How Much Does a Disney World Vacation Cost?

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If you’re thinking about a visit to Walt Disney World, the first thing you’re likely to ask is, “How much will it cost?” As with all things Disney, the answer to the “how much does a Disney World vacation cost” question is: it depends.

Disney trip budget planning can be both evil and fun.
Disney trip budget planning can be both evil and fun.

The price for a Disney World vacation could be anything from about $500 to $50,000 (or more) depending on the number of people in your party, the length of your visit, where you stay, what you eat, and what you plan to do with your time.

Of course, what you really want to know is how much will a Disney World vacation cost YOU. There are two ways to answer this question, the 10-minute way and the 10 hour way.

The 10-minute way gets you a ballpark budget number that’s sufficient for many people’s planning purposes. The 10-hour way gets you the best possible price for your needs, and is very educational, but it may not be necessary unless you’re interested in close budgeting, or if you have a lot of time you have on your hands.

In both cases, the components you’ll need to price out include:

  • Theme park tickets
  • Transportation
  • Hotel (or other lodging)
  • Food
  • Extras

HOW MUCH DOES A DISNEY WORLD VACATION COST: BUDGET PLANNING THE EASY WAY

Step One: Theme Park Ticket Pricing – 1 minute

  • Visit the Touring Plans least expensive ticket calculator. Input the number of days you’re visiting and the number of people in your party.
  • Write down the price listed by the Ticket Calculator.

Step Two: Hotel Pricing – 3 minutes

  • Choose travel dates based on your kids’ next school vacation or other upcoming convenient date (15 second glance at your calendar).
  • Check the DisneyWorld.com Special Offers page to see if there are any price breaks available on those dates (30 seconds).
  • Do a gut check. Are you in budget mode, splurge mode, or something in between (15 seconds)?
  • Based on the gut check, search DisneyWorld.com or the Special Offers page for hotels for your party size in the value, moderate, or deluxe category on the dates you’ve selected (2 minutes).
  • Write down the lowest price listed by the search engine.

Step Three: Transportation Pricing – 3 minutes

  • Do a gut check. Are you driving or flying? (15 seconds)
  • Driving: If you’re driving, visit AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator to determine gas costs (30 seconds). If you’re driving more than 12ish hours, do a gut check and figure out if you’ll need to stop for the night (15 seconds). If you do, choose a layover point and visit Expedia.com to find a mid-priced hotel near the highway (2 minutes).
  • Flying: If you’re flying, visit Expedia.com. Input your start city, MCO as your destination, and your travel dates, then choose the least expensive or most convenient flight (2 minutes). Text a friend who knows how much it costs to park at the airport and note what she tells you (45 seconds).
  • Write down the cost to drive or the cost to fly.

Step Four: Food Pricing – 2 minutes

  • Do a gut check. Will you be eating mostly counter service meals or will you have a table service meal on most days? (15 seconds)
  • Use our standard estimations to determine how much you’ll likely spend on food during your trip. The average price of a day’s worth of counter-service meals, plus one snack, is $45 for adults and $30 for children. The average price of a counter-service breakfast and lunch, a snack, and a table-service dinner is $65 per adult and $45 per child. Multiply these prices by the number of adults and children in your party and by the number of days of your visit (1.75 minutes).
  • Write down the cost of meals.

Step Five: Pricing Extras – 30 seconds

  • Assume that each adult in your party gets a $35 tee shirt as their souvenir and that each child gets a $25 tee shirt and a $25 toy as their souvenirs.
  • Multiply this by the number of guests in your party (30 seconds).
  • Write down the cost of extras.

Step Six: Add it Up – 30 seconds

  • Tally the numbers you wrote down in steps 1-5. If you’re feeling extra prudent, add 5-10% or so to that number to cover unforeseen circumstances and emergency Mickey bars. That’s how much your Disney World vacation will cost!

HOW MUCH DOES A DISNEY WORLD VACATION COST: BUDGET PLANNING THE COMPLICATED WAY

Step One: Preliminary Overview Research and Travel Date Selection – 3 hours

Step Two: Learn About the Disney Dining Plan and Disney Vacation Packages – 1 hour

Step Three: Determine How Many Ticket Days You’ll Really Need, What Type of Ticket You’ll Need, and Theme Park Ticket Pricing – 1 hour

Step Four: Transportation Pricing – 1 hour

Step Five: Hotel Pricing – 1 hour

Step Six: Food Pricing – 1 hour

  • Skim Part 10 of the Unofficial Guide, skim the Touring Plans main dining information page, and flip through the Disney Food Blog Guide to Disney World to gain an understanding of the types of dining available at Walt Disney World. Then skim these articles:
  • Meet with your travel companions to assess whether they have any must-do dining (character meals, etc.) or have any needs which would impact restaurant choices.
  • Choose 6 restaurants that you would like to visit during your trip (two breakfasts, two dinners, two lunches).
  • Visit the Touring Plans Menu Pages to construct sample meals and costs for your family.
  • Average your sample meals to get an estimated daily food cost. Multiply this times the number of days of your visit and tally the results.

