Sharing our Walt Disney World vacation cost breakdown isn’t a decision that came easily. Talking about money is … well … erm … uncomfortable. However, most of the costs pertaining to our Disney vacation (hotel rates, ticket costs, all restaurant menus, etc.) are already online so anyone interested in the total trip cost could figure it out anyway! So, I’ll break it down and throw in some money-saving advice along the way.
Our Disney trip was rather average in terms of length, family size, and expenses so I hope that any other family of four taking a week-long Disney vacation on a modest budget will find this cost expectation helpful.
For some, our total for a 7-day Disney vacation is low and for others, it may be extravagant. It’s certainly far less than a week-long stay at a deluxe resort with park hopper tickets on the Disney Dining Plan, but it is more than a barebones budget at a value resort or off-site all week and packing sandwiches to eat in the parks daily. The bottom line is a lot of money, but we think it’s worth it. We save year-round and live frugally, pinching pennies so that we can spend our hard-earned money on trips and family experiences rather than things.
So, let’s get started, beginning with the largest chunk of the trip budget…
Park Tickets / $1,405.80
Tickets are the biggest expense of the trip and pretty much a fixed expense. Unlike hotel rates, Walt Disney World ticket prices are the same year-round so we don’t save any money here by going during the low season. We purchased two adult and two child 5-day base tickets (no park-hopper option). I’ll explain below why we purchase tickets directly from Disney rather than a discount authorized reseller.
Lodging / $1,100.22
We stayed on Disney property in a “standard room” (the lowest price level) at Pop Century, a value resort, for five nights followed by two nights in a “standard view” room (again, the lowest price level) at Wilderness Lodge, a deluxe resort. Unlike ticket prices, resort rates vary throughout the year. Not only is late January/early February “value season” when rack rates are cheapest across all Disney resorts, but Disney ran a winter discount for 15% off value resorts and 25% off deluxe resorts so we were able to save a total of $303.96 with these discounts!
Our final tax-inclusive cost for five nights at Pop Century was $563.58 while just two nights at Wilderness Lodge was nearly the same at $536.64. At Wilderness Lodge, we paid less than $250 per night for a room that had been over $500 just weeks earlier during the high holiday season!
Food / $889.62
We bring breakfast food from home to eat in our room (cereal and milk, bananas, juice) so our food cost doesn’t include the first meal of the day. We also bring a reusable water bottle into the parks to refill during the day and pack a few small snacks like granola bars in our park bag to curb the kids’ hangriness when we’re close to mealtime but not quite ready to sit down and eat yet. We rely on the parks for lunch, dinner, and the remainder of our snacks.
While we prefer quick service restaurants both for cost and reservation-free convenience, we ate at three table service restaurants on this trip. Brunch at Trail’s End and lunch at the 50’s Primetime Cafe were each around $90 including tax and tip (breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe was cheaper at $60). The rest of the meals were quick service ranging from the maximum of $58.52 for a Be Our Guest lunch to the cheapest $30.39 Earl of Sandwich meal so sticking with mainly quick service meals is half the price of table service. We averaged $45 for our quick service lunches and dinners.
Our daily snack average for all four of us was $22.
We do not use the Disney Dining Plan as we spend less money by paying out of pocket for all our food. The 2017 rates of $48.19/adult and $20.88/child per night for the quick service DDP would have cost a total of $966.98 for our seven total nights. Of course, the comparison isn’t that simple since the quick service DDP that most closely matches our eating habits excludes table service meals so we would have additionally paid out of pocket for those and then likely would have had several unused quick service meal credits leftover. Overall, the structure of the DDP just never works for us and we always pay far less for our food without it.
Souvenirs and Gifts / $368.80
I don’t like to accumulate stuff at home, so my souvenirs are on the practical side. Several of these items would have been bought outside of Disney World anyway, but I decided to get Disney-themed versions during the trip.
I had been wanting a new apron and coasters to sit on the dining table, always get a Christmas tree ornament every trip, added a few tsum tsums to my small collection, found the fourth teacup mug that I couldn’t buy on the Disney Parks app, and a few other small things. This amount also includes a few gifts for others.
This line item would be much lower if not for the Vera Bradley backpack, which was vital to comfort during rest of the trip and will be used on all our Disney trips from now on!
The boys made several purchases with their own allowances so those items aren’t included in the total.
Transportation / $113.80
We are fortunate to live within an easy day’s drive of Orlando so transportation is a very small portion of our trip budget. The 620-mile drive takes about 10 hours including a stop for a picnic lunch along the way so we leave around 7:00 AM and are at our Disney resort in time for dinner.
Our transportation cost, therefore, only covers gas. We paid an average of $2.22 per gallon and our Toyota Rav-4 drove 25 miles per gallon on this trip.
Additionally, we were Disney resort guests, so the $20/day daily parking fee was waived.
Activities / $35.69
This was only the pony ride at Tri-Circle D Ranch and hour of canoeing at Fort Wilderness.
Mousekeeping / $35
We left a $5 envelope each morning for the resort housekeeping (“Mousekeeping”) staff. They always did a great job and the boys loved to find their stuffed animals in all sorts of new arrangements at the end of every day!
Target RedCard Savings / ($112.50)
I generally avoid store credit cards, but the Target RedCard gives 5% off every purchase which saves us a lot of money every year on food, household items, and … our Disney vacations. The discount even applies to the purchase of gift cards including Disney gift cards that are redeemable at the parks, among other locations.
After reserving our trip many months in advance, I use my RedCard to buy several hundred dollars of Disney gift cards per month (and pay off with every bill to avoid interest penalties that would erase the benefit of buying the gift cards!) as my own personal payment plan and use them to chip away at our total. As a result, most of our park ticket and resort totals are an additional 5% off. For this reason, we buy our park tickets directly from Disney rather than a verified reseller because our 5% RedCard discount is always more than the reseller’s discount for us.