Disney World – Is it Worth the Cost?

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Disney World is a lot of fun, but it also costs a lot of money. I share how we saved money at Disney in one sense, but grossly overpaid in another sense.

Believe it or not, Disney World does not scream frugal – shocker, I know. Heck, going to Disney presents ample opportunity to spend a minor fortune. I took the oldest little Frugal Rule to Disney World last month as a surprise for her 8th birthday.

I used rewards points to fund most of the trip. Truth be told, we would not have made the trek to see the Mouse if it weren’t for those points. If you’d like to follow a similar strategy, here are some of the best rewards cards to do just that.

How Much Did it Cost for Us to Go to Disney World?


Airfare and lodging was the easy part for our trip to Disney. Having the Southwest companion pass, we were able to get to Orlando for 18,000 points – she traveled with me as my companion and $22.40.

We stayed at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort, which was about five miles from the park, for 8,000 SPG points total for two evenings. We really enjoyed the hotel, they offered free transportation to the park and had two awesome pools that our daughter enjoyed nearly as much as the park.

It’s important to remember this hotel was not on Disney property. That helped us save money. You can save even more by searching for cheap hotel rooms in the area, but will take you further away from the park.

If you don’t mind a longer distance from the park, this is a suitable way to save money.

We stayed at my Mom’s house the remaining two evenings so that was no cost.

Disney world

Then there were the tickets for the park. After doing some quick research, I realized there was no real way to save money on Disney tickets. That’s part of what bothers me about the Disney experience. If you want to get discounted tickets, the minimum ticket purchase (so far as I could tell) was three days.

That was something I was not willing to do, so I was left buying the tickets at full price – $105 for myself and $99 for my daughter for a total of $217.27 including the tax. I used a $250 statement credit to purchase said tickets.

***If you’re interested in travel hacking like this, check out some of the best credit cards to do that here!***

So far, the cost wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t a fan of the admission prices, but at least it was no money out of pocket. That ended quickly…

Watch Out for the Extras


There are ways to save money at Disney. For example, we took in our own lunch and brought in a water bottle to refill. That allowed us to only need to buy one meal. We spent about $30 on dinner. While pricier than I would like, it was relatively cheaper than many other options. The savings pretty much ended there.

The extras were what added to the cost. My Mom was insistent we go to the 1900 Park Fare restaurant for their Cinderella dinner the evening before our day at the park. It was a character dinner that simply wasn’t worth the cost.

A few characters came around to take pictures, but the $102 final bill for my daughter and I was a bit tough to swallow considering the quality of the food and the overall experience.

If that bill wasn’t enough, my Mom also wanted to get my daughter done up as a princess. Because what little girl doesn’t want to be done up in 100 degree weather? 😉

Thankfully, grandma footed the $150 bill, but it was a horrible waste of money considering that she asked to change back in to her normal outfit within an hour in the park.

Disney World is a lot of fun, but it also costs a lot of money. I share how we saved money at Disney in one sense, but grossly overpaid in another sense.

Is Disney Worth it?


Ultimately, I don’t believe the costs to go to Disney are worth it. If you take out the rewards I used to make this trip possible, it would’ve cost us easily over $1,000 for a one-day event! I know, it makes me sound cold and uncaring. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter and I created memories that will last a lifetime. I’ll always cherish those memories.

You know what though? She enjoyed the hotel pool nearly as much as the park. Yes, of course, she loved the park as she could overdose on all things Frozen but it showed me once again that it’s often the simple things kids enjoy.

She enjoyed getting one-on-one time with me and spending time in the pool. That can be done anywhere without dropping a small fortune or fighting crowds.


What are your thoughts on Disney? Why do you think we often believe spending all sorts of money equates to a more “fun” experience? What upcoming travel plans do you have?


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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Mark@BareBudgetGuy says:

    That’s the way to do it! I think we’ll try that in a few years. We took a 5, 3, and 1 year old 2 years ago, and that is definitely NOT worth it πŸ™‚

  • Kim says:

    I’m with you. In glad we’ve done it but would not shell out to go again. We can take three other trips for the price of Disney.

