Budgeting Your Vacation
Everyone wants to enjoy the magic of a Disney vacation without breaking the bank.
Use these tips to plan ahead and manage your vacation to your budget.
Generally speaking, Quick-Service locations (QSR's), which offer counter-service meals, are cheaper alternatives to Table-Service restaurants (TSR's). The average Quick-Service meal costs from $8 to $12 per person, depending on the mealtime. Table-Service meal prices vary widely depending on the location. Restaurants are categorized by price on Disney's website and the My Disney Experience app, with average costs per plate ranging as follows: $ ($14.99 and under), $$ ($15 to $39), $$$ ($35 to $59), and $$$$ (over $60).
Most TSR locations are between $$ to $$$, with exceptions being fine/signature dining and Character Dining locations, which typically range between $$$ to $$$$. Table-Service locations inside the four theme parks are typically pricier as well. For the greatest value when dining at TSR's, consider dining at locations in Disney resorts before or after visiting the theme parks.
Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is one solution to help manage your food expenses. Instead of paying cash, the plan allows you to pre-purchase a specific number of meal credits, which are then redeemed at participating QSR and TSR locations. Packages are offered with different amounts of credits, allowing Guests to tailor their DDP to their party's needs and preferences. More information is available here. Note, Guests booking through the event room block are not eligible for the DDP.
Purchasing Park Admission
Park admission tickets are available in a variety of options, so it's important to decide carefully how often you plan to visit the parks during your vacation and aim to maximize your value.
Single-Park admission tickets allow entry into a single, pre-determined park per day, and you may enter and exit the same park as many times as you'd like. The Park Hopper option is available for an additional cost per ticket and provides extra value by allowing you to visit any combination of the four parks on the same day. Better yet, wedding guests are offered discounted Park Hopper tickets for their vacation; you can learn more and purchase them here.
To maximize the value of your admission cost and still visit all four theme parks, consider purchasing two-day Park Hoppers for each Guest in your party. Review all the attractions, shows, etc. at the four parks and assemble a list of your "Must-Do's" at each. From there, plan your two days by deciding which parks to visit in the mornings and which parks to visit in the evenings (for example, if you want to catch a park's nighttime fireworks spectacular, make sure you plan to be there in the evening). Planning to visit more than two parks in a single day is not recommended, especially if you are traveling with younger Guests who tire easily.
To save money and still experience the magic of a Disney park, consider visiting one of the two Disney water parks, Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. Water park admission is cheaper than theme park admission and sold separately from other tickets. You can learn more about both water parks here.
While the theme parks are often considered central to any Disney vacation, visiting the Disney resorts is an excellent way to avoid admission costs and still experience the magic of Disney. Each themed intricately and boasting a unique set of amenities and recreational options, Disney resort hotels are attractions in and of themselves. Spending a day visiting different resorts has become so popular that it has earned a clever nickname – "Resort Hopping." Every Disney resort is special, but here are a few with particularly popular things to do:
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to an African savanna thriving with wildlife, making this resort an excellent alternative to a day at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park.
Disney's Boardwalk Inn brings the charm and whimsy of turn-of-the-century Atlantic City to life. Home to a replica Atlantic City boardwalk with all the trimmings, this resort is also accessible via Disney Skyliner by exiting at the Epcot arrival station.
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground has one of the best assortments of recreational activities at any resort, both paid and free-of-charge. Here you can take guided horseback riding tours, appreciate the horses and ponies at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, enjoy a private ride in a horse-drawn carriage, rent bicycles and watercraft, roast marshmallows at campfire sing-a-long's, and much more. There are more than enough options to spend an entire day at this resort, and you can conclude your visit with the longest-running dinner show at Walt Disney World – Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
The best way to bring home the magic and memories of your Disney vacation is with souvenirs. There are no shortage of gift shops throughout Walt Disney World, each with countless items to choose from, meaning souvenir prices vary widely. The average souvenir costs about $20, but here's what you can expect to pay for merchandise in common categories:
Annual Passholders receive up to 20% off their merchandise purchases, and Disney Premier Visa Cardholders receive discounts of 10% on purchases over $50. A Disney Annual Pass may be right for you if you plan to visit Walt Disney World more than once within the next year, but all Guests should consider applying for the Disney Premier Visa Card from Chase for its many members-only benefits, including merchandise & dining discounts. Continue reading to learn more about this credit card.
Packing for the Parks
Packing appropriately when you visit the theme parks is one of the simplest yet commonly overlooked ways to manage expenditures during a vacation. Take advantage of the fact that all foods and beverages, excluding alcohol, are permitted into the parks, and consider packing snacks and refreshments when you visit, as this will help you avoid unnecessary incidentals.
The average cost of bottled water inside the theme parks is $4, so bring reusable water bottles that can be refilled for free at one of the many water stations throughout the theme parks. Likewise, the average snack costs is approximately $5, so you may wish to pack your own snacks to tide you over between meals. Toiletries like sunscreen and deodorant are available for purchase in the parks, but typically for 2 to 3 times more than they could be purchased elsewhere, so consider your party's needs and plan ahead.
If you're planning to spend an entire day at the theme parks, you'll likely need to recharge your mobile devices at some point. FuelRod external battery packs store enough power to recharge the average mobile phone to 50%, and thanks to Swapping Stations located throughout each theme park, you can quickly exchange an exhausted FuelRod for a fully recharged one, for a small fee, after initial purchase of the device. FuelRods are available for purchase at Swapping Stations inside the theme parks, as well as at major shopping malls, airports, and other businesses.
Discounted Gift Cards
Purchasing Disney gift cards in advance is a great way to set and stick to a predetermined budget during your vacation. Disney gift cards can be used at all Disney-owned merchandise and dining locations across property, including both QSR's and TSR's, merchandise carts, and even some third-party stores at Disney Springs and Epcot. You can also use Disney gift cards to purchase admission tickets, pay for your resort hotel, and more.
After you purchase gift cards, create an account on Disney's gift card management site to link your gift cards, consolidate balances, and more. This step is especially important in case you lose a gift card, in which case you can transfer its balance to another card using the online site.
Disney gift cards are available in virtually any increment online and in pharmacies, grocery/retail stores, and many other locations. If you're a member of a wholesale store like Sam's Club or Costco, you can often find Disney gift cards marked down from face value by about 3%. So, for example, you can purchase $1000 in gift cards for only $970 at this discount. Similarly, Target RedCard members can receive 5% off their purchase immediately at the time of sale, meaning the same $1000 in gift cards could cost only $950 when purchased this way.
Disney Visa Rewards Card
The Disney Premier Visa Card from Chase offers a host of exclusive member benefits, a unique reward-earning program, a sign-up promotional offer, and much more. Among its benefits are access to members-only Character Meet & Greet locations, special vacation financing, 10% discounts on Disney merchandise and dining purchases, exclusive card member events, and more.
An introductory welcome offer is typically offered on this product in the form of a statement credit ranging from $100 to $200 once the minimum spend requirement (typically $500 within 3 months of account opening) is met. Chase-Visa kiosks are located in the theme parks and at Disney Springs, so applications can be completed in-person; occasionally, the promotional welcome offer is extended in the form of a $250 Disney gift card for applications approved on-site.
Rewards are earned at a rate of 2% on gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases as well as on purchases at most Disney-owned locations; all other purchases earn 1%. Rewards are accumulated in the form of Disney Rewards Dollars, which can be transferred onto a Disney Rewards Redemption Card and used at any Disney-owned location, just like a gift card.
$49 Annual Fee