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Same Cost, Different WDW Vacations: $6,000 Mega Budget Edition

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We’ve made it! From the limiting $2,000 budget to a more flexible $4,000 budget, and now we have our biggest budget for this series – $6,000 for a family of four to experience Walt Disney World. If you’ve been following along, you know that no matter your budget, there are a variety of vacation experiences that you can build to meet your family’s needs.

With $6,000 for our family of four, will we be able to build a real dream vacation? Or will there still be tough decisions to be made? This larger budget will also help us demonstrate a little bit of economy of scale at Disney world. For example, even if you can’t afford 4 days at Disney every year, you still might be able to afford 8 days at Disney every other year. What?! How? Let’s figure it out.

Explain the Math!

Our normal conditions from the first two budgets apply here – we have a family of four (two adults, two children) traveling from the Midwest. Our arrival date is the Tuesday after Labor Day this year – so that means we don’t have to worry about paying for transportation from the airport to the resort because Magical Express is still running. And we’ll assume Genie+ hasn’t launched by then, so we wouldn’t be able to pay to skip lines, even if we wanted to. As in the past, no going over-budget is allowed. Sorry, kids, those expensive droids don’t fit in these suitcases!

But, something is different at this big budget level. We have the original four budget categories, but we have a BONUS category now. I’m calling it “Just For Fun” and it’ll throw in some additional high-cost items that don’t fit in any of the other categories.

  • Transportation: This is a major economy of scale with Disney vacations. A round-trip flight to Orlando is about $800 for my family of four. If I go every year, that takes up $800 of my budget every year. If I go once every two years instead (or less frequently), I get more budget room for things other than just travel. Bonus. For our $6,000 budget I’m always going to fly instead of driving to Orlando. And I will occasionally also budget for having a rental car rather than relying on Disney transportation.
  • Lodging: I’m not going to limit myself to any specific resorts with a $6,000 budget. We’ll mix things up with every vacation option. But economy of scale can come into play here, especially if you opt to stay in a rental property offsite. For short-duration trips, things like booking and/or cleaning fees can make an off-site rental not budget-friendly. But for longer trips, those things even out and make off-site accommodations relatively more affordable.
  • Park Tickets: Here’s where the economy of scale is most noticeable. 4-day single-park-per-day tickets for a family of four would cost about $1708 for our travel dates. 6-day tickets would instead be $1875, and 10-day tickets would be $2178. So my first four days cost $1708. If I visit the parks for 10 days instead, my last 4 days cost $303 (that’s the 6-day ticket subtracted from the 10-day ticket). Consolidating multiple shorter trips into a single longer trip is definitely the easiest way to save money on park tickets.
  • FOOD: Eating is still important. Give me all of the Mickey waffles for the kids, and all of the Jiko steak for me, okay? Thanks. Not much economy of scale to be had with food, though. Unless I do one giant grocery order instead of multiple smaller ones and save on delivery fees. But especially if I’m only eating at table service and counter service locations in the parks and resorts, feeding my family for 8 days is going to cost pretty much the same as feeding my family for 4 days two different times.
  • Just for Fun!: I’m only throwing two examples into the mix for this post, but this category could include anything from a trip to the spa or the barber shop to fancy souvenirs (anyone got a Banshee lying around?), rounds of mini-golf, or a visit to the NBA Experience (oh wait …).

Option 1: Becky’s Choice

There’s no real theme to this option other than it’s what I’d be most likely to do if I had $6,000 to spend on a vacation for my family. A savanna view is a big splurge for us (we’d rather pay less for a standard view and try to request a “secret savanna” room, or spend time on the back porch of the lodge). And we’d definitely want to be able to visit all 4 parks because we love parts of each. But we wouldn’t do more park days than that because our kids would probably just get too worn out. Even with 4 park days, we’d definitely build in a day of rest.

  • Transportation: With two toddlers and a potential 14-hour drive, we’re definitely flying. And especially in the pandemic era, we’re also going to be renting a car. It gives us more flexibility with small, antsy kids than having to wait for buses. But it also minimizes our time in confined spaces, which is important to us right now.
  • Park Tickets: We want to be able to see each of the four parks, but with two littles, we rarely park hop – it just takes too much out of them. So one park per day is fine.
  • Lodging: We’d rent DVC points to be able to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We’ve never actually splurged to guarantee a savanna view before. But hey, with $6,000, we’ll just go a little crazy. With 4 park days, we know we’ll need a rest day, so that means 6 nights of lodging.
  • FOOD: With my remaining budget, I need to feed my family for 7 days. I also want to leave some white space because with a longer trip I know we’ll inevitably forget something that we need to buy, or my kids will fall in love with an insanely-price stuffed animal. But I can still get 6 table service meals, 9 counter-service meals, and 6 grocery-prices meals (likely a lot of breakfasting in the room or on the drive to the park).

Option 2: Stay Offsite

The goal of this option is to stay offsite and maximize time in the parks to a reasonable degree. If I’m staying offsite, I’m definitely going to rent a car. But I still want to be in the parks a lot, and eat well.

