What You Get at Disney World for $500, $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000

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Abuela Testa's gaspacho soup mix is an excellent money-saver
Abuela Testa’s gaspacho soup mix is an excellent money-saver

For the next edition of the Unofficial Guide, we interviewed dozens of families planning their first Disney trip, and Disney-specialist travel agents who talk to Orlando-bound families every day. Almost all of them said the cost of a Disney vacation was the biggest surprise, and more important to them than when to travel, where to stay, or how to beat the lines.

All money questions involve trade-offs, of course, and only you know what you’re willing to do to save a buck. For every person who thinks a $65 per day food allowance is malnourishment, there’s another who says they can feed a family of 5 on $10 and some budget gazpacho made with leftover Taco Bell sauce and hot water.

To give you a realistic idea of how much to budget, we’ve created the following set of charts showing the kind of Disney World vacation your family can get for $500, $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000. Each column represents a different family demographic, and each row represents a different budget amount. Our starting assumptions are at the bottom of the page.

Most cells in the chart contain several options at different price points. These are usually different combinations of how many days you’ll visit the theme parks, and how many nights you’ll stay at hotels of different cost.

For example, a family of 2 adults and 1 child could spend $1,500 on 3 days of theme park admission, have a nice sit-down dinner every night, and stay 3 nights at a budget off-site hotel, then drive home on the fourth morning of their trip. Or they could save $25 by eating nothing but fast food meals for their 3 days in the park and only stay at a Disney value resort for 2 nights, driving home at the end of their third day. So there’s an explicit trade-off between better dinners and more nights at a budget motel, or simpler meals with better accommodations, but for fewer nights.

The Details

Here’s the chart showing different price options for the following family types. Remember than Disney consider an “adult” anyone age 10 and up. So if you and your partner have a 10-year old and a 9-year old, you’re a family of 3 adults and 1 child to Disney. Click the chart image to view at full size.

What you get at Disney World for $500, $1000, $1500 and $2000 for different family sizes

Observations

A few things:

  1. It was moderately interesting to see that for $500, families of 2 adults and 2 kids, and 3 adults and 1 child were priced out of even 1 day at Disney’s theme parks.
  2. The average family can easily drop $1,000 on a quick 2-day trip to Disney World, even if they’re only stopping by on the way to somewhere else.
  3. For most scenarios, the cost of Disney theme park tickets represent about half of your total vacation budget (roughly 40 to 60%). Admission to the theme parks is more than most people will spend on lodging or food, and that’s a surprise to a lot of families.

Assumptions

We’ve made some straightforward assumptions to go along with actual prices from Disney’s website:

  • Children are ages 3-9, adults are ages 10 and up
  • The cost of base Magic Your Way tickets is from Disney’s website and includes tax
  • One night at our off-site, budget hotel (The Magic Castle Inn and Suites) is $45 via Expedia
  • One night at Disney’s Pop Century value resort is $130 with the Spring Value discount on Disney’s site
  • One night at Disney’s Coronado Springs moderate resort is $170 using the same discount
  • One night at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge deluxe resort is $330 using the same discount
  • A day’s worth of counter-service meals, plus one snack, is $45 for adults and $30 for kids.
  • A counter-service breakfast and lunch, a snack, and a table-service meal is $65 per adult and $45 per child

All hotel prices are quoted for mid-June nights in 2015, and include tax.

Because it varies so much, we don’t include transportation costs in the spreadsheet.

Here’s the spreadsheet if you’d like to change the assumptions.

 

 

Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is len@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

17 thoughts on “What You Get at Disney World for $500, $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000

  • January 21, 2015 at 7:09 pm
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    But how much will a baby weigh on the moon?

    Thanks for making Disney trips so much easier to plan!

  • January 22, 2015 at 8:14 am
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    Thank you, Len. Informative, useful and well-written information.
    When family or acquaintances would habitually refuse to even consider a week’s vacation at WDW because, “It’s so expensive!” I always asked their budget for the usual week at the shore or similar venue. And unless they were staying in someone else’s home gratis, they were usually spending as much or more as a week’s vacation at WDW.
    WDW is not a great idea for a family’s unplanned day or two drop in, unless one’s budget can handle it. Those with Annual Passes or extra days on a multi-day pass have already planned ahead.

    • January 26, 2015 at 12:34 pm
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      I agree. I have friends that ask me all the time how we afford to go to WDW so much. It’s not that much more expensive then a beach trip. My friends easily spend $2,500 renting a beach house for a week. Then you have groceries to buy and activities to keep the kids busy. On top of that, they always come back saying how their kids complained on the 2nd day that they were bored. You won’t hear that at WDW! (though a nice beach vacation is great every now and then).

  • January 22, 2015 at 8:59 am
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    Len – you should have added a $2,500 category just because I suspect the 3-4 day trip could double in length for $500 more since the admission cost difference is very minimal by that point. It’s mainly lodging and food costs.

    • January 23, 2015 at 9:58 am
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      Thanks Jeff! I’ll add it. You’re right that ticket costs become a smaller percent of the overall cost. It’ll be interesting to see by how much.

  • January 22, 2015 at 9:00 am
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    I love this but I think that for first time families it is a little misleading because costs don’t go up significantly after 3 days since park tickets become only a few dollars extra for more days. You are really talking food and hotel, which can be done pretty inexpensively depending on choices. So a week at Disney might be only $600 more than 3 days at Disney, even if the 3 days were almost $2000. Those park ticket costs add up so fast!

