What's your budget? And do you stick to it?

Because I have a dog and no friends, I rarely go on big holidays – I mostly travel a few hundred miles from home and stay at dog-friendly hotels.

But the opportunity of free accommodation in Orlando came up and I jumped at it. I figured a budget of £1,000 to £2,000 all-in, including flights from the UK.

That turned out to be massively naive! I’m way, way over-budget! This is partly because I go away so rarely. I want to have no regrets, I want to see it all, I want the “perfect” experience. I’m not coming back for a long, long time so this trip has to count.

I won’t have to sell a kidney to pay for the trip, but my 50th birthday fund has been cleared out two years early!


Well, I don’t know what your flight costs, but I know that is likely a big chuck of your expenses right there. Having a free place to stay is a HUGE help, that’s for sure!
Park tickets can be pricey too. But you haven’t said how long you’re staying or how many days you plan to go to the parks. And it sounds like it’s just you going, so that certainly helps keep your budget down compared to a family for 4 or 5!
So, assuming you’re going for 7 days, a 7-day ticket costs $410 USD or $485 USD for a park-hopper. (In my mind, that’s not that bad). Then you have to eat, so depending on where you plan to eat, snacks, quick-service or table service, you’ll probably need anywhere from $20 to $100 USD per day for eats. Having said that, you can also bring in your own food in a backpack and you’ll save lots of money that way!
You’ll also have an expense getting from the airport to wherever it is you are staying (Uber, taxi, rental car, etc) and an expsense to park your rental car or uber to the parks each day. I think it’s $20 per day.

Again, not knowing your flight cost, I’d think the budget you have should work, unless the flight is crazy expensive!

Whatever you spend, you’re going to have a great time! Just make sure to use a Touring Plan! And if you are in fact going alone, you’ll get the benefit of using the Single Rider lines at the attractions that offer that.

Have fun!

I assume since you’re coming from the UK that you’re staying a week or two. Depending on how long you intend to visit Disney, check the special official uk Disney ticket deals. They work out a lot cheaper than any price you’ll get elsewhere. They’re for 7, 14 or 21 days and you get park hoppers and the water parks etc. for less than the equivalent base tickets from the US site or any cut price site.

For Universal, check undercover tourist. If you’re at all interested in space travel, go to Kennedy for a day (or two).

Unless this is really Disney and nothing else, and if you 2 weeks or more, think about taking the time to see a bit of the rest of Florida. Maybe Miami, the Keys or the Everglades.

You can bring food into the parks too to save money. There are limits to cooler sizes allowed, but there are lockers to put stuff in when visiting the parks.

And come here and ask lots of questions.

My budget was a full on stay at “rack rate” and the first time I went, I was able to stay in it with ease thanks to the various discounts and deals I took advantage of. It also helped I was traveling alone.

This time might be a tad more difficult but I have other strategies in play to keep the cost down. I’m hoping to o stick to a budget of roughly $4,000 total for 2 people. I’m optimistic on that, but I have no doubt that can easily go beyond that with a few signature dining experiences thrown in.

The good news is once you’re actually in the parks, i think only food and souvenirs are The only things left that can suddenly drain your wallet. That helps ease my mind as I know once I’m on the flight I’m pretty much “done” spending

We use a 200-point DVC membership that’s paid in full, so that part is “free”, and we also use military park hoppers ($224 for a 5-day hopper!) so our budget is mainly just food, flights, and souvenirs. We paid for our Ft. Wilderness cabin last summer, but we got the military rate at about 35-40% off rack rate (ended up being something like $179/night) so that was still quite reasonable even when we added the golf cart rental. We like our finer dining, so we typically get a deluxe dining plan (which is significantly more expensive now that my older niece is 10… no more paying the child rate and ordering from the adult menu anyway for her!) and that’s really the biggest expense we have. With the ADRs we have this trip it will save us a couple of hundred dollars, but if we had to pay full price for tickets and resorts we would definitely have to cut back big time on dining and resort level, or else just go once every couple of years.

My brilliant sister booked our arrival on one of the most expensive days of the year to fly, so that almost blew the budget ($490/person to fly at 5:30am, $900+/person if we wanted any other departure time!! For a 2.5 hour flight!) but I noticed that the night before was less than $200/person so we’re doing that and are back on track even with the cost of an additional night’s stay.