  • Gretchen Lindow says:

    We’re heading to Disney next year, but thankfully we’ve also found ways to reduce the cost. We’re staying at a friend’s timeshare, so no hotel costs, and we can cook in the kitchen. We’re flying, but will be able to cover the cost with statement credits, and Disney does have a military program that will allow us to purchase 4-day passes for $177 each. Will it be an expensive vacation still? Yes, probably, but hopefully we’ll find it to be the happiest place on earth!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Sounds like you’ve done a great job at cutting down the costs for the trip! We did the military pass thing a few years ago as we have military in our family and that saved a nice chunk of money. Being able to cook on your own will save a small fortune.

    • Javier says:

      I just took my family of 4 and spent around 6500 dollars total. But it was worth every penny.

      My daughter cried the day we had to leave looking back at the castle as our fairie left the dock. For a month now that we have been back home there is not one day that my kids don’t bring up Disney World. It is truley magical.

  • Hannah says:

    There are less ethical ways to save money on Disney tickets. I know a few people who bank accounts sending mail to their friends or family in Florida. Just saying.

    We’re heading to Orlando in December, but probably won’t hit up the parks.

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s the thing though – I only found you could get resident tickets for 3+ days. Theres no way I found to get in for 1 day at some sort of a discount. There should be ways to get some sort of a discount for those who only want to go for a day.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    We *might* go someday. Still, I have trouble justifying the price of admission! It would be nearly $400 per day for the four of us to walk in the front gates! And that’s without a dollar spent on food or anything else.

    • John Schmoll says:

      If it weren’t for the rewards, I’d have trouble justifying it. Heck, even with those it was hard to justify it.

  • Natalie @ Financegirl says:

    So, I don’t have kids but I think an adult trip to Disney could potentially be pretty fun! πŸ™‚

    • John Schmoll says:

      It can be! My wife and I did that a few times when we lived in San Diego…but she had grandfathered season passes that were relatively inexpensive.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    It honestly shocks me how expensive Disney is when I consider the target audience and their income level. Luckily, I can usually get into the park for free because I know someone working there. One of the very few perks of having worked in theater πŸ™‚

    • John Schmoll says:

      You’re exactly right Stefanie! That’s especially the case given the vision Walt had behind it – a place for parents to take their children to enjoy themselves.

  • Emily @ JohnJaneDoe says:

    I’m sure we’ll bite the bullet and take our daughter sometime in the next couple of years because we feel it’s one of those “everyone who can should go once” sorts of things. I’m pretty sure we’ll drive down from NC, stay with family, and only go to the park for one day, which will all help with the cost. It’s a difficult thing to do cheaply, though.

  • Reelika @Financially Wise On Heels says:

    I took my son to Disney 2 years ago when he was 3. We loved the time over there and we all had lots of fun. We visited my family in California and therefore it was the main purpose of the trip. So the Disney visit was just a prompt decision. But the good thing was, we only went one full day and didn’t have to pay for hotel as we stayed at my sister’s place.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I think combining it with other travels is a great way to save money on going to the park. The hotel cost alone is great to avoid.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    Ha! We did Disney before we were frugally minded, so you can imagine that I would say that Disney is absolutely NOT worth the cost. We spent 5 nights there and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we literally had animals out our balcony window. We ate at the best restaurants and visited every park and my son’s favorite experience was the hotel pool at the end of it. My hubby and I joked that all Disney represented was parents and children breaking down all over the place.

    • John Schmoll says:

      It’s funny how we can change that way, isn’t it? I always have to laugh as well when I see that. You’d think it wouldn’t be that way, but you combine mass numbers of people, the heat and a huge park it’s very easy to see some miserable people.

  • Kristi says:

    Great timing for the post, John! We are actually having a family reunion in Orlando the second week of November, and the whole family will be going to the park. Our time share will be free for us, courtesy of my grandmother. It also has a full kitchen so we will be able to cook every meal and bring lunch in with us. We were fortunate enough to get the military price for tickets. So for ten tickets for a four day park hopper (plus two free under 2 kids) cost about $1775 ($170 per ticket plus taxes).

