Budgeting a Disney World vacation is a fantastic way to get started in budgeting because the planning process makes every stage so fun and you get such instant gratification when your short-term plans come to fruition. It’s also a fun way to reward your family when you stay within your household budget and you have the vacation money saved.
For those looking forward to taking a Walt Disney World trip soon, I’m going to help you with the steps you need to take in budgeting a Disney World vacation. I’ll get you started on the right foot and then give you some tips on what I think are the best ways to save money while you are there. We’re going to start with the cost of the trip and then how to break down the budget as you firm up your plans.
What Should a Trip to Walt Disney World Cost
The first thing to know is how much a Walt Disney World vacation costs. This is sort of a trick question because it could be as little as a few thousand dollars or in the tens of thousands. It all depends on how big you go. As it turns out, you can go really big! The real way to answer the question, and the best way to get started budgeting a Disney World vacation is to figure out how much money you can afford to spend on this kind of trip.
If you already follow a budget, you probably have a vacation fund. If not, you need to come up with how expensive you can afford your vacation to be. This number should be independent of any assumptions you have about the cost of a trip to Walt Disney World. It needs to be within the realm of financial possibility without taking on unwanted debt. Saving money as you go is well and good, but you absolutely must start with a bottom line before proceeding to the planning stages of your trip.
Breaking Down the Budget By Category
Once you have a figure you are willing to spend on your trip, you need to start breaking down the budget into the number of expenses there will be. You will need a budget for travel which includes airfare and other costs of getting around. Included in this should be airport transportation, rental car, gas, parking fees, Uber, or anything else associated with transporting you to and around Walt Disney World. This is a big chunk, potentially bigger than the mammoth costs of your hotel stay at Walt Disney World. Your budget will dictate where you can stay on the property and for how long. In addition to these two categories, you should have a dining budget, a shopping budget, and an entertainment budget )which would include park tickets and upgrades such as park hoppers and Genie+).
Travel + Lodging
If you have a very tight budget, airfare and lodging are the two things you will want to seek the lowest rates on. Try getting the best deal on your flight by looking for deals well in advance. Look for weekday flights and try to book about 6 weeks in advance. If you book on Tuesday, you may be able to seize a deal the airlines sent out on Monday. Another way to save money when booking a flight is to try and leverage your travel days. If you arrive late, you lose a potential day at Walt Disney World and may cost yourself an additional night. Try to arrive in the early morning and depart in the evening to gain more vacation time for less.
As you consider resort hotels at Walt Disney World, always consider Good Neighbor Hotels. These hotels are essential to budgeting a Disney World vacation. Good hotels often have rates well below the Disney value resorts and nice hotels of Deluxe resort quality even fit comfortably in the moderate range.
Active duty military, retired military and select other with military affiliation are eligible to stay at Shade of Green Resort which offers a deluxe hotel at value prices. Plus, the rooms tend to be larger than a regular hotel room.
Tickets and More
After you know the cost of travel and lodging in addition to how long you will be vacationing at Walt Disney World, you can start to fill in the rest of your budget on park tickets, food etc. This all comes as part of your planning. When you come up with your food budget, think about how you plan to dine and estimate the cost before diving in to figure out your itinerary. As you go, the My Disney Experience app and the Walt Disney World website do an excellent job showing up-to-date menus and general price ranges per person at each restaurant.
Ways to Save Money on a Disney Trip
There are several discounts you can get at Walt Disney World based on passholder status, credit card rewards, and even the time of year you visit. And of course, for those with military connections, Disney does offer amazing military discounts. As you look to book your Walt Disney World vacation, scroll to the bottom of the Walt Disney World website to find the special offers link. This will give you up-to-date deals including discount packages and other ways to become eligible for coupons and discounts.
One way to save money at Walt Disney World is through the Disney Rewards Visa card by Chase Bank. You can also get cash back on Disney gift card purchases at Target by using your red card. American Express can also save you money on Disney-related purchases at Best Buy. Check your current card’s reward program to see how it can be used while budgeting a Disney World vacation.
Park Hopper may seem like a good idea but they are often unnecessary. Genie+ is a nice option, but far from the essential Disney tool, you may think it is. If you are cutting costs by shortening time, you may benefit from spending extra on these features, but you don’t need them if your budget is tight, especially if you plan on staying in the parks from open to close.
Some of the Good Neighbor Hotels in Walt Disney World offer complimentary breakfast. This is a huge win for your dining and hotel budget that you should take advantage of.
Another way to save money on meals is to bring snacks and beverages into the parks instead of paying extra for them. It seems that every year the price of a Coke or a Dasani water goes up. The amount you save on drinks and between-meal treats by bringing your own can make a big difference in your lunch and dinner options. In general, Quick Service restaurants are far more affordable because there is more freedom to share entrees, and the food is generally cheaper, plus there is no gratuity.
Budgeting is one of those things that most people don’t have fun with. It’s kind of depressing at first. It isn’t hard, but it can feel like drudgery. The good news is the more you budget the more fun and exciting it can become. That’s because with budgeting comes mastery of your finances. Ultimately that means more freedom and more power to do the things you want to do, even if you don’t have much to work with. And mastering your daily budget can lead to more Disney vacations!