Disney World Budget Travel (is there even such a thing?)…
Visiting Disney World doesn’t have to be expensive. While many families dream of giving their children the Disney experience, some are put off by what they THINK it will cost. I have traveled to Disney World twice on a limited budget, and am here to show you the way!
There are two companies in this world that have mastered how to manipulate kids and by extension their parents. Those two companies are Disney and Mc.Donalds (aka. WackArnolds). The latter is all about cheap meals, but the former… Holy Crap have you seen their ticket prices?! This is not a case of the company trying to sell you a budget friendly vacation. Instead they are selling you a dream. I’ve seen families of 5 spend over 7k and exclaim it’s budget travel! Well, it’s better than 15k for the trip, but I wouldn’t exactly write home about it either. Especially when they only live a few states away.
Is it possible to take on the Disney Behemoth and end up on the other side without massive debt? Of course. But it’ll take me yearrrrssssss to save up for it … to that I say, not necessarily.
Here are a few tips and tricks that my family used when visiting the place where dream’s come true. ( Or is that only at the Bedding Experts?… Didn’t catch my reference?… oh nevermind)
Disney On A Budget: Tips and Tricks; Shade and Shenanigans
Back in 2009 I took my oldest daughter (then 5 or 6) to Disney World. I was late in the pregnancy with my son (maybe 7 or 8 months) and I had a miserable time. My days were reduced to walking in massive parks, watching other’s get on rides, and being hot and hungry. The only two things I could find joy in, was seeing the smile on my daughter’s face, and knowing that we only spent about $1500 on the trip for a family of 3. Fast forward to May of 2017 we decided to take the family back for my son’s 7th birthday. The burning hot question on everyone’s mind was “Can we complete this trip for less than 3k with a family of 5“… So maybe it wasn’t burning hot in EVERYONE’S mind, but it definitely was burning in mine.
1. Fail to plan, then plan to fail!
You’ve got to start somewhere, and for me, that was with a notebook and pen. You need to figure out what the most costly aspects of your trip will be, and how you can reduce those costs. You also need to plan your dates around the kid’s schooling, that way you don’t have a truancy officer at your door. Can I use this moment to advocate for homeschool?
2. Secure the tickets
It’s tempting to be like my husband and refuse to shop around. Yes, it’s easier. BUT— Unless you like to waste money this is not the road that should be followed. There are better ways, I promise! With that said, I was a bad girl and I ended up purchasing directly from Disney. At the time Disney had a sale (gasp!) going on, and it made the price difference between buying the regular tickets vs military tickets minimal. Plus it saved me a two hour trip to Camp Lejeune Marine Corp Base.
Before visiting the Big D, you will need to decide how many parks you plan to see. I thought we would get to all of them, but
I forgot how much I hate walking around Disney World we decided to take a day of rest. Luckily the ticket is still good until the end of the year, so hopefully we can get there before we leave the country.
Total Cost for our family of 5: $1244 + tax = $1324.86
3. Find Shelter- You don’t have to spend bookoo bucks
Believe it or not, the single most costly item we purchased was the tickets! This is actually true of both times that I’ve taken my family. Back in 2009 we obtained a one week stay at a beautiful condo for the low low price of $150 (thanks to a friend not being able to use his timeshare).
This time around I knew we wouldn’t be able to hit the $150 mark, but I had a trick hidden up my sleeve. A little something called the Armed Forces Vacation Club. If you are active duty or a veteran, YOU MUST VISIT THIS SITE! Can we say $299 for a week long stay about 10 minutes from Disney! They have many choices, so just make sure you always check the traveler reviews on TripAdvisor prior to booking. I absolutely loved the hotel we chose. The room itself included a full kitchen, dining room, living room, 2 large bedrooms with 2 bathrooms, and a balcony. While the room was great, the hotel itself had a moment where they irritated me, but overall it was a good experience and I would return… especially for the price.
