If I had a dime for every time someone told me they couldn’t go to Disney because it was too expensive…I’d have enough dimes for a first class Disney trip! While it is true that a vacation to Walt Disney World is going to be more costly than say, a camping trip, or a visit to a local tourist location, I firmly believe that you do not have to spend a ghastly amount to enjoy yourself*.
So I’ve decided to do an experiment, using 2016 numbers and the assumption of a family of four, two adults and two children (we’ll say 5 and 8 so that neither are “free” or are considered Disney-adults), I want to see just how little I could spend on a week long vacation to Disney.
Being from the South, and only two states away from Florida, we always drive, so I will admit that I don’t know a whole lot about flight prices, renting a car, etc. We can make the trip in 10 hours in an SUV, which gets about 27-28 MPG. I always utilize my local grocery store’s fuel perks to save for a free 20 gallons of gas. This method usually costs us around $150 for a drive down to Florida, driving from the hotel to the parks, and back to South Carolina.
TOTAL FOR TRAVEL: $150
When visiting Disney on the cheap, off-site is really the only way to go. It will cost you a little extra in gas and parking, but the cheap, local hotels will more than make up for it. I’ve used websites like Groupon and Living Social to find cheap hotels in the Orlando area. Currently, for a 7 nights in February in the International Palms Resort & Conference Center Orlando, your cost before tax is $438. This is for a standard 2 full bed hotel room. Again, we’re visiting on the cheap. We’ve stayed in the Bahama Bay resort in a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo. While a bit pricier ($623 for the same dates), still much cheaper than a 2 bedroom Disney-owned resort. Since we’re challenging ourselves for the cheapest possible vacation, we’re going to stick with the standard hotel room for this trip.
Because you will have to pay for on-site parking when visiting the parks, since you’re in an off-site hotel, I’ll add that expense here as well. Parking per day is $17, with a total of 7 days in the parks, equals $119
TOTAL FOR HOTEL: $557
I’ve said this before, but tickets are the hardest part of the Disney trip to skimp on. For this experiment, we’re going to assume we need 6 day theme park tickets. For the absolute cheapest option, we will not be choosing the Park Hopper option if buying from Disney.
Disney’s price for a 7 day ticket without Park Hopper for this hypothetical family of 4 is $1,385. Military discounts are significantly cheaper, but as that is not an option for all readers, we won’t factor that in. Now, if you have access to corporate discounts, or know someone who does, these same tickets WITH the Park Hopper option is $1442. A difference of less than $60. Again, just for this scenario, we’re going with the absolute cheapest option we have available and sticking with the base tickets.
TOTAL FOR TICKETS: $1385
It is no secret that food can be very costly at Disney World. Staying off-site means that you are not eligible for the Disney Dining Plan, so we will leave it out of this discussion. Our family has historically budgeted $100 for each day in the park, but this can be cut down even more with some planning and consideration of your family’s needs. Can you pick up muffins, pastries, or granola bars for breakfast? Are you willing to take sandwiches and chips into the parks for lunch (this is completely allowed by Disney, by the way)? Quick service and counter service restaurants average $10 per person, can you split plates? The servings at most locations are quite large, and sharing is possible. Still, I think $100 is reasonable, and eating super cheap one or two days means you can splurge on another day for a nice table service restaurant – maybe even with characters!
TOTAL FOR FOOD: $700
What’s the best thing about Disney? Free souvenirs! Our family buys very little when we visit, just because, who has the space to store all the stuffed animals, mugs and various other Disney logo’d merchandise? Not us! We always ask for a Celebration button (for birthdays, anniversaries, special events, whatever we may be celebrating) and once we return home I sharpie the date and special event on the back. They’re small, simple, and a great way to remember your trip.
You can also collect the Park maps, children’s coloring pages from restaurants, and of course pictures from your own camera and autographs from any character meet and greets you participate in!
TOTAL FOR SOUVENIERS: $0
So what’s the grand total? $2,792! Not nearly as much as you were expecting, huh? Over the course of a year, you would need to save less than $225 per month to pay for this trip. Using some of the tips from my previous post How to Save Money On and During your Disney World trip can cut the costs down even more.
What do you think about this plan? Doable or not?
*I want to add that I understand that a “ghastly amount” of money is relative to all people and all situations.