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.
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.
A few things:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.