  • Transportation: Similar to the last option, we’re going to fly to Orlando and then rent a car so that we can drive ourselves to and from the parks. Rental car prices are a little bit absurd right now, but it’s pretty much a necessity if I’m not staying on-property, so we’ll make it work.
  • Lodging: Staying off-site is the cheapest option for any sort of long-term trip. But it also means that my relaxing non-park days are also just in a generic condo. That’s fine, but not as exciting as being on a savanna or in Stormalong Bay. So I’m not going to stay for two weeks. 8 nights seems like a reasonable compromise.
  • Park Tickets: If I have an 8-night stay, I could probably do up to 6 park days. That still means we’re doing 3 park days, 1 rest day and then another 3 park days. Which is a bit of a marathon. But it could be fun. We could do slightly shorter days at the parks where we’re doubling up and it’d be doable. But it also means I need to budget for 6 days of parking.
  • FOOD: Chances are, we’re going to fill our rest day with some sort of activity rather than lounging in a condo all day. So I’m going to leave some white space. We’ll have a kitchen, so I can prepare a good number of meals. But we also have a hefty amount of budget left for food. With 8 nights of lodging, I need to feed my family for 9 days, so I’ll go with a balanced approach of 9 table service meals, 9 counter-service meals, and 9 grocery meals.

Option 3: All About the Splurge

Our next vacation option is about paying more for things you might find to be special. I’ll admit, this one is probably the most outside of my personal comfort zone. But it’s fun to play with the numbers!

  • Transportation: We’ll still be flying to Orlando, but we’re going to try to stay fully in the WDW bubble and rely on Disney transportation for the trip, so no rental car – we’ll use that money to splurge elsewhere.
  • Lodging – Only the best if we’re going splurge-y. And the highest-satisfaction resort is the Grand Floridian. And if I’m going big, I’m going to go ahead and get the Lake View. If I rent DVC points to stay in a studio, I can still pretty easily afford 5 nights.
  • Park Tickets: 5 nights leaves room for potentially 4 park days. But 4 park days in a row is a lot. Instead, I’ll be a little tricky and do three park days. I can sneakily hit the 4th park with one of my Just for Fun splurges.
  • FOOD: If I’m splurging, I’m going to eat well. I don’t need every meal to be table-service, though. That’s just overkill. But we’re not going to order groceries. Instead, we’ll budget for 6 table-service meals and 12 counter-service meals to keep us fueled.
  • Just for Fun!: With a 3-day ticket, I have to cut a park. I can be sneaky and pick up that park by attending the After Hours Boo Bash at Magic Kingdom during our trip. We created some potential plans based on our in-parks team’s experience at the first event of the season, and it’s possible to do a significant portion of the Magic Kingdom during just a party. Realistically, my small kids aren’t going to be able to survive a party that starts an hour and a half after their normal bedtime. But it might work for your family. I’m also saving room for one big fancy souvenir, so that my husband can get the lightsaber of his dreams.

Option 4: We Basically Live in Florida Now

This is my attempt at a long-term stay that still fits within the budget and is fully on-property. It’s all about really maximizing time in the parks. It’s definitely not realistic for my family, but I think it’s a fun contrast to the other options at this budget.

  • Transportation: Once again, we’re flying to Florida and then we’re relying on Disney transportation to save that rental car cost and turn it into more time to stay at WDW.
  • Park Tickets: I’m not going to buy APs for my family (and, in fact, right now I couldn’t even if I wanted to). So the biggest ticket I can get is a 10-day. Cool. Let’s use that as the anchor of our plan and say that we really want to spend 10 straight days in the parks.
  • Lodging: 10 park days means at least 11 nights of lodging. If I go offsite, then I have to pay for a rental car and 10 days of parking. And my goal is to stay in the bubble, so we’ll go with the next-cheapest option, which is All-Star Movies. 11 nights at this All-Star actually ends up only taking up about a quarter of my budget.
  • FOOD: Once again, with a longer-term trip, I know things are going to come up that I need to save some budget for. So I don’t want to totally fill up my suitcase. In order to leave some white space, and to feed my family for a whopping 12 days, some compromises will need to be made. We’ll try for 15 grocery meals. That’s a lot of breakfast in the room, and potentially some sandwiches for lunch or dinner on occasion. All the best of what we can whip up in a Value room. Then we’ll do 15 counter-service meals and 6 table-service meals.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. With a $6,000 budget, there is a lot of flexibility to craft a vacation that really fits your family’s needs and vacation style.
  2. When you plan, always consider down-time. Will you really enjoy your 7th park day in a row? Or will your exhaustion make you bail out on it anyway? One or two extra nights of lodging cost can really make that last park day much more enjoyable, and therefore valuable.
  3. Walt Disney World is a vacation that benefits from the economy of scale. Staying longer is relatively cheaper. So it’s worth considering traveling less frequently and staying longer rather than more frequently for short trips.

Which of the big budget options do you like best? Or would you prioritize your $6,000 differently? Has your family made the economy of scale calculations for Disney trips? Let us know in the comments!


