By Katie Dalbey
One of the coolest things about Walt Disney World is that it provides options for people on a variety of budgets. While you obviously do need some money to plan a trip, a wonderful Disney vacation can be experienced for $2,000 or $10,000. There are five main spending areas to think about when planning your Disney budget: travel, accommodations, park passes, dining, and extras. Regardless of how much you’re ready to spend, the way you allocate between these categories can mean the difference between having a magical trip and feeling stressed the whole time. Read below for suggestions on how to do Disney right for $4000. (Note, this is based on a family of four. If you have more or less people in your party, you will need to adjust accordingly.
5. Travel for free if you can!
The magic of a Disney vacation happens when you are at Disney, so that’s where you want to put your precious resources! If you are close enough to drive to Disney without taking more time than you have available and without significant gas costs, that’s great. But if you live further away and need to fly, that doesn’t mean you need to blow a quarter of your budget on airfare – a little preparation and savviness can allow you to fly for free! There are a lot of great credit card offers out there that award large sign on bonuses. If you time it right, you can get a new card, put your hotel reservations and tickets on the card to help meet the minimum spending requirement, and then use the bonus point for your flights. There are many cards to choose from, but I think Southwest’s Visa from Chase is the most useful for this endeavor. They often have 50,000 point sign up bonuses, and round trip flights between many cities and Orlando on Southwest are 10,000 – 20,000 points. You might be able to fly the whole family of four on one sign up bonus, and definitely should be able to with two. (Have both adults get the card, or apply for a personal and business card to get the second 50,000 points.) 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 5-day Park Hopper passes –
If all four members of your party are 10 or older, the tickets will be $409 each, for a total of $1636. You could save money by not getting the Park Hoppers, but with 5 days and 4 parks, you’ll appreciate having the freedom to move between them as you choose. Try for a package when you book your resort – these often give extras like free mini-golf that provide additional activity options!
3. Stay on property at a Disney Value Resort for 7 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 7 nights, if you are only getting 5-day tickets. To do Disney right, you need to pace yourself. Staying seven 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 7 nights will be $1050. Note: if you have five people in your party, or can’t deal with double beds, then we suggest 6 nights at a moderate resort. Based on average room prices, this will be $1500 and will mean you’ll have to cut elsewhere. If you’re in this situation, make sure you try to visit at an off-peak time of year if you can. This could bring you back down to around $1150 for the moderate resort!
2. Be smart about your dining choices –
At this point, your total spend for your Disney vacation is $2730.80. This leaves $1269 for dining, entertainment, and additional fun. 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 7 days. To be safe, and leave yourself some flex for souvenirs and extras, set a food budget of $1000. This is an average of $142 per day. This is an aggressive food budget for Disney, but it can be done if you are willing to bring some food with you. 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. As long as you’re only paying for two meals a day on average, the $142 per day should allow you to have one quick service and one table service meal per day, as long as you’re conscious about your menu selection. If you do quick-service lunch and dinner on a few days, you will have more freedom with your menu selections when you do have table-service meals.
1. Limit souvenirs, but splurge on Memory Maker –
After everything we have discussed so far, you have $269 remaining for souvenirs, incidentals, or any splurges. Memory Maker is the ultimate souvenir – it gives you full access to digital copies of all pictures taken by Disney Photopass photographers, as well as ride photos, character breakfast photos, etc. It is incredibly freeing to know you can keep your phone tucked away and let professional photographers document your trip for you. You can purchase memory maker when you buy your park tickets for a reduced price of $149. After memory maker, you have about $120 left. You might want to splurge on a character breakfast, a ride in the hot air balloon at downtown Disney, or another “extra” experience. You also might end up needing some of this money for band aids, ponchos, etc. – those pesky purchases that tend to come up when they are not welcomed! Regardless, we recommend skipping or limiting the souvenirs. 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.
How would you do Disney for $4000? What money-saving tips do you have to share?