    I’m glad to hear your insight on the Disney Princess experience, because I wasn’t sure whether or not I should consider forking over the cost for that for our 5 year old. After your review, I’m thinking we’ll probably forgo that experience.

    • John Schmoll says:

      That sounds awesome Kristi! My step-dad is retired military and that’s really the best way to save money on tickets from what I’ve found. The food savings will be pretty nice for you as well.

      Glad to be of help on that. The crazy thing is we went with the “cheap” option. It’s just not worth it, especially if it’s hot. Our daughter was in tears because they did her hair up so much that she was in pain when I went to take all the pins and stuff out.

  • Nicole says:

    Disney World is expensive – there’s no doubt about it. But I do think it’s worth it. I went three times as a kid courtesy of my grandparents and I have such fond memories.

    My husband and I honeymooned there ten years ago and purchased the ultimate ten day no expiration park hopping tickets that reduced admission to $35 per person. Unfortunately they no longer sell such tickets so you can’t save nearly as much by buying more days than you need and using them slowly. We used three days on that trip and another three on one last month to celebrate our anniversary so we still have four days remaining. We stayed at one of their value resorts – Art of Animation – and had more fun than ten years ago even though our vacation was much shorter. Nobody does it like Disney – their attention to detail is amazing. My only complaint is their food – way overpriced and not very good. But with the heat we didn’t eat much and ventured outside the world for most of our meals. Overall we spent less than our last big vacation three years ago and I look forward to going back. But it’s not somewhere I’d want to vacation annually because it isn’t cheap at all, plus it’s doesn’t change all that much. But the rides are so much more fun than most amusement parks that I’m willing to pay for that experience.

    It’s all about what makes you happy. Some people love to vacation at an all exclusive resort and sit on the beach all day drinking and that sounds so boring to me. I think at the end of the day if you can afford it and you enjoy it, have at it! I’ll definitely be visiting Disney again in the next 5-10 years.

    • John Schmoll says:

      My wife talks about similarly priced tickets when she was growing up. Good point on the rides. We’ve been to a number of state fairs over the years and you usually have to pay separately for the rides – thus making it more expensive in my opinion than Disney.

  • Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says:

    My spouse and I never went to Disneyworld while growing up, so we aren’t really drawn to it. I’m sure it’s amazing but since we’ve never experienced it, it’s not very tempting. However, I’ve heard a great way to cut costs is to camp or get a free hotel with points. That’s great you were able to swing it using points!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Disney World, another reason to put off having kids….haha but seriously it’s incredible how expensive it is! I heard parking is $100 at the park, too? That free shuttle at your hotel was worth a ton of money if that’s the case! I have a couple of young cousins and they both love to go to Disney World, and to be honest I liked going there as a kid too (we road tripped down there twice when me and my siblings were younger). I can’t imagine what the cost will be when I have kids….Help!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Ha ha, that’s a unique reason to put off kids. πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, the parking at Disney is $20-25 depending on the kind of car you have. Still pricey, though not as high as you heard.

  • Carey says:

    Thanks for sharing your Disney story, and some great hacks you used to make it (somewhat) affordable. It’s probably not surprising that the #1 travel dream of Payoff members is a Disney trip, which shows both the power of Disney marketing such a unique experience, and the desire of people to treat their families to a Disney trip. It is incredible that Disney is able to charge so much for every aspect of the experience, and yet see virtually no impact on demand to visit their parks!

    While family vacations do payoff, you’re wise to show how to do it on a reasonable budget and use good planning in advance of it.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Yep, their marketing is top notch. They continue raising prices and people still go. That’s quite the marketing power!

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    We are big Disney fans, but, of course, Disneyland is a short drive, (okay, sometimes) for us, which also makes a huge difference in cost. It is, without a doubt, expensive and you are not wrong that kids will likely love anyplace else that is probably a fraction of the cost. I also don’t regret the money we’ve spent visiting the park with the girls and visiting friends. I’m probably more in Nicole’s camp of it being the happiest place on earth. πŸ™‚ And I love that you took your daughter there for her birthday. She is going to remember that forever.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Yea, I don’t truly regret it – I just don’t believe it’s worth the cost. πŸ™‚ Thankfully most of the times I’ve been it was someone else (parents, grandparents, etc) footing the bill though have been aware of the cost.