Step Seven: Pricing Extras – 1 hour

Step Eight: Review, Balance, and Record Your Choices – 1 hour

  • Revisit those resources you found most helpful to see if you need to tweak any assumptions.
  • Double check the math on your estimates.
  • Do a reality check with your travel companions to make sure they concur with your selections of hotel, number of park days needed, travel method, etc.
  • Tally the results of your research in Steps 3-8. If you’re feeling extra prudent, add 5-10% or so to that number to cover unforeseen circumstances and emergency Mickey bars. That’s how much your Disney World vacation will cost!

OVERVIEW

In reality, most people will probably evaluate their Disney World vacation costs using some mash-up of the 10 minute and 10 hour planning versions. First timers, frugal shoppers, or detail oriented folks typically take more time planning their budget. (Some hardy souls will happily turn the 10 hour version into the 100 hour version. I’ve done it myself once or twice.) While repeat guests probably know the drill; they understand when discounts usually occur and are poised to take advantage of them.

A middle ground strategy may be to use a Disney specialist travel agent whose expertise can save you some research time.

Again, remember that the price for a Disney vacation ranges from just a few hundred dollars for a single person staying for a day or two at budget accommodations in the off season, on up to tens of thousands of dollars for a large family making an extended stay at deluxe accommodations in the peak season. Your choices will inform how much YOU spend.

Which method do you use to price your Disney Vacation? Quick and dirty or into the weeds? If you’re a frequent WDW guest, has your budgeting strategy changed since your first visits? If you were guiding a new guest on how to plan their Disney vacation budget, what would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

13 thoughts on “How Much Does a Disney World Vacation Cost?

  • March 10, 2015 at 11:17 am
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    the most important part of this analysis is the last part:

    now add an additional 5-10% more to the total calculated cost, because you know it always costs more than you expected!

    Reply
  • March 10, 2015 at 11:36 am
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    In step 7 I would add Memory Maker as a potential extra. I’m sure there are lots of others, but if you book a room online you’ll see the memory maker advertisements, and it would be nice to know what it is in advance.

    I would also add a step 0: Figure out what your goal is for the vacation. Someone who wants a week of excitement for the lowest price is going to make very different choices from someone who wants to relax and ignore the outside world for a week, budget be damned. Once you figure out why you’re going it becomes easier to make the other decisions.

    Reply
  • March 10, 2015 at 1:29 pm
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    This seems to approach budgeting your trip based on purchasing hotel/tickets separately. If a family of four is travelling, one of the best deals you can get is the Free Disney Dining Plan package. I think you really need to mention certain disney package deals can be a really great buy. Your link to mousesavers vacation package writeup hardly mentions it at all.

    Reply
    • March 10, 2015 at 11:15 pm
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      The best deal is had by fl resident tickets and staying off property. Not “free” dining.

      There are many reasons not to go the package route.

      Reply
      • March 11, 2015 at 7:27 am
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        Well, yes, if you’re one of the very few Disney guests who can take advantage of FL resident tickets, they’re a great deal. Likewise, if you’re one of the few who can take advantage of Shades of Green, it’s one of the best deals for on-site hotels. They aren’t typically included in these though – it’s like listing Club 33 as a place you should try to go in Disneyland — simply not an option for most guests.

        For a family of 4, the Free Dining Package represents almost a $200/day perk, a value greater than the cost of a moderate hotel room.

        Reply
        • March 11, 2015 at 8:43 am
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          There are actually quite a few Floridians (like me) with annual passes who go do WDW very frequently. I usually make my way over to the world for the day about twice a month. A few times a year I may splurge and spend the weekend or stay overnight

          Reply
    • March 21, 2015 at 4:41 am
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      The dining plan does not work for every family. You need to look at the age of kids (are they considered adults now), how much each person eats (not everyone eats dessert for example), and the room rates at the time. Often you can save more by paying out of pocket for food and getting a better room rate. For an upcoming trip where I had a pin for free dining, I actually saved more with a room rate and buying tickets from a third party vendor. You have to run the numbers for your particular family, know where you are going to eat before just saying a package is the best.

      Reply
  • March 10, 2015 at 4:19 pm
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    Thank you ! Thank you! I have been sending links to old articles of yours on the Disney food blog to help a friend determine character meals for her kids. This is a great resource to link on lots of topics. I like to remind friends that a ” value” resort may not be one when you consider longer bus rides ( more stops) and only getting the basic dining plan. Often a moderate resort can come down to only $15 more a day than value due to larger discount off on rooms at a moderate compared to a value.

    Reply
    • March 10, 2015 at 5:43 pm
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      Haha… Angela, I like how your default assumption is “Well, you’re going during free dining, right?” Because I wouldn’t go any other time, myself. 🙂
      (Not with the kids, anyway. If some year I take my wife down there and stay in a deluxe for the first time, we might use a room discount.)

      Reply
  • March 10, 2015 at 6:33 pm
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    So many people ask me “how much does it cost?” then try to excuse themselves when I break out my spreadsheets. I am bookmarking the 10 minute way just for them.

    Reply
  • March 10, 2015 at 9:26 pm
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    Thanks so much for this post! I’m sending to my friend who is planning a first time disney family trip. Also, I wish I had had the same for planning my upcoming Disneyland trip!

    Reply
  • March 11, 2015 at 9:52 pm
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    I second that opinion. PLEASE do a Disneyland version of this post!

    Reply
  • March 12, 2015 at 10:01 am
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    While a trip may costs a small fortune, the memories are PRICELESS 🙂

    Reply

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