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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

15 thoughts on “Same Cost, Different WDW Vacations: $6,000 Mega Budget Edition

  • Love this series! And I have been able to make quite a variety of meals in the room using an electric kettle and toaster packed in my checked luggage. Dehydrated camping food is a novelty for the kids and they enjoy it.

    • Sharon, I think you win the prize for most creative cost-cutting measures so far in the comments. We’ve never done anything beyond bagels, cereal/milk, pop-tarts, PB/fluff sandwiches or easy mac in our room that only has a microwave.

    • I just got a mini hotlogic portable “oven” to use for work (no more waiting in line for break room microwaves). I’m thinking of bringing it with me to Universal next month as I’ll be onsite for ten days for HHN. Staying Sapphire falls- so maybe some frozen entrees plus able to reheat leftovers. Meals can eat up so much of a budget! And I’ll be solo for 1/2 the trip, and I know I’ll do some pool days…

    • Also – a rice cooker! It’s amazing what you can make in a rice cooker – and they’re small enough that they are easy to pack and easy to clean.

  • I’ve loved these! Fun seeing breakdowns. Although we’ve “cheated” in past with having a cast member in family, and AP’s. I’ve loved our time a Disney (no desire to go back currently but that’s another article lol)
    I’d recommend looking on owners sites to rent condos – can be cheaper and you can get some amazing resorts. For my family if more than just hubs and I traveling we will take space all day long over cramped hotel rooms. But…again the cheat: we had a timeshare gifted to us a couple decades ago, with super cheap maintenance fees (in fact so good that I use it to get out of Ts presentations lol) that trade easily into resorts in Orlando. Occasionally we get “free” extra weeks that just cost the trade fee to use ($250-350) and we’ve gifted them to family (or use ourselves). Worth checking TUG and Redweek if looking to stay offsite.

    Really hope you look into doing a Universal one too even if you don’t claim to be an expert 🙂 Universal’s lodging is so inexpensive that we do stay onsite nearly all the time for shorter trips, or at least part of time if staying longer than a week. Plus I think Universals resorts are better than Disney’s in every category (even GF was just meh) except possibly AKL (savanna studio). Even the mid resorts have pool slides, and Cabana Bay has slide and lazy river- easily spend couple resort days here).

    • Monica, I love the tip about owners sites – not something I’ve personally explored before, so I’ll be looking into it! And don’t worry, Marc has taken up the task of creating similar budgeting options for Universal, so hopefully you’ll be seeing those in the future.

      • Can’t wait! Love this series!

  • Alright, here’s the budget article I’ve been waiting for, as it was just a little over what we spent on our June 2018 vacation. I know inflation and all, but here’s what we got for my family of three (me, wife, child then age 9, and driving from the midwest):

    -5 days of Parkhopper Plusses at Disney
    -3 days of Park-to-Parks at Universal
    -2 days at Busch Gardens Tampa
    -Two weeks at two different offsite condos (one of these weeks was gifted to us, so I guess I’m cheating there. Add on an extra $700 as that what it cost us for the other condo.)
    -8 other nights at hotels in Tampa and on the road from and to home
    -everything else (gas, food, groceries for condo, Tampa Rays tickets, souvenirs….including the cost of every pressed penny!)

    My point of this reply is to show that a long trip can be done with many days in parks, but you do have to sacrifice a few things. Not going to get any deluxe resort accommodations, and not going to get many table service meals, but that’s okay for us. We are fine saving money eating the Super 8 breakfast buffet on the way down and a frozen pizza late at night in our condo if it gets us extra days riding our favorite rides.

    • That’s an impressive amount squeezed into a $6,000 budget! Even if there was a little cheating involved 😉

  • Loved all the scenarios you explored with the low/mid/high budgets. It’s always interesting to help someone figure out different ways to experience WDW. This will be a great reference to recommend. I’ve been going 1-2 times per year for about 20 years. I usually go with other adults, but sometimes with my kids and grandchildren. I really miss the non expiring 10 day PH, you could use one ticket over 2-3 trips!

    • Judy, those non-expiring tickets were the best!

  • This has been a fun series to follow, thanks! As a family that doesn’t fit in the typical Disney room and can’t travel during less expensive times, it’s a bit sad though to see my numbers compared to the ones here. (Family of 6 during Spring break on-site, whoa $$$$) Your way of comparing the options is much more fun than mine I need to break out the scissors and keep trying to make it work.

    • I’ll admit, Amanda, that my budgeting usually happens in big spreadsheets of options. But the paper version is much aesthetically pleasing! It’s also more fun to visualize different options with colors/sizing instead of numbers in a spreadsheet.

    • Currently, Disney is only focus is finding ways to generate revenue. Vacationers need to send Disney a strong message, and that is to not go to Disney over the next year or two and to cancel any existing reservations.

      By doing this, Disney will get the message and refocus on the customer.

      • It certainly seems that way after the announcements this past week. I can’t remember which blog it was, but I read that this is akin to “killing the golden goose”. I think we will find out soon enough between October 1 and the end of the year how it works out financially for Disney.

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