Planning a Trip to Disney World on a Budget

in Walt Disney World

Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World Resort

Credit: Disney

When you are planning a trip to Disney World, the dollar signs can add up fast. Here is our guide full of helpful tips and tricks to assist you in planning Disney World on a budget!

Everyone has a different budget, but there are ways to make a Disney vacation “work” for you, despite how expensive a Walt Disney World vacation can be.

Credit: Disney

Click here so we can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation.

How can you plan a trip to Disney World on a budget?

The first step to planning a trip to Disney World on a budget is to understand the real costs of going to the resort. A Walt Disney World vacation for a family of four, for five days, will exceed $1,000 in tickets alone. That is why it is so important to budget for your trip! These are the main expenses you will encounter while planning your Disney World vacation.

What types of expenses will you have at Disney World?

Here is what to know when planning your Disney World budget — you will encounter additional expenses beyond just food, lodging, and admission tickets. You will need transportation to and from the airport, or if you drive you will need to pay for parking overnight at a Disney hotel. Budgeting money for any merchandise you might want to purchase, as well as having some spare cash on hand while you travel, is also a good idea.

Types of expenses at Disney World

  • Tickets
  • Hotel
  • Food
  • Merchandise
  • Extra experiences or purchases that may come up last-minute.

How to do Disney World on a budget

Breaking down each of these categories above and finding ways to save money within those platforms (mainly with tickets and hotels) can greatly help you make a trip to Walt Disney World fit in any sized budget.

A huge tip we have for traveling to Disney World on a budget (and sticking to it!) is working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. We highly recommend our friends at Academy Travel, who can work within your budget to get you the best deal on a Disney trip. Click here for more details.

Moonlight Magic at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Credit: Disney

How much are Walt Disney World resort tickets?

Tickets can easily be the most expensive part of your Disney World budget when planning your upcoming vacation. Did that surprise you? Here is why.

Walt Disney World tickets are expensive. For 2021 the lowest price possible for a ticket into Disney World for a non-Florida resident is $109. While hotels are also expensive, you have a lot more options for savings. But there are ways to get a less expensive Disney ticket — we will show you how!

Disney uses a dynamic pricing model for their tickets. That means that Disney changes the price of their tickets depending on how “in demand” they believe a certain day will be for their theme parks. Currently, the price range for a one-day, one-park ticket is $109-$159.

We already have a guide for the cheapest day to visit Walt Disney World based on these dynamic ticket prices here. But, here are some tips that will help you no matter what year you visit based on the dynamic pricing. Disney World has four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios. In addition, they have two water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. So, here are our tips to getting the least expensive Disney World theme park tickets.

Tree of Life
Credit: Disney

1. Visit on a weekday

If you want to see some big savings on tickets for Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney often offers lower ticket prices during the week compared to the weekend.

2. Avoid holidays

The holiday season one of the busiest times of the year at Walt Disney World. That means the dynamic pricing model Disney uses to price out their admission tickets makes it very expensive during that time of year. Late November, December, and early January are all times of the year to avoid if you want to save money on tickets.

3. Consider an Annual Pass

To Decide the ticket type that is right for you and your family, consider an Annual Pass to maximize savings if you plan to return to Walt Disney World in the next 12 months.

Disney offers various ticket types — 1 Park Per Day, Water Park and Sports Option, Park Hopper Option, Park Hopper Plus Option. In addition, there are special discount tickets for Florida residents so check the Disney website if you are a FL resident and see if these options work for you.

seven dwarfs mine train
Credit: Disney

Additionally, Disney does offer Annual Passes for Walt Disney World, which can offer even more savings if you carefully plan out two or more Disney trips within a 12-month period. For example, if you want to visit Disney World every summer, try grabbing Annual Passes for your family and plan an August visit this year and a June visit next year.

Something to note on Annual Passes: Currently, Disney World is not selling new Annual Passes but since this is such a money-saving hack for Disney World tickets we included it. Keep an ear out for when Disney starts selling Annual Passes again if that option is something that would work best for your vacation.

