Your family has been dreaming about your trip to Disney World, and you’ve already made all your bookings. Still, there’s one thing you’re probably asking yourself: How much spending money will I need? How much does it cost to have a good time while there, while still saving money?
Not planning in advance can see you impulse spend significantly, especially if you’re not keenly tracking your activities. It’s easy to get carried away by everything happening in Disney World, which is why a little itinerary and money planning can go a long way.
In this article, learn everything you need to know about what you’ll need to spend at Disney, and a good estimate for how much to carry along. You’ll also learn some tips to keep your costs low without curtailing your fun.
What Is Spending Money?
The first item is to decide what your spending money should cover. Each family will have slightly different definitions, but here are some common things to factor into your spending budget.
All the walking at Disney World will definitely make you hungry and thirsty, especially on hot days and for younger children. You will need to factor in the cost of various drinks and snacks – water, fountain drinks, cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream, etc. You can cut costs by bringing a few snacks along.
Souvenirs will definitely eat up a chunk of your vacation spending budget – as much as 40-50 percent. This accounts for t-shirts, jerseys, and other wearable keepsakes, Mickey ears, headbands and hats, fridge magnets, keychains, and mugs, among others, can quickly add up.
Normal parking at Disney World costs $22 a day, while preferred parking is double that at $45. If you’re driving there and staying at a resort without the Disney Vacation Club membership, there is an overnight parking fee starting from $15 per night to $25 for Deluxe Villa Resorts. Guests may park for free in the daytime at resorts, but not overnight.
Full-service restaurants serve alcohol at lunchtime and dinner. If you go to Epcot, you might want to drink from around the world – that’s one drink from all eleven countries. You can cut down by trying just one or two unique drinks instead of all 11 but remember to budget for your alcohol – which can be a pretty sum depending on how many adults there are in your party. Alcoholic beverages cost $8-15 on average.
Factors Affecting Your Spending Budget
Now that you know what your spending budget is made of, these are the variables that will determine how much money you actually need to carry.
Number of People
A vacation for two people will cost less than a trip for the whole family – many people account for food and board but forget to account for spending money for everyone on the trip. You can determine a spending cap for each person and tell them this in advance.
Kids are generally cheaper than adults, but they can also be the biggest impulse spenders. Adults need to be vigilant to prevent kids from splurging on every colorful or attractive thing they see in Disney World – and there are plenty! Senior citizens may get discounts in certain places.
If you get a WDW meal plan, most of your food will be covered in the plan. Consider how much everyone usually eats and whether that will change while you’re on vacation. If you’re in charge of your own meal plan, make a budget and crunch the numbers before leaving on your trip. Remember that food in WDW will probably cost more than the same food in another restaurant outside the park.
Budget for tips and have it in cash, as it is critical to tip the bartenders, servers, housekeepers, drivers, bell services, and other staff who will attend to you. The tipping culture in the US is kind of a big deal.
How to Figure Out Your Spending Budget
The first thing to do is decide how much spending money you can afford to have for everyone in the party. Follow these steps if you don’t know where to start:
- Define spending money using the above information.
- Write down as many things from the above list as you can remember.
- Define which parts of the budget you can accurately predict and which ones are estimates.
- For every item, provide the most accurate guesstimate you can. Err on the higher side if you’re not sure.
- Add 10-20 percent of the total amount for contingencies.
Your budget won’t be 100 percent accurate, but it’s better to plan ahead to avoid getting carried away with your spending.
How to Save on Your Spending Budget
You can figure out ways to cut down on spending without affecting the excitement and fun of your overall experience at Disney World. Here are some quick tips that you can apply:
- Souvenirs – Pre-buy your souvenirs online and surprise your kids with them on vacation. You can start at the Dollar store – you’ll always find random Disney goodies like stickers, notebooks, and toys. Souvenirs at Disney World will be costlier.
- Snacks – Bring your own snacks from home, buy from a nearby grocery store, or even at the resort store, all of which will be cheaper than the park itself. Every family member can carry their snacks in a light backpack. Only buy the park snacks unique to Disney World.
- Cards – Ask family and friends to give Disney gift cards for holidays and anniversaries. Save them for your vacation spending budget.
- Online shop – You can get the same Disney souvenirs for a fraction of the cost if you start shopping early from home. Some items can even be 75 percent cheaper.
Give your children a specific budget and guideline, e.g. one souvenir a day, and encourage them to wait until the end of the day to buy – that way, they’ve seen all options and can pick one.
Finally, give yourself time before making a big purchase. A fun idea is to use the Shop Disney Parks app to scan what you want to buy into your cart. At the end of your vacation, you can go through the items and remove what you don’t want, then pay for what you really want. This alone can save you hundreds of dollars. As a bonus, you don’t have to walk around with stuff; they’re delivered to your hotel room.
Going to Disney World is a vacation trip that will cost you a pretty sum, but there are practical ways to cut down how much you spend. Even if you want to splurge on your holiday, it helps to plan prior to your trip so that you set expectations for your kids and others coming on the trip.
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.