Disney costs us about 3x what we would spend on a similar length vacation elsewhere. I only regret our first trip not being a day or two longer and having to wait to go back!

What our budget is varies from trip to trip. Our April trip - 8 nights at AKL with 5 day PH and a side trip for DH and kids to UOR - had a substantially higher budget than our upcoming September trip that is a 4 night stay with 3 day tix no hopping, no dining. But whatever we know our budget to be, we do stick to it within a couple of hundred dollars.

I’m always pretty transparent about budgeting and costs, because I think it benefits many planners, so here’s what I’ve got, even if it’s not strictly on par factually with your scenario.

My current trip will run as follows:

  • Airfare - $30, possibly another $36 if I get early bird check in
  • Car service to Uni - $80
  • Hotel at Uni - $702 for 3 nights
  • Tickets at Uni - $750 for 2 parks, park-to-park, 3 days, 2A 1C
  • Car service to WDW - $80
  • DVC at AK-Kidani - $750
  • Tickets at WDW - $585
  • Food… I usually budget around $200/day for a family of 2A 1C. We tend to view theme park vacations as equivalent to carnival days, we’re not looking for fine dining and are usually fine eating from counter service restaurants. There are exceptions for places we just really enjoy eating, but otherwise we don’t make many ADRs and don’t spend a lot on food. Say $1,000-1,200 for this trip.
  • Souvenirs - we’re not big on them. I do enjoy getting the kiddo something fun, but usually do something like that every week at home, so it’s not necessarily a “vacation” expense. He will bring birthday/holiday money, too.

So, probably around $4,000 all-in for a family of three for 6 nights. Could do it more cheaply for about $3,000, or could get up to $6,000 with airfare and more extras like pirates fireworks cruise, dessert party, etc.

My overall vacationing strategies:

  • I work with colleagues who make the same salary as me, or more, and yet who act all put out that I’m going to Disney again and how can I afford that? These are the same folks who live in houses that cost twice as much as mine, drive BMW/Lexus/Infiniti type vehicles (and usually SUVs), have a bar/beer/liquor store budget of $100+/week, etc. Which is not to say that they’re making bad choices with their disposable income, but that they’re making different choices than I am, which is how I’m living differently than they are. I actively prioritize vacationing and time off with my son, and my expenses and budgeting reflects this.

  • Not applicable to you in the UK, but one year I had an annual pass, and I was able to do more 3-4 day weekends with flash airfare sales and resort deals, and I think it worked out cheaper than one big vacation, and it felt like more vacationing.

  • I shop airfare sales constantly. I have alerts from Southwest, Frontier, and Allegiant, the major carriers who fly non-stop from my home city to Orlando. I also subscribe to Airfare Watchdog, which will collect fare sales, including from Southwest.

  • I booked my current trip during a SW fare sale, and am flying for free on points (except for something like $10/person ticket fees). I collect SW points through travel for work, travel for leisure, “dining rewards,” and having the SW credit card. At any given time, I usually have enough for 1 - 1 1/2 roundtrip tickets between home and MCO. I also fly the bad flights - I’m coming home on a 7:10 am flight, because it worked out to be $200 cheaper than a flight later in the day (I didn’t have enough points). Otherwise, “good” airfare ranges from $800-1,200 for my family of 3. I’ve gone as low as $600ish (when you tack on bag fees, etc.) by flying into Sanford airport, and I might do it again, depending on the cost of car rental. I REFUSE to deal with the budget rental car companies at Sanford, and I’m Hertz Gold and Avis Preferred, so I’ll usually pay more for a rental car with a breezy pickup experience.

  • I also collect other points and rewards that can be applied to travel. I kinda evade the system at work and usually book my own hotel for work travel using hotels.com (you could also do Expedia, Orbitz, etc.), and collect rewards nights. I had one free night through hotels.com, and was able to apply it to a stay at Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort at Universal for this stay. We were able to apply Amex points to the Loew’s stay as well - I booked it as two separate reservations, though, because you can’t combine, it’s split between first 2 nights and then one standalone night. Note that you can apply Amex points and hotels.com free night as credit toward the overall costs - you do not need to have enough points or dollar value in the free night to actually cover the whole cost at the Loew’s Uni hotels, which is awesome. You can book a Disney resort at hotels.com and also redeem a free night toward a Disney stay.

