Stretching Your Dollar for Fun Disney Days

Visiting theme parks is a fun way to vacation. You’ll find that a Disney World Vacation makes it really easy to have a specific budget for your trip. During your planning process you can fairly easily decide to save money or take on an extra cost. That way, once you’re there, it will be pretty easy to stay within your Disney World Budget.

This is a companion piece to my DisneyLAND budget.

disney height chart

Disney World On Budget:

Your first step is who to book through. I used a Disney travel agent — Get Away Today. They are an authorized Disney Vacation Planner and they can help you plan your Walt Disney World Vacation. In fact, Get Away Today has been my choice of Disney planner since 1998. They know all the things about the Disney parks (including Disneyland). They’re great, and you’ll quickly notice that customer service is their #1 priority. I was most often responded to within an hour when I had a small question about my trip — it was amazing.

>>CLICK HERE<< to ask Get Away Today to send you a no obligation quote (they just need a bit of info – and they are quick to get back to you). You can also see sample pricing here.

Yes, you could totally plan your Disney Trip on the Walt Disney World Resort Website. However, there are SO many hotel choices it’s hard to really know what’s different between all of them. You’re just not sure of the benefits of each hotel and what you should put on your credit card. The good news is that Get Away Today gives you all their knowledge when you get a quote. I’m a fan, but let’s talk about ALL your options:

Disney World Truth: All of these Disney World planners are getting you the same price (including just booking it yourself on the Disney World Site). What you’re REALLY looking for is the customer service. For me — it’s the best thing about Get Away Today:

  • Price monitoring — if your price goes down they will re-book for you at the lower price.
  • Restaurant booking — They will get dining reservations for you (but you have to give them your login info).
  • Question answering — any question I had about ANYTHING in the park was answered so swiftly!

Pro Tip: Did you know you can purchase Disney Gift Cards using a Target Red card and get a % off these cards and save even more on your trip. Every percent matters when it’s such a big purchase.

Your Disney Trip Calculator

It can be hard to keep track of ALL these costs — so check out my Disney Trip calculator (works for any trip really, but extra awesome for Disney)

Travel Costs

This is split between travel TO Orlando, and travel around orlando.

Travel to Orlando

Unless you are a Florida resident and live close enough to drive (we did not) you will likely fly into Orlando International Airport. Yes, you could fly into Tampa or Fort Meyers or another close airport, but they’re further away, and you will need to balance the cost of being further away. Most people fly into MCO.

Travel in Orlando

You mostly have three options (or a combination of things):

  1. Rental Car.  Florida has been notoriously expensive since the pandemic started. Be aware that many of the roads have tolls. Also, be aware that most hotels do not have free parking, and the parks also charge a daily parking fee as well (if you plan to drive to them).
  2. Use Uber/Lyft.  I found these to both be quite plentiful whenever I wanted them. The cost was pretty great. I’ve used Uber/Lyft a lot in my travels and I really like them. If you haven’t used them before, this is a great trip to try them.
  • Disney Transportation. Within the parks Disney offers free transportation in a variety of ways (not all of these are available at each hotel/park — they vary depending on what areas they serve):Friendship Boats
  • Sky Liner
  • Busses

Obviously, free is pretty great and helps you stay on budget. But, sometimes Disney transportation can be slow (busses only run about every 20 minutes during the day) — you may consider splurging on a lyft now and then.

Disney World Theme Park Properties

There are several theme parks within the Walt Disney World System.  The main ones are:

Magic Kingdom

This is the most like Disneyland, many rides based off of older animated movies.  Popular Rides: 7 Dwarves Mine Train and Space Mountain.


This has two areas

  • World Showcase:  Visit many “countries” where you can see informative displays, some countries have rides, and most have food options. Popular Rides: Ratatouille & Frozen Ever After.
  • Future World:  “Learning” type rides about the land, seas, and more. Popular Rides: Test Track & Mission Space.

