Planning A Disney Trip On A Budget

Planning A Disney Trip On A Budget – Let’s face it, a trip to Walt Disney World can be an expensive undertaking; A good budget can be the difference between a relaxing vacation and a big headache.

There are many ways to save money and have a magical vacation. I’ll walk you through the process of budgeting for your trip and suggest a few areas for potential savings. You should know right away that planning an accurate and affordable travel budget will involve some tough math, research, and possibly decisions. First, download the budget planning worksheet.

Planning A Disney Trip On A Budget

Planning A Disney Trip On A Budget

Let’s see where you can find information about explicit costs and hidden costs, as well as where you can find ways to save money.

Couponing To Disney — Ways To Save On Your Disney Vacation

The primary transportation options for getting to Disney are by plane rather than by car. In some cases, the choice will be obvious; If you’re from Tampa you’ll be driving, if you’re from the UK chances are you’ll be flying (or getting really wet :)). But for most of us, the decision won’t be that simple.

Your final choice should be based on real numbers – not just the cost of airfare versus gas, but all related expenses as well. For example, if you are flying, you will need to call or search the airline’s website for hidden charges such as baggage or snacks on the plane. Travelers should also consider the cost of parking or taxiing to the airport, tipping baggage handlers, and other related expenses. Many of these additional charges will apply even if you are using frequent flyer miles. You can also consider the opportunity cost of using frequent flyer miles. Will using your miles for this trip prevent you from taking a more expensive trip later?

Drivers must consider not only the cost of gas, but also food on the road, wear and tear on the car, and possibly more entertainment on the road. Longer journeys may also include an overnight stay in a hotel en route, depending on the length of the journey and the number of drivers in your party. For a good rough estimate of gas costs on your trip, try looking at AAA’s fuel cost calculator.

Additionally, your decision to fly/drive will affect transportation costs while in Orlando. For example, if you’re flying in and staying at a Disney hotel, you have the option of using Disney’s free Magical Express bus service to get you to your hotel. If you are arriving by air and staying offsite, you will need to pay for car service or rent a car to get to your hotel. If you are driving and staying outside the area, you will need to pay for parking at theme parks (unless you are a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder) and possibly at your hotel. The Swan and the Dolphin are particularly known for their high parking prices.

Disney World Trip Planning: Answering Your Faqs

When it comes to flight costs, there are now dozens of online tools and apps that can help you find the most cost-effective flight. Popular options include Kayak, Google Flights, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and Travelocity. You might want to check out the recent comparison of air travel search sites from The New York Times. These tools make it easy to experiment with your flights to find the best deals. Try playing with the departure date or the number of matches. Sometimes a Saturday stay or a short break can save you hundreds of dollars.

Many of the sites above also offer discount car rental options if you decide to head to Orlando. When renting a car, be sure to check your personal auto insurance and credit card benefits. These often make it unnecessary to take out rental car insurance. Reducing rental insurance can also lead to big savings.

To get started, log on to and get prices for your favorite hotels during your travel dates. This will tell you the “standard rate” for the room. You can also check out the Rooms and Packages Specials page on the Disney website. It highlights promotions provided by Disney itself.

Planning A Disney Trip On A Budget

A little more research can often reveal discounted rates on the same room. Twice this year I saved about $20 per night at the Pop Century by booking through Expedia instead of directly with Disney. I didn’t lose any of the Disney perks, I still had the Magical Express service, Extra Magic Hours, etc., I just paid less for them.

Planning A Disneyland Vacation On A Budget

If you’re looking for a discount on a room, try asking a travel agent or using one of the online services listed in the Transportation section. Additional discounts may be available for Disney Annual Passholders or AAA members. Another great source of discount information is the wonderful independent website You can also change the time of your reservation as a cost variable.

Another rule of thumb is that if cost is your primary concern, staying at an offsite hotel can be a huge savings. Although this is often the case, be aware that some off-site hotels charge additional fees that are not included in the room rate. For example, non-Disney owned Swan and Dolphin hotels add extra charges to your bill. These additions can be added quickly. Before you decide to migrate offsite, pick up the phone and ask how much additional cost to expect.

The best place to start figuring out park ticket prices is with a ticket calculator. The ticket calculator makes it easy to play with variables and see the real price difference between multiple options. For example, a few clicks will show you that on a multi-day visit, the cost of adding an extra day to the park has minimal impact on the cost of your admission ticket.

When wondering how much tickets to the park will cost, be sure to factor in the cost of popular Magic Kingdom nights if you’re going in the fall or winter. If you’re going off campus to visit The Wizarding World at Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Legoland, or NASA, you might want to consider the cost of admission to other nearby attractions as well.

Walt Disney World On A Budget: 4 Ways To Travel To Disney On A Budget

Another area worth considering is purchasing a Disney World annual pass. Annual Passholders receive discounts on items such as select room rates, select tours, select restaurants and more. Depending on your situation, buying an annual pass works as a money-saving tool, even if you don’t need to use it all for park entry. Check out our article, When is a Walt Disney World Annual Pass Worth It, for more ideas on this.

Planning your food budget requires a lot of numbers. Some Disney guests swear by the Disney Dining Plan (available to guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels), but by no means does one dining plan make sense for everyone. Take a few minutes to review our detailed menus and Disney Dining prices to see if the plan is right for you. Ask yourself a few questions and plan a few test meal days for your family. Are we going to have a full breakfast or muffins and coffee? Will we have dessert for lunch and/or dinner? Can our children share meals? Do we have appetizers? …And so on. By realistically calculating the price of multiple days of food, you can multiply the needs of your actual food budget.

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of snacks brought from home or purchased from a local grocery store, as well as tips and alcoholic beverages, which are not included in the meal plan. Be aware that many Disney restaurants charge a fee during busy seasons such as winter vacation.

Planning A Disney Trip On A Budget

On the savings side, many restaurants offer discounts to Disney Vacation Club members, Disney Annual Passholders, Disney Visa holders and other associates. If you are an annual pass holder or Florida resident, you can purchase the Tables in Wonderland discount card, which has provided my family with huge savings. I always ask my server if any discounts are available.

Printable Disney World Vacation Planner

The cost-cutting measure may not be all it should be. I’m talking about “free meals”, a promotion that Disney has run several times over the years. I’ll leave it to the extremely knowledgeable Tom Bricker, who does an excellent job of explaining the pros and cons of free dinners.

While there’s certainly a lot to do with your theme park tickets at Walt Disney World, there are also plenty of ways to enhance your experience with activities and entertainment. And, unsurprisingly, many of these items are expensive. For example, it is free to move around Downtown Disney. But then your child sees the incredibly cute and less than free characters in the hot air balloon and asks for a ride. For my family of five with older children, a 10 minute trip costs $90.

Of course, the best way to save on those extra features is to just say “no.”

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