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.
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
- Hotel (or other lodging)
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
- Gather supplies (10 minutes). This includes purchasing The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and its Color Companion, as well as downloading the Lines app for your smartphone or tablet. You’ll also gather family calendars, general office supplies, and a calculator. Set up a spreadsheet. Order Disney’s free propaganda planning video. Consider purchasing the Disney Food Blog Guide to Disney World Dining.
- Skim the Unofficial Guide and Color Companion to get a general overview of the scope of Walt Disney World (2 hours).
- Skim our basic Disney World guide to budgeting and a related piece on whether saving money will hurt your Disney experience (10 minutes)
- Meet with family members who will be joining you on the trip. Discuss general ideas about intent for the vacation to determine priorities (20 minutes).
- Based on the family’s priorities, use our Trip Planning 101 Guide to determine the best dates for your visit and the related pieces on whether your child should skip school for a Disney vacation to how to decide HOW LONG to make your Disney vacation (20 minutes).
Step Two: Learn About the Disney Dining Plan and Disney Vacation Packages – 1 hour
- Read page 213-223 of the 2015 Unofficial Guide. Then, skim the following articles to determine whether the Disney Dining Plan is something that might interest your party:
- How to Determine the Value of A Disney World Vacation Package
- Is A Disney Vacation Package Right for You? (Mousesavers)
- 2015 Disney Dining Information Released
- What Each Disney Dining Plan Component Costs (2014 prices, but good background)
- Disney Dining Plan Calculator Spreadsheet
- Dissecting Disney’s Deluxe Dining Plan
- Analyzing Disney’s Quick Service Dining Plan (2013 prices, but good background)
- There’s No Such Thing As A Free Dining Plan
- Decide whether you’ll be researching packages (which include the dining plan) or purchasing components of your trip separately. Many guests will find that purchasing vacation components separately makes the most financial sense, but some will feel that convenience outweighs price differences. The steps below assume that you’ll price vacation components independently.
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
- Skim the following articles to determine how many theme park ticket days you really need to purchase:
- Disney World Ticket Type Basics (the “No Expiration” option no longer exists)
- Current Ticket Price Updates
- When Does an Annual Pass Make Sense?
- Is an Annual Pass Worth It if You’re Staying Off Site?
- Should I Take Time to Rest During the Day?
- How Much Can You Do During a Disney Vacation?
- How to Relax at Walt Disney World
- Do I Need the Park Hopper Add-On?
- The Relative Cost of a Disney Theme Park Ticket
- Things to Do at Disney World Outside the Theme Parks
- Keeping Kids Happy at Disney World without Visiting the Theme Parks
- What You Get at Disney World at Various Price Points and the companion piece on How Two Identically Priced Disney Vacation Can Feel Completely Different
- Visit the Touring Plans least expensive ticket calculator. Based on your research, input the number of days you’re actually visiting the theme parks, the type of tickets you need, and the number of people in your party.
- Write down the price listed by the Ticket Calculator.
Step Four: Transportation Pricing – 1 hour
- Figure out whether you’re flying or driving. Skim Part Eight of the 2015 Unofficial Guide, then skim the following articles to help inform your decision:
- Driving: If you’re driving, visit AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator to determine gas costs. If you’re driving more than 12ish hours, figure out if you’ll need to stop for the night. If you do, choose a layover point and visit Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, travel pricing apps, specific hotel chain websites, and TripAdvisor.com to find an appropriately priced hotel near the highway. Consider pricing for dining and entertainment while on route to Walt Disney World.
- Flying: If you’re flying, visit Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, travel pricing apps, and specific airline websites to input a range of scenarios. Input your start city as your nearest airport, as well as additional scenarios using other airports in a 100 mile radius of your home. Input MCO (Orlando International) as your destination, but also try Tampa and Sanford, Florida as options. Vary your travel dates to see if staying a weekend or not matters in your pricing. Choose the least expensive or most convenient flight. Investigate car services, taxis, and on and off site parking fees at your departure airport and make note of those prices. Figure out if you’ll need to pay airline baggage fees and add that amount to your tally (our piece on doing laundry at WDW may help with your decision).
- If you’re flying, determine whether you’ll need to rent a car while on vacation. Skim the following articles for help with the decision:
- Using Disney’s Free Magical Express Bus Service from the Airport to Your Hotel
- Ten Reasons to Drive at Walt Disney World
- Do I Need to Rent a Car at Walt Disney World?
- Transportation Planning 101
- International Driving Permits Required
- Basics of Disney World On Site Transportation
- Where Can You Walk at Walt Disney World?
- Orlando Area Public Bus Transportation
- Finalize your decision and tally the results of your research. If you’re driving, include the cost of gas, any mid-trip hotel stay, in-transit food and entertainment, tolls, and a buffer for wear and tear on your vehicle. If you’re flying, include the cost of the flight, airline fees, parking at or transportation to your departure airport, possible car rentals and tolls at WDW, or taxi fees.
Step Five: Hotel Pricing – 1 hour
- Decide whether you’re going to stay at a Disney World on-site hotel or consider off-site accommodations. To help you do this, skim Part Three of the 2105 Unofficial Guide, then skim these articles to help inform your decision:
- Should You Stay Off Property at Disney World?
- Off Site VS On Site Hotels at Disney World
- Disney World Hotel Options for Larger Families
- Get to Know the Disney World Hotel Pools
- Planning One Trip with Stays at Two Hotels
- What are the Disney Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Villa Hotel Rooms Like?
- Getting the Most Sleep Surfaces Per Dollar at a Disney Hotel Room
- How to Rent Disney Vacation Club Points
- Visit the Mousesaver.com page on Disney World area hotel discounts.
- Visit the Touring Plans Hotel Rating Page
- Visit TripAdvisor.com for reviews of possible off-site accommodations.
- Search DisneyWorld.com for pricing for on-site hotel rooms during your travel dates.
- Visit Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, and travel apps to search for additional price breaks for both on and off-site accommodations.
- If you’re staying off-site, research any ancillary costs you might encounter at your hotel such as parking fees, gym fees, or other extras.
- Finalize your decision about where to stay and tally the resulting costs.
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
- Consider which extras you might want to add to your trip. Extras might include behind-the-scenes tours, sports activities, spa treatments, souvenir purchases, in-room gifts, and more. Skim parts 19-23 of the Unofficial Guide, as well as the following articles to get a sense of whether you’ll add bonus items to your trip.
- Disney Fine Art Portrait Sessions
- How Much Do Toiletries Cost at Disney?
- Do I Need to Rent a Stroller?
- Things to Splurge on at Disney World
- Frequently Asked Questions About Princess Dresses
- Disney Souvenir Buying Mistakes
- Disney Souvenirs Under Five Dollars
- Celebrating at Walt Disney World
- How Much Do Disney World Souvenirs Cost?
- What Would It Cost to Do Everything at Disney World?
- Tipping at Walt Disney World
- Free Stuff at Disney World
- Managing Your Child’s Souvenir Budget
- Check pricing for your extras on DisneyWorld.com and DisneyStore.com.
- Tally the cost of your add-ons.
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!
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.