Animal Kingdom

This is like a zoo on steroids and it also has rides.  Popular Rides: Avatar Flight of Passage & Expedition Everest

Hollywood Studios

This has many rides based on movies like Star Wars and Toy Story. Popular Rides:  Rise of the Resistance (Star Wars) & Tower of Terror.

You can choose to visit just one park for full days, or you can choose the Park Hopper option, which allows you to switch parks in the afternoon.

The best way to plan your trip is to get reservations ASAP for which park you plan to visit on what day.  If you have park hopper tickets, you only have to plan the first park you will visit, not where you will hop to.

Keep in mind that park tickets that are just one park per day vs a Park Hopper are good amount cheaper.  Also, it can take up to an hour to get to the other parks depending on which one(s) you are hopping to.  However, Disneyland’s transportation system WILL take you from park to park which provide easy access. I will have more on that later.

There have also been water parks, although none are open at the time of this writing.

If you plan to get a LOT of days, it may be worth it to get an annual pass (although reservation dates are limited, so you’d run the chance of not getting the reservation you want on the day of your visit. Also, at the time of this update no season passes are currently available for sale for Walt Disney World).  It is better to switch to an annual pass at the end of your visit after you have used your paid for days, then you can convert to the magic key (the new name for the annual pass) without losing your reservations.

FYI, most people who are staying on Disney property purchase this as one large vacation package.  With hotel, Walt Disney World Tickets, etc. for the entire family.

Disney World Fireworks

Disney World Hotel Choices

One of the biggest things you’ll choose for your Disney World Trip is where to stay.

As a note, when we went to Universal Studios Orlando, we stayed at one of their hotels.  And when we switched to Disney World, we stayed at one of theirs.  It really makes it SO much easier, even though you have to pack up and move.  I would recommend it.

There are a lot of hotels to choose from.  First you need to pick:

  • A Disney Hotel — meaning one that is on Disney property and is owned by Disney.
  • An Off-Site Hotel — these are further away and may not have as many “perks” but you’ll see that the pricing might be much more in your budget.

Let’s first talk about the…

Disney World Hotels:

They have 3 categories of Disney Hotels

BTW, you can see all the resorts (as of this writing there are more than 25 resorts) here on the Disney World Website.

Value Resort:  This includes Art of Animation, Pop Century Resort Hotel, etc. These tend to have slightly smaller rooms and are further from the parks. The rooms are much more like a basic hotel.

Moderate Resorts:  This includes Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs resort, etc. These rooms tend to be a bit closer to the parks.  They may have more amenities and rooms may be a bit bigger.  For instance, we stayed at the Caribbean Beach resort because they have an option to pull out a 3rd bed.

Deluxe Resorts:  These include Animal Kingdom lodge and the Grand Floridian. These hotels tend to be much nicer (and more expensive). They have larger rooms and may include extra magic hours not included with other hotel stays.

Your hotel stay will be a large part of your budget, although not as much as tickets.

Keep in mind the time of year you pick will change how much the hotel pricing is (and you may find long lines at peak times like Spring Break).  A great way to find out how busy the park will be is to find when the hotels are the cheapest.

Disney World Hotel Amenities Across All Hotels (and all price points)

FYI, No Disney World Hotels offer free breakfast (but some off-property hotels do).

Free Transportation to and within the Disney World resort.  This complimentary transportation includes busses, The Sky Liner and Boats in some hotel areas.  I honestly see this as one of the BIGGEST perks.  FYI, you don’t actually need to STAY at these hotels to get these perks (but you’d still need something to take you to YOUR hotel).  Any guest can ride the Sky Liner (it’s a very convenient way to get from Epocot to Hollywood Studios.

Up until 2022 the Disney World Hotels offer the Magical Express which goes from the Orlando Airport to your hotel for free.  That service is being discontinued in 2022 (there is still a shuttle, you’ll just need to pay for it, and as I looked at the pricing an Uber would be cheaper).  We did take the Magical Express back to the airport and it was nice and convenient (but dropped us at the wrong terminal).

