It’ll come as a surprise to no one that a Walt Disney World vacation is expensive. In 2021, the average price of a Disney vacation for a family of four is priced at around $5,000. Between your hotel stay, park tickets, souvenirs, and dining, the costs can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are several ways to do Disney on a budget — and we’ve got all the details below.
How to Go to Disney on a Budget
There are several ways you can actually cut your costs on a Disney World vacation. From comparing different times of the year before you book, to spending more time at your resort’s pool, and putting money on gift cards ahead of time, here are a few of the top ways you can save some cash:
Compare Costs Throughout the Year
You should start budgeting your Disney trip long before you make any reservations. This is because the Disney parks charge more for admission and hotel stays depending on the time of year you visit. Because kids are off from school during the summer, this is often one of the most popular times for families to visit. And Disney knows this. In January of this year, the average cost of a one-day-per-park ticket was around $120. In July, when families tend to visit, this price increases to $132.
While the Disney parks continue to be busy all year, February, the first half of May and September after kids return to school are usually the cheapest times to visit.
Avoid Special Events
Disney recently announced that their 50th anniversary celebration will begin on October 1, 2021. Tickets to Magic Kingdom on that day are $140 per person, excluding tax. From October through the end of the year, ticket prices remain pretty consistent and cost between $133-$159 a person.
Read more: Celebrate Disney World’s 50th Anniversary!
When planning Disney on a budget, one of the most important things to do is avoid any special events or times of year at the parks when large amounts of people will be in attendance as the price of tickets and resort stays increase. While it might only be an increase of around $30 per ticket, it can add up quickly when you factor in multiple people in your party and tax (on top of eating and drinking and other expenditures). So, if you’re anxious to visit during the later part of September or second week in October, be aware that special events will increase the price of tickets you’re looking to purchase during that time frame.
Stay on Property
If you’re going to Disney on a budget, it would stand to reason that staying off property will get you more bang for your buck. But that’s not always true. While, yes, an off-property motel or hotel will be a lot cheaper than a five night stay at the Grand Floridian, you’re actually saving money if you opt for one of Disney’s value resorts.
Here’s a list of the different value resorts on Disney property:
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Read more: The Best Disney Value Resorts Ranked
The average cost of a room at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort in July 2021 is $183 per night. These rooms comfortably fit a family of four and the resort offers complimentary transportation to all of the Disney parks, Disney Springs and to and from the Orlando International Airport, courtesy of Disney’s Magical Express (which will tragically be going away in January 2022).
Based on a quick Google search on Hotels.com (which you can view here), the average cost for a hotel room for a family of four outside of Disney property is between $110-$120 per night. Over the course of a five day stay, it looks like you could be saving about $365 — which is awesome! That is, until you factor in the price of Uber or Lyft transportation to get to and from the parks, tips, surge pricing and, if you rented a car, the cost of your rental and price to park at the theme parks.
If let’s say you’re staying at a resort about 20 minutes outside Disney, the average cost of an Uber or Lyft ride one way to and from the parks will (usually) cost anywhere from $15-$35, excluding tip. Also, the price of your rideshare vehicle will depend on how many people are in your party and if you require the use of car seats. Rideshare prices are also dependent on the times of day or year you request their services. You will be spending more money for your rideshare vehicle during bad weather, holidays, special events and on weekends. If let’s say you’re using a rideshare service to get to and from the parks everyday for five days, paying at least $70 per round trip, you’ll be spending $350 a week. That makes up the difference of what you’d be saving off property anyway.
Your Disney resort also provides ample opportunity to sleep in, relax and spend some time at the pool. After all, while a Disney World vacation makes you want to try and do everything you possibly can, it’s still a vacation. Each value resort offers fun and unique amenities for you to get off your feet and soak up the sun (all the while preserving your wallet).
Put Money for Souvenirs on Gift Cards Ahead of Time
One walk into the Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A. can send anybody into a tizzy. And, with all the excitement of being in Disney World, it’s hard not to toss multiple souvenirs in your basket to help you remember it all. Unfortunately, that can add up fast. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever left a Disney store spending less than $100 — and oftentimes I only have a mug, stuffed animal, set of Minnie Ears and a one or two pins to even show for it.