Space Mountain
Credit: Disney

Click here to let the Disney experts at Academy Travel book you a budget-friendly trip!

What is included in a Disney World package?

Disney World also offers various vacation packages that can not only simplify the planning process but also offer some great savings!

These packages can be booked directly the Disney website — or through an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, like Academy Travel — and help you bundle your Disney resort stay with tickets and a Disney Dining Plan in order to maximize saving. Note that Disney is not currently offering the Disney Dining Plan as the resort is still in its phased reopening, so check the official Disney website for the latest information regarding Dining Plans as part of the vacation packages.

A great way to save money when booking a Disney vacation package is to book an offsite Disney partner hotel. Disney has teamed up with some hotels close to Walt Disney World, but not on their property. These hotels often offer free-shuttles to the theme parks, as well as other perks such as free breakfast, (which is a big money saver!) so be sure to explore the offsite hotel options before you book your Disney vacation package.

Thunder Mountain
Credit: Disney

Disney Dining Plan

When Disney has their Disney Dining packages available again, here is what you need to know.

Disney offers four different Dining Plans:

  1. Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan
  2. Disney Dining Plan
  3. Disney Dining Plan Plus
  4. Disney Dining Plan Deluxe

For each Dining Plan, you are essentially pre-purchasing your meals before your vacation. You purchase credits and depending on your plan those credits can be used at various dining establishments and snack or beverage carts around the Walt Disney World theme parks and Disney Resort hotels, as well as Disney Springs.

The Disney-Quick Service Dining Plan is described as:

Dine at any of our 100+ Quick-Service locations where you can stop and enjoy 2 casual meals per day. Just order and find a seat—no dining reservations required! This fast and easy meal plan is perfect for Guests who are on-the-go.

Everyone in the party ages 3 and over receives the following:

  • 2 Quick-Service Meals (per night of stay)
  • 2 Snacks/Nonalcoholic Drinks (per night of stay)
  • One Resort-Refillable Drink Mug*
Mac and Cheese
Credit: Disney

Here is what you can expect from the Disney Dining Plan:

Delight in classic dining options and enjoy one Quick-Service meal and one Table-Service meal per day. This option allows you to easily plan your meals for the day. Choose your Quick-Service meal when you’re in a hurry and indulge in a Table-Service or Character Dining experience when it’s time to slow down and savor the moment.

Everyone in the party ages 3 and over receives the following:

  • One Quick-Service Meal (per night of stay)
  • One Table-Service Meal (per night of stay)
  • 2 Snacks/Nonalcoholic Drinks (per night of stay)
  • One Resort-Refillable Drink Mug*

More information on the Disney Dining Plan Plus:

Indulge in Table-Service experiences or keep on-the-go with convenient Quick-Service meals—and enjoy the flexibility of dining your way each and every day!

Everyone in the party ages 3 and over receives the following:

  • 2 Meals – Any combination of Table-Service and Quick-Service (per night of stay)
  • 2 Snacks/Nonalcoholic Drinks (per night of stay)
  • One Resort-Refillable Drink Mug*
Flower and Garden food
Credit: Disney

Here is more information on the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan:

Take advantage of even more flexibility with 3 daily meal credits to enjoy any combination of Quick-Service, Table-Service, Signature Dining locations and Dinner Shows.

Everyone in the party ages 3 and over receives the following:

  • 3 Meals – Any combination of Table-Service and Quick-Service (per night of stay)
  • 2 Snacks/Nonalcoholic Drinks (per night of stay)
  • One Resort-Refillable Drink Mug*

If you use your dining plan wisely, you can get your money’s worth, but as it is a prepaid point system, this is something you will need to evaluate based on your party’s eating habits to determine if one of these plans if any is worth the cost for you. It is not always the best use of your money to prepay for meals and a Dining Plan cannot always save you money if you do not use your credits wisely. So, we recommend calculating the price of the meals and snacks you plan to purchase to see if paying out of pocket or purchasing a Dining Plan is right for you.

Thinking of a 2022 Walt Disney World vacation? We have more details about the 2022 vacation package pricing here.

Expedition Everest in distance
Credit: Disney

How much extra money should you bring to Disney World?

You need to set aside some extra cash for your Disney vacation. Why? Because there are some costs you might not have thought of when first planning your vacation to the Disney Parks.

Merchandise, your Disney Resort stay or off-site hotel stay, and ticket costs are things you will likely plan for. The overpriced bottle of headache medicine you have to purchase from the hotel gift shop after a long day at the theme parks because you accidentally forgot yours at home? IT HAPPENS. Things happen, life happens.

How about when the afternoon rain showers in Orlando have ruined your walking shoes, and you have to purchase a new pair of expensive Disney sandals? Yes, it happens. Things can “go wrong” on vacation, so be prepared.

Depending on how long you plan to be at Walt Disney World, I highly suggest bringing at least an extra $100 on your Disney World vacation. This will give you some extra peace of mind, especially when you are on a tight budget.

kids walking with chewbacca by the millennium falcon at galaxy's edge
Credit: Disney

What is the best month to go to Disney World?

This is such a great question that we get asked a lot, and yes we have an answer for this when it comes to the most budget-friendly month to go visit Walt Disney World.

As we stated above, Disney uses a dynamic pricing model for the admission tickets to Disney Parks at Walt Disney World. That means that days the company assumes will be busy or more in demand will cost more money.

But if we look at all 12 months overall, we do see that mid-August through September are cheaper months for Disney World tickets — it seems that Disney is anticipating those days to be less crowded! So, that is a great time to go.

disney world train station
Credit: Disney

Late August is great because that is the time when most kids are going back to school, which means while there are fewer families visiting Disney World at that time it may also be more difficult for your party to visit if you have children in school.

September is a great time to visit as generally the weather is still sunny and warm in Central Florida and the crowds have thinned out a little. Disney World is always busy, but September is right in between the summer and holiday travel peak times for Walt Disney World.

For more information on the best time to go to Disney World, click here to read our crowd calendar. 

How much does lodging cost at Disney World?

Hotels in and around Walt Disney World are one area where you have the most options to fit your budget. We will break down the Disney Hotels as well as the off-property options that could save you a lot of money.

The Walt Disney World Resort is home to 25 resort hotels, so there are a lot of options to choose from. Disney has broken down each resort into categories based on price per night and amenities offered. The four different hotel categories are Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas.

Click here for our guide to booking a cheap Disney vacation.

What is the cheapest Disney World resort?

Disney makes it very easy to find the cheapest Disney World Resort as they label each of their Resorts by average price. The Value Resorts being the most affordable on Disney property. Be on the lookout for promotions from Disney when booking your resort stay as they can help bring costs down even further.

Value Resorts:

Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Credit: Disney

Moderate Resorts:

coronado springs
Credit: Disney

Deluxe Resorts:

Disney's Grand Floridian
Credit: Disney

Deluxe Villas:

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
riviera sunrise
Credit: Disney

Find out the most popular pools at Walt Disney World to help you book the perfect hotel — click here!

If you want the most cost-efficient stay, you should choose from the Value resort category. However, Moderate Resorts offer more amenities at a price range that is still reasonable… for Disney. Disney is expensive and so even a resort in the Value category can be over $200+ a night during busy seasons.

Offsite Hotels

The most cost-effective option may be an offsite hotel. We recommend any of the Disney partnered hotels at Flamingo Crossings! Flamingo Crossings is a master-planned mega center just off of Western Way that was built by Disney. While some aspects of this space are still under construction, many of the hotels are open. These hotels can be booked directly through Disney’s website and can be part of your Disney Vacation Package. Many of these hotels offer family-style suites, free breakfast, and shuttles to Disney World.

