Taking a vacation to Disney World? How to budget for hotels, tickets and food

The trick to finding deals is deciding which experiences are the most important and planning accordingly.

“Our pricing structures are much more granular, much more flexible than ever before,” said Josh D’Amaro, president of Disney’s parks, experiences and merchandise division.

Here’s a guide on how to navigate Walt Disney World at three different budget levels. (Note: Many of these tips also translate to a Disneyland vacation, though the two resorts vary in terms of offerings and prices.)

Disney World on a Saver’s Budget

Hotel: When planning a Disney vacation on a shoestring budget, an easy way to save money can be to stay off-site—that is, at a hotel that isn’t owned by Disney. However, you don’t have to stay in a roadside motel. Look for deals on sites like Expedia or Priceline for Disney “Good Neighbor” hotels, which are located near Disney theme parks. These hotels are AAA approved and vetted to meet Disney standards. Some advertise rates that are competitive with Disney’s “value” resorts, starting at around $100 a night. A five-night stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando-Lake Buena Vista is $641 at the end of October through Expedia.

Guests staying at select non-Disney-owned hotels are eligible for an important benefit offered to families staying at Disney-owned resorts: early theme park admission. Wherever you end up staying, be sure to factor in the cost of transportation. Not all off-site hotels offer complimentary transportation to the parks, while Walt Disney World offers free transportation between its hotels and parks via boats, buses, monorails, and gondolas.

Tickets: The starting price of a one-day theme park ticket hasn’t increased since 2018, a Walt Disney World spokeswoman said. Ticket prices vary based on demand. If budget is an issue, consider going to the parks for fewer days. Single park tickets are cheaper than Park Hopper tickets which allow people to visit multiple theme parks in one day. Purchase tickets through an authorized third-party seller, such as Undercover Tourist or Get Away Today, for a discount.

Don’t buy tickets from street vendors or eBay,

as these may be scams. Authorized third-party ticket sellers will display a Disney-permitted emblem. And remember: tickets do not guarantee entry. Post-Covid, Disney implemented the Park Pass reservation system. Confirm that Park Pass reservations are available before purchasing your tickets, then link them to your profile in the My Disney Experience app to make your reservations immediately.

Park guests purchase pancakes at a concession stand at Epcot theme park in Walt Disney World.

Food: Eat breakfast in your room before heading to the parks and pack food for lunches or snacks throughout the day. At counter-service restaurants, opt for free iced water instead of sodas, and skip sides on entrees. Pro Tip: Buy Disney-themed treats, like fruit gummies, at a grocery store through Instacart and have them delivered to your hotel.

Additional featuresTip: To avoid tantrums at the gift shops, shop for Disney toys, autograph books, or coveted mouse ears online ahead of time to wow the kids during the trip. Additionally, Disney photographers stationed at the parks can take photos of you and your family with your smartphone, subject to Covid safety policies, at no cost.

For Disney fun on non-park days, visit Disney Springs, an outdoor shopping and entertainment complex, or visit the resorts located around Walt Disney World. Free activities at all resorts include campfire sing-alongs with Disney’s chipmunk characters, Chip and Dale, and evening outdoor movie screenings.

Disney World on a modest budget

Hotel: Staying at a Disney-owned hotel has many perks, in addition to early park admission and free transportation. One of the biggest benefits is that park reservations are reserved for Disney hotel guests, giving you a better chance of visiting the parks whenever you want. Disney hotel guests get the first access to Lightning Lane a la carte reservations to avoid long lines for the most popular rides on a daily basis, a Walt Disney World spokeswoman said.

A standard room at “moderate” Disney hotels starts at around $235 a night, but can be more expensive depending on when you travel. Many of Disney’s budget and moderate hotels have larger suites for larger families.

