Able to use Disney World Transportation. Early Morning 1/2 hour benefit.|
|Cons||No kitchen. Sometimes Disney Transportation can take over an hour. Paying for Disney theming.|
|Difficulty||Easy to do, especially with a Travel Agent|
|Price per night||170 a night, plus tax and parking fees |
|Total Price for 5 night stay||1150 for 5 nights when including tax|
Consider using Disney discounts for your stay! Disney+ subscribers often get discounts, as do Florida residents and
Budget Stay Two: Fort Wilderness
Staying at Fort Wilderness means that you’ve brought a RV, rented a RV, or going all out with Tent Camping.
If you’re renting a RV, that’s an addition fee to factor in to your vacation! Most RV rentals are 200 per night for a regular size camper (lower price for smaller campers and higher price for campers that sleep up to 10)
|Pros||Kitchenette plus able to grill|
|Cons||reservations book quickly, will need to rent golf cart or rely on internal busses|
|Difficulty||Easy to book if you have tent/RV already. Medium difficulty to coordinate RV rental|
|Price per night||130 per night|
|Total Price for 5 night stay||850 for 5 nights when accounting for tax. Does not include gas for RV, renting a RV, or renting a golf cart which could easily bring it over 250+ per night.|
Budget Stay Three: Rent DVC points
For this you could rent points randomly from someone online, or you could use a third party service like David’s DVC rentals.
|Pros||No parking fees, Disney Transportation, Close to the Parks|
|Cons||Limited Availability for short notice vacations, limited housekeeping,|
|Difficulty||High- requires effort to find the best price|
|Price per night||estimated 250+ per night (depends on if you rent direct, or use a partner, or rent points that are about to expire)|
|Total Price for 5 night stay||$1300+|
Budget Stay Four: Stay at Universal Orlando’s
|Pros||More Rooms for less money, use Universal Transportation to resort hop at Universal and enjoy CityWalk|
|Cons||20 minutes away from Disney, have to pay for parking twice (at UOR and WDW parks)|
|Difficulty||Easy to do, especially with a Travel Agent|
|Price per night||200 for a 2 bedroom suite in May 2022.|
|Total Price for 5 night stay||1000 not including transportation (parking would be around 80 per day between Universal parking fee and Disney Parking fee)|
Consider doing an Universal Vacation and adding on a Disney Day. Universal still offers annual passes and has more room in there value resorts.
As you can see, finding accommodations below 1000 (especially with a kitchen!) is very hard. This will require a lot of planning and adjusting your dates to find a date that has low costs for room and tickets! A true budget vacation is not possible during the Holidays unless you only go for one day.
Next up we have to plan the transportation
Transportation is the number one Budget Mistake that people make when they are planning a Disney World vacation! If you drive, you’ll need to pay for parking. If you fly, you’ll need to pay for transportation from the airport (or rent a vehicle). If you add Disney World onto a Disney Cruise, you’ll need to figure out transportation.
Driving is always an option, and you’ll need to account for hotel parking costs.
If you fly, you’ll need to account for the paid option to get from the airport to Disney World.
Either way, you should budget 50 dollars a day for transportation cost.
The Budget Breaker… Food
This is the NUMBER ONE area that people overspend. This is also the area people leave out when they are tallying their numbers. it’s so easy to forget the 5 dollar bottle of water, the late night snack run, the ice cream for breakfast etc etc.
But food is very expensive at Disney World (or any vacation where you eat out for most of the meals), and even more so when you consider that you need more calories, want fun treats, and get caught up in the magic of a Disney World Vacation.
Eating quick service, you can expect to pay 15 dollars per person, per meal. For a 5 night trip, 3 days in the parks, and two days of travel… you’ll spend 180 a day on just meals for a family of four for a total of 1260 for 7 days of vacation.
This does not include snacks, water, desserts, or any sit down meals. When including 4 dollar bottles of water, 5-10 dollar snacks, sit down meals, and random souvenir treats it’s no surprise to see a food budget over 1800 for the week.
Children are the exception as they are around 8-10 dollars per quick serve meal.
Let’s get this down below 800 for the 7 days… ready?
Buy two cases of water, bring water bottles, and grab water flavors or powders. Instead of paying 4 dollars for a bottle of water at the parks and spending over 300 for the week there, you can spend just 30 dollars at Target Delivery/Target Pickup or Amazon. Spend an extra 40 dollars on water bottles so you can refill at water stations and quick serve restaurants on your trip!
Next up, were bringing in snacks. Think a bag of apples, bags of chips and cookies, dried fruit and protein bars. Spending 80 dollars at the store on snacks is going to save you at least 200 during your vacation.
Now, let’s break down that 1280 dollar expense for quick service meals! You gotta eat, there’s no surprise there, but there’s a way to make this number more manageable. For one, allocating some of that money to a resort with a kitchenette, and getting groceries delivered is a good way to slash the dinner or lunch budget in half. But you can also do easy foods without a kitchen!
Think creatively about what you like to eat and then see if you can make those foods with the hot water or microwaves at the resort.
Consider ordering more kids meals, or bringing in snacks to make a full meal from something that you split.
There’s easy items like fruits, oatmeals, yogurts, meal bars, dried meat, trail mix, sandwiches/wraps, and pasta. Cutting breakfast or lunch from 15 dollars down to 5 with store bought items, over 7 days, will save at least 200 dollars. Don’t underestimate calorie needs here, as you’ll need to have a lot to eat burning all the energy in the parks.
For two plan for fun treats or special events! Like Character Meals, which are an amazing way to spend time with characters and get some really good pictures. These are most expensive at lunch and dinner, so a breakfast trip is your money saving option.
Then think about fun treats or desserts. Allocate some money here (at least 30 a person, as most treats run 10 dollars) so everyone can have a few fun items without being concerned about money on vacation.
Coffee is another undercounted expense as it’s easily 5 dollars a cup (minimum)! Make coffee in your hotel, or grab some premade bottles to have iced coffee.
Last up is Souvenirs
Souvenirs are last because they are technically the least important… after all, Disney World is about the experience. If you just wanted a stuffed mickey or a magnet, you could buy that online!
There’s a few hacks for souvenirs so I’ll list a few.
For Starters, you can get 5% off Disney gift cards year round if you have the Target RedCard. This is offered as a debit or credit card, and it’s a handy tool. Personally I have it set up as a Debit Card so I can use it when I need it strategically.
Next consider options like eBay hunting, setting a souvenir budget, grabbing souvenirs that are food items so it’s a double option, having family members give gift cards for holidays so you can use them on vacation.
if everyone spends 75 dollars, which is very easy to do, a family of 4 would spend around 300 on souvenirs.
But here’s 10 souvenirs under 10 dollars in 2022 for Disney World in case you’d like to plan ahead with some of the options. (and also understand what prices really look like on vacation)
I’m also going to include those ‘oopsie’ items you’ll need to purchase while you are here. Those could be a new pair of shoes because your strap broke at the park, ponchos because it rained, or hats because the sun was making everyone look like a lobster. We’ll count 100 here, but it could be more (see the packing hacks list to plan for the inevitable)
Estimated Souvenirs for a Family of 4: $ 400
Here’s the tally of expenses so far:
Total for a 2022 vacation: minimum 5000, but likely closer to 5500 or 6000. And realistically, with a few extras or some more table service meals, most families spend 6000+ on a Disney World Vacation.
This doesn’t account for travel, and there are so many variations I couldn’t list them all. But just when considering Tickets, where to stay, what to eat and some items to take home you can easily spend 6000. There are several ways below to get that total around 4000, but under budgeting can cost you more in the long run.