9 Things That Can Break Your Budget At Walt Disney World

9) Making your resort too expensive

Disney is unique compared to other vacations, in that chances are you won’t really be spending that much time at the resort, or if you do, it will probably be at the pool. If this sounds like your family, staying at a resort that’s at the top of your budget can ultimately end up breaking your budget. Similarly, choosing a more expensive (but unnecessary) hotel room at any level of resort can also add to the budget breaking, especially because it might not be something you really need. If you’re trying to plan a trip while sticking to any kind of budget, I would pass on the deluxe resorts and stick to the moderates or values. Even after you choose a moderate or value resort, do not choose a preferred room unless you find it really necessary. For how much time you’ll probably spend in the hotel room, you’re likely better off spending the extra money elsewhere.

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8) Shopping (especially with kids)

The problem with excellent marketing (for consumers anyway) is that kids see lots of things that they want, and they manage to get their parents to spend money on those things. This can be especially problematic in Walt Disney World, where so many attractions exit into gift shops, making the extra shopping sometimes unavoidable. To better plan for the cost of souvenir shopping, I like to save money on Disney gift cards before my trip, so I can pretty much finance the cost of my shopping ahead of time without paying interest or anything that would happen with actually financing these costs on a credit card. I’ve also seen parents who put money on gift cards for their kids, and let the kids buy what they want but make it clear that they have x amount to spend.

7) Alcoholic beverages

Even as someone who does not drink all that often, I can see the appeal in ordering alcoholic beverages on vacation. I mean, who really wants to budget on a vacation anyway? You probably want to enjoy your vacation and treat yourself a little bit. Here’s my advice when it comes to alcohol– order things you can’t get at home, and share. Don’t order Bud Light with your dinner, as you can get that at home for much cheaper. Instead, order a drink that’s specific to the restaurant you’re eating at, or maybe the country you’re visiting in Epcot. If possible, share the drink with someone else, and you’re cutting the cost of the drink in half.

6) Soda

The cost of soda might seem minor in the grand scheme of a whole vacation, but it can really add up over the course of a trip, especially when you’re paying for multiple family members. I would recommend skipping the bottles of soda from merchandise carts, and opting for free water from quick service restaurants to drink while touring the parks instead. Order soda from table service restaurants, or quick service locations that offer free refills.

5) Water bottles

Similar to soda, water bottles can quickly add up if you’re buying them for your entire family throughout an entire vacation. Skip the bottles, and ask for a cup of water at a quick service restaurant instead. And don’t worry about the taste of Florida water, the water from the restaurants comes from the soda machines and is therefore filtered.

4) Restaurants

Eating out at Walt Disney World can be expensive, depending on where you eat and what your budget is like, but it doesn’t have to be, Research restaurant menus before you make your reservations, so you won’t experience sticker shock during your vacation. Chances are you’ll be able to find some table service restaurants to fit your budget, and if not stick to quick service. Disney’s quick service restaurants are not always typical theme park food, they’re actually very high quality and offer many options in addition to the usual items like chicken nuggets and fries.

3) Character dining

In terms of restaurants, character dining specifically can break your budget. (One could argue that signature dining can as well, but in terms of what the experience is you can easily skip that and opt for a regular table service restaurant instead.) Don’t get me wrong, character dining really is a fun way to relax with a meal and meet the characters, but if you’re on a budget you’re better off eating at more affordable restaurants and meeting characters in the parks. Character dining locations are typically buffets, or family style all you care to enjoy types of restaurants, meaning that they will be more expensive.

2) Memory Maker/PhotoPass purchases

Personally, I think Memory Maker is a great investment for a Disney trip, but if you’re truly trying to stick to a budget it’s best to skip it. Memory Maker covers the costs of all of your in-park photos with the Disney PhotoPass photographers, as well as on-ride photos, and character meet and greet photos. It’s a great investment because you’ll get high quality pictures with the whole family in them that you can download to your computer. If you’re really sticking to a tight budget however, give the PhotoPass photographer your own camera, and they’ll be happy to take pictures for you that way.

1) The Dining Plan

Whether or not the dining plan will be worth it for you really depends on your own preferences. If it turns out that it is worth it for you, then ignore this point and enjoy the extra money in your wallet, if you’re not sure if it’s worth it, do your research before you book and potentially save yourself some money! Whether or not the dining plan will be worth it depends entirely on if you’ll eat everything included on the plan, and if you’ll use the credits for the more valuable items. I typically think it’s a better deal, but that’s going off of my own personal preferences. I’ve gone on vacation with friends who have also purchased the plan, but did not come close to wanting to eat everything that’s included. So the dining plan may help your budget, or it may hurt it, just double check what it includes and how much you think you may eat before you book!

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.