By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

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Planning Your Walt Disney World Budget

By Dave Shute


I have published two related series of articles on this site—titled The Tightwad’s Guide to Walt Disney World, and The Comfortable Guide to Walt Disney World.

As a step related to each, I bring together here budgeting advice from various parts of this site into one place, to set the stage.

This site notes that while you can have a great trip for $3,000 or less (before transportation costs), for the best first family trip to Walt Disney World, you should budget if you can between $5,300 and $8,400, plus transportation.

What I want to reiterate here is that when you go and where you stay have more of an impact on your budget than how long you stay.


When you go matters because Disney changes seasonal prices multiple times over the course of the year.  Staying at the Polynesian during the most expensive time of the year can cost you $2,700 more than it would cost if you went during the cheapest period.

Where you stay matters because Walt Disney World has resorts priced at many different levels. Staying at the Polynesian instead of Art of Animation during the lower cost season will cost you $2,400 more.

Combining these effects—staying at the Polynesian during the highest cost time of the year instead of  at Pop Century during the lowest cost time of the year—costs you a whopping $5,100 extra!!

These points so far may be straightforward.  What isn’t so obvious is why shortening your trip doesn’t save as much as you’d think.

The basics are as follows: your transportation costs you as much for a short trip as a long one, and—because of the way Disney prices theme park tickets—so, essentially, do your park tickets.  So all you save from a shorter trip is your hotel and food costs.

Here’s an example.  If your airfare costs are $1,500, then a four night, five day trip—about half of what this site recommends—will cost you, at Art of Animation during the lower priced seasons, a minimum of $4,250: $1,500 for airfare, $1,200 for park tickets, $550 for four nights at Art of ANimation, and $1000 for the Disney Dining Plan, refillable mugs, and extra snacks etc.

However, if you stay for 8 nights and 9 days, your trip will only cost $1,600 more.

This is because airfare costs are the same either way, and the way Disney prices park tickets is that while you pay an arm and a leg for the first three days of tickets, ticket days after the third are almost free—e.g. around $12/day/person.

Another way to think about this: two four night trips are MUCH more expensive than one 8 night trip—because you have to pay airfare twice, and you pay twice for the most expensive first three days of your park tickets.  Two four night trips would cost at minimum $3,100 more than one eight night trip!!

(See this page for the assumptions modeled into the above.)

So the takeaways for the first time family visitor:

  • Think carefully about whether you need to stay in anything fancier than Art of Animation or one of Walt Disney World’s other value resorts
  • Think carefully about what is really getting in the way of your going during one of the less expensive seasons
  • While a shorter trip does save you cash, the savings are not at all proportionate to the amount of time at Walt Disney World that you lose.


For the basic December trip recommended by this site

For help getting to much lower budget numbers,

For Walt Disney World price seasons,

  • See this for resort price seasons
  • See this for Disney Dining Plan price seasons
  • See this for Walt Disney World theme park admission tickets




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1 Kristina { 10.30.13 at 3:21 am }

Sorry, you were probably helpful to others, but not to me.

My family and I are driving. We are staying off the site. There is only 3 of us, and my LO is free (age 2). So, meals, and souvenirs, do we really need $7000 like you suggested?

2 Dave { 10.30.13 at 2:43 pm }

Kirsitna, as the page says, $7k only applies to families of 4, all 3 or older, staying at the Polynesian. Your visit–assuming your hotel is a lot cheaper–will be much less expensive!!!

3 Christine { 03.31.15 at 10:03 am }

I found this site a few months ago and I really enjoy reading all the articles and great advice!!! Keep ’em coming please!
That being said, I was wondering if you could offer some advice for our particular situation… I’ve read the ‘large families’ articles which have been very interesting. Here goes:
We plan on travelling to Disney from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in the next few years… all children will be between 5-11 years old (although I’m aware rides work on height an not age!). This will most likely be our one and only trip to Disney World (I’ve never been as a child). The catch: I will be travelling with my entire family, which means 9 adults and 7 children (maybe a baby). We would like to all stay in the same unit (that be an off-site rental house or on-site condo). I am aware that you strongly recommend staying on-site, which I think will be our ultimate decision, but can Disney accomodate such a large group? And will we be paying an arm and a leg to stay there? Would it be better if we stayed in separate rooms? Although we want to have a very nice experience, since this will most likely be our only trip, we don’t want to spend exhuberant amounts of money either…! Lastly, 2 of the adults are teachers, therefore, we will probably have to travel during: Christmas, March Break or summer (end-June to end-August)… I’m thinking summer.
Is there any further advice you can provide for our group? I will be purchasing the suggested material as we approach our trip, but I am looking to start budgeting now and make the most of our trip!
Thank you!


4 Becky { 03.08.16 at 12:35 am }

We will be getting to Orlando late afternoon and I dont want to use a ticket for 1/2 a day. We’d like to ride the monarail that eveNing. If I get dinner reservations at one of the hotels on the monarail route can we park at the hotel and ride the monarail for free?

5 Dave { 03.08.16 at 5:29 am }

Becky, the monorail is always free, whether you have a dinner reservation or not.

6 Kelly B - Agent with Destinations in Florida { 03.08.16 at 5:18 pm }

Becky – Keep in mind that if you already have at least a 4 day ticket, adding a 5th to 7th is only about $15 a person. So even if you only spend a few hours in a park, $15 is worth it.

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