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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Disney | Planning & Costs

Walt Disney World
Last year, we celebrated Madison's 5th birthday at the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World.  It was our first really big trip as a family of four.  I started planning for the trip about a year in advance, which is something I try to do with all of the big trips we take.  We had such an incredible time each day that we were there and I've been meaning to share all things related to our trip and what I did to prepare every since we got back.  I've finally buckled down to bring you a four-part series on the trip.  So if you're looking to take a trip to Disney within the next year or so this is a must read.  I'm sharing all about the planning and costs involved below.

Tickets/Dates:  Sat. - Thu. (6 days, 5 nights, 4 Tickets)

Cost: $ 904.52

Madison's 5th Birthday was on a Sunday, so I wanted to get there the day before and wake up the next day to celebrate in the park.  We bought four day-tickets with admission to one (1) park per day.  I opted to do one park per day since it was our first trip to Disney and because our children were young (Ages 5yo and 8mo).  I felt it would have been too taxing to try to visit multiple parks per day considering those things and I highly recommend this plan of action if this is the case for you as well.  We were beyond exhausted at the end of each day after visiting just one park.

Note: We didn't have to pay for tickets for Morgan since she was under the age of 3.

Resort:  Art of Animation

Cost: $858.40

At the time, The Little Mermaid was Madison's favorite movie and character, so choosing the Art of Animation resort was a no-brainer for us.  The resort as a whole is perfect for kids; from the characters throughout to the amazing pool area to the many options in the cafeteria.  My only qualm with the room would be the size/space because it felt a bit cramped, but since we only spent time in the room to rest and sleep, this wasn't truly an issue.  The highlight of this resort was the pool area which we enjoyed so much.

Also, when you stay in a Disney resort, you get "extra magic hours"  in the parks which basically allows for you to enjoy select attractions either before or after the park officially opens/closes.  We definitely took advantage of this during our last night in Magic Kingdom.

Food: Character Dinners & Regular Meals

Cost: $645.00

We chose two character meals; Cinderella's Royal Castle ($220) for Madison's birthday lunch and a breakfast at the Crystal Palace ($125) on our last day in the park.  We decided not to do a meal plan but spent about $300 on all other meals over the course of the trip.  We ate breakfast at the resort in the morning and had lunch and dinner at any given restaurant in the parks.  We brought our own water and snacks into the park each day, but we did splurge on a couple of sweets here and there.
Walt Disney World

Miscellaneous Items

Cost: $474.90

We drove from NC to FL for this trip, so we had to factor in the cost of gas ($150). Choosing to drive this time around definitely cut down on costs but that also meant we had to make various stops for bathroom breaks and just to get the kids up and out of the car.  I love that we had this experience, but I'm not so sure that we'll drive this far again.

We also rented a stroller ($74.90) from a local vendor in Florida, Kingdom Stroller, and it was ready for us at the resort when we arrived.  A stroller was a must for Morgan, of course, but I rented a double (instead of just bringing Morgan's and crowding up our car) because I knew that the parks would be a lot for a five-year-old to traverse all day for multiple days.  Madison definitely did her share of walking, but she also appreciated having the stroller to ride in, especially as each day progressed.  The cost of the rental was minimal and worth it!
Walt Disney World
Lastly, we bought a few items that Madison wanted as well as some things I thought would be nice to have to commemorate our trip.  The girls are still playing with some of the toys we bought, like the bubble maker we got Madison at Hollywood Studios, so it was totally worth it to buy a few things to bring back with us while we were there.

