When you want to know how to plan a budget trip to Disney World it seems like there is so much conflicting and confusing information. Truth be told, the reason there is so much confusing information is because Disney World is so huge! It’s almost like a city unto itself. To put it into perspective, Disney World is roughly the size of San Francisco!
With so many parks, hotels, water parks, and attractions, it can be hard to plan a budget trip to Disney World without feeling like you’re missing out on something. Don’t worry though, we’ve got an exhaustive guide so you can plan a trip that will create memories that last a lifetime! Here’s how to plan a budget trip to Disney World!
- Things you need to know before going to Disney World
- What is your exact budget
- How many people are going?
- Will this be your only trip to Disney World?
- What time of year do you want to go?
- Plan ahead
- Buy tickets and reservations months in advance
- Everything becomes more expensive if you don’t plan
- When to stay on property and when to not
- Staying off-property
- Small Groups
- Large Groups
- Let’s talk about food
- To save the most money go grocery shopping
- Dining plan
- Using a travel agency
- More resources for information
Things you need to know before going to Disney World
Before you start booking rooms or checking out possible dates, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself that will help you determine your trip. Key questions include:
- What is your exact budget?
- How many people are going?
- Will this be your only trip to Disney World?
- What time of year do you want to go?
Let’s break them down further.
What is your exact budget?
Disney World can get expensive fast. The average family spends around 3k-6k on a Disney trip. Mind you, that may or may not include things like souvenirs and travel fees. Understanding your budget first can help you cross some items off your Disney list. When you make your budget for Disney World make sure to include:
- Hotel or Airbnb stay
- Park tickets, Park hopper tickets, and fast passes
- Food (highly important)
- Transportation costs
- Special experiences
Knowing your “all-in budget” can help you make the most out of your Disney World trip. If you want to know how to plan a budget Disney World trip, it has to start here.
How many people are going?
Before you go, you need to know how many people are going. It’s that simple. Whether you have a large or small number of people will affect what hotel option you choose. We’ll break that down more when we get to choosing a room. Also, keep in mind that Disney sometimes can give out special rates for special types of parties. Make sure to stay up to date with the latest deals that Disney is running.
Will this be your only trip to Disney World?
If this is your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World then it’s better to go big. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a Disney World trip on a budget. However, there may be specific things that you want to experience or splurge on that will cost more money. If this is the case, make a list of “must-do’s” such as:
· Restaurants you must eat at
· Rides you must experience
· Shows you want to see
· Resorts you want to visit
· Parks you want to visit (ideally all 4)
If you’re planning on coming back to Disney World in the future then you can plan a trip pretty easily. You know that you’ll be back and that you don’t have to do every little thing. Besides, even if you spent 10k on a Disney World trip, you still probably wouldn’t see and do everything your first time. That’s okay!
What time of year do you want to go?
To be blunt, Disney World raises prices every time around the Holidays. That means going to the parks during Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and the 4th of July are all going to be more expensive than going in February. If you’re looking to save money on a Disney World trip, then you’ll need to book in the offseason. More importantly, if it is vital that you go during a holiday season you may need to find other ways to save money. Whether that be driving instead of flying or staying in a value hotel instead of a moderate one.
As you can probably already tell planning a budget trip to Disney World is no small task. If there was ever a vacation that you want to plan out the details of, it’s a Disney World trip. With so many great options for attractions, dining, and shows to see around every corner, you want to make the most of your trip. Since you have a budget for your trip now and you know your “must-dos” for Disney World, you can now start one of the best and worst parts of your Disney World trip. Planning!
Buy tickets and make reservations months in advance
Buying a ticket one month before your trip is going to be way more expensive than buying your ticket 6 to 8 months in advance. You often find special deals or perks if you buy your tickets months in advance. Not to mention, when you buy early in advance you make sure that you can visit the parks that you want to. Right now, Disney World has a reservation system in which you need to not only purchase tickets to a park but make sure you reserve a time slot there as well. This is due to Covid-19 and restrictions placed on capacity.
If you do not reserve a time slot or they fill up after you buy your tickets, you won’t be able to get into the park.