  • Another comment about points and rewards - sometimes the same activity can earn you points through multiple venues. For example, both SW Rapid Rewards Dining and Upromise (which ties to my son’s college fund in a 529 plan) are tied to eating at participating restaurants with a card (including a debit card) that you’ve registered, so I can both collect airline points and money toward my kid’s college fund by eating at the local BBQ joint. I can book a hotel through hotels.com and use my SW credit card to pay for it, earning rewards in both places. If you take the time to learn systems like ebates or fat wallet, you can do something similar - accumulate sales and rebate dollars or rewards points for multiple vendors from the same activity. If it’s too much work, it’s too much work, but something like the dining rewards/Upromise thing is pretty much on autopilot after you set it up, so I think it’s worth doing.

  • I tend to stay at the cheapest moderate at Disney. This time, I am renting DVC points at Animal Kingdom for less than the cost of a moderate. I could have done DVC at OKW or SSR for even less, but we wanted to see AKL and the AK-Kidani pool looks nice.

  • I’m staying at a “deluxe” at Uni mainly because of the Express Unlimited passes, we’re going in the heat and crowds of July. Otherwise, I’d likely stay on site, but possibly in a lower price-point room.

  • I will do a deluxe, VIP type experience in circumstances that actually seem to warrant it, but generally not for a theme park vacation, if that makes sense. For example, we cruise about every 2 years, and my last cruise we sailed concierge level. Those perks were everywhere and definitely worth it, and the entire experience every day was gilded with that extra level of glamour. I personally do not get spending that kind of money for a Disney resort. I’m mostly not in the room, I’m in the parks, where there’s no corresponding VIP treatment the way there is on a cruise ship, where you get special seating by the pool, access to a private bar/lounge, early departure in your own keyed elevator for ports, etc. Once you’re at MK, you’re just another sweaty tourist, no matter how much you paid for that room at the Poly. I don’t personally find the deluxe hotels worth the premium based on the type of vacation this is for me, but I’m willing to give myself vacation luxury where it makes sense.

  • If you are doing a longer stay, have you considered tacking on a Disney cruise, or other cruise line out of Port Canaveral? You have to consider the cost of transportation to the port, but we did one big vacation for my 40th birthday and son’s 5th, and we found that, at some point, adding more nights at WL plus tickets ended up being equivalent to nights on a Disney cruise, so we just split the 11 days we planned to spend between land and sea.

Don’t know if any of that specifically helps you, but maybe it’s useful to someone.


Also, I play a game when I’m bored at work or can’t sleep where I make up a fictitious family/travel group, travel dates, and budget and plan their trip. I’m pretty good at making a trip work within any budget, at least in theory.


Definitely go for the UK park hopper tickets, they are just for our market, and sometimes you can get a 14 day ticket for the price of 7.
My DH is going solo to Disney in January (doing the marathon) and I have booked him for 7 nights at CSR and with flights (Virgin) it came to just under £1,500. There are no park tickets in this but it does include Disney transport.
Do you have any air miles to convert, that can be a good saving too.

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In the spirit of manateesmom’s post, here’s how my finances are working out . . .

Before I start, there’s a slight complication. I’m meeting with an American friend who lives in Mass. She’s covering some, but not all of her share of the costs.

My flight to US – £1,600: I’m travelling premium economy at the end of August into Boston (but returning from Orlando)

Airport hotels and long-stay parking – £279 in UK, $400 in US

Internal US flights from Boston to Orlando – covered by my friend: my flight single, hers is return, total $208

Car hire – covered by my friend: about $250; also petrol/gas and parking at WDW and USF ($20 a day)

Accommodation – free: I’m staying at a friend’s house about 20 mins from WDW

Entrance tickets – 14 day hopper at WDW and USF: £550 total each

Food – breakfast at the house (bagel and creme cheese, OJ), lunch and dinner at the parks $100 a day for the two of us (she’s a light eater)

Park extras – I’ve gone a bit overboard here: VIP day at USF, $219+tax each; various dessert parties, between about $49 and $79+tax each; dinner and show at Tiffins and Brown Derby, both about $70+tax each; will try not to load up with souvenirs as they end up in a box, unlooked at when I get home, but I’m buying a wand at Ollivander’s ($60) and I’m tempted to buy a Magic Band 2 ($30)