      Disneyland was actually where Nicole and I had our first date so it definitely has a place in my heart. You’re right – those are memories our daughter will have forever and for that I’m very thankful.

  • Phil says:

    Hi John!
    First off, let me say that I’m a former WDW cast member and Universal Studios team member and I’m a travel agent specializing in Disney vacations, so I’m probably biased right off the bat, but I just wanted to put in my two cents here.

    Yes, a Disney trip can be expensive. But there are some ways to save a good amount of money by knowing how and when to book your trip. Going to the parks for one day is tough and a really expensive way to do it. You will have to pay the over $100 ticket price and I do think those prices are high, but they are competitive with the rest of the theme parks out there. Not amusement parks, like Six Flags or Hershey Park, but theme parks like Universal Orlando.

    The best way to save money is to book at a time when Disney is offering a deal. And, actually, the more days you stay, the lower your ticket prices are per day. If you buy a package deal through Disney or better yet, a Disney travel professional (shameless plug!), you’ll save even more money by booking the resort room, a dining plan, and park tickets all at the same time. You can book year and a half in advance (all that’s required upon booking is $200; the balance isn’t due until 30 days before your vacation).

    Ultimately, the way you did Disney was super, super expensive. One day in the parks with jacked up ticket prices, one of the more expensive meals in the park, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (a very expensive add-on) aren’t for everybody.

    If you truly want to plan a Disney trip and save a lot of money (here comes another shameless plug), use a Disney-specialized travel agent, like myself. All good ones are completely free and won’t cost you a cent more, but will book your hotels, tickets, transportation, FastPasses, dining reservations, etc., all for you for no charge at all. You’ll also more than likely save even more money because we can go back and apply deals to your vacation that come out after you book, where you can’t do that yourself or with a service like Expedia or something like that.

    Thanks for reading and I just wanted to make sure I got the other side of the cost of a Disney trip out there. Have a great day!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks for stopping by Phil and for your transparency – I appreciate it. That being said, I have to thank you because you proved my very point – it’s too darn expensive!

      Why is it that Disney makes it so you HAVE to be there for a minimum 3-4 days to get any sort of discount? That’s a joke! Yes, it’s cheaper per day but at a greater overall cost. I fully realize they must make money – but there gets to be a tipping point like SLS mentioned below.

      For example:
      -Why get rid of the 10 day no expiration tickets?
      -Why seriously alter, to the point of getting rid of, the SoCal passes for Disneyland?
      -Why make it so you can’t use a multi-day ticket you buy at Disney World at Disneyland? The same Disney gets my money, so why can’t I use the remaining days at any Disney park – especially when Park Hoppers are added in?

      When you look at one of the reasons/purposes behind Walt opening the parks it was so parents could have a magical place to take their children to create memories. That’s a noble thing. I just don’t happen to believe you need to bleed parents dry to make that happen.

      • Phil says:

        Hey John, thanks for getting back to me!

        While I do agree that the parks can be expensive, I still think it’s a doable vacation for people and families that do it the right way. The only answer is (and you said it yourself), the Disney company is in the business of making as much money as possible. I don’t love that philosophy when thinking of what Walt Disney had originally intended for Disneyland either, but show me a business that isn’t in it to make all the money that it can.

        And I agree, there has to be a tipping point. Disney’s raising their annual pass prices and blacking out more dates for FL pass holders and CA pass holders is more about making the parks more manageable on the busiest days than making more money. But as long as there are guests willing to spend, spend, spend, when is that tipping point going to be reached?

