There’s no denying that a trip to Walt Disney World is expensive. That being said, the total cost of a Walt Disney World vacation can vary wildly depending on many factors.
Some of those factors aren’t things you can necessarily control, such as the number of people you’re bringing. But many others—like where you stay, when you visit, and how many days you spend in the park—are variable and can have a massive impact on the amount of money you spend on your vacation.
A Disney World vacation can cost anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to $10,000 or more, but the average price is around $5,000.
Let’s look at all of the major areas to budget when planning your dream vacation. We’ll give price ranges, as well as averages for a five-night, four-day vacation for a family of four in one hotel room. We’ll cover all the ways to splurge and save. That way, you can plan every detail within your means.
- Hotels and Accommodations
- Park Tickets
- Food and Drink
- In the Parks: Genie and Genie+
- Special Events and Add-Ons
- Good to Know: Vacation Packages
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Being Prepared Means Having the Best Time Possible
Hotels and Accommodations
More than likely, the first thing you’ll book is your accommodations. Disney has about 36,000 hotel rooms in more than 25 resorts. Let’s look at their tiers, as well as alternative options.
Disney Resort Hotels and DVC Villas
Disney organizes its hotels into three major categories:
- Value resorts: these are the least expensive and have the fewest amenities. Rates for a standard room start around $120 per night and go up to over $300 per night.
- Moderate resorts: these large resorts have some more amenities than the values. Rates for standard rooms start around $240 nightly and rise to over $400 during busier seasons.
- Deluxe resorts are the nicest accommodations in Walt Disney World, with lots of amenities and preferred transportation to the parks. Prices can vary widely depending on the hotel and time of year, but you usually can’t stay in a standard room for less than $400 per night, and prices during peak season can reach $800 or more.
In addition, you may want to consider the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) villas. While they cost more money, your family will have more space, and you can prepare meals in the full kitchen. A standard one-bedroom villa (sleeps five) starts at about $500 nightly, while a two-bedroom (sleeps eight) starts at around $700.
Therefore, a five-night vacation in a standard hotel room could cost as little as $600 or as much as $4000.
Staying Off Property
Another appealing option is staying at a hotel not owned by Disney. Many hotels in the area have high-quality rooms and amenities that might be less expensive than Disney-owned properties.
If you want to save money, consider searching a travel site like expedia.com or kayak.com for hotel stays. Be sure to check the map to see how close the hotel is to the parks, and check the hotel’s website regarding transportation to and from the parks. Carefully read reviews to gauge other Disney travelers’ experiences.
When Is Peak Season?
Generally, the following times of year are considered some of the busiest at WDW:
- New Year’s
- The week of President’s Day (February)
- Easter week
- Memorial Day weekend
- Thanksgiving weekend
- The holiday season (usually mid-December until the end of the year)
- Marathon weekends (check the schedule for dates)
Value season tends to be:
- January, excluding marathon weekends and MLK Day, and early February
- Late August through mid-September, excluding Labor Day
Once you have the dates for your vacation, you can purchase park tickets. There’s a lot to consider here, and Disney doesn’t always make it simple.
Theme Park Tickets
Theme park tickets get you into one of the four parks at Walt Disney World–Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. These tickets start at $109, but when you visit matters. Tickets are more expensive if you want to visit during peak times, up to about $130.
You can add the Park Hopper option for an additional charge, which allows you to visit more than one park each day. This is great if you have little ones who need downtime in the middle of the day or if you want to make sure you spend as much time as possible in the parks.
The Park Hopper Plus allows you to also visit the sports complex and water parks.
Total Ticket Prices
For our family of four visiting for their four-day vacation, one-park-per-day tickets will cost at least $420 per person, or $1,680 (before taxes). If you want to add the Park Hopper, you’re looking at $508 per person with a grand total of at least $2,032.
Remember, buying a park ticket does NOT guarantee park admission! You have to make park reservations separately after you buy your tickets.
One final note on park tickets: yes, these are very expensive. But remember that the parks are probably the whole reason why you’re visiting! It’s perhaps not where you want to skimp. What’s more, park admission gets you access to all the attractions, rides, shows, and more that you can possibly pack into one day.
