Budget for WDW

Is it okay to ask how much money and time people budget for a WDW trip?

DH and I are going 15 nights and DD and DS will be going for 10 nights, 7 days of park tickets. DH and I have 2 nights of MVMCP tickets for our 25th wedding anniversary, and we are all flying from California. We budgeted $8,000. After reading the Forum and Lines, I’m wondering if I’ve lowballed the budget.

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I’m assuming that you are staying offsite? Our trip easily was $8000 for less days and less people; but we were staying onsite at AKL for 5 nights and Pop for 2. We also upgraded our free dining plan to Deluxe.

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Does that include flights? They’re crazy expensive. We spent over $6000 for 6 nights staying on site with DDP. This was for 2 adults, 1 kid and a free 2 yo. This was without flights. If I sit with so many nights I don’t think 8k is possible. Offsite and eating most meals in maybe. With that long of a trip anywhere it’s going to get costly.

We’re staying 14 nights on 10 day tickets and a MNSSHP night for 2 adults and 1 child. We’re off-site in a condo, but booked campsite for 3 nights giving us 6 on-site days with EEMH, magic bands and parking. Currently projecting spend of $9,000, but a lot of that is dependent on restaurants/food. It does include airfare and rental car, but we’ve gotten really good pricing on those buying at right time…

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I think you lowballed the budget. I stayed for five days/four nights at Pop Century back in February when the rates were cheaper and we easily spent over $7500. That was for food, tipping, four-day tickets, Early Morning Magic, flights, souvenirs, airport parking, stroller rental, Memory Maker, and pet boarding.

I suggest starting up a spreadsheet to calculate actual prices.

You’ll need the following major categories (and you can refine these if you want):

  • Travel expenses (airfare, or gas/lodging if driving, plus cost of food while traveling)
  • Tickets. (take today’s prices and probably add like 10% for each year out you are from the trip to be safe)
  • Lodging (whether it is on-site or off-site, but actually look up current prices for similar dates to when you plan to go)
  • Food. This one is the trickiest, and for us, generally much higher than you would think! For our family of 5 going in May, I’ve budgeted an average of $150/day…but that includes the fact we will be off site and eating a meal or two in our rental home most days.
  • Souvenirs and other incidentals
  • Special events (such as the MVMCP tickets you mentioned).

I’ve priced out several different options in terms of hotels/rentals for one of our trips so that I can see what will be the range of options.

This should give you a ballpark figure. As you approach your trip, you can refine things as you make decisions. But in the very least, this should tell you if you are looking at a $4000 trip, $6000 trip, $8000 trip, or more! :slight_smile:

The other way to do it is to look at what you reasonably can afford to start saving for. If you have, say, expendable income of $300/month that you can save for vacation, and you plan to go in September 2021, then that is 2 years of saving, giving you $7200 to work with. So, you then have to make a vacation plan that fits within that budget.

ETA: BTW, you can save A LOT of money if you stay off site (we generally find a rental condo or house with kitchen, multiple bedrooms, laundry, and even private pool, etc for significantly less than the cheapest option of staying on property…I suggest homeaway.com).


I would take a look at what your expected expenses are and go from there. My 7 days of tickets for 2 kids and 2 adults was around $1600-$1700 if I remember correctly. I got 8 nights of Wilderness Lodge through Davids for around $2200. I have no dining plan. We signed up for Disney Fine Art Photography, so that was $500. I have planned for food, we will spend around $100-$150 per day in the parks. We got MVMCP tickets, so that was around another $400 for 4 people. I will let me kids have some spending money, probably around $50 each. Memory maker was $169. Stroller rental was around $250 for both of my girls.

So total, my trip would cost
+(8 x 150)
+(2 x 50)

We drive, and I’m not counting gas. Add in around another $200 or so for that.
You can obviously cut out quite a bit. MVMCP tickets and Fine Art Photography would cut it down about $900.

Thanks for all your inputs! I realized that I planned for this vacation the wrong way. I’ll do better next time. Based on your inputs, I may be cutting it close at $8,000 and may have to loosen the purse strings a bit more.

Yes, at the Hampton in Lake Buena Vista for 5 nights and the Hilton at Bonnet Creek for 10 nights.

Yes, budget will have to include flights. There is no way we will drive across the country. My back will protest loudly!

I refuse to cook on vacation unless it is an absolute must. Breakfast can be cereal and instant noodles. They don’t require real cooking. That is one reason we don’t tend to stay in vacation rentals. My family would then expect some cooking!

@ricksun How do you get 6 on-site days when you only booked campsite for 3 nights. Paying for condo for 14 nights and campsite for 3 nights; plus flights, tickets, etc. brings you to about $9K. Sounds like a good deal…

Currently there isn’t EMM scheduled. If there is and we want to go, the per person cost will be something serious to think about.

@ryan1, I do have a spreadsheet but I didn’t start thinking about budget until we started paying for stuff for the trip:neutral_face:. It will be our second trip. Our last trip was in 2012. And it may be our last trip to WDW as a family of 4, since the kids are well into college and will soon have their own lives. I used those emotional values instead of actually sitting down and pricing out different types of trips like you suggested.

I am over $4K with airfare, park tickets, car rentals, parking, and Candlelight Processional Dining. Housing is free, since we are staying entirely on hotel points. We have been hoarding those points for a couple of years in anticipation of this trip but the hotels kept on raising the points per night, probably in response to WDW raising prices so often! When we started looking a couple of years ago, it was around 30,000 points/night at the DS hotels. When I booked, it was 50,000 points/night at the DS hotels :roll_eyes:. I had to split the hotel stay with a non good neighbor hotel to have enough points for the trip and still have the 60-day FPP and EMH benefits for the days we will actually use them. Does that count as working within my budget? :grimacing: I haven’t added some uber and most of the food costs.

