My brother and I recently went to Orlando, and we were asked the same two questions before and after our trip. First people wanted to know why Orlando? Second, how much does it cost to go to Disney World?
The answer to the first question is easy, why not? Orlando is an awesome destination. I find most people who are anti-Orlando or Disney have never actually been. Some just assume that Orlando is just for kids, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Orlando and the theme parks have done a tremendous job over the years appealing to the older crowd.
Answering your second question about how much does it cost to go to Disney World is a little trickier. There are so many variables that can determine your costs, so I’ll try to go over all of them below. I believe the following breakdown is a good estimate of what a family of four should expect to spend during a week in Orlando in U.S. Dollars
One week Disney World budget for a family of four
|Airfare||$1,000||$250 X 4 (Canadians should budget more)|
|Car rental & gas||$160||Car rental $100, Gas $60|
|Accommodations||$1,050||$150 X 7 nights|
|Disney World Tickets||$1,576||$394 X 4 (Park hopper)|
|Other attraction tickets||$700||This varies depending on the attraction|
|Food||$840||$120 X 7 (just an estimate)|
|Additional costs||$400||This depends on the family|
Typically I would have listed the prices in Canadian dollars, but I think it’s easier to explain costs in USD since I can reference what I actually paid or saw. That being said, the above estimates works out to $7,444 Canadian dollars (based on a 1.3 exchange). If you live outside of Canada or the U.S., use XE.com for the amount in your home currency.
Understand that the above table is an estimate of costs for an average family during a regular time of visit. There are plenty of different ways to save money in Orlando which I’ll highlight below, so let’s look at how much does it cost to go to Disney World by category.
Flights can be a bit tricky since prices fluctuate based on where you live and what season you’re travelling. I used $250 per person as it seemed to be the average price for flights to Orlando within the U.S. while Canadians should expect to pay closer to about US$300 – $325. Those prices can increase quite a bit for no real reason, but you can obviously save by going during low season.
Even though $250 is pretty reasonable per person, that’s still $1,000 for a family of four ($1,300 for Canadians). Many people would prefer to drive to Orlando to save money. For example, the drive to Orlando from Toronto is 20 hours. It’ll require about $250 gas and probably another $200 in hotels, but a Canadian family will still save close US$850 (CAD$1,100).
Canadians should consider applying one of the best travel credit cards in Canada since they can really reduce the cost of your flights. Let’s say you’re a family of four. If both parents applied for the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, they each get $250 WestJet Dollars after their first purchase as well as an annual companion voucher for $99. The card also gives you free checked bags which could easily cost the family $240 if everyone checked a bag. Even though the card has an annual fee of $119, that family could still end up saving $1,000+ depending on where they’re flying from. That sure beats driving.
With car rentals, I’m assuming you’re booking it with your flight at the same time. Booking them together will save you an incredible amount of money. I booked mine through Expedia and ended up paying just $20 for a 3-day car rental! Had I booked my car rental separately, I would have been looking at about $120 so I ended up saving $100. You probably won’t spend more than $60 on gas unless you plan on driving off-site a lot. I rented a Prius and only spent $3.63 on gas while driving about 150 KM’s.
I should also note that it’s possible to see Disney World without a rental car. Many hotels offer free airport pickup and have a free shuttle to the various Disney properties. Do take a look at what your hotel offers before booking your rental car. However, the times may be limited, so having a car is much more convenient.
If you do end up getting a rental car, find out what insurance you have before you depart. In most situations, your regular auto insurance policy or credit card insurance will cover your rental car, so there’s no need to purchase additional insurance. Keep in mind that since everything on the ground will be paid in US dollars, you should use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees if you’re not American.
The cost of hotels greatly varies on where you stay and the time you visit. I personally break down costs based on location. Cheap Disney vacations are possible, it just depends on what you’re willing to do to save money.
On-site – If you’re staying at an on-site property, you can expect to pay up to $300 a night. This is the most expensive option, but it’ll put you closest to the action. Some on-site properties also allow you entry into the parks early which appeals to many people. Keep in mind that many people choose to stay at a Disney owned property for the full Disney experience. That may be worth paying the premium for some people.
Off-site but close enough – Just a five-minute drive from Disney, you can find hotels for just $150 a night. There are plenty of hotels and villas near the intersection of S. Apopka Vineland Rd. and Winter Garden Vineland Rd. including the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort where I stayed.
Off-site and with a shuttle – Many hotels nearby Disney World offer a shuttle service which is incredibly convenient if you don’t want to bother with a rental car. These hotels have multiple departure times and often go to more places than just Disney, so you have quite a few options. Check out my list of the best hotels near Disney World with a shuttle.
Vacation homes – You should also consider vacation homes in nearby Celebration and Kissimmee. Vacation homes are great since they come with fully equipped kitchens and come in different sizes/price ranges which will appeal to families. Celebration is less than a 10-minute drive from Disney so be afraid to expand your hotel search.
International Drive – If you’re looking for something that will cost you less than $100 a night, you should easily be able to find something on International Drive. There are plenty of motels and budget friendly hotels (as well as fancier hotels) in this area to help you keep your costs down. International Drive is just 15-minutes by car to Disney and has many shopping, dining, and attractions nearby to keep you entertained.
