31 Days of Disney: How to Plan Your Walt Disney World Vacation Budget

I am always surprised when the same people who vacation at the beach for a week every summer or go skiing out west every winter tell me that they’ve never been to Walt Disney World because they just can’t afford it.  One of the best parts of planning a Walt Disney World vacation is knowing that you will have an amazing time whether you spend a little or spend a lot.  Yes, there are many ways to drop a small fortune at the World.  There are beautiful suites, deliciously expensive restaurants, souvenirs that entice you to shop till you drop.  But there are also resort rooms beginning at less than a hundred dollars a night, park tickets that decrease in cost every time you add another day, and times each year when Disney feeds your entirely family for free just because you’re staying with them.

I am here to tell you that if you would like to be able to afford to visit Walt Disney World, you can make it happen.  All it takes is planning.

While I can’t come into your home and force you to drop the weekly take out night from your menu and add in leftover night to save money, what I can do is start you on the path to planning how much you need to save.  I always recommend staying at a Disney Resort property because of all of the benefits of doing so, so this guide will not take into account other options such as staying in an off-site hotel and renting a car.  

The goal by the end of this process is to have a variety of vacation price points to choose from so that you can set your savings goals.  Because your Walt Disney World vacation can vary by several thousand dollars depending on the options you select, I recommend going through the planning process with a variety of different selections and then choosing the budget goal that works for you.  Let’s get started!

1. Step One: Hotel Selection – Standard rooms in Disney Resorts can vary from $89 to nearly $500 depending on the resort you choose.  Resort categories are Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas, the Disney Vacation Club properties that include added features such as separate bedrooms and full kitchens.  While many of the Deluxe resorts offer unrivaled precedence such as access to the monorail or walking distance to EPCOT’s World Showcase, the Value resorts still provide the Disney magic that you expect when staying on a Disney property with fun themed pools, delicious food options, and nicely decorated rooms.  To get started in making your selection visit my Disney World Accomodations post as well as the Walt Disney World Resorts page.  During hotel selection, also take time to consider the Disney Dining plan.  My family saves more money by not utilizing this plan and instead having breakfast in our room, but many people like to utilize this option.

2. Step Two: Select Your Tickets – Magic Your Way base tickets allow you to visit any of the four Walt Disney World resort theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios), but only allow you to visit one park per day.  They also do not give you access to the Walt Disney World water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.  As I explained in my post about how we save money at Disney, the more days you play, the more you save.  Base ticket prices actually decrease per day the more days you add.  To determine the cost of tickets for your vacation, first decide how many days you would like to visit the parks.  With activities at the resort and ticket-free Downtown Disney to visit, you may not necessarily want to visit a park every day of your vacation.  Then decide if you are going to keep the base ticket or add the more expensive park hopper option and/or the water parks and more option.  Each of these additional selections adds a cost to your overall package, but also allows you more choices for how to spend your days.  We typically purchase the Magic Your Way base ticket plus park hopper option.

3. Step Three: Select Your Time of Year and Look for Special Offers – The price of your Walt Disney World vacation will be affected by when you choose to go due partially to the pricing system of Walt Disney World Resorts, but also because of the special offers provided by Walt Disney World throughout the year.  Choosing to visit during the value season vs. the peak season can save you quite a bit of money over the course of a one week vacation, do be sure to look at the calendar under the room types and prices for the resort you are considering.  Disney also frequently offers special rates, packages, and discounts throughout the year including free Disney dining, which will save a family several hundred dollars.  Be sure to visit the special offers section of the Walt Disney World planning site in order to determine if an available offer might save you money.  I recommend visiting this page often!

I go through each of these steps every time I plan a Walt Disney World vacation for my family.  By creating a five day trip to a Value Resort that includes four days of Magic Your Way base tickets as well as a seven day trip to a Deluxe Resort that includes seven days of park hoppers plus the dining plan, I am able to get a good understanding of the range of options on the table before booking my vacation.

Happy planning!


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  • Beth

    Thank you for this post. I was just thinking about when we should begin to think about going to Disney World and this just motivated me to make a plan sooner than later!

  • Sue Putorti

    People don’t realuze how affordable it can be especially if there is free dining. We usually stay at a value resort and upgrade the dining or just stay at a moderate resort and its pretty adorable.

  • I sometimes will choose to stay at a place with a kitchen. While it may seem more expensive at first, if you actually use the kitchen and prepare a fair number of meals there, it can really save you a LOT of money! Plus, you can make things you know everyone is going to like rather than paying big bucks at a restaurant and having the kids eat less than half of it.

  • i printed your suggestions to come back to. I will be planning my first immediate family disney vacation soon.