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8 Points To Include When Planning A Walt Disney World Budget

Dreaming of a vacation to Walt Disney World but need a place to start budget planning? Check out these eight points that will help when planning the budget for your dream vacation!

1. Transportation

Disney resorts offer complimentary transportation to and from the theme parks and the Orlando International Airport. No tipping is necessary (though you may want to tip your Magical Express driver if you use the airport shuttle, especially if he or she helps with your luggage) and this service really is entirely free. Your entire vacation however will likely still come with some transportation costs that can sneak up on your budget if you are not properly prepared.

If you’re driving to the Walt Disney World Resort, do some research ahead of time to get an idea of what you’ll spend on gas and tolls. If your ride is a long enough distance that you’re going to need to stop in a hotel overnight or stop for food along the way, you’ll want to factor that in as well.

Alternatively, if you are flying to Orlando, most of your transportation costs will be covered by your ticket. Many airlines charge fees for checked bags, so if you did not already pay these fees when you purchased your tickets, it is not a bad idea to double check to see if you will owe anything extra when you arrive at the airport. Additionally you may need to pay for transportation to and from your home airport, or you may need to pay to store your car.

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2. Resort

We recommend staying at a Disney resort so that you are able to take advantage of added perks like the complimentary transportation, Extra Magic Hours, earlier FastPass planning and more. If you do decide to go with a non-Disney resort however, be sure to check whether or not you will need to pay resort fees.

These additional fees on top of the cost of your stay essentially serve the purpose of covering the costs that make the perks of staying at a Disney resort “free.” You will basically be paying resort fees either way, but at a Disney resort the cost of transportation and other amenities is never displayed to guests as such. At a non-Disney resort this added cost can sneak up on you when you arrive if you are not prepared.

3. Tickets

Are you planning to visit all four theme parks? Do you need a Park Hopper to visit multiple parks in one day? Do you need water park tickets? These are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself when budgeting for ticket purchases. Keep in mind that admission cost varies depending on the time of year you plan to visit and which parks you visit. The more days you purchase, the more the ticket price drops. It’s especially helpful to look for current discounts that may apply to you as well as Disney packages that may bundle resort room, tickets, and dining.

4. Parking

Parking is free (both at the resorts and at the theme parks) for guests staying at Disney resorts. For non-resort guests, the costs of parking each day to visit the parks can quickly add up. Some non-Disney resorts also charge for parking at the resort, so even if you are a guest there you may find yourself paying some unexpected parking fees.

5. Forgotten Basics

The Walt Disney World Resort gift shops do an excellent job of covering all basic travel necessities should you forget anything at home. The only problem is that these items will probably cost about three times what you would pay for them anywhere at home. Double and triple check your packing list to be sure that you have everything you need, but plan on over-estimating what you need for spending money because chances are you will find yourself on the look out for chapstick or sunblock at some point during your trip.

6. Dining

Dining is one of the most expensive parts of planning a vacation, and even if you think you have a solid budget planned it never hurts to bring a little extra cash. You may find yourself splurging on snacks more than usual or ordering more alcoholic beverages instead of soda, which can add up quickly.

If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, you may assume that the cost of your dining is already paid for but there is one more piece that you should factor into your budget. Gratuities are not included in the cost of the Dining Plan, so while your meals may be paid for in advance you will want to take a look at some of the menus where you will be dining so you can adequately plan a budget for tipping your servers.

7. Tips

Speaking of tips, there are plenty of cast members besides servers who you should plan on tipping during your vacation. You may want to tip your Magical Express driver, or any other taxi or ride share driver, especially if he or she helps with luggage, the cast members at bell services, housekeeping cast members, bartenders, tour guides, and nail technicians, hair stylists or spa cast members.

8. Shopping

Since the launch of the Shop Disney Parks mobile app, planning a budget for shopping at the Walt Disney World Resort is easier than ever before. You can always pull up items on the app to get an idea of what shopping at the parks and resort will cost, though like many items on this list you should probably plan to bring some extra spending money. If you are not local to Orlando you won’t want to pass up on opportunities to buy some of your favorite items or gifts for friends and family at home because you’re running low on cash. If you save too much additional spending money, the ‘worst’ outcome is that you’ll come home with some of it—but to be quite honest we find this scenario doubtful after a Disney vacation!

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a graduate of St. Anselm College, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in History. She completed two Disney College Programs, one at Dinoland U.S.A., in Animal Kingdom, and one at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios. She is the author of “Brittany Earns Her Ears,” a memoir about her experiences on the college program, and she currently resides in Massachusetts.