The Pros and Cons (Cost) of a Disney Vacation

in Disney Parks

Two young female and two young male Guests enjoy Magic Kingdom

Credit: Disney

There’s been much debate, especially recently, about the cost of taking a Disney vacation. Prices were clearly changed under former-CEO Bob Chapek, as ticket prices were raised, Genie+ debuted, and Guests were charged for nightly parking at the Walt Disney World Resorts. Since Bob Iger has taken back over as CEO, much has been readjusted, although many say it hasn’t been enough as the overall cost is still way too high for the average person.

Adult and young Guest at Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

Inside the Magic covered a video posted to TikTok earlier this year of a woman stating she would never visit Disney again after a bad and expensive vacation. In the video, she explains that she took her family of 11 to Walt Disney World for several days and that she will never take her family there again. She explained that the ticket prices were astronomical, that every non-sit-down restaurant had terrible food, and that her family had the most fun hanging out at the Resort pool. Disney fans were quick to jump to her comments and explain that it was clear she had not done any research before taking the trip and that if she had, she would’ve known how to overcome her complaints.

A little boy in a BB-8 Mickey hat standing in front of a Sorcerer Mickey topiary at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort.
Credit: Disney

It’s sparked a lot of conversation in her comments and Disney TikTok, with many going back and forth on the points she made. She certainly isn’t the only one with those complaints, and not everyone is or has to be a Disney Parks fan. Her arguments are valid, as are the responses. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a Walt Disney World vacation, keeping her points in mind.

The new Disney100 lighting and projection show at EPCOT
Credit: Disney

Is Disney really that expensive?

A vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland can be one of the most expensive trips the average family can take. It’s often stated that families can take a long vacation out of the country for less money, and there’s a lot of truth to that statement. When going through orientation as a Walt Disney World Cast Member, it’s explicitly stated that many families use their life savings to take a trip to Disney World.

Grand Floridian Resort, exterior aerial shot
Credit: Disney

Hotels

Disney World offers several hotels at a variety of price points for families. The tiered Resort offerings are called “value,” “moderate,” “deluxe,” and “deluxe villas,” with the cheapest lodging being the Campgrounds at Fort Wilderness. The prices range from $140 all the way to over $1000 a night, depending on which Disney property you stay at. There are also select rooms and Disney Resorts for Disney Vacation Club members, including the Deluxe Villas like Old Key West Resort and Saratoga Springs.

saratoga springs disney world
Credit: Disney Vacation Club

The Walt Disney World Resort offers the following hotels:

Value Resorts

  • Disney’s All-Star Music
  • Disney’s All-Star Movies
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports
  • The Campsites at Fort Wilderness Campground
  • Art of Animation
  • Pop Century
pop century
Credit: Disney

Moderate Resorts

  • Caribbean Beach
  • Coronado Springs
  • Port Orleans – Riverside
  • Port Orleans – French Quarter
  • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort
Reception Outpost at the Campsites at Fort Wilderness in Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: Walt Disney World Resort

Deluxe Resorts

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Beach Club
  • Boardwalk Inn
  • The Contemporary Resort
  • The Grand Floridian
  • The Polynesian
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • Yacht Club
  • Riviera Resort
Disney's boardwalk
Credit: Walt Disney World Resort

Tickets

Park tickets have risen in price exponentially over the last few years. Ticket prices vary from Park to Park and whether you choose a Park-hopper option or not. They also change depending on the season, so prices can range anywhere from $109 to $150 per Park per day. Guests over the age of two require a paid Park ticket, which adds up quickly, especially when traveling with a larger family.

Photo Credit: Disney

Food

While Disney World has several great options for good food, most of their quick-service fare is standard theme park food. Burgers, fries, and pizza are standard staples around the Resort, but will cost you anywhere from $15 to $20 a meal. Soda costs about $4 to $5 now and the famous Mickey Bar is $6. Feeding a family of four three times a day at Walt Disney World can cost upwards of several hundred dollars each day.

