Yikes...it's adding up ($$$)

So…I’m trying to create a budget and am in serious trade off mode. I’d love advice on which one of the ‘nice to have’ expenses you would recommend I eliminate.

Staying 8 nights (Sat-Sun), and decided on a 9 day non-park hopper pass (2 adults, one 11 year old and one 5 year old). The difference between 7 day and 9 days was a total of $41 across the four of us. No brainer to spend $5/pp per day for the extra two days. $2,055.

The addition of park hopper was NOT a no brainer…more like $275 incremental, and I have other plans for that money, so am currently leaning away doing this. My family (besides me) can’t do all day stuff at the parks, They peter out early, and thus I only have planned two days where we take a break and return.

Our ride priorities will be 7DMT (multiple), TSMM (multiple), Soarin (multiple), and likely FOP/Pandora and Slinky (I’ve never road the latter two). And, for me, F! (b/c I didn’t get to do it on my last WDW and DLR trips).

So, I have 4 shockingly expensive options I am considering: 1) EMM MK. $296: I am 100% sure we willl do this if offered while there. 2) EMM HS: $296. 3) Garden Grill @ EP to RD Soarin (w/tax and tip likely $225). and 4) F! Dining Package at HS (min. of $200).

So…after checking out the breakfast skillet family menu at GG, I’ve eliminated it. We will RD Soarin (as well as have a FP from a prior EP Land afternoon). No way I want to pay that much for eggs and bacon and a sweet roll, characters or no. We have a few character stops our plans, and that will have to suffice. Note: Hoping we can snag a SDFP for Soarin after we use our first 3. Anyone have success with this with a same day drop?

But, now I still have 3 expensive add-ons that I’d love some feedback on:

Trying hard to justify $800 more in expense above and beyond the $2,055 we are already spending on tickets. I know we’d spend $100 for dinner, so the incremental expense for the dining package is more like $100. However, we do cheap breakfasts (mostly in the room), so the value in the EMM stuff is in the FUN. Maybe a $75 value of the breakfast that’s included.

And, for context…
My husband has exactly TWO WDW trips in him (one we did in 2015 when my oldest was then 6 and my youngest was a baby, and now we have one scheduled for next year for when my youngest will be 6). Yes, I can throw in a few DLR visits w/out him (sharing costs with grandma), but when it comes to WDW, this will be it for a long, long time.

So, I want to get the most out of this trip, and no one in my family (but me) are dawn to dusk liners, so I have to get in, and get out, hence looking at ways to really maximize our time even if we have to splurge.

Any thoughts on which two you’d choose of the three options remaining? Between EMM MK, EMM HS, and F! Dining Package?

Here is my current schedule:
Day 1, Sat: arrive at hotel by 4pm. 3 hours in MK to do Mickey M&G w/FP, Alladin and Splash w/FP. Just a taste of the park, all in one concentrated area, so we can get kids back to bed for early AM rise. We are hoping to stay at BLT when DVC rental opens up, so we will be close.
Day 2,Sun: MK, EMM. It will feel EARLY for us. All FL, then RD Space and Buzz before breakfast at 9.45am, then the headliners. 7am-3pm in park. No return to park. Will likely be a party night anyway, so can only stay till 6pm.
Day 3, Mon: AK, EMH. . 6.30AM-1.30pm, then break back at hotel, then return for 5.00pmADR at Sanaa (before sunset) and Pandora at night. Maybe River Light show if fam is up for it, but not on my must do list and I won’t drag tired kiddos to it at all costs.
Day 4: Tues: Sleep-in. Free Day to relax till 3.30pm, then EP Future Land till 7.30pm with FPP’s and show’s. No illuminations as we have RD the next day.
Day 5: Wed: HS, EMM Toy Story. 7am-2pm, then break, then return for 7pm F! ADR? Then F! at 9pm. Don’t really like any of the F! restaurant options though…:frowning:
Day 6: Thur: Sleep in. Free day. Then MK around 4pm till 11pm (FW’s at 10pm). Shows plus three FPP’s, etc. Back at hotel close to midnight.
Day 7: Sleep in. Late arrival at HS, not sure time but not rushing. Star Wars stuff, knowing we will give up stuff b/c late arrival.
Day 8: Sat: EP, RD. Soarin, then TT, then rest of the Worlds (since we will have hit most Land stuff on Tuesday early evening). Not sure I want our last day to be EP but this is the way it is working out.
Day 9: Sun: got the 9th day only b/c our flight will be late afternoon and it was so cheap to add an xtra day. I know my husband will have nothing to do with a 9th day, but If kiddos wnat to hit a park for a few hours,I’ll take them. Most likely choice MK as we will be at BLT, so easy to get in and out. I will secure FPPs for 7DMT, Big Thunder and Buzz in advance just in case. Definitely not a RD day :).

Sorry for such a long post, but i’m conflicted.

Of the 3 add-ons that you are considering, I would pick EMM MK and EMM HS. Fantasmic is great, but I think the show can be seen easily enough without the dining package (unless maybe you must have the perfect viewing spot). The theater is huge and I have seen SD FPPs available for it frequently.

