Do you start to dream of a Disney World vacation every time you see their commercials. Chances are you want to go to Disney but are worried it costs too much. You may be surprised to know that a Disney World vacation can be less expensive than you may think. Come learn about ways to save money at the campsites, offsite, value resorts, where to stay for a family of 5, and the perks of the deluxe resorts too.
Stay in the Magic or Offsite
There is no doubt that staying in the magic at an onsite hotel adds to the experience. You will have the same Disney class service and a more seamless experience staying at a Disney resort. As a resort guest you will get first access to Genie Plus and Lightening lane selections, get in the parks 30 minutes early every day, and a few other perks. If you intend to do Disney once it really is a lot of fun to stay on site. But as much as I have been a die hard Disney fan, the increased costs for a fewer perks (no free parking or evening magic hours for most hotel guests) plus the growing mediocre food choices is making it hard to justify. If you are trying to keep your cost down, staying off site is a great way to go. Not only will your hotel be cheaper, but you can eat more offsite saving you money and breaking up the boredom of the food choices anymore.
How Much Does it Cost to go To Disney World
You might think a Disney World vacation is completely unrealistic; that it is just too expensive. And yes, prices have gone up consistently year-after-year. It does make many wonder if it affordable for the average American family. These days the cost of everything is up, they say inflation of necessary food items is up 11% just this past year so of course there are expenses that have been passed on. Disney not only raises their prices, but has started charging for things like parking for resort guests, fastpasses are no longer free – now called Genie Plus, and even the wonderful Magical Express that whisked vacation goers from Orlando airport to Disney for free is gone. But there is a lot of Magic still here and ways to make it more affordable for cost concious families. Sure, you could pay a small fortune if you flew here first class, stayed at a deluxe resort like the Grand Floridian, ate all meals at the park paying out of pocket, and buying every souvenir that strikes your children’s fancy. But middle class families can still have a Disney vacation if they budget, plan, and choose wisely.
Here are three Disney World Cost analysis for your family to consider based on your family needs, size, and comfort levels. Don’t miss our other tips and tricks as you are Disney World Planning
Cheap Disney World Vacation (Best for Families with 3+ kids)
If you are trying to do Disney for as cheap as possible why not camp at Disney World. You can drive here, saving a lot of money on airfare and stay at the lovely, well cared for Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (from $68/night). Between the cost of the accomidations and ticket increases I was surprised that the cost has gone up 49% from just 2019. But most families can still afford this trip where a 7 day / 6 night package including single park tickets for 2 adults and 2 children in mid-September would cost you $2,625.93. You can save a bundle by bring all your food from home to take picnic style lunches in the park and cook dinner on your campsite grill.
So are you sacrificing the magic for money?
Not at all! The campsites are a great budget alternative with a large site, picnic table, grill, electrical, pets allowed, and up to 10 guests per site at no extra cost! Other amenities at the resort include a fort-themed water play area, complete with their own toddler-friendly slides. whirlpools, playground, Archery, horseback riding canoeing, convenience store, complimentary transportation to all Disney World Parks, movie under the starts, nightly campfire with Chip and Dale (free), and more!
And if you are like most families, you will spend most of your time at the theme parks and very little back “in your room” anyway.
Hint: At Christmas time people go all out and decorate their tents & RV’s with Christmas lights!
My Pick: Pay the little extra for a preferred spot for less walking to the bust stop! Also consider the time of year as campsites do not offer the comfort of air conditioning or heat at night.
NOTE: The Campsites have become incredibly popular in the last couple years. If you want to stay here at peak times you will need to plan almost a year in advance!
Staying Offsite at Disney World
You can stay at a hotel or large private condo for about $100/night. While at first glance that is cheaper than Disney property, and some are, make sure you read the full cost to see if there are any property fees or special cleaning fees to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Not all offsite accomidations are cheaper than the value resorts, but some definetly are! Plus some of the neighboring hotels have elaborate pools too. Sure you will have to park at Disney, but hotel guests have to pay to park at Disney hotel so it’s still a wash. Disney resorts get into the park 30 minutes early, a far cry from the 1 hour early and 3 hours late perk given just 3 years ago. Total cost for 2 adults and 2 kids would be $869 with tax for 6 nights hotel plus $2110 for 7 days of Disney tickets for a total of $2979. That doesn’t even factor the amount you will save on food! Again, this option isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but it is worth considering for larger families or families on a tight budget. It can be the difference of multiple Disney vacations and just coming once.