A spread of BBQ food at Roundup Rodeo BBQ
Credit: Disney

It was recently announced that the Disney Dining Plan would be making a comeback after not being offered since 2020. The Disney Dining Plan allows Guests to make one upfront purchase and use their MagicBands for purchasing food items throughout Walt Disney World while on vacation. Essentially, Guests have the option for a pre-determined amount of quick service meals, table service meals, and snacks.

lightning lane web slingers
Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Extras

Merchandise and souvenirs are certainly “optional,” but can provide great memories or gift ideas for friends and family back home. On average, shirts are over $30 while toys range anywhere from $20 on up. Genie+ is the real hidden cost though. Disney Genie+ is an added, paid, service for Disney Guests to access downloadable PhotoPass photos and Lightning Lane options. On top of Genie+, several of the more popular rides, including Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and the attractions in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, aren’t included in the Genie+ Lightning Lanes, so Guests must pay extra if they want those options.

The sun sets over the Millennium Falcon at Hollywood Studios' Galaxy's Edge
Credit: Disney

Is Disney worth the cost?

A trip to Walt Disney World can cost a family thousands of dollars after travel expenses and theme park purchases. It puts many people into debt and is often a “once in a lifetime” trip. However, there’s certainly something to be said about the magic of a trip to Disney.

cars land california adventure
Credit: Disneyland Resort

Required Research

With Disney being so expensive and offering so much, it can be confusing to know where to start. Travel agents and Disney vacation planners are often a great resource for Guests (and are usually free!) to plan their trip. However, there are entire sites (hello!), blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram and TikTok accounts, and more dedicated to providing information and tips on planning a Disney World or Disneyland vacation. They provide tips on how to make reservations, how to stack Lightning Lanes, how to utilize early theme park entry or late Park hours, and so much more. Planning a Disney trip, especially if you’re coordinating a large family or several groups of people traveling with you, can be a huge project.

Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Walt Disney World Resort

Multiple Parks

Walt Disney World especially offers a lot for Guests to do, with four theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs, and dozens of Resorts on property. Whether you’re wanting a more relaxed vibe at Animal Kingdom or the magical Disney aesthetic at Magic Kingdom, there’s something for just about everyone to enjoy. While some Parks can be considered a “half-day” Park, others may seem to require several days to see and do everything. Even if you’re wanting to avoid the Parks completely, Guests can “Resort Hop” through the different hotels on property for dining and shopping options as well as a change of scenery.

Magic Kingdom fireworks at night
Credit: Disney

Disney Magic

There’s a reason people are willing to go into debt for a Disney vacation. There’s something truly magical and nostalgic about a trip to the “most magical (or happiest) place on earth.” The Disney Parks are carefully curated to present a certain image, from the wilds of Animal Kingdom, to the future of EPCOT, to the vintage glamour of Hollywood Studios, to the absolute magic of Magic Kingdom.

Mirabel at the Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

Guests can meet their favorite characters, watch parades, and see a magical fireworks display each night, all in one place. Disney is a place that is so deeply ingrained into our brains and our culture that it’s almost a rite of passage as a vacation destination. Each Disney Resort is also immersively themed to a variety of places and ideas, from the Polynesian Resort to the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Grand Floridian to Pop Century. Each Disney Resort provides a detailed and larger-than-life experience for Guests.

A family riding Dumbo the Flying Elephant at the Magic Kingdom.
Credit: Disney

Family Vacation

However, at the end of the day, a Disney trip is, and should be, a vacation spot. Whether for families, your honeymoon, or a childless Disney adult, Walt Disney World and Disneyland are just vacation destinations. They should be a place where Guests can go and enjoy themselves, not stress about whether or not they were able to make a reservation, if they were able to grab that virtual queue spot, or worry about running to the other side of the Park to make a Lightning Lane.

Two Guests smile at each other while walking through EPCOT world showcase.
Credit: Disney

The cost of a Disney trip is a double-sided coin. On the one hand, Disney was meant to be a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds and families from all over could enjoy the Parks. For what the average family pays for a trip now, they should be able to just relax and enjoy their time. However, unfortunately, the Parks are being set at a price point that attempts to deter the average family from coming. For the price you pay to go, you need to be aware of everything that goes into planning a Disney vacation.

Three adult women in front of Epcot.
Credit: Disney

Disney isn’t a “book the tickets then relax” type of vacation, although it should be. It isn’t fair to parents or older Guests who may be visiting for the first time to spend months planning their trip only to have to continue to stress about it even while they’re supposed to be enjoying it. Hopefully the Parks continue to adjust their pricing to be more attainable for families and bring the magic back.

Do you think a Disney vacation is worth the cost or not? Tell Inside the Magic what you think in the comments below!

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