Ok, this whole part is REALLY overwhelming to me, which is why I REALLY appreciated Get Away Today laying out the benefits of the hotel options that were in the realm of our budget.

If you have a tight budget, I would encourage you to at least price out some off-site hotels.  The average cost of these hotels is a lot less.  You can save a lot of money by staying off site (but trade off in perks like being closer and often extra time in the parks not available to off-site visitors).

Pro Tip: Remember parking is an additional charge on the Disney World resorts and most often on off site hotels.

Ok, so let’s give you some example pricing. I asked Get Away Today to put together some sample itineraries (but 100% fill out this questionnaire to get pricing for when YOU want to go). They will TOTALLY do this for you too through this survey link — there is NO cost to asking for a quote (and it’s pretty fast).

>>CLICK HERE<< to ask Get Away Today to send you a no obligation quote (they just need a bit of info – and they are quick to get back to you). You can also see sample pricing here.

Disney World Hotel Properties Example Pricing

One in each category–Value, Moderate, and Deluxe 🙂 I chose times that weren’t PEAK times, but also weren’t crazy cheap):

January 31 – February 4, 2022: 2 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10)

  •    Disney’s Pop Century Resort – $2576.31
  •    Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – $3165.81
  •    Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – $3708.07

January 31 – February 4, 2022: 3 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10) — so 5 people

  •    Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside – $3621.37
  •    Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – $4216.54
  •    Disney’s BoardWalk Inn – $4830.79

Off-Property Orlando Hotels

Ok, now we’re going to talk about Non-Disney Hotels. I actually didnt price this out at all — so, I am really interested to see the pricing. These include the tickets for 3 days at the park:

January 31 – February 4, 2022: 2 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10)

   Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista (Value) – $2579.25

  • $20 parking/night
  • Complimentary shuttle to WDW – reservations required to ride
  • Right next to Disney Springs, less than a mile to the main gate

   Home2 Suites by Hilton at Western Entrance (Moderate) – $2488.79

  • Free breakfast
  • Free parking
  • Also less than a mile from the main gate

   B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista (Deluxe) – $2708.85

  • Complimentary shuttle to WDW
  • $23 parking/night
  • $32 resort fee/night
  • Also right next to Disney Springs, only about a 1/2 mile from the main gate

January 31 – February 4, 2022: 3 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10) – mostly moderate hotels available for larger families over these dates (this pricing is for larger families)

   Home2 Suites by Hilton at Western Entrance (Moderate) – $2966.86

  • Free breakfast
  • Free parking
  • Also less than a mile from the main gate

   Fairfield Inn by Marriott at Western Entrance (Moderate) – $3128.86

  • Free breakfast
  • Free parking
  • About a mile from the main gate

   DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando (Moderate) – $3354.31

  • $22 parking/night
  • $23 resort fee/night
  • Complimentary shuttle to WDW
  • Also right next to Disney Springs, only about a 1/2 mile from the main gate

I also asked to see trips more like mine with 4 day tickets:

December 6-10, 2021: 2 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10)

   Homewood Suites by Hilton at Western Entrance (Moderate Hotel) – $2186.32

   Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista (Value Hotel) – $2360.42

   Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace (Deluxe Hotel) – $2990.92

December 6-10, 2021: 3 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10) – because of the larger party and the close dates, there was only one official hotel available. They could widen their search at this point, if you wanted….

   Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace (Deluxe) – $3502.10

February 7-11, 2022: 2 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10)

   Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista (Value) – $2233.92

   Home2 Suites by Hilton at Western Entrance (Moderate) – $2115.12

   Waldorf Astoria Orlando (Deluxe) – $3794.50

February 7-11, 2022: 3 Adults, 2 Children (aged 8 & 10) – mostly moderate hotels available for larger families over these dates.

   Home2 Suites by Hilton at Western Entrance (Moderate) – $2493.75

   Fairfield Inn by Marriott at Western Entrance (Moderate) – $2655.75

   DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando (Moderate) – $2860.95

FYI, one very sad thing about staying off-property, even when you book with Get Away Today you don’t get their concierge service. 

