I am one of the lucky folks who has been to both American Disney parks in my lifetime – 9 times to Disneyworld and 3 to Disneyland. Many of these trips were thanks to my father, who meticulously budgeted our vacations to Orlando a year in advance. I carried on this practice when I began planning for my own family.
Budgeting a vacation to the Florida or California Disney resorts requires much more planning than a casual trip to a local amusement park. With transportation, accommodations, dining, and park entrance tickets, a vacation to Disneyworld or Disneyland can cost a family of four several thousand dollars, and that’s without factoring in snacks, souvenirs, and other sundries. To help you along the path to the Land of the Mouse, here are a few budgeting items to consider.
How to Get There
Are you driving or flying? Depending where you live and the amount of people traveling with you renting a car/driving your own to one of the parks may be less expensive than flying. It might also be interesting – for example, those living in the Western states travel through some very scenic areas in order to get to Disneyland. Of course, if you’d rather fly, many airlines, Internet travel companies like Expedia, and Disney itself offer packages that include airfare and accommodations. And speaking about that…
Where to Stay
Disneyland and Disneyworld are totally different entities when it comes to places to stay. Being the older of the two parks and within the city limits of Anaheim, Disneyland has just three on-site hotels. Other national hotel chains in the area partner with Disneyland, but they aren’t as close and don’t feature amenities like early entry. On the other hand, Walt Disney World is an all-encompassing area that features thirty resorts and timeshares in a variety of price ranges. Outside of the resort complex there are hundreds of other hotels and motels along the major thoroughfares.
Staying outside the park area is less expensive and near more conveniences, but it takes longer to get into the parks and a daily parking fee is required. Staying at the resorts inside the park gives you access for early and late admission, free parking, and Disneyworld’s extensive public transportation system. What you decide depends on the size of your family, how early you book your reservation, and how much you can budget.
Access to the parks is possibly the most expensive portion of a trip to one of the Disney areas. A family of four that wants to spend five days exploring Disneyland’s two areas or Disneyworld’s four amusement parks can spend well over $1000 on admission, more if you add on a park hopper that allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day. Decide ahead of time how long you want to spend in the Disney parks and check places like AAA or other discount home for reduced prices. Ticket prices may also be lower if you book through the Disney website or stay on-property.
There’s no sugarcoating it – eating inside the Disney parks is expensive. However, there are a few ways to enjoy some of Disneyland’s and Disneyworld’s eating establishments without a personal loan. First, determine your dining budget well ahead of time and ask your family if they want to participate in any of the meals where characters walk around the dining area. Next, find an accommodation that offers refrigerators, microwaves, or full-service kitchens that allow you to eat a few meals in. Finally, if you are staying at one of Disney’s on-site properties, check into their dining plans. Some packages provide both a room and vouchers for free meals and snacks around the park area.