Also, making reservations also applies to some of the fancier restaurants around Disney World parks, resorts, and Disney Springs. For your signature dining like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Restaurant, these reservations can fill up months in advance. You can start to book your dinner reservations 60 days before your trip. So it’s important to make these reservations as soon as possible. Definitely plan before it becomes available for your trip to get the best reservations or your “must-dos”
Everything becomes more expensive if you don’t plan
From flights to hotel reservations, everything becomes more expensive or more exclusive if you try to plan your trip last minute. However, if you start planning sooner rather than later, it can give you time to plan out your reservations, transportation, and park tickets. And maybe snag some discounts.
When to stay on property and when to not
Disney World hotels are some of the best resorts that you will stay at in your lifetime. There are three types of resorts. There are value resorts, moderate resorts, and deluxe resorts. As is evidenced by their name, each type of resort comes at a different price point.
· Value resorts can be anywhere from $120-$500 a night
· Moderate resorts can be from $400-$800 a night
· Deluxe resorts can be anywhere from $800-$1200+
These prices can change in the future, and Disney is known for only raising their prices, not lowering them.
If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck and still want to stay on-site at Disney World, then you need to stay at a value resort. Most of these resorts are geared towards families and groups with small children. So, it can be a perfect mix of theming and staying within your budget. Every Disney hotel resort you stay at will have free transportation to and from the parks and to Disney Springs. If you plan on going this year you will also receive transportation to your resort from the airport, however, this is disappearing at the end of 2021.
Disney hotels also have restaurants on-site, but this will be more expensive than buying your own groceries. Another note to consider is that if you do stay on property, the fridge in your room will oftentimes be small and not capable of holding much food. The lack of space to store food may be a deal-breaker. Food is one of the most important parts of how to plan a budget trip to Disney World, and we’ll dive into more about that later.
There are also cheaper off-property hotels that do carry some of the same perks as you would find on property. These resorts can be cheaper and better suited for larger families. Additionally, these can be great if you want to see other parts of Florida or don’t really care that much for theming.
Airbnb can provide a lot of value for families, but there is a tradeoff. An Airbnb can cost much less than a Disney hotel. They can also provide more room if you have a large number of people coming. For the amount of space you are getting if you rent a home, you cannot find a comparable rate at Disney World hotels.
However, this does mean that you don’t get to partake in the perks of staying in a Disney World resort. You won’t get access to free shuttles going to and from the park. You also won’t get access to the new gondola system at Disney World. In conjunction with that, you’ll also have to pay for parking, and you’ll have to pay for any transportation you take such as an Uber or gas in your own car. This may or may not be worth it for you. Let’s break it down even further.
For small groups going to Disney World, say a family of four, it may be in your best interest to go with a value Disney resort, while still shopping for your own groceries and planning snacks throughout the week. You could rent an Airbnb, but your cost of travel during your stay may offset just staying in a value resort. Especially if you were able to get the right deal. You’ll also have access to dining options within your resort meaning that you don’t have to waste money on travel to go to a restaurant or buy other food. Disney has also stated that in the future guests who stay at a resort will be able to enter the park 30 minutes earlier than those who stay off-property. However, Disney hasn’t specified when this new change will occur.
If you’re going with a group of about eight or more, it’s probably going to be in your best interest to stay off-property or rent an Airbnb. First off, renting multiple rooms for multiple family members is going to get expensive fast. Even if you find the best deal, you won’t necessarily be able to take advantage of having a full fridge as you would elsewhere. If you’re planning on going with a large group of family members, then it may be best to stay in a house through Airbnb or another provider. Instead of each individual family paying $200 a night for their room, you could spread the cost of Airbnb out amongst all family members. For example:
· Staying at a value resort paying $150 a night for five nights = $750 for the week
· Staying at an Airbnb for $200 a night, but split between three couples = $333 for the week
On top of this, you can split the price of food, transportation, and anything else you might need. So, while you still have to pay for things like transportation, you’re splitting that price into a fraction of its original worth.
In short, if you want to know how to plan a budget trip to Disney World keep this in mind. The more people that are going, the more diminishing returns you will receive by staying on property. The fewer people that go the more likely it will be advantageous for you to stay on property.
