Missed birthdays and holidays combined with long road trips make our family vacations priceless! And since I’ve been taking time off of teaching to pursue my blogging dream, our vacations have been limited. So when people tell me they spend at least $6,000 on a Disney trip, I quickly convinced Colette that we had already been to Disney World (that time I took her to Disney on Ice).
BUT last year my brother in law broke down each and every penny that could be saved on a Disney vacation making it completely attainable! Like under $2,000 for a family of four to do Disney (not including flights). So I’m going to break it all down for you below.
We played with the idea of going to Disney on my brother in law’s thought out cost spreadsheet for a year. So I watched every single thing for about 8 months. Flights, Disney promotions, wait times, so on and so forth. As we all know the best time to buy a flight is on a Tuesday night (and don’t search it too much as they will bump up costs).
I was able to get four round trip flights for $650!! Buffalo to Orlando on orbitz.com . So start watching flight prices and off-season pricing from your location. Now if you decide to drive gas is around $2.30 a gallon. My brother in law is driving from TN to Disney, its 750 miles. Towing his RV, he will get on average 9 miles per gallon. So he will pay $190 each way for a total of $380 in gas round trip. If you want to compare driving from Buffalo to Disney (18.5 hour drive 1200 miles) so in an SUV with 18 MPG, that’s about $150 each way for gas, $300 roundtrip. My brother in law pointed out that you probably need to add in a motel stay along the way for about another $100 ($200 for both ways), so that’s about $500 total gas and motel each way (add sanity in there I would say flying is still the best option).
Let’s face it, theme park tickets are not the most expensive part of a Disney vacation but with the military discount, they save hundreds! My brother-in-law is actively serving in the military so we are able to use his military discount while going to Disney with him.
Here’s a look at ticket prices with the Military discount:
- 4-day park hopper for $259.75 plus tax
- 4-day park hopper plus for $291 plus tax
- 5-day park hopper for $257 plus tax
- 5-day park hopper plus for $307 plus tax
- Note these are 2019 prices and they may have changed
- Keep in mind that kids under the age of THREE are free!
Without the discount its about $488 for one 4-day park hopper. So for a family of four it’s $1,952 (without tax) just for the passes.
Hotel (sort of)
With the military discount comes other perks, like accommodation discounts but you don’t need it to save! One of the cheapest ON RESORT (I will talk about why it’s important to stay on grounds in another post) is Fort Wilderness Campground. We will be staying at Fort Wilderness in my brother-in-law’s RV! Yup, three adults and three kids will be camping together to cut costs to about $80 a night. Now, that being said my brother-in-law owning an RV is a huge advantage BUT you can get a tent site for $67 (plus tax) a night. They have different prices points all throughout the campgrounds. There are also a ton of RV rentals very close to the campsite. I am going to ask my brother-in-law to jump on here one day and do a full RV post because that is a whole other animal, and he’s an expert.
A little note from my brother in law: Weekends and holidays are more expensive (sometimes double the price!). I recommend people spend Monday-Friday instead if they can. Also easier to book a week day vice a weekend (people reserve up to 499 days prior especially for major holidays like Christmas, etc). You will rarely find something on a weekend open without reserving far in advance and that is especially true for holiday weekends. Also time of year changes price points (peak season, etc).
Everyone has to eat, even at Disney! But this is a BIG BIG way to cut your costs while at Disney. You’ll need to account for food costs in your Disney vacation cost budget to see the real cost of it all. They do have dining plans and so on but dining ala cart is the best way to cut costs. One of our goals is to not spend one dime on food while at the parks.
You can bring food into the parks, so if you are pulling an all day/night and plan accordingly you won’t have to spend a dime while in the park. We will be eating breakfast at the RV camp, bringing am snack and lunch with us to the park, coming back for naps (I will be prepping dinner during nap time) when children wake up we will have a pm snack, pack dinner to bring along with us, and then come home for a bedtime snack around the campfire.
Just say no, your kids will not implode.
Here’s a little bit of parenting advise to go along with the Disney or any other vacation; set expectation. Before any trip to the mall, party, or vacation I set expectations so that my kids know don’t set themselves up for disappointment and there are no arguments! So Disney will be no different. I will explain to my children that we are not going to buy anything while at the parks BUT they can take a picture of their most desired item and ask for it for their Birthday. If you know you are unable to do this one thing I suggest is going on amazon a few weeks before and buying small items to leave on their beds so that when they get back from the park the “Disney fairy” paid them a visit for being well behaved.
$80 a night x 4= $320
Groceries=$180 (this includes adult beverages)
4 Day Pass x 4 people= $1036
I will write a follow up post to let you know how it all went and what we actually spent! Stay tuned!