Budget Advice

It would be great to know what you guys think on the below.
We’re travelling to Florida in July - 9 nights at CBR and 5 nights over at Sapphire Falls. We’re a family of 4 - Mum and her 3 kids: 29 (turning 30 on July 7 at the Magic Kingdom!), 15 and 7.

We’re on the dining plan when at Disney and have our ADRs all scheduled and will maximize our DDP. We want to have a really fun time and want everyone to be able to do what we want, shop, drink, be merry and not to have to worry about the cost.

We’re just looking at budgets. I’m thinking that we should allow for $250 per day of our trip on average for extras. This would be for shopping, alcoholic drinks, any meals we need to buy out of pocket, gratuities, contingency for Ubers/supplies etc.

From your experiences - does this sound like way too much, about right, or too little? I think it sounds comfortable. Mum thinks it sounds like a lot!

$250/day that doesn’t include meals (since your meals are covered by the Dining Plan)!?!?!
That sounds REALLY high to me! Unless you’re rich, there is no way I’d spend $250 a day on drinks and shopping over 9 nights! Your CBR room is probably only about $250/night.

I don’t think we spent $250 INCLUDING meals when we were just there. And we’re a family of 4 too.

It’s more an “average” given that when we get to Universal we will be paying for all food etc.

But this is definitely a helpful sort of response as it implies that I am probably budgeting way too high. And we certainly aren’t loaded! :slight_smile: Thanks Adam

Estimating high is not necessarily a bad thing! If you have a large budget set aside, you’re not likely to go over and might be pleasantly surprised when you spend less.

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I think you’re good at that level. Only you and the 29yo will be doing booze at all. Basically the ages of your crew works out to the same as mine insofar as how disney considers people adults and kids. We allotted $200/day and did fine. I had booze drinks daily and we tip heavily. Husband and I bought our souvenirs on that budget; kids had gift cards from family that they used.

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That’s very helpful. Thanks!

If you plan to do a lot of purchases in WDW, and you have a Target Red Card, consider buying Disney Gift Cards at target before you go. You’ll save 5% on the purchase, so if you’re gonna spend $1000 in and around WDW, you’ll save $50. Technically you can pay for your entire stay that way, which is what we did, and saved $200 (enough for a couple nice dinners!)

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For me $250 that doesn’t include meals is high. However we aren’t big drinkers (my wife and I are both cheap dates) and we do not spend a lot on souvenirs - although this last time we did spend a bit on Harry Potter. Additionally the kiddies always have to pay for the majority of their souvenirs (although we help out).

Personally I would spend more money on an upgraded room (especially at US to get the Express Pass). I would think you wouldn’t need Uber that much - expect for going back / forth from WDW to US - but that is only about $60 - 70.

However - if you plan $250 - I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be able to stay within that budget.

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It’s the tips that can add up. Tips aren’t included in the dining plan, so depending on where you’re eating, you can easily spend $100/day in tips.

Edited to add: although tips could also be as low as $40/day, especially if you’re only doing one TS restaurant each day.


I would also do the math - is what you have planned for dining worthy of what you are paying for the dining plan? Years ago the dining plan was a no brainer - but now - we find that it is very rarely worth it. But that is a separate issue

We’re on free dining so less of an issue. We are still going to maximize it but it’s not so much of a budget concern.

Nothing is free - especially at WDW


So much of that comes down to how much shopping you will do. Alcoholic drinks are typically in the $8-$15 range (wine at a TS can go higher). If your free dining is QS only, then there will be no tips to consider. If on the “regular” DDP, then probably around $40-$50/meal (depending on how much alcohol you have with meals). As for shopping… When I go solo I rarely buy more than a Christmas ornament or two, and maybe a hat or t-shirt. If DW come along, the budget typically runs higher.

I haven’t been to Universal recently enough to estimate food costs, but if they’re similar to WDW, $250/day, for food, shopping, etc., for the 4 of you, is probably cutting it close.

Of course, all of this assumes that tickets have already been accounted for…

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Oddly enough, I go over budget in Universal more than I do in Disney. Not sure if it’s because I have a delusion that Universal is cheaper, or if I just expect Disney to be outrageously expensive. Universal has it’s own dining plan you can purchase each day at the park without needing a room or package, and my daughter and I split meals that way when we went and it worked well for us. I think part of the reason I go over at Universal is that I’m SUCH a Harry Potter nerd and I wanted EVERYTHING. :slight_smile:

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We don’t buy souvenirs - but the items in HP were fantastic and very well made. So many cool things - we got stuffed animals, a wand and shirts. It was funny this year at WDW we were there at Flower and Garden and my wife bought a topiary.

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I’d be afraid to get a topiary- flying that thing home may be a pain! I loved the HP merchandise. LOVED IT. My wand is pretty much still awesome. I wanted robes, but drew the line there.

HA - I had the same concerns - but it made it no problem. Yea we told the kids that they could go to college or get a robe

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That’s about it, too!

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So my husband and I are big food and drink people (not cheap dates). In fact he is more excited about the food than anything else. Knowing that Disney is expensive, I had no idea what would be reasonable estimate.

We finally ended up going through menus for each of our TS and QS meals and tallying up what it would cost if we ate to the nines - apps, desserts, drinks, etc. we then threw in another $20pp per day to cover a couple snack and drinks away from meal times. Threw our souvenir money - which is basically two Christmas ornaments (HP and WDW) on top.

Going through the menus was very helpful. You might try that approach? Also, doing some research to figure out what not to miss in the snack department was super fun. I have quite the list for Epcot!

What I like is that we now have a good idea of what we’d like to spend each place. If we go over, we know to reel it in the following day. If we are under, we can let loose a little.


So, “free” dining is in lieu of an alternative room discount, and still may not make financial sense if you’re not going to eat everything that comes with the plan, or if you don’t want to commit to that style of dining for your trip. In my experience of lots of trips to WDW, we usually end up cancelling most of our table service reservations when we get there, because we just do not want to be tied down to reservations, because we are not that hungry, or because we want to be free to “graze” as desired rather than have set meal times - a pretzel here, a fruit snack there, a giant Mickey krispy treat, etc. We’re also okay with eating “vacation food” sometimes - getting the junky stuff because it smells good and we’re acting like kids again (so, corn dogs, turkey legs, ice cream, etc.). Also, there are plenty of fine dining options for me at home without the price premium associated with the theme park table service meals.

I might have a couple of special meals, but with a lot of ADRs it seems like your whole vacation begins to revolve around food. It’s very challenging when you’re wiped out from the heat at 3 pm but have to stay in the park for your 5 pm dinner reservation, or have to tell the kiddo he can’t watch the rest of the parade because we have to get across the park for dinner. The dining plan has never made sense to us for these reasons.

Having said that, we tend to budget about $200/day for a family of 3 including meals. Even taking an expensive meal, buffet at Tusker House for example, it was something like $120 with tip, which would still be about $80 for food/drinks/etc. the rest of the day, and we average maybe 1-2 $100 meals per trip.