Disney Flaming Crossing Shopping Center
Credit: Disney

The Flamingo Crossings hotels are perfect for those driving to Walt Disney World, and are just a few minutes to the theme parks — closer to Magic Kingdom than some official Disney Resort hotels! Here is a list of some of the Flamingo Crossings hotels that are currently open and available for booking:

Flamingo Crossings will also boast many shops and restaurants within walking distance from these hotels once construction is completed. This will include shops such as Target, and restaurants including Japanese BBQ, Breweries, Dominos, and more, making Flamingo Crossings a cost-effective and convenient place to stay during your Disney vacation.

disney skyliner
Credit: Disney

How much does it cost to add an extra day to a Disney World trip?

Adding an extra day at Disney World is so tempting, but it can be difficult when you are on a budget. The first thing is first when you add another day to your Disney World vacation, you likely need to book another night’s stay at your hotel. Depending on your budget and where you are staying, that could be anywhere from $100-$500+.

Next, you will need to decide if you are going into a theme park for your extra day, which will add between $109-$159 depending on Disney’s anticipated crowd level that day (unless you booked a multi-day ticket, in which case it could cost far less than $100 to add an extra day if you do so before you arrive — your travel agent can help with this).

However, there is a way to add another day to your Disney vacation without adding the cost of tickets. If you do not already have a full day planned out for Disney Springs, do it! What is Disney Springs? Disney Springs Walt Disney World’s shopping and dining district.

Disney Springs
Credit: Disney

Disney Springs is home to dozens of restaurants, shops, and entertainment — the best part is that there is no admission fee, and Disney Springs is on Disney property. You can easily spend a day bowling at Splitsville, eating at Earl of Sandwich, shopping at the oversized World of Disney store, and then enjoying a luxurious meal at Wine Bar George. Later this year, Disney is even opening a new show with Cirque Du Soliel called Drawn to Life.

With so much to do at Disney Springs, be sure and plan a full day there and cut down the cost of theme park tickets.

What do souvenirs cost at Disney World?

Disney merchandise is expensive and very tempting! But how much should you budget for souvenirs on your Disney trip? While that question is entirely up to you, you should add at least some money to your budget for Disney merchandise.

Certain merchandise is part of the Disney World theme park experience. Items such as character autograph books, pins, and Minnie Mouse ears can add to your experience in a positive way — so they can really be worth the money.

But these small souvenirs add up — one pair of Minnie Mouse ears retail for $29.99! If you want everyone in your party to have ears, character books, a pin lanyard, and a few Disney trading pins I would suggest at least $100 per person. But again, this totally depends on your wants and needs.

Orange Bird Minnie Mouse Ears
Credit: Disney


What kind of additional costs will you encounter at Disney World?

Some additional costs you might not have anticipated when you visit Disney.

Potential additional costs at Disney World

  • Parking your car overnight at the hotel, which can be an additional charge
  • Gratuities or tips: It is customary to tip servers at restaurants in Walt Disney World, depending on your party size a gratuity may already be included on your check so double-check before adding an additional tip. You can also leave a tip for your hotel housekeeping staff if you receive exceptional service. Also, your bellhop who helps you move luggage to your hotel room can also be tipped for their service.

One cost you should be ready for is photos! Disney offers professional photography services inside each of their theme parks, and around the resort. Disney PhotoPass offers Memory Maker, an unlimited download package for any photos you take on your Disney World trip within a certain time frame. This can not only save you money on purchasing individual photos but also let you hold onto more of your memories from your Walt Disney World vacation.

photopass lanterns tangled
Credit: Disney

Best ways to save money at Disney World

When all is said and done planning ahead can help you stay within your personal budget. We hope this guide helps you anticipate the costs, and evaluate your money-saving option for your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation.

Will you be booking a trip to Walt Disney World soon? Let us know in the comments!

We can help you plan the perfect vacation and save you money along the way — click here for more details!

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