  • January 22, 2015 at 10:41 am
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    Thanks for this Len. I enjoyed the WDW today podcast about this too. An unintentional side effect of this chart is making it seem more appealing to stay in the 2 adult, no kids demographic! 🙂

    • January 23, 2015 at 9:59 am
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      Thanks Jillian. Yeah, what I got out of this is that kids are expensive. 🙂

  • January 22, 2015 at 11:52 am
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    I also would of liked to see a $2500 option to show how easy it is to extend a vacation at Disney with decreasing daily costs due to how cheap it is to extend days.

  • January 22, 2015 at 12:58 pm
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    Amazing infographic! But, I had a question…is there a set amount to add one more adult to the data? Our travel party is my husband, myself, my 17yo daughter and my 13yo daughter. So, we don’t fit into the groups. Was wondering if there was a standard amount to add to each cost bracket, which I know would significantly change what we would get for the $$. Thanks!

    • January 22, 2015 at 1:02 pm
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      Never mind! I found the worksheet section of the download. *facepalm*. You guys really do think of everything!

      • January 23, 2015 at 9:59 am
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        Wooo! Let me know what you come up with, Marie!

  • January 22, 2015 at 4:45 pm
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    What a great article! I agree it would be nice to see additional price points, but that’s easily done since you’ve included the worksheet. One extension that I feel is worth mentioning is that you’ve included a budget-offsite option in addition to the Disney regular rooms, but you don’t include any off-site options that allow you to control food costs. We have often stayed off-site for roughly $100/night in a 2-bedroom condo with a kitchen using rentals (yes, during summer season). This doesn’t even feel like a budget option, but you can get the benefit of not having to buy any food at the parks unless you choose to, and this can be a significant savings. At the extreme, you could eat no park food, cook everything, and keep your food costs to roughly the same as if you spent your vacation week at home.

    • January 23, 2015 at 10:01 am
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      Thanks Jennie! If you decide to modify the worksheet, let me know what assumptions you make regarding the cost of food per day for adults and kids under that scenario.

      The tradeoff is (I think) that you spend slightly more time cooking and slightly less in the parks, but if you can save several hundred dollars, you can get an extra day (or two) in the parks, which more than makes up for it. Let me know what you find.

      • February 4, 2015 at 3:06 am
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        Hi Len, I finally got some time to work on this … here’s what I came up with.

        I think it’s not so much time spent cooking as the fact that you have to leave the park to cook/eat the meals, although I suspect that doesn’t matter to many who take a daily break from the parks anyway. Keeping that in mind though, I aimed for a middle-of-the-road approach that tried to most keep items comparable to your scenarios and minimize away-from-park time without diving into the ultra-frugal possibilities. As an example I assumed Park snacks instead of bring-your-own snacks as that was an option available even to families staying on site as most rooms have a mini-fridge, and I assumed that all meals not eaten at condo were eaten in park even though obviously it would be cheaper to mix in some off-site restaurants.

        I did a CS option that assumed breakfast and one meal at condo, and one CS meal and one snack in the park per day, this came to $27.75 / adult and $20 / child.

        I also did a TS option that assumed breakfast and one meal at condo, and one sit-down meal and one snack in the park per day. This one came to $47.75 / adult and $23 / child.

        I used the same ticket prices as yours as well, not assuming any annual passes as I felt those were not in the spirit of this analysis since first time visitors are not going to shell out for an AP, and I used $100 / night as the lodging cost.

        The results were interesting. Down the line almost no matter what number of adults / children I plugged in, the cost was roughly equal (-50 to +200) at the same time point as the corresponding budget off-site option from your original sheet, with the difference rising in favor of the condo as the number of people in the party increased. For all the onsite options the discrepancy between prices grew over time; at the other extreme the difference between Deluxe CS vs. condo CS for 2 adults and 2 children was $300 at 1 day and 1 night, $1400 at 5 days and 5 nights, and $3000 at 10 days and 10 nights.

        Many of these condo homes or rental timeshares come with pools or are in resorts with similar amenities to the Disney deluxe resorts, albeit completely without theming and pool slides. Also important, the actual living space is comparable to a 2 bedroom villa, a price point for lodging higher than any included in the original analysis but which has obvious benefits for some travelers.

        I feel that the quick take-home from this is that if your pattern includes any form of break from the park (or you are willing to make it be that way), you can get exactly the same extra time for your money that you get by staying at a budget off-site motel, except that you have much nicer resort amenities (albeit again, with minimal theming and no pool slides) and space for your kids or friends to not sleep in the same room as you. An intangible that I feel worth mentioning is that not only does the cost benefit rise as you increase the # of people and the length of stay, but the value of that extra space vs. what you might be trading off for it goes up as you increase the # of people, and similarly the longer your overall vacation the more likely you are to have a pattern that includes a daily break from the parks.

        Thanks for your interest; if you’d like to see more of the raw assumptions and details of how I came up with my numbers just send me an appropriate email address and I’ll forward all the base data I used.

  • January 23, 2015 at 2:34 pm
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    It would be nice to see a monoparental family comparison (1 adult and 1 child) as I am sure I am not the only single parent who has been to WDW with a child (under 10 years old). Regardless, many thanks for this and all the other fantastic features of this site – you guys rock!

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