Let me do some straight comparisons:

Jan 31 | 4 People:

Value: Pop Century: $2576.31 (Disney) Wyndham Garden $2579.25 (off property) — WOAH, very similar!

Deluxe: Animal Kingdom Lodge – $3708.07 (Disney) B Resort $2708.85 — Ok, so a bigger difference there!

Anyway — maybe just ask for some off-site quotes to see which one works for your family. Personally, the concierge, the on-site transportation would definitely be worth $100/night. But it will likely be different for your family.

While transportation to the parks, tickets, and hotel are likely to be the biggest chunk of money in your stay at Disney World — don’t forget these last two categories.

Food at Disney World

Food can be done MANY ways at Disney World. 

You can bring your own food into the park (you could even get a locker to store it in).  You can’t bring FULL meals into the park — but you can bring loads of snacks and even sandwiches if you want.  Even if you’re out of town you could have a grocery store deliver food to your hotel to save quite a bit.

You can also consider just bringing in some of your own snacks and supplementing with the park’s food for meals to lower food costs.

There are a few different type of eating locations in the parks:

Quick Service Locations Think of these as places you pick your food up and take it to a table, more like fast food.  However, the food can be REALLY yummy at these locations as well!  I find the best deals (and often my favorite foods) are at these locations. 

Table Service Meals are served at table service restaurants. These tend to be a bit nicer and expensive. We had crepes at a lovely restaurant. I actually prefer to eat at these once a day so we can get VERY well hydrated and well fed at least once a day.

Character Meals – -although some table service meals can be expensive, these tend to be the MOST expensive.  We ate at Be Our Guest which I think is technically a character meal because the Beast comes around.  It was insanely priced, but it was fun to experience once (if it’s not in your budget you really are NOT missing out).  I would 100% choose to get the Genie Lightening Lanes over Be our Guest. 🙂

Many people have used the Disney Dining Plan to make these table service meals less expensive, but as of this writing it is not available.

Finally we come to the final category….

Souvenirs at Disney World

There are LOTS of places to buy Disney merchandise (surprise!).  You can shop at any of the 100’s of gift shops and there’s also Disney Springs (similar to Downtown Disney for my Disneyland peeps) that has many stores as well.

One of the things we did to lower souvenir costs is to collect a pin on each visit for each member of our family.  It was a fun and small way to enjoy and remember our trip.  Pins cost from about $6-$15 and we have lanyards for them as well.  

You could also buy pins in bulk on Ebay and do pin trading.  Lots of that in the park as well (but my kids really prefer picking out that PERFECT Mickey Mouse pin that embodies their trip).

Of course, there can also be other expenses, like special events.  If you’re heading to an after hours event at Halloween or Christmas those are a separate tickets that are an additional cost — so keep that in mind.

>>CLICK HERE<< to ask Get Away Today to send you a no obligation quote (they just need a bit of info – and they are quick to get back to you). You can also see sample pricing here.

Our Actual Disney World Budget

Because this can be a lot to take in, I wanted to share our actual Disney World budget for a trip we took in the fall of 2021.  It was RIGHT around the beginning of the 50th anniversary, so while the crowds were crazy, it was also not a time to get discounts with hotels, etc.

Transportation to the Parks:  We used Southwest airlines from Phoenix to Orlando for around $500/person (we HAD tickets for $800/person and saw a quick price drop and jumped on that, thank goodness — because it was fall break for Arizona this ended up being more expensive than I had anticipated).

Hotel Costs

We did 2 days at Universal (3 nights) and 4 days (4 nights) at Disney World — here is the cost breakdown for that:

Universal Studios at Hard Rock Hotel (obviously, not Disney World but I know a lot of people combine trips like this like we did) — we stayed 3 nights there and did 2 days at the park for $2,687.82 — coming in at $895.94 per night. Of that price tickets were $1354.64 (for 4 people for 2 days at a 2 parks/day pass) making the hotel $444/nt.