There is a caveat to this as well, however. If you’re the type of person that wants to be wrapped in the Disney bubble from the beginning of your vacation to the end, staying off-property may be a disappointment.
Travel to Disney World
When it comes to traveling to Disney World there are two main ways to get there. Driving a car or flying in a plane. Some people prefer one over the other but they both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Flying can be a bit more expensive, but if you live far away it may be your only realistic option. If you want to get the best pricing, again it’s best to order your tickets early in advance. You can do this yourself or you can book this through a travel agency.
Driving is going to be the cheaper cost if you split it with other people. However, if you rent a vehicle, it can be just as expensive as flying depending on the car you choose. Keep that in mind if you don’t plan on taking your own vehicle. Not to mention, you will also need to pay for gas on your trip down to Florida, your stay in Florida, and your trip back home. Remember, planning a road trip is no small feat but can be rewarding.
Let’s talk about food at Disney World
Unlike other vacations, you’re going to want to plan out your food situation for a Disney trip. Not just because of reservations, but food in Disney World is generally going to be more expensive. That being said there are different levels of dining options. There are:
· Snack stands that sell fairly cheap desserts and snacks ranging from all types
· Quick Service (much like fast food and cheaper)
· Buffet (food served buffet style and less expensive)
· Full-Service restaurant (can be moderately priced or expensive)
There are other options such as character dining and bars, but budget-conscious Disney goers should most likely stick to these options.
To save the most money go grocery shopping
It’s true, to save the most money you’ll need to do some grocery shopping. Buying meals individually at your resort or at the parks can rack up your bill significantly. Our advice? Try planning some fancier dinners to splurge on at the parks or resorts. Cover the rest of your food through groceries or quick service meals. To put it into perspective, a bottle of water at Disney World usually comes in right under $5. If you drink 4 water bottles a day that’s almost $20 you’ve spent on water alone. Instead, go to the grocery store and buy the 25 pack of waters and be set for the whole week or invest in a refillable mug.
Due to the pandemic, Disney World is not offering a dining plan right now. However, during normal times they may eventually bring it back. If it’s to be based on the old system, there will be different tiers to this dining plan. For future reference, it’s probably going to be in your best interest to go with a middle or lesser dining plan. Oftentimes, people spring for the most expensive plan but don’t actually end up spending that much money on food, meaning that the more expensive dining plan isn’t really worth it.
Using a travel agency
Why do we recommend using a travel agency? Well, there are two main reasons for that.
First, a travel agency can help you get the best deals on rooms, reservations, and park tickets. They often know the best times to go to Disney World for the cheapest. Additionally, they may be able to offer rates or find select deals for you. This can help you save money without even knowing how to plan a budget trip to Disney World. Someone does this all for you.
Second, it can make planning the trip a lot less hassle. After you make your “must do’s” list you can work with a travel agency to ensure that you get that dining reservation or those cheap plane tickets. They can help remind you about important dates and notify you of special deals. They can help you select the best resort for your family. Travel agencies save you time and a lot of headaches.
Not all travel agencies are the same, so it’s important to do your research. Consider asking friends and family about agencies that they would recommend. Also, it’s a good idea to use travel agencies that are based in Florida. These agencies can go to the park often and are familiar with the tools that Disney uses to change guidelines or policies. Because they’re so close they’re “in the know” about pretty much everything Disney.
More resources for information
Because almost every Disney World trip is different, you’re probably going to want some more help other than just this guide. If you want to know more about how to plan a budget trip to Disney World, here are a couple of resources you can use for free to plan your trip. These resources can teach you more about Disney World and can keep up to date with news even if you have little time.
DFBGuide: With over 600k followers on their main YT Channel and a fantastic website, DFBGuide can be one of the best places to find relevant information about upcoming events and information regarding Disney World. They address some of the most common questions and give helpful advice about planning your trip like a pro!
Mickey Views: Mickey views will keep you up to date on all the latest in Disney World, including new rides and attractions.
DSNY Newscast: Another great source for Disney World news and attraction information.
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