Food and Drink
Unfortunately, Walt Disney World is not all-inclusive, and food and drink can be pretty pricey. Most families opt for one of Disney’s dining plans. Not only will this more than likely save you money in the end, but it also allows you to relax a little more while you’ve vacationing since this significant expense is already taken care of.
However, note that Disney has not reinstated sales of dining plans at this time. Therefore, we’ve included other ways to budget for food and drink.
Disney Dining Plans
Disney offered four different dining plans. Each also includes a refillable resort mug, and adult meals include one alcoholic beverage if desired.
- The Quick-Serve Dining Plan: allows two meals from any quick-service window and two snacks per night of stay per person. It costs $55 for an adult and $26 for a child per night.
- The Disney Dining Plan includes one quick-service meal, one sit-down meal, and two snacks per night. It costs $78.01 for adults and $30.51 per child.
- Disney Dining Plan Plus: two meals (either sit-down or quick-serve) and two snacks per person per night. It costs $94.60 per adult and $35 per child for each night.
- The Deluxe Plan: three meals (either sit-down or quick-serve) and two snacks per person per night. It costs $119 for adults and $47.50 for children.
Therefore, food and drink will cost at least $405 for our family of four (two adults and two children) if they stick strictly to the least expensive dining plan and don’t spend a lot of extra money on snacks or drinks.
Many families want to save money by stretching their dining plan or only adding the dining plan for days you’re in the parks. Unfortunately, to use a dining plan, you have to book it for the entirety of your stay, which is why the pricing is per night of stay.
Without a Dining Plan
If you decide to (or must) visit WDW without a dining plan, take a look at some of your dining options ahead of time to try to game plan costs. Be realistic about how often you’ll want snacks, need to buy a bottle of water, or will crave a sit-down dinner. Also, be sure to factor in alcohol if that applies to you.
There are ways to cut down on costs. We always recommend bringing a box of granola bars and even ordering snacks to be delivered from the grocery store to your hotel. Even if you can just do breakfast this way, you’ll save a lot of money.
For simplicity’s sake, we recommend budgeting at least $60 per day per adult and $35 per day per child. This doesn’t include extras, so plan accordingly.
In the Parks: Genie and Genie+
If you visited WDW in the years before the pandemic, you may remember a wonderful, free service called Fastpass+, where you could reserve up to three attractions per day ahead of your visit to the parks and skip the lines. Unfortunately, Disney has done away with this free service and instead started using Genie and Genie+.
You should research each carefully and decide if you want to pay for the extra service ahead of time. Luckily, Genie is free, but Genie+ costs $15 per ticket per day. With Genie+, you can access so-called “Lightning Lanes.”
With only Genie, you cannot access Lightning Lanes or make ride reservations. You can tell it what you’re interested in riding and let the app guide your day by suggesting the shortest wait times and itineraries.
If you decide to sign up for Genie+, you simply log in to your app, make a Lightning Lane reservation (similar to Fastpasses of the past), and return during your ride time window.
You can only make one reservation at a time every two hours, and you can only reserve a ride one time each day (so if you want to ride something twice, you’ll have to wait in the standby line the second time).
In addition, certain attractions will cost even more for Lightning Lane access. Disney charges individual fees to access two attractions in each park:
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train and Space Mountain
- Epcot: Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Hollywood Studios: Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Rise of the Resistance
- Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest
These prices vary depending on the ride and the day. They range from $7-$20. If you’re visiting during peak times, plan to spend the full $20. There is a limit of two per person each day.
If you decide to do Genie+, add another $240 to the cost of your vacation. If you think you’ll use the individual Lightning Lanes, add another $20 per person per day, or $320.
These costs certainly add up. Whether or not to use Genie+ and Lightning Lanes depends on your family’s desired experience. If you want to go with the flow and enjoy the sights and sounds of the park, then you probably don’t need it, especially if you don’t mind waiting in a few lines.
However, if you want to do as much as you can or have impatient little ones, it might significantly enhance the quality of your vacation. You can always opt into it on the day of your visit.