Disney World at Caribbean Beach Resort — we stayed 4 nights and 4 day one-park-per-day (not park hoppers) tickets for $3478.26 — coming in at $869.56/night. Tickets were about 2k, and the rest is the hotel cost at just about $360/night or so (Disney doesn’t break down the cost when you purchase a package — so this is mostly a guess).

This includes pricing for hotel and tickets as you can tell.

Other costs:

We spent $1,777 in other costs.

The break down would be (I’m guessing a bit here).

We had 3 uber/lyft trips

  • Home to Airport (we had a friend pick us up when we came home) $35
  • Airport to universal Hotel $40
  • Universal Hotel to Disney World Hotel $30

We spent about $100 on Souvenir type merchandise.

Which means about $1500 was food.

We were SO hot we bought a LOT of cold beverages/icees.  I mean miserable hot.

HOWEVER $300 of that was the Be Our Guest Meal — so that really was a HUGE chunk of our meal budget (again, I regret it).

Let’s quickly talk Park Hoppers

Pro Tip on Park Hoppers

As of this writing a park hopper ticket is about $20 more/day. Keep in mind that if you use Disney transportation it can take up to an hour to switch parks. I have heard that using a Lyft is about $10 around the parks. So….

  • 4 day one park/day — $480 ($120/day)
  • 3 day Park Hoppers — $420 ($140/day)

This pricing was for October 2021, I did see pricing was about $20 more/day for peak times.

So, for a party of 4 the one park per day tickets are $1920 and if you did 3 days with a park hopper it would be $1680. Plus you’d save on hotel costs. In case that’s something you’re considering.

A common question I get is if you should get a one day ticket or park hopper? Honestly, I couldn’t have park hopped. Doing 6 days straight was enough for me. I also had a few days I got back to the hotel around 6 — which I NEEDED. 🙂 But, if you’re young and vibrant, that’s a way to save a good amount of cash!

^^ that pricing is actually pretty on par with Disneyland, FYI. It’s mostly the hotel that is more expensive (unless you stay on-property at Disneyland).

Grand Total of Disney World Budget

Ok, so let’s add up our total Disney World Budget

Airfare $500 x 4 people = $2,000

Hotel at Disney World for 4 nights and 4 days (you’d have to take a red-eye to be able to do this) & 4 one park per day tickets:  $3478.26

Other Expenses $1777

Grand total: $7255

Of course, we also had 2 days at Universal which added $2,687.82

When you include the Universal Days our total was: $9942.89

Which is a LOT.

For reference, we also did Boston this summer before with one more child for around 


Some ways we could have saved money:

  • Staying off property would have saved us a LOT! But, we would have had to consider renting a car ($$) or using an Uber ($) plus there would be more time to get to/from the parks. We also would have lost the extra 30 minutes in the morning that Disney resort hotels guests got.
  • Not going to Be Our Guest — that would have been a great and easy way to save (although that hour off my feet was also VERY lovely.
  • Not doing Disney World AND Universal — but once you look at that airfare, doing it all at once “did it” for our family and we can enjoy a less expensive trip next year. 
  • Doing value resorts at Disney World or at Universal (this is why I recommend asking Get Away instead of the Disney website for a few prices on different hotels so you can see what is important to you. I asked them how much it would be to upgrade to a deluxe hotel (they got an extra hour at park closing) and it was $1,000 more — we decided to stay put.
  • Eating less in the parks. We brought snacks and outside food (cashews and dried mangos — in our luggage), but they weren’t super filling so we did eat almost all our food in parks.

Our main splurge was the hotels, by far.

Disney World Fireworks

The most important part of your Disney World Budget

Wait until you can afford it.

Wait until you can afford it.

It is not a place you want to be worried about every dime. Save up until you can do it in the way you want to, with a nice buffer for a splurge on the Genie+ or a treat. The best time to go is when you can wait til’ you have the money and then go enjoy it!

  • Ok, grab my trip calculator so you can start planning your OWN trip:

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