I think paid extras like EMM are fun, but they aren’t necessary in order to have a great vacation. You have 9 days to visit the parks so you will be able to accomplish a lot even without EMM. It’s pretty costly for a family of four.


They lure you in with the every-extra-day-is-cheaper-ticket for a reason. Each day you spend is extremely expensive aside from the cost of the ticket- ticket cost is just the tip of the iceberg. So it definitely isn’t a no brainer to add park days- that’s a huge upfront cost right there. Add up the total cost of your vacation and divide by the number of days you’re there, and you’ll see what I mean.

So you could lop off a day or two and buy all the things. That’s what I do. I agree with being as efficient as possible every day- as you say, getting in and getting out, then having rest time at the resort. Our trips are never very long, usually 7 days, but every minute is quality time for the most part.

To badly quote Steel Magnolias, I’d rather have 7 days of wonderful than 10 days of semi-special.

I also have no patience, and my almost-adult kids have tight schedules. So this method of spending fairly intensely for a shorter period of time works pretty well for us.


Wow. US folks get really stung on the tickets. UK peeps get a much better deal, I think.

I’m a sucker for up-charge events. But I’ve also now had three awesome WDW vacations, each of which is the best vacation I’ve ever had.

I’m currently planning my fourth and I’ve already caved and added more up-charge events than I was originally planning to do. But it just makes things so much simpler and less stressful.

I’d say F! dining package is lowest priority. My sense is that it’s not hard at all to get a decent seat.

I’ve signed up to EMM HS because I love SDD — it’s probably my favourite ride at WDW. Plus TSMM is all kinds of fun. And I even like ASS, too. Also, early morning will be relatively cool. TSL is brutal during the day when the sun’s up. No shade at all.

I personally wouldn’t do EMM MK because the only thing of interest to me on offer in that package is 7DMT and I get FPPs at 60 days so I should be OK. Also, I have two EMH evenings at MK when I hope to get a couple of rides in. Besides, I prefer SDD to 7DMT.


it sounds like you will be there after swge opens??? if that’s the case, i highly doubt there will be paid emm days at hs or mk since they have already expanded morning hours. if i misunderstood and you are going before swge, i would do emm hs

It really is oddly fun.


I didnt make it all the way through your post… but did you look into JTT’s convention tickets trick? I think the savings could cover one of your EMM.

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When are you going? I wouldn’t count on EMM as an option, have you seen the extra magic hours in the fall?? Probably wouldn’t bother with other 2 options given the info you have about not liking the restaurants. The extras are really not necessary.

Maybe hop to a water park if you want something different.

We had great luck getting Soarin multiple times on our last trip. Since you have so many days if you RD and do the modify trick at MK you will be in great shape! Maybe have everyone pick their must do rides and prioritize those for FP. We have yet to do everything but our trips have been really fun! I hope you have a great time!!!


We have never bought the extras you list and have only ever done a day in each park. With the number of park days you have, I don’t see any reason why you can’t achieve your ride priorities without any of the extras including park hoppers. In fact, I think you could accomplish it with fewer days even. But, that is totally different than you wanting the extras and all the days. Some people really love them, clearly. You may very well find them worth it and if so go for it. But in my experience doing trips without them, they certainly aren’t needed. Also, I have found getting multiple SDFPs for Soarin’ no problem without even trying to hit timed drops.


Thank you to all. Great feedback. I’m sold on dropIping Garden Grill, and agree the F dining is probablly the next best thing to drop. And yes, I understand that by adding days, I am adding hotel and food expense, even if the incremental cost of a park ticket is so small. I am using the ticket calculator on this site, but a 5 day non park hopper (thru discount service) is only $178 less all-in for the four of us than a 9 day non park hopper one (thru discount service). I.e. $1,877 vs. $2.055. Since we’re staying 8 nights regardless, the flexibility that offers to jot over to a park for 3 hours is worth it (as opposed to getting a 6 day ticket and then rationing it).

My husband explained it this way after our 2015 multi generational WDW/Universal Thanksgiving week trip. We only did 2 days in MK and 2.5 days in Universal (for my Harry Potter obsessed 6 year old). He observed that my Mom and I get energy from the parks as the day wanes on, while the rest of them just get tired. Our entire 9 person clan opted to go back to condo mid-day on the last day of Universal, except my Mom and me!

As such, given my family dynamic, I just can’t ‘take the hill’ marine style, or my family won’t think of it as a vacation. Our vacations are normally a week, Sat-Sun, so we have some benchmark budget to compare to, apples to apples. Spreading it out is our only option.

On the timing front, I am planning for next fall, either Oct fall break or Thanksgiving week, hoping that the EMM’s return after a full cycle year after Star Wars. I have to plan this far in advance for soo many reasons, (knowinng EMM’s might not return) including 1) if we go Thanksgiving, there are extended family negotiations that have to take place and be resolved this summer about not visiting, 2) we have to be prepared to put the FULL amount down on a DVC rental (no refunds) in Nov or Dec and 3) I needed to put together a budget, which required me to run ‘placecard’ TP plans to see if we could do the parks faster (i.e. over October Fall break). Turns out for us, I really think the extended time suits us both from a touring perspective and work/school perspective (both our kid’s schools are out the full Thanskgivng week, and I only have to take 3 days away from work). We could do August as well, but that’s a non starter with my A/C obssessed husband.