There’s a belief that if you are only using cash to pay for your items, you’ll be more budget conscious. This is 100% true. Before your trip, you can allocate a specific amount of money for each member of your party and throw that onto a gift card. Not only will they know how much they have to spend, but it’ll force everyone to spend their money on items they truly want, instead of those that are purchased on a whim (something I am super guilty of). This is also a great method of saving up for your trip step-by-step rather than all at once. This method can also apply to dining and snack options in the parks, too.
Eating at Disney on a Budget
You expect the cost of your flight, hotel and souvenirs to add up quickly. But people are often surprised by how much money they end up spending on food and beverages during a Disney vacation. I mean, the average cost of a bottle of water at the parks is $3.50!
Like with your hotel stay, there’s a few ways you can help minimize costs:
Eat Breakfast In Your Room
A cup of coffee and a pastry can cost around $20 for a family of four. But, let’s face it — that’s probably not what you or your kids want for breakfast. My husband and I have spent about $35 for breakfast while staying at a value resort, including our cups of coffee. For a family of four, you’re probably well into $100 territory before you even set foot outside your resort.
One way to combat this is by packing and bringing your own breakfast that won’t expire during your trip. This includes packs of oatmeal or cereal and buying a small bottle of milk to split between your party. Most family suites at value resorts come equipped with microwaves and refrigerators, but you can also utilize the microwaves in the food courts at all the All-Star resorts (for example, if you’re staying there).
By eating at your resort in the morning, you could easily be saving a few hundred dollars during your stay. It also helps you fight the temptation of stopping in at Starbucks as soon as you enter the parks.
In addition to packing breakfast in your suitcase, be sure to pack snacks for each day you’re visiting the parks. Crackers, pretzels, nuts, granola bars and gummy snacks are a great option to bring into the parks, and it’s completely allowed, as well. Just be sure to avoid bringing in any snacks that will spoil in the Florida heat.
Because it’s so hot in Florida, people tend to stay hydrated. However, the more you drink, the less hungry you feel. Because of this, people tend to buy snacks because of FOMO – or fear of missing out — rather than being genuinely hungry. However, doing this can add up quickly. Bringing in your own snacks can help combat these costs.
Ask for a Cup of Water Instead of Bottled
Like we mentioned earlier, a bottle of water at the parks will cost you around $3.50. When you’re ordering lunch, ask for a cup of water instead. It’ll be much smaller, but it’s free. You can also bring in your own water bottle (as long as it’s not glass) and fill up your bottle at the various water fountains around the parks.
Do Some Research
Some restaurants at Disney are just going to be more affordable than others. The last thing you want is to be caught by surprise when the bill arrives. Before making reservations, do some research to not only find out if the restaurant serves food your entire party will eat, but how much it’ll cost. If you’re dying to do a character breakfast (though these options are limited due to COVID-19), opt for breakfast instead of lunch or dinner to help cut back on costs.
Likewise, always opt for quick service dining locations instead of sit-downs, especially if there is a certain food you’re eager to try that’s available at multiple locations. For example, you can purchase Tonga Toast – a tasty staple at Disney’s Polynesian Resort — for about $5 at Captain Cook’s Snack Company, instead of paying $13 for it at Kona Cafe.
Going to a Disney on a budget is doable and it doesn’t have to cramp your style, either. Remember, the most important thing about this vacation is taking some well-deserved time off work and spending time with those you love. Economizing is a great way to enjoy a Disney World vacation without breaking the bank. The more you save, the more money you have to book your next magical vacation (and let’s be honest, we all want to do that as we take a ride on the Tragical Express back to the airport!)
Do you have any fun, money-saving tips? Share them with us below!
As a self-proclaimed Mouseketeer, Courtney Dercqu is a fan of all things Disney. Between decorating her desk with souvenirs from the park, to making unique mouse ears and having a dedicated Disney Instagram, Courtney is a true believer in the magic of a Walt Disney World vacation. Having had more than 200 articles published on various content, Courtney’s excited to share her knowledge and experience with everyone! Be sure to follow her on Instagram for all the Disney magic.