        To answer your other questions: The 10 day no-expiration tickets were all about losing money for Disney, that’s why they’re gone. The SoCal passes, from what I understand, are being phased out to better control weekend crowds at Disneyland. I was in Disneyland on a Saturday and Sunday in August and the crowds were unbelievably high. Again, I know people are upset by it, but I understand it. As far as the multi-day tickets being used between WDW and Disneyland, the easy answer to that and the one I’ve been told is that there are two totally different ticketing systems and that’s why the tickets aren’t transferrable between the two coasts.

        Besides being a Disney travel agent and enthusiast I’m a bit of a crazy Disney fan so please take that into consideration with whatever I say. I don’t love the price-hikes and they are going to price a lot of people out, that’s completely true. That’s not great for me either since I might be getting less people to book through me. But I still stand firm in believing with the right amount of planning, a Disney vacation can be done at the same cost of many other vacations that families take each year.

        Thanks again for your time!

        • John Schmoll says:

          Not a problem at all Phil, I know there is definitely more than one side to a story. πŸ™‚

          I agree that most, and all should be, businesses are in the business to make as much money as they can. My problem is the message that going to the park is doable. The only way it is is if you stretch it out and thus spend more money. Yes, I know, it lowers the cost/day BUT it’s more money. For a society that believes a child is “missing out” by not going to Disney that causes an inherent problem.

          I understand the 10 day passes were likely causing them to lose money. That’s the thing though…doesn’t Disney realize it’d mean families spending MORE time in the park and thus likely spending more money? It seems a bit shortsighted in my opinion.

          The SoCal passes, I’d have to disagree. My wife grew up and lived in San Diego til she was nearly 30. She and her parents had those passes for decades and they often went on the weekends. In fact, my wife says that was one of the best times to go for traffic – depending on the time of year. I think it comes down to Disney wanting to make more money, while yes probably controlling traffic, but making more money and thus making it less of a deal for families.

          For the multi-day tickets…I have to call BS. Disney had $48.9 billion in revenue in 2014 and $45 billion in revenue in 2013. I’m quite certain they could find *some* money out of all that revenue to have one universal ticketing system. This is especially the fact when you buy the multi-day ticket at WDW and are told you can use them at Disneyland but then get a nasty surprise when you show up in SoCal with multiple days remaining. I’m just thankful that when it happened with our family a few years back they finally listened to reason.

          Completely understood and appreciate that. The only problem is how many families can, or more importantly should, be spending that kind of money each year for a vacation?

  • SLS says:

    i used to “LOVE” Disney. Until last year, my kids (now ages 15 and 12) had been almost every year. We are not a “cheap” family, but we do know how to manage money. I prefer to call us “thrifty.”

    We own a timeshare and that ownership allows us to “rent” excess inventory. During certain times of the year, there’s always excess inventory available for almost nothing. We actually stayed in a Marriott timeshare for seven days for a grand total of less than $500. We go to the grocery store and buy breakfast food.

    We also used to buy the 10-day no expiration tickets and that ticket would last us for four or five years. So since we’d only go to Disney two days out of the week, we didn’t mind spending money on a nice early dinner (we would usually “share” a quick snack. Granted, we could relax and not have the stress of “doing everything” since we’d been before. The other days of our vacation would be using the timeshare pools or even making a day trip to the Florida beaches. Lunches and dinners would mostly be at the timeshare.

    One night on a non-theme park day, we would make reservations at a Disney restaurant (as our splurge) such as the African themed restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The food would be unique and the parking fee is waved if you eat at the restaurant. We’d walk around and soak in the atmosphere. We’ve even hopped on the bus or boats and ridden to nowhere and watched the fireworks and grabbed an ice cream.

    Disney no longer has the 10-day no expiration tickets, the price of parking has gone up, and the advanced reservation system for rides and attractions has added a huge amount of complication.

    Last year we went to Universal Orlando and actually found it much less complicated. I don’t fault these companies for the prices they charge. The parks are crowded, so people are obviously paying and still coming, but I do think we’re at the tipping point.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts SLS, they’e much appreciated. It sounds like you had a great deal going on there and, you’re exactly right, if you do it the right way you can do other things in the area and make it a reasonable trip.

