A family vacation at the Mouse’s House doesn’t come cheap. Read how our writer saved her family some Disney dollars.
There’s no getting around the fact that an Orlando Walt Disney World family vacation is expensive. A one-day ticket to a single Disney theme park starts at $60 for kids ages 3 to 9, $71 for those 10 and older—before adding on any special features.
If your family’s main priority is to spend most of your time in the parks, like mine was a year ago December, staying in a Disney resort makes the most sense. Being within walking distance and getting perks from the resort are time and money savers. Another perk is that you get extra time at one of the parks each day (you either get in an hour before the crowds or get to stay late).
There are several Disney resorts to choose from, ranging from moderate (from $149 per night) to deluxe (nearing $385 per night). For families who like the basics, there are value resorts that start at $82, as well as camping and cabin options beginning at $42.
We stayed at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin, located between Epcot and MGM Studios. (Rates for 2008 start at $249 per night.) The resort provides a free water shuttle to those sites (though you can easily walk the distance) and shuttle buses to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, which are a bit farther. This eliminates the need for an expensive rental car, though you will need to hire a taxi or shuttle to get back and forth to the airport if you fly in, like we did. Mears Transportation (the resort’s preferred service) offers a roundtrip ticket for $31. No driving also frees you from paying for parking at the resort (which is $9, plus tax, per day). Those costs add up and can be a waste if you plan on spending a lot of time at the parks.
Without a doubt, you should buy your tickets before you leave home. If you can decide to visit one park per day, the regular Magic Pass is best. For example, a three-day pass is $203. If you add the “Park Hopper” option, which allows you access to more than one park per day, the price goes up to $248. How many parks do you really need to visit in one day? My daughter was wiped out and over-stimulated after visiting just one park and wanted to go back to the resort and swim.
Before you buy your tickets from Disney though, check out the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau website (www.orlandoinfo.com). It offers even deeper discounts on select tickets.
Other ways to save money at Disney World: minimize your meals at the parks. Food is mighty expensive. Bring your own water unless you want to pay through the nose for it, or bring water bottles to fill up at water fountains.
In addition to the Frommer’s and DK Eyewitness Travel guidebooks covered in the Orlando book review for this issue, another great source of advice is the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. The book first came out in 1986 and is revised each year. There is even a Web site for ongoing park news, www.touringplans.com. The first chapter: “Planning Before You Leave Home!” This can’t be stressed enough for first-time visitors, and if you’ve been already, well, you probably learned your lesson!
Thanks for this piece; even though I'm not sure I'll be headed to a Disney Park soon, budget-friendly travel pieces like these are really helpful. Can you please include more pieces like these for other destinations in the future
Eat as many meals as possible outside the theme parks. This is the syndrome of cinema, once youre inside the gates of the theme park, you are stuck, so prices are 25% higher than a similar meal outside the park.
More tips like this! Thanks for this piece; even though I'm not sure I'll be headed to a Disney Park soon, budget-friendly travel pieces like these are really helpful. Can you please include more pieces like these for other destinations in the future?