Other extras – my passport had expired so that needed renewing; new suitcase (I’m planning on surviving on cabin baggage only); sun hat, new clothes, new shoes, etc, appropriate to a Florida summer – do these count as holiday expenses? they’re all re-usable

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a) Agree!
b) We stayed DVC Kidani in March and it was our favourite WDW trip ever. By far my favourite resort stay ever, and we’ve done Pop, AoA, WL, BC, YC. The pool is amazing, the vibe is perfect, the staff were wonderful, it was so incredible - I hope your experience is as good as ours was!

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There really isn’t a one size fits all budget. When I go solo it’s tight budget all the way except for TS meals - but only one signature. Virtually no shopping budget. When I go with CIndy, it’s more deluxe, multiple signature meals and a markedly larger shopping budget. My solo trips almost always come in really close to budget. Trips with Cindy not as much…

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I have 4 people and we’re going on our first Disney trip as a family. It is hard to say what our budget is primarily from the standpoint of we didn’t start out by saying “We will spend XX amount and that is all”, instead we said “what will it cost if we do the trip in this way, and then can we afford to do it?”. Our trip is a total of 10 extended family members & we are splurging more than we would normally do so in part because of this. We are splurging more than we would normally because this is likely the only time we will get to Disney while our children truly “believe in the Magic” - they will be 6 & 4 at travel time. We will likely go again sometime in the future in a much more budget-conscious way, but imagine that thrill rides and maybe a side trip to Universal will be part of the fun then, rather than them believing they just met Belle! So as parents, we are choosing to be willing to spend more this time around.

That said - this trip is costing our family FAR more than our typical vacation, partly because of airfare, partly because we are staying at a Deluxe resort for some of our trip, and because of our choice to do Park Hoppers & the MVMCP (likely for the first & only time). We’re going to try to control food costs, souvenir costs, and aren’t doing many TS meals. Like previous posters have said, we have chosen to make lifestyle choices that will allow us to make this kind of trip. I don’t remember the last time I went to the movies, or the last time my husband & I went to dinner together - dates, what are those?! :slight_smile: But we both agree this is the stage our family is in, and we are in agreement of prioritizing this trip over other things.

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Sounds like your flight costs are the worst part.
So, what is the grand total you expect to spend personally out of your pocket?
Take that number, divide it by the number of days you’ll be on holiday. That may give you a better sense of what the trip is costing you.
Also, you are going a bit overboard on extras. If the finances worry you, you can always cut that stuff out.

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You’ve said you’re doing a 14 day hopper, priced at £550 each. If you mean sterling, then the uk tickets are much less than that. Current price showing as £364 on the uk site.


You still have time to buy them and link to MDE in time for your fastpasses.

The £550 includes Universal 14 day hopper :slight_smile:

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For a once in a lifetime trip I’d say that’s a fine job! A few years back, I took my niece on a last minute 5-day trip over the 4th of July (Independence Day) without the benefit of any military discounts or DVC points… here’s my approximate budget for the two of us (she was 6 at the time):

$2500 - 4 nights/5 days package in Little Mermaid room at AoA (it was brand new at the time plus it was only booked 5 days in advance so no promos at all), with park hopper + and deluxe dining for 1 child, 1 adult
$536 - round trip airfare
$180 - Castle package at Bibbidi Bobbidi
$210 - premium seats at La Nouba
$175 - the equivalent to Memory Maker
$225 - cabana at Typhoon Lagoon (it was $450 but we shared with some local friends of mine, who insisted on paying for half)
$150 - souvenirs, in the form of Disney Dream Dollars from the Disney Visa
Total: $3976, which is pretty close to my guess of $4000.

On the flip side, when I planned (and joined) a trip for one of my professors last May the total budget I was given was $15k for 3 adults and 2 kids, 5 nights 6 days. Even with a 2 bedroom suite (the only input I received at all was that it had to be on the monorail, and there were no 2 bedroom villas to be had at any monorail resorts) and premium dining plan (RIP) at GF we still didn’t quite use it all, though not for lack of trying.

I flew from Philadelphia to London in January years ago and the flight was much less than in summer. Check different times of the year.