      You hit the nail on the head with the tipping point aspect. They get rid of things like the 10 day tickets you mention and it begins to seriously price many families out. They’ve done the same thing by getting rid of the SoCal tickets. I don’t fault them for making money, they have a great product, but there gets to be a point where it’s too much.

  • Jason B says:

    I love Disney, but I also have never paid full price to get inside the park. I interned there over 10 years ago and kept in touch with some of my former co-workers. Every time I’ve been there since then I’ve been lucky enough to get into the parks for less than $40. Unfortunately, none of my friends work there anymore, so I know I will have pay full price the next time I go there.

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies says:

    I winced just reading those numbers! We went to Orlando for our honeymoon. We figured roller coasters were a great way to de-stress after a wedding.

    I found discounted tickets online, but we had more than a weekend. We ended up only going to 2 parks, but our 3-day passes (or maybe 5?) were relatively reasonable.

    I think to get any kind of “value” out of Disney you have to stay for more than a day. Then you just have to deal with the kid potentially wanting every item in sight.

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s my problem with it, they force you into a multi-day thing which really doesn’t save you money. The wanting of every item is definitely real. πŸ™‚

  • Zina at Debt Free After Three says:

    I went to Universal Studios in Orlando this year and could not believe how expensive it was! I felt so bad for all the parents there whose kids wanted stuffed animals and other tchotchkes. I’m so grateful my parents took me when I was younger, but it’ll be a tough call if I have kids of my own. Especially since you can go to Europe for about the same price!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Great point on the Europe call! It’s a little tough to swallow that we could do something like that, if done right, for similar points.

      Thankfully our daughter is relatively money aware for her age and it helped we went in with a budget and limit to 1 item.

  • Wendy Nissan says:

    We came to Disney all the time. By no means is it a cheap vacation, but the best thing we decided to do was move nearby! We have annual passes. We go all the time. There is never pressure to have to rush to fit everything in in one day. So, OK, not everyone is going to move here, but the best advice is that Disney is not budget-friendly for a short trip. Tickets become almost incrementally free after 3 days. Yes, you still have a hotel, but Orlando is the hotel and timeshare capital of the world. You do not need a car. The Disney transportation system is very complete. The Disney Budget hotels are really nice though, and give you access to Disney extra Magic Hours and extra benefits. If you’re really looking for a “deal” though, there are lots of timeshares that offer 4-5 day package deals with free tickets, nice pools, etc. Worth exploring.
    The memories we have with our kids are invaluable. I highly recommend this experience if you can do it right and not be stressed out. Disney is magical for everyone at any age.I hope you give it a try!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Glad you’ve been able to take advantage Wendy, through your living there. Unfortunately they’ll only continue to alter the annual passes to make them less desirable. Like I mentioned to others above, I know that you can lower the per day pricing, but why do they make it so as to have to be there for 3-4 days to get any sort of discount? When you add in a hotel, airfare, etc. it gets to be out of hand.

      I have many fond memories of Disney and obviously don’t fault them for making money – but there gets to be a tipping point.

  • Robin @ The Thrifty Peach says:

    I think I laughed the whole way through this one, because I would feel the same way about the whole experience– good God, the expense!

    Everyone keeps asking me when we are going to take our 4 year old to Disney for a week. I’m thinking, for what we would spend, I’d rather go to Europe!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Yep, my thoughts exactly. If everything was out of pocket I would’ve been more disappointed. That being said, we created some awesome memories.

      I’d rather go to Europe as well. πŸ™‚

  • Cat says:

    I just think it’s so sweet that you took your daughter! I went on a trip with just my dad when I was in college and I really cherished it!

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    I can see how it’s a special thing for kids, but I never got adults who go to Disney (I probably just unleashed an angry mob for that statement). I totally just don’t get it. That being said, I grew up going to Cedar Point with big rides, so that’s what I was accustomed to and love. And even still I think CP is a fraction of the cost of Disney. It just seems like everything is so freaking expensive there and you only get a few wimpier rides.