Luxury hotels – Don’t worry, if you like to stay in style, you’ll have more than enough choice when it comes to luxury hotels. Just keep in mind that your daily price will easily cost you $200 – $400 more a day.
My preferred booking site is booking.com since it lists hotels, apartments, B&B’s, vacation homes and inns. In addition, they price match and you’re not required to pay until after your stay for almost all accommodations.
Disney Ticket Deals
Disney recently changed their fee structure. Depending on the season and which parks you go to, the prices will vary, but it breaks down into the following categories:
- 1-Day Regular Ticket for Magic Kingdom – $105
- 1-Day Regular Ticket for Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom – $97
- 1-Day Regular Ticket with Park Hopper Option – $155
- 1-Day Regular Ticket for Magic Kingdom – $110
- 1-Day Regular Ticket for Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom – $102
- 1-Day Regular Ticket with Park Hopper Option – $160
- 1-Day Regular Ticket for Magic Kingdom – $124
- 1-Day Regular Ticket for Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom – $114
- 1-Day Regular Ticket with Park Hopper Option – $164
Multi-day tickets – This will always be the best value since Disney heavily discounts tickets when buying multiple days. A 4-Day ticket with admission to one park is $325 ($81.25 per day), while a 4-Day park hopper ticket is $394 ($98.50 per day).
Prices drop even more with each additional day you add, but it caps at 10 days ($400 with admission to one park, $469 for the park hopper option). If you plan on visiting all 4 parks separately, buying a 4-Day ticket makes the most sense. My brother and I went with two 2-Day regular tickets with park hopper option since we went during the low season and it was pretty easy to do two parks in a single day. Your Disney World trip cost drops depending on how many days you spend a the park.
I should also note that Canadians sometimes get a cheaper rate for multi-day tickets. A 4-Day ticket with admission to one park is $243.75 ($60.94 per day), while a 4-Day park hopper ticket is $295.50 ($73.88 per day).
Now if you’re limited for time, then you don’t have much of a choice in terms of pricing. If you can, travel during “value” or “regular” dates when prices are 18% and 12% cheaper compared to the “peak” times. Travelling during this time will also benefit you since flights and hotels will be cheaper too.
Not everyone will go to Disney for four days, so it depends on preference when people ask how much does it cost to go to Disney.
If you’re Canadian, applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada may help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard gives you $250 WestJet dollars as a signup bonus and it comes with an annual companion voucher starting at $99. You could also apply for the CIBC Aventura Infinite Visa which gives you $200 in points as a welcome bonus. If you call into CIBC’s full-service travel agent, you can use those points towards tickets to Disney World.
Unless you plan on spending a week in Disney, you’re going to have to entertain yourself (and your family) in other ways. Unfortunately, the other theme parks aren’t much cheaper. Universal Studios costs $105 for a single park admission ($155 for park-to-park), while SeaWorld is $75 a day.
Orlando does have attractions under $20 including the Orlando Museum of Art, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium. Alternatively, you could spend a day shopping at one of the outlets, but that could cost even more than attraction tickets.
If you’re thinking about heading to the Kennedy Space Center; it’s $50 for adults $40 for children.
Disney has some incredible restaurants, but what I noticed is that they also have some reasonably priced places to grab food for families. There’s also “snacks” that you can get that is pretty much a meal (possibly for two) like the roast turkey drumsticks.
Eating out three meals a day can get expensive so I advise picking a hotel with free breakfast or to grab food at a nearby grocery store (off-site). For cheap eats, you can grab sandwiches for under $10, while sit-down restaurants on-site will cost you what you would expect in a theme park.
More importantly, you’re allowed to bring food and drink into Walt Disney World. I saw families who had multiple 2L bottles of water as well as sandwiches packed with them. It’s possible to not spend any money at all on food while in Disney. I did see fountains in Disney, so you want to bring in at least one bottle that you can refill, otherwise, you’re looking at $3.25 USD for a bottle of water or pop.
If you decide to purchase food, I would budget $120 a day (a little less if your kids are young) for a family of four. There are some Disney meal plans available which give you some savings, but that’s only if you’re doing the full Disney experience.
I personally like to over budget for food since I love eating. This Disney guide assumes only 4 days in the parks so you could easily spend a lot less on food the remaining three days. That being said, don’t be afraid to treat yourself if you’ve budgeted the money.
Finally, the last thing you need to budget for is your additional costs. If you’re travelling with kids, they’re naturally going to want souvenirs. Trust me, Disney is genius about their marketing and there will be a ton of things your kids will want to buy. There are also a lot of cool things for adults such as cookie cutters, egg molds, and even decorations for the home.
I also briefly talked about outlet shopping above. Orlando has two outlets: Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets which is 15 minutes from Disney and the Orlando International Premium Outlets that’s across the street from Universal Studios. Both outlets have great deals and are worth checking out.
So how much does it cost to go to Disney World? I recommend a family of four budget $5,726 dollars for a week in Disney, but obviously, there are plenty of ways to reduce your costs without sacrificing the experience. For those who went to Disney as a child, thank your parents as it probably cost them a small fortune. Thanks mom and dad!