Special Events and Add-Ons
If you haven’t realized it yet, we’ll just tell you: Disney’s first goal is making money. What’s more, they’re good at it. That’s why there are so many extra ways that Disney gets you to spend money on your vacations. These include special ticketed events, prime seating for fireworks and other events, and special tours and experiences.
Special Tours and Experiences
Disney offers many tours and experiences throughout its properties and four parks. Disney designed them to enhance guests’ knowledge and offer very special access. Of course, this comes at a price.
Some of the special tours offered include the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot ($29 per person), where guests learn about the greenhouses in Epcot and how Disney grows much of the food served in its restaurants.
The Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom ($199 per person) walks guests through some of the park’s most exciting exhibits and includes a meal. There are also behind-the-scenes tours at all four parks that give visitors insight into operations and more.
There are free experiences as well. Guests can view holiday and seasonal decorations, enjoy festivals at Epcot (Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, and so on), participate in merchandise events, get a haircut on Main Street, U.S.A., and much more.
Special Ticketed Events
Disney also hosts special ticketed events which require admission purchases separate from park tickets. Two of their favorites are Disney After Hours Boo Bash, which runs from late summer into the fall, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, both in the Magic Kingdom.
During these events, the park closes early to non-ticketed guests (7:00 pm), and ticket-holders get to ride the rides, encounter characters, view special parades and fireworks, and much more. Tickets to these events usually cost anywhere from $100-$170, depending on when you attend.
Prime Seating and More
Finally, you can also book prime seating and dessert or meal experiences for fireworks. It may seem extraneous now, but when your family is desperate to be able to see the show, you may be more apt to spring for it: prices start at $19 per person (children) and go to $39 for adults. This is before any food or drink.
There are many other ways to add extras to your vacation and its overall price tag. Planning ahead, knowing what’s available, and making these decisions before you go can help prevent sticker shock while you’re there and last-minute, over-the-top spending. Visit Disney’s Special Events and Tours page to learn more.
Shopping is literally everywhere in Walt Disney World, and they’re geniuses at marketing. Somehow, they make expensive souvenirs seem like absolute must-haves. Even apart from the souvenir shopping, Disney Springs is a massive entertainment district with every kind of store you can imagine, including top designer brands.
Even for the most budget-conscious family, it’s unrealistic to expect not to do some shopping. Your kids are going to want ears to wear like everyone else, and you’re going to fall in love with that perfect t-shirt, whether you see it at a store in the parks or the gift shop at your resort hotel.
Our advice is to plan for shopping while you’re there. If you have older kids, consider getting them gift cards with their spending money loaded on them. That way, they can be responsible for their own choices.
For yourself and the other adults in your party, gift cards aren’t a bad idea either. That way, you’re only making one purchase on your credit card or bank account rather than dozens, and you can keep careful track of your spending. Just keep in mind that some Disney Springs retailers don’t accept Disney gift cards, so plan accordingly.
However you decide to manage your money, it’s crucial to have a plan. Understand what you can afford to spend and what you’re comfortable with after you’ve paid for everything else for the vacation. Remember that some of the best souvenirs are the memories (and pictures!) you’ll bring home with you.
Your transportation costs will vary widely depending on where you’re visiting from. Obviously, cross-country flights are more expensive than driving in from Jacksonville. That being said, there are some standard variables to consider.
To and From the Airport
While flight prices are unpredictable for the purposes of this article, airport transportation costs are not. Disney no longer offers its Magical Express service, which used to transport guests and their luggage from the airport to their hotels. Unless you’re renting a car, you’ll have to book a shuttle or pay for a taxi or rideshare.
Shuttles typically cost around $30 for children and $40 for adults, roundtrip. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to make multiple stops to drop other guests at their resorts.
Rideshares vary depending on the time of day and the number of passengers. Most taxis and other services do not allow four guests to ride in standard vehicles, so you’ll need an SUV. An UberXL will be between $50-$60 one-way.
Therefore, our family of four needs to add at least $100 to their vacation costs to get from the airport.
Renting a Car
It doesn’t make much sense to rent a car in Walt Disney World. Especially if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort, they offer many transportation options to the parks and Disney Springs and between destinations on their property. Disney runs its Skyliner, Monorail, buses, boat transportation, and more to get around.