Total Cost for a 7 day stay in a 2 bedroom/2 bath suite- $299 +tax = $337.87
4. BYOF : Bring your own food
I don’t know about your family, but mine likes to EAT! Not only do we like to eat, but we have a few picky eaters in the family (mainly my son and I) and that can cause a problem occasionally. Hence why on pizza night we had pizza from Giordano’s, Pizza Hut, and Papa Johns… 3 different companies for one night of pizza! ~Ridiculousness
The best way to combat outlandish spending on food is to PACK YOUR LUNCH! Disney allows food in the theme parks, so you have no excuse. Don’t fall victim to the hype. The food is trash… at least in the African food court located in the Animal Kingdom. I have never regretted a decision more than I had in that moment. Biggest waste of money EVER! More so than my previous gym membership!
In addition to packing a lunch, you should look for lodging that has a full kitchen. Making your dinner is not only more healthy but is lighter on the pockets.
Now I’ve seen people advocate for the Disney Meal Plan as the budget friendly option. I disagree. The price for my family of 5 with a 4 day park pass would have cost $1031.80. Knowing myself, I would have only paid for 4 of us and shared food with the youngest, thereby lowering the price to $932. That’s $932 for 4 out of the 7 days I was in Orlando and ONLY WHILE I’M AT THE PARK! It makes me want to start chanting “Hell No We Won’t Go!”
To put this in perspective, I spent a total of $506.28 on food for our week long stay in Orlando.
Less than HALF of what we would’ve spent at Disney for 4 days. $506.28 included breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for 7 days. During this time we ate out three times for dinner, and once for lunch. We easily could’ve lowered our food costs down to $125 for the week, but you’re only young once and I didn’t feel like cooking every night.
Total amount spent on food for 7 days : $506.28
Set a spending limit for BS Souvenirs
Yes, I just took it there. Bullshit souvenirs. I call it like I see it and we both know the truth. Elsa’s gown can be purchased at Target for less than $30 (trust me, I know) yet the gown I saw at the Park cost almost $100. I hate buying anything I know my family won’t use for more than a week. Instead of morphing into Mr.Krabs, I put a spending limit on each kid every time we go somewhere.
We ended up spending around $200 for souvenirs. My princess warrior saw a cat carrier with a stuffed kitty that I thought was adorable and couldn’t refuse (damn Disney!), my handsome prince was smart and decided he would forego anything at the theme parks in exchange for a new DS game — I happily obliged… and my oldest angel decided she wanted to buy the
lame Disney pins to trade with other Disney workers.
As you can clearly see, I am a hater of souvenirs. I just want to point out that I don’t hate ALL souvenirs. Just the kind that will get thrown away the second you get home. I personally have a Magic Kingdom throw blanket that was purchased in 2009 and it = fav.
Total cost of souvenirs for family of 5 – $201.75 (including Zac’s DS game)
(Shady) Aftermath… Still not catching my references?
One line item I didn’t mention was our travel expenses. The cost of gas round trip was $240. Obviously, if you live in the states, it will be less expensive to get to. I personally would make the drive as long as I’m within 13 hours away. Since we have so many people in our family, it makes sense to drive and keep more dollars in our pockets. Plus I like to avoid airplanes as much as possible. Crazy! A travel blogger that doesn’t like air travel…
Total Cost of Our One Week Disney Vacation: $2610.76 — Yay!!! We came in under budget 🙂
Remember, this was our budget. Had we gone bare bones minimum we could’ve cooked more at home and removed any souvenir spending (tell them a picture is worth a thousand words!). Had we done that our total cost would’ve been $583.03 LESS than what we paid! Thereby bring our current amount down to $2027.73.
$2027.73 for a family of 5 and a one-week stay in Disney. Looking back I wish I would’ve applied the same steps to my 2009 visit. Back then I felt like we had done a great job, but in reality, we spent A TON on souvenirs and eating out. It was the last vacation Zoe would have as an only child, so I felt compelled to buy more crap (you should’ve been there for her last Christmas). I’m definitely proud of our savings and even happier knowing that my kids had a great time. Not only did we visit Disney, we spent a day at the SeaWorld Park, hit up the swimming pool at the hotel, and went exploring at a food truck fiesta.
Just because you do something on a BUDGET doesn’t mean you have to do it CHEAP. You can have quality fun while keeping the greenbacks in your wallet. Don’t believe me? Just try it sometime. You’ll thank me later.