Total Cost(s): $2,882.82

Things to Consider 

Dining Plan
  • I'd like for us to try the dining plan the next time we visit Disney.  During this visit, I wanted to see what it would be like to do the meal thing on our own as I felt it would help us to save.  But considering the final costs, I think we might fair about the same with a meal plan so we'll see if that's the case during our next trip. 
  • Also, character meals are very expensive but I highly recommend doing at least one.  Of course, if you're trying to save on costs then skip them altogether.  We chose to do the character meals as a part of Madison's birthday celebration and because it was our first time experiencing Disney. 
Driving vs. Flying
  • As I mentioned above, we chose to drive which saved quite a bit of money.  But this was a 11+ hour drive for us, including stops.  I'd prefer not to take such a long drive with the kids going forward.  So I'd like to fly the next time we go to Disney and that will add about an extra $850 to the cost of the trip for 4 passenger tickets.  I can hear my husband saying no to this already!
  • Since I have my own DSLR camera, I chose not to purchase Disney's Memory Maker PhotoPass ($169).  All throughout each park, there are Disney photographers at your beck and call to snap photos for you.  Your magic band is scanned when this is done so that all photos that are taken of you and your family are added to an album throughout your trip.  It's such a great benefit that the park has.  But, all of the photographers are also willing to take a photo with a camera you hand to them so I used this option just a handful of times when I needed a family shot with me included.  Otherwise, I chose to take all of our photos during the trip in order to save in this area. 
  • Also, Disney MaxPass debuted in July 2017 so it wasn't available to use during our trip.  However, from what I've heard it sounds like a great paid option that allows you to pay $10 per person/ticket, per day.  You can then download all photos taken that day and you can also reserve all Fastpasses throughout the day using the app.  Here's a great article explaining How to Take Disney MaxPass to the Max.
Walt Disney World

  • There are a TON of fun, unique activities (i.e., events, tours, character experiences, etc.) that you can do at the different parks, some of which that can be purchased in advance.  Be sure to do some research before you go so that you can pay ahead, plan ahead and maximize your time.  Next time we visit, I definitely want the girls to do the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique!
Travel Agent
  • We utilized Be Our Guest Vacations travel agency to help with purchasing our tickets, booking the resort, letting me know when character meals could be purchased (which can't be done until 180 days prior to trip) and when Fast Passes could be selected.  All of this definitely could have been done on my own, and I'm sure there was a fee on the backend in some way (although they say they are paid by the parks directly).  But, I liked this option because I was able to make a $200 deposit then pay on the trip gradually over the course of a few months.
So there you have it, my friends.  A fun-filled trip to Disney for less than $3000.  That's quite a bit of money in my book, but it was totally, totally worth it!  I've shared more than enough for one post, yet there is so much more to come.  Next week I'll be talking a bit about why celebrating a birthday at Disney was such a special experience.

ALSO READ: Disney | Celebrating a Milestone Birthday
As always, Live Fully



  1. Wow, Disney is expensive! I'd really like to go one year with the family. We will have to save up for sure.

  2. I have never been to Disney, but I would sure love to take my children. Now...if I could figure out how to pay for it. Anyway, I'm sure your daughter had the time of her life for her birthday

  3. She looked so HAPPY AND JOYFUL!!! I've heard about the prices at Disney but never seen them broken down like this. But can you put a price tag on family memories? She will remember this and cherish this for years to come!!!

  4. Your daughter looked like she had the time of her life. Thanks for the breakdown in price. It seemed like it was all worth it at the end.

  5. The cost of a Disney trip can sure add up fast, but having a budget and being prepared can take a lot of the sting out of it. (P.S. That picture of your daughter with Piglet is priceless. 🌼)

  6. Disney World is so expensive, those little prices add up quickly. Thank you for sharing your trip and beautiful photos.

  7. Very thorough tips and tricks! Nice photos and happy birthday to Madison!
    -nicole vick

  8. This is so informative and helpful! Love it! Disney is worth every penny!

  9. This is a great breakdown of the costs and things to consider when visiting Disney. I am planning on trying a meal plan the next time we visit a major amusement park.

  10. Time with family and seeing her smile priceless. She looks very happy.

  11. Disney is expensive. I appreciate you breaking down the cost for everything because it helps put everything for the trip into perspective.

  12. This was very well put together. I pinned it to my travel board because we have to take our kids to Disney. My soon to be 7 year old daughter keeps asking to go. My son is 14 so they are a bit older than your girls. You guys maximized your experience.

  13. This was a pretty great breakdown. My little one wants to go but with 3 adults an a child I'm afraid to calculate the price.

  14. This is a great breakdown! Disney is not CHEAP!! However, amazing memories are made! Thanks for sharing this information.


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