Thrifty Disney World Vacation (Best for Families with 2 kids)
If you want to visit Disney World for as little money as possible, but you aren’t really the camping type you will love Disney’s budget hotels (from $164/night). Sadly inflation has hit the value resorts as well and they went up over 50% since 2019. But if you time it right, chances are you can snag a 7 day / 6 night package for 2 adults and 2 children in September for $3256.
Unfortunately FREE Dining plans have not been back cince C0vid, neither has dining plans at all. It appears that labor shortage is impacting restaurant capacity and even hotel capacity as well. Depending on the time of year, they are still offering some discounts which are typically 10% off for value rates. These have mainly been for Disney+ customers. If you are keeping costs down, consider bringing cereal / granola bars for breakfast and sack lunches. Then you can get one warm meal at the park a day so that you still eat well and enjoy the magic, but without going broke paying for every meal.
Although you will probably spend most of your days enjoying the parks, your hotel will have fun theming, several themed pools, air conditioned rooms with cable televisions, free Disney world transportation, movies by the pool, a playground and resort activities.
Hint: We actually prefer staying at Budget Hotels as they are smaller in size which makes the buses less crazy than the larger resorts.
My Pick: Pop Century (On the skyliner which means no buses if you are heading to Epcot or Hollywood Studios!! Plus they have a nice kids splash pool). Larger families will enjoy Art of Animation (features suites for 6 plus 4 people room and is skyliner adjacent!) All Star Movies Resort (great theming for kids)
Balanced Disney (Best for Families with 3 kids or those who want more extras)
If you have a 3rd child it is cheaper to upgrade to a moderate than book 2 value hotel rooms. Moderates are also a little nicer in finishings and resort ammenities. They all have an actual restaurant (not just food court quick serve), multiple pools, a main pool that is elaborately themed with a waterslide, and more activities like bike rentals, fishing, etc. If you are willing to pay for a nice Disney vacation, but are still trying to keep it reasonable, a moderate hotel may be just the ticket (from $303/night). For a 6 nights and 7 days with a family of 2 adults and 3 children you would pay about $4806
Moderate hotels have larger room (314 sq feet versus 260 sq feet in a value) and therefore can fit up to 5 in a room. The resorts themselves are larger, offer more elaborate theming throughout the resort including amazing pools with waterslides.
Hint: Want to really WOW your kids? Stay at a Royal Guest Room at Port Orleans for only a little more.
Dream Disney World Vacation (For Couples & Families with 3 children or less)
If you are just looking to live it up on your Disney vacation or want the convenience of being on the monorail just steps away from the parks – consider staying at a Deluxe Hotel (from $503/month). You can stay on the monorail for ease of getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, plus spectacular fireworks views from the convenience of yoru hotel. Or live it up by staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where the giraffes and other animals will roam right outside your window. Rooms in these Deluxe resorts are stunning and about 344 sq feet. Public areas are immaculately maintained and richly themed. These upscale resorts contain elaborate pools with waterslides and hot tubs. Many are conveniently located on the monorail and the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers educational programs and live animal exhibits.
For a a family of 2 adults and 2 children, staying at the Boardwalk for 6 nights and 7 days, you woudl spend $6379.
HINT: Deluxe Resort hotels also come with the added perk of offering hotel guests an extra 2 hours of extended evening park time at Magic Kingdom and Epcot once a week. See Hours of operation for exact days and times offered.
My Pick: Polynesian Resort (for overall theming, Volcano themed pool, on the monorail, Dole Whips on site, fireworks view with live music from the beach) or Animal Kingdom Lodge (for overall theming and animals roaming the ‘backyard’, but only uses bus system), Boardwalk (walk to Epcot from the back entrance, evening entertainment on the pier)
No matter where you stay, remember that you have the same great Disney service and attention to detail. Plus you are going to be spending most of your time in the parks. So stay in budget, and have fun!
Our family likes to mix it up and stay at different resorts each time. They are all so special and FUN in different ways!
More Disney Vacation Tips
- When to take your kids to Disney World (what is the ‘perfect’ age)
- Planning for your trip (time of year, how long to stay, Disney hotels, and affordability/deals)
- Tidbits (20 tips from the best place to see Mickey to strollers to super cool Disney features you may not know about)
- Disney World Dining – My top picks for snacks, quick meals, and reviews on 12 restaurants (including character meals)
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios