Disney World on a Teeny Tiny Budget
My wish is that every parent could see the look on their child’s face when they meet their favorite Disney princess or Incredibles superhero. We’re here to help you make that a reality, whatever your Disney World budget may be. If you need help piecing together your magical vacation, contact us here! We’re happy to help, and it’s totally free!
I’m sure you’re thinking ‘Disney is SO expensive.‘
Yes, it can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. I’m here to tell you that you CAN take a Disney Vacation on a Teeny Tiny Budget. Here’s how.
These numbers are based on a family of four with two adults and two kids under 10 from somewhere in middle America (Kansas? Kentucky? Or maybe Wisconsin like me!). You and your kids can experience the magic of Disney without going broke or into debt. Lets go over the details… and then I’ll give you a few example Disney World budgets. If you’re looking for great ways to save up to afford a little magic getaway, here are some ideas!
First, let’s look at the Logistics. How will you get to and from your Magical Family Vacation in Orlando, Florida?
- Road Trip: You can get to Orlando in under 24 hours and for under $250 in gas from many places in the United States. If you’re on a tight budget this is an excellent strategy. It might seem daunting, but if you go in with the right mindset you could build amazing, life-long memories on the drive, before you even arrive at the most magical place on earth. With two drivers you can easily drive straight through without the expense of a hotel. Just make sure one person is resting while the other drives! Alternatively, you could find a place to rest or nap in your vehicle. If your budget allows, you can also find a cheap motel for less than $50 to crash for one night. One thing to note about driving your own vehicle is that you’ll need to factor in the cost of parking fees at your lodging, and possibly at the Disney parks.
- Bus Ride: I’ve seen bus tickets from major cities for as little as $38. For this price you wouldn’t have to worry about driving, gas money, stopping for a hotel, paying for parking or finding a place to nap in your car. The downside is that it will most likely take longer than driving yourself. One thing to note here is that you’ll have to find transportation while in Orlando. If staying you stay on Disney Property this isn’t an issue because transportation is provided for free.
- Discount Airline Tickets: If you fly on non-peak days you can find amazing bargains on airline tickets from carriers like Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, Jet Blue and sometimes even Southwest Airlines. I’ve found flights from Chicago (ORD) to Orlando (MCO) for less than $100 round trip. Note that often times this price doesn’t include parking costs, taxes, fees or luggage costs. However, you’ll avoid parking fees at Disney or at your resort, so that might make up for these added fees. Ultimately, a family of 4 may be able to fly for $500 or less!
It can be overwhelming to figure out where to stay. There are so many choices, even with a limited Disney World budget. Here we’ve narrowed down your best options to save money for Lodging.
- Disney Camp Ground: The absolutely least expensive way to stay at Walt Disney World is to camp. They offer many amenities at their campsites, such as a charcoal grill, picnic table, city water, electricity, and parking space. You must bring your own tent (or rent one). Pets are allowed! And they even have a leash-free dog park on the property. Other human amenities include an onsite pool with a waterslide, and a plethora of entertainment options such as music and dancing. If you like camping with your family, this is a great way to experience Disney World. And for as little as $65 per night, you still get all the amazing benefits of staying at a WDW Resort.
- Disney Value Resort: The least expensive resorts at Walt Disney World are the ‘Value’ resorts. This includes the 3 All-Star resorts, plus Pop Century and the Art of Animation. You can book these kid friendly resorts for less than $130 per night during the off-peak seasons. The best part is you get ALL the perks of staying at a WDW resort. They do have a parking fee if you bring a vehicle, however.
- Good Neighbor Hotels: These hotels are not owned by Disney, but are very close to Disney property and have Disney’s stamp of approval. They qualify for some of the amazing benefits of staying on Disney property (i.e. Fast Pass+), but not others. Many have kitchenets, offer complimentary breakfast, and shuttle service to Disney parks. A number of them do charge a fee for parking, so you’ll want to factor this in if you have a vehicle. However, they are a really good option if you want some of the Disney perks without the price tag. You could pay as little as $75 per night, but one downside is you have to call for pricing. Find the right WDW Good Neighbor Hotel for you.
- HomeAway: Another great way to save money on lodging is to rent a condo or home on HomeAway. These are independently owned homes that owners rent out to tourists. Many have pools or waterparks steps away from their door. Many offer multiple bedrooms, a full kitchen, private laundry, free parking, and a paid shuttle service to the Disney parks (and other Orlando parks). This might be a great option for families with very young children who have early bedtimes! You can score a place close to WDW for less than $150 a night. With taxes and fees you can stay for 4 nights for under $650, including parking fees for your vehicle. One downside to this option is that you miss out on a lot of the perks of staying on-property at Walt Disney World. Check Out HomeAway.
Park tickets are usually the largest expenses in your Disney World budget. It’s REALLY important that you purchase legitimate park tickets. Don’t be one of the tourists that falls for the ‘half price’ Disney tickets. They don’t exist. And you can’t buy partially used tickets. Disney tracks your fingerprint when you go through the gates to make sure you aren’t sharing tickets!
- Disney regularly runs promotions for discounted park tickets. Watch for these, or enlist the help of your Disney Travel Planner.
- Know that the more days you purchase, the cheaper the tickets get. So buying a single day will likely be over $100. But getting 5 days may be less than $400.
- If you are staying on Disney property you will get a better price if you book a package rather than a room and tickets separately.
- If you’re not staying on Disney property, check Undercover Tourist for the best ticket prices. They are a legitimate seller of Disney tickets.
- Kids under 3 don’t have to pay for park tickets! Our favorite time to visit Disney has been when are kids are almost 3. They are old enough to experience the Magic, but don’t need park tickets!
Meals can be an extremely expensive aspect of a Disney vacation if you don’t have a plan. You definitely need a detailed meal plan in your Disney World budget. We once spent more than $50 on 3 hotdogs and a sandwich. Never Again! Here are the best suggestions for saving money on meals:
- No matter where you are staying, Order Groceries! There are a number of retailers that will deliver groceries right to your resort or rental.
- If you don’t want to pay the delivery fee (which I think is totally worth it because you can order ahead of time!), or if you need items that cannot be delivered, one person could Uber to a Target or Walmart near by.
- If you’re trying to save money, forget the Disney Dining Plan. Even if you can get a Free Dining Plan, its probably not worth it. There are requirements and restrictions that mean you will ultimately pay more for your resort with the Free Dining Plan. You can get by for a full week without spending thousands on food.
- Eat breakfast before you leave your hotel room or rental. Every. Single. Day. Even if you don’t have a kitchenette, many of the rooms have small refrigerators. You can cook oatmeal (and many other things) in a coffee pot. Order cereal bars, fresh fruit, and other breakfast staples the keep in your room.
- Did you know that you can take your own food into Disney parks? There are a number of lovely places to have a family picnic. So pack a small cooler and have lunch together at one of these locations. (Note: there are locker at each park so you don’t have to carry it around all day!)
- Don’t forget to pack snacks. Hanger is real, especially when you’re walking many miles per day with young kids.
- Bring a reusable water bottle. You can get free ice water at any restaurant!
- Many families, especially with small children, will need a mid-day break. You could go back to your resort or rental for lunch, then return to the park after a rest and have a family picnic for dinner!
- Have A Plan. If you don’t remember anything else, remember this: Have a meal plan. Better yet, have a park touring plan that includes your meals. This will help you get the most out of the park and prevent unnecessary spending on food. Your Disney Travel Planner will gladly help you sort this out! If you don’t have one, email me now!
- I would suggest incorporating a couple of Quick Service restaurants into your plan if your budget allows so you don’t feel as though you’re missing out on Disney Dining. Its true that there’s a lot of great food at Disney World! Menus and pricing can be found on My Disney Experience so you can easily plan for these meals.
- My suggestion is to budget around $50 per day to feed a family of 4.
There will always be Disney Extras. If your Disney World budget allows, there are some really nice souvenirs you can purchase to remember your amazing Disney Vacation. Here are my favorite examples.
- Memory Maker
- Mickey Ears (Hint: For Unique Mickey Ears check Etsy.com BEFORE your trip! They are usually less expensive.)
- Autograph Book
- Pressed Coins
- Christmas Ornaments
Pro Tip: Save money throughout the year to use on these extras! You can slowly bank savings to pay for any of these extra magical touches.
EXAMPLE VACATION BUDGETS
So lets pull it all together and look at some example vacations for a Family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids under 10). I used standard pricing in these examples. If Disney runs a promotion, its possible to find more discounted lodging or tickets (Pro Tip: Book with a Disney Travel Planner and any future promotional discounts will automatically be applied to your vacation package!)
If you’re ready to start planning your Disney Vacation, please reach out here! It’s FREE. We’d love to help you make magical memories with your family. Do you have other money saving tips? How do you manage your Disney World budget? Share in our comments below!