Now that you have decided to take a little jaunt to Lake Buena Vista, Florida and visit the Mouse House, you really only have one thing left to take care of. Paying for it! Before you get all panicky, let me assure you that you can have all the fun of Disney World without having to sell internal organs to pay for it.
First off, let's take care of where you will be sleeping. I am only going to focus on Disney Resorts because I believe they offer the best deals and biggest bang for your buck!
For the very budget conscious, Disney has several value resorts that are not only clean and comfy but a heck of a lot of fun to stay at. There are 3 All Star resorts- Music, Movies and Sports. Each resort has GIANT decorations representing its style. Music has among, other things, a piano pool and a large, I mean ginormous, cowboy boot! Sports has a huge football helmet and bowling pins and Movies...well have you ever seen a 50 ft. tall Dalmation? These resorts are large in the fact that they have many buildings containing lots of guest rooms. Each has at least 2 pools, a cafeteria type restaurant, gift shop and other amenities.
Pop Century Resort takes different decades and decorates each building according to its designated decade. You may stay in a building with a 50's roller rink theme or maybe a 90's technology theme. Through the years, we have stayed at each of these resorts so I feel very good in recommending them.
Disney has just opened the Art of Animation Resort that looks simply dreamy. It has family suites that sleep 6!
The rates for the value resorts are $89/night for non-peak season! This includes a nice room, great resort amenties and complimentary transportation aboard the Disney buses. Let me say that the ability to park your vehicle when you check in and NEVER needing it until the day you leave is worth staying on site to me! Disney takes care of ALL your transporting to and from parks, dinner shows and shopping!
Have a little extra to spend on accomodations? Disney has moderate priced resorts, too. My absolute fave is Port Orleans Riverside. The rooms are fantastic, the resort is beautiful and the on site restaurant, Boatrights, is phenominal! They also have a cafeteria type restaurant for quick meals and a gift shop along with your typical resort amenities like a lush pool area with slide. The price here for non peak season is $159. Still a bargain in my book!
Feel like splurging? The mac daddy of resorts would be the Grand Floridian. They don't get any better than this one! A room here during the value season will set you back $490. Hope you didn't hit your head on anything when you fainted! Yes this is a very pricey resort but go ahead and take a little looksey and you'll see why it costs so much. Needless to say, I have never stayed here!!!
Well, that is the accomodations aspect of your vacation. Let's look at some other necessities.
You may, at some point during your vacation, want to eat. Most of us do! But Disney is not known for it's "value priced" meals unless you are hitting any of the MANY quick service places throughout Disney. That is just fine to do but, sometimes you want to just sit and relax and order from a menu! The best thing I can tell you is to get a Disney Dining Plan. These can all be explained here much better than I could explain it. The basics are this, you pick a plan suited to the type of dining you want to do and pay a "price per person per day". Before you see the price and think WHAT????, this is how we used the dining plan to our advantage. Since our kids are older and we don't mind bringing them to nicer restaurants (usually!) we get the dining plan that includes a quick service (go up to the counter and order) meal and a table service meal. We use the quick service meal when we are by the pool or grabbing something quick in the park and then use the table service meal for a really nice meal that we couldn't afford if we were just going in and paying cash for it. You see, our son eats a lot. When I say a lot, I mean A LOT! He's almost 13 and in the last 6 months he has grown 6 inches! When we eat at these restaurants, he could easily cost us an arm and a leg to fill him up. With the dining plan, he gets to order WHATEVER entree he wants plus he gets a dessert. Well, everyone on the dining plan gets a dessert. Trust me, by the time your vacation is done, no one wants dessert for a LOOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG time! When you figure up how much one of those nice meals would cost for the amount of food you get on the plan, it is really worth it. Plus, we almost always eat breakfast in the room so the plan covers lunch and dinner. you could use the plans for any meals you
want, we just eat breakfast in the room because it is easy and we aren't big breakfast eaters. Also, at the vacation club resorts, we have a full kitchen so meal making is quite easy. I'll tell you all about the vacation club in the next post! So, the cost of the dining plan is determined by 3 things-which plan you choose, how many guests are in your party and how many days you are staying. The rule is that everyone in your party, age 3 and above, has to be included if you get the dining plan. (Ages 3-9 pay a very reduced rate. 10 and up pay adult rate). The dining plan is to be in effect from check in to midnight of the day you check out but you can choose to use your dining credits any way you choose.
The plan we get and the one I would recommend for most families is the Disney Dining Plan which includes one quick service, one table service, one snack and a resort refillable mug (you get unlimited soda, water, COFFEE and other drinks at your resort)per person per day of your stay. This plan costs about $50 per day per person 10 and over. I know that sounds a lot but if you were to price meals, snacks and unlimited drinks, you would see that you save about 20-30%. There are cheaper and more expensive plans, so you have a choice.
Now, for probably the biggest expense next to meals, we will move on to park tickets. DO NOT, under any circumstances, BY A 1 DAY ONE PARK TICKET unless you will only go to a park on ONE day. It is ALWAYS cheaper to buy a multi day pass. If you are a Florida resident, you get a discount! The more days you buy, the cheaper the per day rate is. For example, you could purchase a 4 day ticket for $256 but an 8 day ticket is only $298! You get 4 whole extra days for only $32! I always suggest planning out your visit carefully so you know how many days you actually want to spend in the park. If you are coming for a week but know you only want to spend 3 of those days at the park, then buy a 3 day ticket. Just don't think that you couldn't afford to buy a length of stay ticket because they get cheaper the more days you add on. You could always buy a large number of days and get the No Expiration Date put on them which would allow you the option of only using some days on this trip and saving the rest for another trip but I think it costs too much for that option!
Check out this site for more info and for ordering instructions. You can also check out if a Season Pass may be a better fit for your vacation needs.
So let's do a little figuring. I am going to use our family of 4 (both kids are 12) and lay out a mini vacation for you. Here is what a 4 day trip would look like, without any deals or discounts:
Hotel Room for 4 days $356
Food Plan (4people/4 days) 800 (I used $50/person/day as an estimate for this plan)
Tickets (4 people/4 days) 1036
The total cost is less than $2200. Still too much? You have a few options. You could go without the Dining plan (we have done this many times) and eat some meals in your room or opt for quick service meals. Or if you still want to get a dining plan, you could go with the Quick Service plan which is cheaper.You could always check into deals here and see what plans Disney is offering that work for your family. Three years ago, we got a deal where we had a room at a value resort and park tickets for the 4 of us for a week for $1500! Of course, that was the year that hubs got tired of sharing a room with the twins and we ended up buying into the Disney Vacation Club and moving to one of those resorts! But Disney has good offers periodically and all you need to do is check it out and plan.
I hope that I helped you figure out the costs for hotel, food and park tickets. Disney is such a fun place to go for those with kids or without them. Hubby and I have been a few times without the kids and had a great time doing "adult" stuff like,oh I don't know, sleeping in!!!!