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Tickets: Purchasing Park Hopper tickets will give your family more flexibility during your visit by allowing you to visit multiple theme parks in one day. The Park Hopper add-on costs between $65 and $85 per ticket, depending on the number of days you spend in the parks. These tickets can be purchased directly from Disney; Four-day Park Hopper tickets for two adults and two children are nearly $2,500 for a visit in late October. They can also be purchased through authorized third parties at a discount.

Food: To avoid spending your budget on food, limit the number of restaurants you visit. To save money on these more expensive meals, sign up for a Disney Chase Visa credit or debit card. Cardholders can receive a 10% discount at select restaurants throughout Walt Disney World.

One of the hallmarks of a quintessential Disney vacation is character dining: at select restaurants, diners can meet and take photos with their favorite Disney characters. These meals are more expensive than other restaurants. For a cheaper character dining experience, consider eating earlier. The breakfast buffet meal at Chef Mickey’s, a character meal at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, is $42 per adult (excluding tax and gratuity), compared to $55 per adult for the buffet dinner.

Disney-branded memorabilia is displayed in a gift shop at Epcot theme park in Walt Disney World.

Additional featuresNote: To maximize your time at Walt Disney World, consider signing up for Genie+ each day you visit the parks. Genie+ is a service within the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps that allows theme park guests to avoid long lines at popular attractions through Lightning Lanes. The service costs $15 per person. Each park also has an attraction where you can purchase access to Lightning Lane individually, apart from Genie+. Cost ranges from $10 to $17 depending on the attraction and time of visit.

As for merchandise, resist the urge to spend money here and there. Disney Visa Cardmembers can receive a 10% discount on select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select stores.

For a behind-the-scenes look, consider the “Behind the Seeds” farming tour at Epcot (beginning Oct. 2) or the “Caring for Giants” elephant tour at Animal Kingdom, which is $35 per guest.

Big Budget Disney World Experience

Hotel: If cost isn’t a concern, stay at a Disney luxury resort, like the Contemporary or Polynesian Resorts near the Magic Kingdom. Nightly rates for these hotels start at $390, but can go as high as $4,000 for a two-bedroom suite with club-level access during popular times. Staying at a luxury resort doesn’t have to come at a luxury price. One way to get a deal is to rent a unit through the Disney Vacation Club timeshare program. Sites like the DVC Rental Store and David’s Vacation Club Rentals rent out DVC members’ unused points to reserve units.

If you prefer a break from Disney when you return to your hotel, another option is to stay at the Four Seasons Resort. The AAA Five Diamond Resort is located within Golden Oak, a community of luxury homes on Walt Disney World property.

Tickets: Splurge on the Park Hopper Plus add-on, which is priced between $85 and $105 depending on the number of days. These tickets allow travelers to visit multiple theme parks each day, in addition to granting them admission to visit the two water parks of Walt Disney World (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and the golf and miniature golf courses. of Walt Disney World. .

Resort guests cool off in a pool at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort in Orlando.

Food: Forget the burgers and fries. There are many fine dining establishments located throughout the Walt Disney World resort, including Victoria & Albert’s, which was one of only two restaurants in Florida to receive AAA’s Five Diamond Award in 2021. The prix fixe menu starts at $ 295 per guest. (Note that restaurants can reserve in advance.)

Additional features: Book a private VIP tour for the most seamless theme park experience. Disney VIP Tours range from $425 to $850 an hour, depending on the season, for a group of up to 10 people, with a minimum duration of seven continuous hours. The tour will offer visitors direct access to attractions and transportation between theme parks if you choose to visit more than one during the tour.

Do you want the highest quality photos of your trip? Book a private session with a Disney photographer through the Capture Your Moment service, which costs $79 for a 20-minute session with up to eight people.

To avoid the crowds during the fireworks shows, book a private fireworks cruise, which starts at $399 plus tax, not including gratuity. The cruises take place in a 25-foot boat, with capacity for 10 guests. Banners, balloons, and assorted snacks and refreshments are included.

At Epcot, scuba diving experiences resume October 2 at a price of $219 per person excluding tax.

Robbie Whelan contributed to this article.

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