    • Leslie says:

      Tonya! It’s a theme park not a thrill park πŸ™‚ The rides are 100% themed. If you like set design/staging/performance, you’d love the rides even though they’re not ‘scary’.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Ha ha on the angry mob comment Tonya. πŸ™‚ A few of my family members are of that adult variety and I just don’t get it. But, to each their own.

  • Andrew@livingrichcheaply says:

    My son is too young to really enjoy it but I think I’d like to go at least once. I know families that make it an annual event…which is ridiculous. Good to know about the SPG points.

    • John Schmoll says:

      You’re son is around 2-3, right Andrew? Assuming so, completely agreed. We know families who do the same thing, I just don’t get it. If we lived there and could afford it, maybe (well my wife would make us, lol) but not otherwise.

  • Leslie says:

    We went back in September (2 adults 0 kids) and I can’t wait to go back! I can’t imagine going with kids though. I understand why everyone says the kids enjoy the pool the most. With the heat and walking around, it wouldn’t be fun at all with children.

    Cost-wise, we used DVC points through a third-party company to stay at a Disney resort. I would absolutely do this again. It was super cheap and we got all the disney property bonuses (magic bands, etc). Food in the parks was similar to NYC prices so that wasn’t an issue for us. I loved that we could bring in our own food/snacks/drinks.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Oh, it can be fun with children. You just have to manage things, not get them all done up in the heat and understand they’ll reach a limit at some point in the day.

      Glad you were able to find ways to cut down on the cost. Unfortunately it seems as Disney only wants to allow that if you stay for a number of days.

  • Syed says:

    Travel hacking and planning ahead is definitely the way to go if you’re going to Disney. If you can find a cheap way to get to the park and find a place to stay, then the sting isn’t so bad. We are planning to take our son sometime in the next year or so, so that gives me plenty of time to build up some rewards.

  • TN Momma says:

    I am just now reading this as we are planning our first trip to WDW for our daughter’s 16th birthday.

    We are a family of 4 and I, too, was shocked that it will cost so much per day for tickets !!

    We are driving from TN to save money, but I doubt we will make the trip in 1 day, so we will have to shell out more for a hotel on the way down and on the way back.

    The best savings I have found so far is to stay OFF SITE. I know Disney enthusiasts swear by staying on site but I can’t justify it.

    By staying just down the road at Sheraton Vistana Villages, I can get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with washer/dryer, full kitchen, balcony, 3 “real” beds, 2 flat screens, and a bunch of pools. WAY less than most regular rooms, let alone “villas” at Disney. I plan to cook to save money, too, so I needed a kitchen.

    Price comparison:
    Sheraton Vistana, 4 nights, October, 220 per night.(Again, 2 br, 2ba, huge condo).

    Most Disney rooms are more than that by a long shot and they ONLY have 2 beds and a bath. The Disney villas are out of this world high…700 to over 1000 a night. The “value” resort family suite rooms would have my kids sleeping on sleeper sofas or sleeper chairs. That isn’t going to work for us. My daughter has back problems and she is 5’8! My son is 10 and is 5’2…they can’t share a sofa bed.

    Doing all the comparisons, I am saving myself 1K staying off site. The room on site, I did a trial booking on, was going to be 3500.00 (including tickets) for 4 nights. It was a 1 king bedroom with 2 baths at Coronado Springs. (And again with the dang sleeper sofa!)

    I don’t know if WDW will be worth it. My kids are growing up on me (16 and 10) and it’s now or never. We are trying to save and do it without going into debt.

    I actually got into an argument with someone because they said I was too snobby to stay in a value Disney room. That’s not true, it is just what will/won’t work for my family. Some people are real Disney fanatics, I have found.

  • Mrs. Tx says:

    We are always looking for ways to save on trips to Disneyland. Our kids are still too young for WDW so we opt for California instead. Last year we made 4 trips to Disneyland, each visit lasting 5 days. To make it economical for us – we flew from Texas to California for each trip. Kids are 1 and 3 years old. So that’s 3 plane tickets, I managed to get most of the flights for $150 or less per ticket round trip.

    We stay at Marriott Courtyard, walking distance from the park. On average each weekly stay cost us $900.