My shock came as I tried to figure out how to navigate CL 10 parks with kiddos that enjoy multiple times on a rides, as we did in DLR in 2017 and as we did in MK in 2015 b/c we had such a large party (a mother in law that didn’t do coasters) and a baby that allowed for rider swap. I realized pretty quickly that even with so many days, we’d still have to pay for the upsell stuff just to make it work since they won’t do dawn to dusk touring. That adds 30% to the 2K just to do rides in parks we already paid for. But, if EMM is still a thing, I’m convinced that xtra $600 will be better spent than character breakfasts or expensive signature restaurant dining. We went to Seasons 52 for Thanskgiving meal in 2015 and it was terrific. We went to Artist Point for my mother in laws bday dinner, and it was decent, but not worth the money. We did BOG lunch, which was a nice respite from the park but not necessarily worth the hype (but super convenient to where we were in our touring schedule that day).

Other than EMM days, we’ll do breakfast in condo and thinking we’ll do the Wave (since we are hoping to be in BLT), Sanaa, and maybe one other TSi, and then offsite do Seasons 52 (even if a chain), and then in park try to catch the best of the in quick service in park favorites (Sunshine Season, Satu’li etc). i’m sure we’ll do pizza or other take out in the room as well.

And, yes, the elephant in the room is indeed staying at a Deluxe DVC property, even if going the cheaper renting points option. There are much cheaper options at value or moderate hotels I know.

My husband is high mainteance when it comes to accomondations, and a good condo with a view with a modern esthetic is his thing. It’s usually pretty easy to find across the country, but man is Disney expensive relative to other places with similar accomodations. That’s why I am obssessing about the cost of everything else! We stayed off property in 2015, so the sticker shock was low, and we only did MK in WDW. I vowed then to return for a full immersive Disney on site experience…Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore :).


Sounds like you know your family and your dynamics well and are thoughtfully planning with those in mind. I am sure that will lead to a great vacation for your family! I would just add to my comment that we don’t go hard all day either. We take long mid-day breaks on our four park days. We also go for a full week we just enjoy rest days at the resorts (which is part of why we too think the resorts are worth it :slight_smile: ) and do one day in each park. But your timing of particularly busy weeks definitely is a factor to consider. The experience I cited with SDFPs with Soarin’ was based on CL in the 6-8 range for context, so may or may not be the case in the CLs you are looking at. Best wishes in finding the right balance with all your considerations.


I’m going thanksgiving this year. We’ve found really good rates at the Swan/Dolphin that week. I know you’re talking next year but worth looking at. Won’t be able to reserve until 330 days out I think though.

GG is my favorite breakfast on property, what doesn’t appeal to you? Just curious.

If getting great seats to Fantasmic is really important to you have you considered the dessert package? It might be cheaper (although I guess then you still have to buy dinner, so the two might add up).

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Yes. Definitely you can get this same day. Unless your crowd level is really high, you can almost count on it being available at sometime.

I’m a huge fan of EMM MK. My friend did the HS After Hours and loved it - thought it was well worth the money. If the HS AH is available when you go, I’d do that over the EMM HS as TSL at night is really charming - and you get more than just TSL.

As for F! - we did the Hollywood & Vine dining package for it this past Christmas and thought it was well worth it because it served three purposes - a meal, characters, and the F! FP. Not doing it again this year as my kids don’t care enough about the characters but I’m booking Mama Melrose for the F! package this time. Should be a bit cheaper. It has mixed food reviews but I’m the only one with high dining standards in my family so I’m just sucking it up.

I’ve never done EMM HS or GG for any meals.

I am a huge fan of EMM MK. If it is available, I would suggest doing that extra ticket event. My 2nd option would be the F! Dining package as long as you get to the stadium early enough to get seated in the proper section.

I know it wasn’t an option you listed, but I can’t help but suggest - the Halloween party! It really is a blast - and we aren’t “Halloween” people!!! We liked it soo much we’re doing it again this year! If i had to choose between the party and EMM, I would choose the party hands down!!!

Also, Oct is Food & Wine in Epcot. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure I can help make decisions about most upcharge things. I’m a cheapskate at heart and only pay for things if I see a LOT of value in it.

Having said that, I think the idea of paying for Park Hoppers is likely unwarranted, particularly when you are going so many days. You have enough days to do each park twice, plus an extra day. So, unless you want to park hop for specific meals, it really is, in my mind, a waste of money.

We bought park hoppers once. It was a complete waste. 6 day tickets, and never hopped. I think if you have a small number of days (4 or less) hoppers make sense.

Having said that, when I go with my wife on our Anniversary trip, we’ll splurge for hoppers. But that’s because we want to basically treat Epcot as our “food court” during our 8 days there, since we plan to stay at the Boardwalk.