Ok, friends, it’s time to talk numbers about our upcoming Disney family vacation. If you missed my first post about planning a trip to Disney World, take a moment to read it, as it has some helpful tidbits!
Before I start talking dollars, there are a few key things I want you to keep in mind:
1. My budget may seem outrageously expensive to some of you. And that’s totally cool. I have no doubt that you can do Disney for far less than we are spending.
2. My budget may seem outrageously thrifty to others. That’s ok, too. I promise you can spend as much money as you want to at Disney, and they have MANY more expensive options that what we went with.
All this is to say that every budget is different, and it’s ok for my budget to look different than yours. It’s ok for you to plan the right trip for your family, whether that means sparing absolutely no expense, cutting fluff out of the budget as much as humanly possible, or somewhere in between. This post is not designed to suggest the RIGHT amount to spend on a Disney World vacation.
3. My vacation is going to last a week. That’s a wee bit longer than the average family’s stay.
4. My family vacation is for 4 adults and 2 kids (though 1 of our kids is 2, and 2-year-olds are FREE!). Your vacation might be for 2 adults and 4 kids. Or 1 adult and 8 kids (bless you, if this is true!) or 2 adults and no kids. The budget is obviously going to change based on the number of people on the trip.
Ok, so are you ready for our initial Disney bill?
Drum roll, please….
- 6 nights of hotel accommodations at the Disney Art of Animation Hotel
4 of those nights we will be in a themed family suite that is intended to house 6 people
2 of those nights we will be in 2 separate Little Mermaid rooms
- Free dining plan for 4 days for 5 of the people on the trip. Since our 2 year old is free, she’s not included on the free dining offer. Everything I’ve read about the dining plan, though, seems to indicate that we’ll have no problem getting enough food to be able to share with her.
- 6 days of park passes for 5 people (again…youngest child is free).
- Magic Hours, which is a perk of staying on property. Each day 1 park opens 1 hour early for on property guests and 1 park closes 1 hour late. We will be taking full advantage of the early openings and getting in a few extra rides!
What Isn’t Included?
- Travel expenses to get to and from Disney World. The AAA fuel calculator thinks we’ll spend $82 on fuel. Obviously there’s no way to know what gas will cost in November, so we are going to budget $110 for fuel to be safe.
- Two days of food in the park (I’ll explain why that is missing later). The days when we won’t have free dining are our last 2 days in the parks. We will have eaten LOTS of park food by that time, and should be able to get by on mostly food we can make in our rooms to take with (granola bars, pb&j sandwiches, water bottles, etc.). My budget for food to purchase for those days is $80 (which equals spending just under $7/person on food each day…this might not be practical, but we’ll aim for it!) . And I’m budgeting $60 for food while on the road.
- Souvenirs. For the most part, we won’t be doing a lot of shopping in the parks. We’d rather spend our time doing the rides and seeing the shows. But obviously it is not realistic to imagine that you won’t buy anything. And Walt Disney World makes it SO DARN EASY to part ways with your money. I’m budgeting $150 for souvenirs, under the assumption that each girl will get to pick something out to bring back home, and that I’ll pick up something for each child to tuck away for Christmas.
- New games/toys/apps for the drive down. I’ve got $20 budgeted for some new stuff to help the kids stay entertained on the 8 1/2 hour drive each way.
- Disney-themed clothes for the girls. I’m budgeting $50 for a few cute Disney outfits for the trip. This is, obviously, completely unnecessary, but I’d be lying if I left it out of the budget.
Total for additional anticipated expenses: $470. I’m the type to just round that up to $500.
So the grand total for the trip: $3969.46. So our 6 night/7 day Disney vacation for 6 (just 5 that we have to pay for) is kissing $4,000. Not gonna lie, it’s a little unsettling to type all that out. That’s a lot of money in my world. Good thing we have been saving for so long! My in-laws, who are coming with us, are also covering 2/5 of the Disney bill, itself, which is pretty much like the world’s best gift to us. Having them on hand to help out with the kids and to just enjoy the experience is SO tremendous. I wish we could afford to pay their way, and I’m SO grateful that they agreed to come. But for those of you crunching numbers who aren’t bringing this many adults, that does knock a chunk off of our own family’s bill, just FYI.
Why Our Bill Might Seem Low(ish) to Some
We are going to Disney World in November, during a lower demand time. We tried to take advantage of a special fall promotion which offered free dining during our stay. Unfortunately, we booked kind of late, and we weren’t able to secure the rooms we wanted for the length of the stay that we wanted with the dining promotion. LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKE! Planning a Disney vacation 6 months out is NOT overkill. In fact, if you wait much longer, you might miss out on special promotions, altogether. In our case, we are missing out on 2 days of free dining and we are having to switch hotel rooms before the vacation is over. That sounds worse than it is, because our daughters are going to FLIP OUT when they realize that we are moving into Little Mermaid themed rooms (it’s going to be a surprise!). I decided to just let go of the missed promotional stuff and roll with it. I can eat school lunch type food for a few days and haul my suitcase into a different area of the hotel. No biggie.
Dining plans are offered at any time of year, but free dining offers are not super common, and usually happen during the periods when the crowds tend to be lower. We decided that we actually preferred to be at Disney World during a lower crowd time, even though it would mean pulling the girls out of school for a week and taking vacation at a seemingly random time. Our kids are young, so a week away isn’t going to ruin them. And we are TOTALLY pumped about NOT having to wait in lines that average 1 1/2 hours.
Why Our Bill Might Seem High(ish) to Some
As I mentioned earlier, we are staying at Disney World for an entire week. That’s a whole lot of Mickey! We are doing this for a few reasons:
1. Disney World is quite a hike from Chattanooga. We want to make the long drive really worth it.
2. We want to RELAX and HAVE FUN. Everyone has told us that trying to cram Disney isn’t 2 or 3 days is really tough and with little ones, especially, it is a recipe for lots of melt downs (from kids AND grownups). I know my kids…at some point, they are going to want to sit in the hotel room and watch Sponge Bob Square Pants for an hour or two. We don’t have cable, so this is a true indulgence for them. And I will need to be ready to take a note from Elsa and Let It Go. If we have a week there, I will be better able to handle a more relaxed schedule.
3. We are staying on property. There’s no doubt about it: you WILL save money if you stay off property. But you will also have a really hard time leaving the park for part of the day and coming back. Once again, we have little ones. The youngest still needs a nap. Heck, we all might need an afternoon nap after 5 hours of Disney fun and stimulation. Being able to get to our hotel very quickly and easily, and then back into the parks later is worth the extra money we are spending for that convenience. You may have a different situation and not need this set up.
4. Disney World is designed to encourage longer stays. Wanna know what the per day cost is for a WDW ticket if you go just 1 day? It’s $99. Your day 4 ticket costs just $20. Every day after that? Just $10. So you are going to pay a huge amount on tickets for your first 3 days in the park. After that? Park tickets are crazy cheap! We felt like it just made sense to stay for a few more days since the per day cost was substantially lower for the second half of the vacation.
Next Post: Flash Pass Strategies
Ok, so now the budget is worked out. Next on my list of things to do is to figure out this flash pass business. I’m allowed to start scheduling our flash passes in just a few weeks and I am SO lost! I welcome your tips for those of you who have been through this before. And if you have any questions about our particular budget, I welcome them. And it’s cool if you wouldn’t make the same choices we are making or have some alternative suggestions, but let’s keep it classy and not put each other down, ‘k?