Of course, all of these options come with wait times. If your family wants to go from park to park without waiting, you need a car. Otherwise, you may just end up racking up rideshare fees.
Although it isn’t official, it’s also an insider’s fact that transportation is more consistent and regular at the Deluxe resorts and not always so great at the Value properties. Take this into consideration when you book where you’ll stay and when you decide about a rental car.
Don’t Forget about Getting There
When you build your budget, you absolutely must factor in your transportation costs. Even if you’re driving to the magic, think about gas, stopping for food, and even spending the night somewhere on the road.
If you’re flying, look at flight prices around your desired dates to ensure it’s affordable. While it might be wiser to wait to book flights, you should still take a peek before you book your resort accommodations.
Try using an app like Hopper or another flight price watching app. They can send you alerts when prices fall or rise and advise the best time to buy.
If you prefer a particular airline, sign up for email notifications from them regarding sales and specials. That way, you’ll know when to snag the best deals on your flight.
Good to Know: Vacation Packages
From time to time, Disney offers vacation packages that can potentially save your family a lot of money on the costs of a trip. These packages usually bundle hotel, park tickets, and dining plans and offer a flat discount. They can be generous, sometimes offering 20%-30% savings, which is significant.
These package savings apply only to new reservations, so if you’ve already booked and Disney announces a package deal, you’d have to cancel entirely and re-book. They’re also highly inflexible: no swaps, changes, exchanges, or anything else allowed, other than some upgrades (for instance, if you wanted to add days to your included park ticket).
Vacation packages have not been common during the Covid-19 pandemic, and fewer families are relying on them now for that reason. If you know what you want and where you want to go, we recommend not waiting for a vacation package and booking sooner rather than later.
How Much Does It Cost?
Now that we’ve detailed all of the different expenses you can expect to incur while planning for and taking your Walt Disney World dream vacation, we’ll look at three total breakdowns for separate tier vacations: value, average, and splurge.
Each of these is based on a five-night stay with four days in the parks for a family of four (two adults and two children). They do not include any transportation costs, which can be significant (easily $1,000 or more for four roundtrip tickets within the United States).
A Value Vacation
If you visit during the off-season and nickel-and-dime, you can get away with a total of $2,685 (before taxes and fees). Keep in mind that this does not include any spending money, transportation, or extras. Even buying a bottle of water in the parks will push this budget with no leeway.
- Hotel: value resort, $600
- Park tickets: one park per day, $1,680
- Food: Quick Service Dining Plan, $405
- No Genie+
- No special events or add-ons
An Average Vacation
This vacation tends to be more typical of your average Disney visitor. The total price tag before taxes and fees comes to about $5,731. Once again, though, we haven’t built in any extras for spending, shopping, extra food, and so on.
- Hotel: moderate resort during normal times, about $1,600
- Park tickets: Park Hopper option added, about $2,100
- Food: Standard Dining Plan, $1,390.30
- Genie+: $240
- No individual Lightning Lanes
- One special event: average $100 per person, $400
A Splurge Vacation
If you want to spoil your family and it’s within your means to do so, the sky’s the limit when it comes to spending money at Walt Disney World. You can easily spend over $10,000, but according to our calculations, a five-night, four-day splurge vacation for our family of four comes to $8,325.
- Hotel: Deluxe resort during higher attendance times, about $3,000
- Park tickets: Park Hopper Plus option added, about $2,300
- Food: Deluxe Dining Plan, about $1,665
- Genie+: $240
- $20 in individual Lightning Lanes per person per day: $320
- Special events and fireworks viewing: about $200 per person, $800
Being Prepared Means Having the Best Time Possible
As you can see, a successful Walt Disney World family vacation requires a lot of planning. There are also so many factors that impact the final price tag.
We hope it’s also clear that a WDW vacation is possible in a whole range of budgets, from a value vacation aimed at experiencing the parks on a budget to a splurge vacation during one of WDW’s most popular seasons, full of fun surprises and events.
No matter where you fall in these categories, the most important thing is that your family gets to spend lots of time together making memories. Those are indeed the most priceless souvenirs!