We have only done a few vacation rentals. Having all that space and in unit laundry facility are fabulous amenities. They scare us in terms of safety, cleanliness, and how to go about to screen them. @qwerty6 says she will give me a primer when she is less busy. So, maybe on another trip.

I’m really interested in how you arrived at your food budget. Because, like you said, it is the trickiest! You’ve budgeted about $150/day for 5 people. Does that include your eating in and out or just the eating out? What is your family’s eating style? (Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, QS, TS, brown bag?)

I’m interested in how you arrived at your food costs. What is your family’s eating style? (Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, QS, TS, brown bag?)

My kids are adults with part time jobs. They will not be getting any spending money! We are paying for the trip.

But when they were young, we did give them a little spending money so that they would not constantly be asking us to buy stuff. It worked, for the most part. The first year DS got spending money, he was 4 and really had no concept of money! It was a road trip and we went to a number of places. He bought something at each stop. By the time we got to the last stop (Legoland), he was a few bucks short for what he wanted and we refused to give him the few bucks. It hurt and DH yelled at me for letting him buy everything else but… in subsequent years since, DS learned that money doesn’t grow on trees and to strategize how to spend vacation money.

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Although you’re not eligible for the dining plan…you could use one of the dining plan calculators to help you arrive at an approximate food cost… Disney Dining Plan Calculator (Use this Free Tool to Save Money at WDW)


We don’t generally do TS eating at the parks. When we have, it was for a SINGLE meal the entire week. Instead, we usually do a single QS meal, plus some snacks, in the parks. Breakfast we eat in the rental (we buy groceries), and usually one meal (dinner most often).

Anyhow, if we take $1/person for breakfast (cereal & milk is cheap!), and $4/person for dinner for most days, plus $6/person for a snack in the parks, we’ve used $11/person, or $55. That leaves $95 for us to eat some QS meal. At roughly $15/person, that’s $75. The extra $20 will be allocated to the day that we actually eat at TS. For a 10 day trip, that’s $200 plus the normal $75, so $275 we have budgeted/available for a TS meal or two.

In the past, we have tried to save money by bringing in snacks and even lunch to avoid a QS meal as well. But I have enough in my budget these days not to be so cheap! :slight_smile:

Very detailed! But that helps me. We don’t usually buy enough entrees per person unless it is a buffet and that is hardly ever a good deal for us because we are not big eaters. Breakfast is taken care of for free at the hotels but we don’t have kitchen facilities or even a microwave. We need to eat out for dinner. In addition to the Candlelight Dining package, we have 2 more TS. So, with only 4 of us compared to your 5, we should be able to do $150-$175/day for food.

Some trips, I may buy a box of crossaints from Costco and lunchmeat. That’s enough for 3 lunches and everyone can make their own sandwich for the day. Costco is not doable for this trip because we won’t have a car when the kids come; and DH and I don’t want to eat 6 meals of sandwiches!

I should add…for our trip in February 2018, we did 4 days at Universal (no Disney), and I had 3 of our kids. (I have 5 kids, but one is married and the second in college.) Rather than eat anything other than QS, we did eat one “nice” meal outside of the parks by picking up a pizza from Giordano’s and taking it back to our condo. The pizza was expensive (about $40), but still way cheaper than eating TS!

For our May 2020 trip, I am only responsible for paying for the same 3 kids, but my son and daugher-in-law will be joining us for the trip. He’s paying his own way! :slight_smile: But we might skip any TS meals at Disney itself and do another Giordano’s pizza, or something else, where we don’t pay Disney prices.

It is hard to do that if you are without a vehicle, though. We can drive wherever we want. :slight_smile:

Prime Now or Instacart are also options…get some sandwich stuff/breakfast pastries delivered to your hotel.

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Please do not underestimate your food costs. Like you, I also refuse to cook on vacations and we stay in hotels as opposed to rentals to get a break from kitchen equipment. :grin:

For the family of 4 we are spending around $250-$300 per day on quick breakfast, lunch and sit down dinner with some snacks in between.

You may want to browse MDE and look up menus and prices for both QS and TS restaurants.


We are not doing the dining plan, so we only have 2 TS meals. One is at Oga’s and that is just for drinks, and to be honest, it’s more about getting to see the place. The other is at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge for Breakfast on the day we leave. Gotta have breakfast. Might as well have it before we hit the road.

We will be doing all QS meals. We did lots of TS meals last time and figure we will do better financially and also it is critical time in the parks. The $150 mark was kind of a very rough estimate. I figure if we each have 2 snacks throughout the day, that’s $40 and we can eat 2-3 meals at the parks for the other $100-110. There was no real rhyme or reason, jsut about what I think it will cost.

It’s actually only 4.

My kids had no concept of money last time we went. I think one of my daughters is finally getting it and the other is a special needs child that learns a little differently than others. She will get it, but it just takes a little while. I intend on using this as a teachable moment about it too. If they run out, then they just run out.

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That part was written to me, not you. :slight_smile: So it actually was for 5!

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@ricksun How do you get 6 on-site days when you only booked campsite for 3 nights. Paying for condo for 14 nights and campsite for 3 nights; plus flights, tickets, etc. brings you to about $9K. Sounds like a good deal…
You book the stay on non-consecutive nights. For example, you get the on-site benefits on check-in day and check-out day of each stay. So, if one spends $80 on a 1-night campground site, you get 2 nights benefits, to include parking, as well as 60+1 fastpass Plus, and EMH benefits and magicbands if necessary.

Ok, so I budgeted the same amount for one less person. I need to go on a diet. :slight_smile:


Nah. Just means you’re not as cheap as I am!

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I eat my cereal with a fork so I can pour the milk back in the milk jug. I an pretty cheap.