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How to do Walt Disney World right for $3000

By Katie D.

Most kids (and many adults!) dream of visiting Walt Disney World. For many though, the cost can be overwhelming. This leads some would-be visitors to skip Disney all together, and others to end up with mediocre trips because they cut the wrong costs. A Disney vacation for a family of four could easily cost $10,000 if you let it, but we have put together 5 tips that will help you do Disney right for $3000.

5. Use points to pay for your flight –

If you live more than a few hours drive from Orlando, it’s likely that flying will be the easiest way for you to get to Walt Disney World. Plane tickets are often a significant part of the cost of a Disney vacation, and eliminating this cost will go a long way to keeping your expenses at $2000. Many ariline credits cards offer a large chunk of bonus miles when you spend a certain amount within the first few months of having the card. One of the best cards for this is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Card from Chase. They frequently run promotions with 50,000 bonus points; if you have two adults that both apply and meet the spending requirement, you’ve got 100,000 points. Southwest points go a long way, and you can fly roundtrip from many cities around the country to Orlando for 10-20,000 points per person. From most airports Southwest serves, this 100,000 points should cover 4 (or more!) round trip flights to Orlando. There is a security fee that has to be paid in cash of $5.60 each way per person, so your total cost for the flights for a family of 4 will be $44.80.

4. Buy 4-day theme park tickets and skip the park hopper –

To stay on this budget, you will need to be savvy with your theme park tickets. This means really thinking about how many days you want to spend in the park, and whether the park hopper is necessary for you. To stay under your $3000 limit, we recommend going with 4-day tickets without the park hopper. This will give you the opportunity to do each of the parks for a full day, and you can easily fill a day in each one. If all four members of your party are 10 or older, the tickets will be $325 each, for a total of $1300.

3. Stay on property at a Disney Value Resort for 6 nights –

Many guests try to save money by staying at a non-Disney hotel. This is a legitimate way to save money, but it also takes away from the quality of the Disney vacation and adds other costs. If you stay on Disney property, your transportation to and from the airport, and to and from all of the theme parks, is complimentary. You will have no need to rent a car, which is often a necessity when staying off-property. Some off-property hotels have shuttles to the Disney parks, but they lack the frequency and convenience of the Disney transportation system. Disney’s Value Resorts are a great way to get the benefits of staying on property with less of the costs. Most rooms are small simple and sleep 4 in two double beds, but if you are doing Disney right you won’t be spending too much time in the room. The Value Resorts offer food courts on property for cheap eats and fun theming throughout. You may be wondering why we are suggesting 6 nights, if you are only getting 4-day tickets. To do Disney right, you need to pace yourself. Staying six nights will allow you to take your time settling in on your arrival day and to take a rest day in the middle of the trip to enjoy the resort pool, check out Disney Springs, or partake in another low-key activity. Building in a rest day will help to ensure you get the most out of your days in the parks! Prices for the Value Resorts vary based on the resort and season, with the least expensive ranging from approximately $100 to $200 per night, with a rough average of $150 per night. Based on this average, the cost for 6 nights will be $900.

2. Be smart about your dining choices –

At this point, your total spend for your Disney vacation is $2144.80. This leaves $855.20 for dining and incidentals. Exactly how many meals you will need will depend on your arrival and departure times, but let’s assume you are feeding yourselves at Disney for 6 days. To be safe, and leave yourself about $150 for unanticipated needs throughout the trip, set a food budget of $700. This is an average of $116 per day. This might sound impossible if you are planning to buy 3 meals a day, but once you cut that to two, it is more realistic. Pack cereal, granola bars, and other breakfast foods that will survive your travels, and purchase milk at your resort. Having breakfast in the room is a great way to save time and money. We also suggest bringing snacks from home to take to the parks with you, as buying snacks in the parks is an easy way to run up your dining costs. Plan the rest of your meals ahead of time. Choose 2 or 3 table service restaurants that you are really excited about and make your dining reservations as soon as possible. Once you have an idea of the costs for these special meals, you’ll know how conservative you need to be with your counter-service choices for the rest of your meals. If you can stick to the $116 per day, then you will spend $700 on food.

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1. Skip the souvenirs –

At this point you have about $150 left for unforeseen needs, incidentals, and souvenirs. Unfortunately, this means skipping the souvenirs☹ It’s really not as bad as it sounds though. Many of the items for sale at the Disney parks are available online or at The Disney Store, which means you can buy a cool Disney item at some other time in the year to keep it from falling in your vacation budget. If you have kids and they are really attached to the idea of a souvenir, this is a great opportunity to teach them good financial management. Encourage them to save their allowance or do chores around the house in exchange for souvenir money. This will let you set the money aside earlier in the year, and the kids will value their souvenirs even more! If you really want a memento from the trip, choose one of the best digital photos you take and get it printed and framed a few months after you get home.

About Katie D

I grew up in New Jersey in a family where the word “vacation” was synonymous with “Disney World.” After a few years of visiting regularly, my family became Disney Vacation Club members which meant we visited even more! Going to Disney always felt kind of like going home, and some of my best childhood and teenage memories occurred there. Now that I live in Jacksonville, FL I am excited to be a short drive from this magical place and look forward to making new memories for years to come.