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||$1,800||$450 X 4|
|Car rental & gas||$160||Car rental $100, Gas $60|
|Parking||$150||$25 per day, per park|
|Accommodations||$1,050||$150 X 7 nights|
|Disney World Tickets||$1,616||$404 X 4 (1 park per day)|
|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|
The above estimate is based on US dollars. If you want to know what it costs in your local currency, use XE.com for the conversion.
Understand that the above table is an estimate of costs for an average family during a regular time of visit. Even though I’ve built the itinerary around 7-nights, I’m only going to factor in four days at Disney as many people will do other things while in Orlando. 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 $450 per person as it seemed to be the average price for flights to Orlando within the U.S./Canada. That said, if you’re flying within the U.S., prices can be much lower. As you can imagine, if you’re coming from Europe or Asia, you could end up spending much more.
Even though $450 is pretty reasonable per person, that’s still $1,800 for a family of four. If you’re able to, you may want to consider driving to save you 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 could save over CAD$1,000.
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 KMs.
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 driving, parking is $25 a day at Disney. This parking fee applies to all their parks and you get in/out privileges.
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.
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. For example, The BMO World Elite Mastercard typically has a sign up bonus of $250 when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. This card does have an annual fee of $150 but it’s normally waived for the first year so you’re getting $250 for free. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months. That’s enough points for two nights at a few different hotels which could have a value over $500.
Disney Ticket Deals
Disney recently changed its 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 Park Per Day
- From $109
Park Hopper Option
- $60 per ticket for 1-day tickets
- $70 per ticket for 2 to 3-day tickets
- $80 per ticket for 4 to 10-day tickets
Park Hopper Plus Option
- $80 per ticket for 1-day tickets
- $90 per ticket for 2 to 3-day tickets
- $100 per ticket for 4 to 10-day tickets
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 starts at $404 ($101 per day) while a 10-day ticket is $470 ($47 a day). As you can see, Disney tries to get you to stay in their parks as long as possible. There’s a lot to do since Disney has so many rides and shows, but not everyone wants to spend so much time in a theme park. Just buy the number of tickets that makes sense to you.
I should also note that Canadians sometimes get a cheaper rate for multi-day tickets. This promotion comes and goes but always uses the same link so it’s worth checking back now and then.
Unless you plan on spending a week at 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 at 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 for 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 moulds, and even decorations for the home.
I also briefly talked about the outlet shopping above. Orlando has two outlets: Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets which is 15 minutes from Disney and the Orlando International Premium Outlets that are 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 $6,716 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!