    We have Annual passes that were a gift to us from our family who lives in California. So that was $289 per pass for the entire year.

    No car rental, our friends pick us up at the airport and drop us off at the hotel.

    We grocery shop at the nearby Neighborhood Walmart for the week’s food – we buy breakfast foods and lunches for each day. That’s about $70 for the full week.

    We also rent a double stroller from City Stroller Rentals for the week because the kids can sleep in it and we can take the strollers from the park back to the hotel. Cost about $65/week

    No souvenirs, we don’t buy any.
    We bring our own drinks into the park (bottled water, milk and bottled sodas)

    Total 20 days trips to Disneyland for 2016:
    $1800 airfare (3 tickets, 4 trips)
    $280 (breakfasts & lunches for 20 days)
    $260 (stroller rentals for 20 days)
    $3600 Hotel (total 20 nights)

    $5,940* not including dinner meals which we can share and sometimes eat outside of the park.

    We also have a consulting business and 1 of those trips was a business expense with our contractors we do business with. Therefore, while costly, some of that $5,940 went towards expense.

    We are truly blessed to have the careers we have so that amount was within our budget for vacations this year.

    I can’t say that we will be able to afford vacations like that as the kids get bigger and both require airplane seats as well as their own admission fare into the parks.

    I’ve been to WDW 3x’s pre-kids. I’ve vowed to wait until they are at least 7 years old to make that trip. They’ve got to be able to walk and stay awake for the full day for me to take them on that crazy journey!

  • Heather says:

    I noticed, unless I missed it, that nobody mailed snacks to themselves! WDW (if you stay on property) will deliver mail to your room. We went for the marathon in Jan 2016 and we knew we were going to be there over a week and didn’t want to pay inflated prices for granola bars, so we sent ourselves a box filled with goodies the day before we left. That way, we saved room in our carry-ons and the snacks arrive the second day! Cost to ship wasn’t bad and definitely ended up being cheaper than buying expensive snacks from the markets on the property. Plus we took our snacks all over the properties and in the parks, so we only ate dinners at Disney Springs and there were quite a few places to pick and choose from (all prices ranges). I haven’t been there in the summer in quite a long time, but we love the winters and spring time in FL. WAY less people. We took all 3 of my nephews to Universal, and found hacks all over the place to get us through the day without eating an expensive meal. You can buy rolls and sandwiches at the bread shop just inside to the right at the front of the park, which were like $5 a piece. They drank their weight in butter beers and had a giant Homer Simpson donut. They were 3rd, 5th and 7th grade at the time. All tall enough for coasters, and they basically ran on sugar for an entire day, but hey, it was vacation…

  • Jim Bob Bacala says:

    The best way to save on a trip to Disney is not to go at all. Forget all the Hoopla. Your kids don’t really need Disney. Stop falling for all that advertising. I am a Florida resident and have been for almost 30 years. I have met hundreds of people who have been to Disney and just about all of them will never go back. It just isn’t worth it.

  • Candace says:

    Hi John! I appreciate your perspective on this! We have a large family (11 kids, 9 left at home) and so we are very frugal people. Our sweet friend gifted us with a week in her timeshare right outside Disney World. Our initial intention was not to go to Disney, but to simply enjoy the week at the lovely resort. For the last year, we have saved money for the drive, hotel, and food (we’ll cook all our meals in our penthouse). We’re in TX, so we’ll take two days to get there and back. Thankfully, my husband is prior military, and civil service now, so we’ll stay at Keesler AFB one night each way, which will save us a ton of money on hotel costs since we need two rooms.

    We’ve never been drawn to Disney, and the cost has always steered us away. But there’s a part of me that hates the thought of being right next door and not taking our children. My husband and I have been discussing whether or not it would be worth it to spend $1200 for one day! We’ve asked a couple of people and they say yes! Our kids (still at home) range in age from 16 to 2. I think they would have a great time….and we may never have the opportunity again (with free lodging), but sheesh….just don’t know if the cost is worth it. We would, of course, take our food in with us, and we would not buy souvenirs…so just the tickets and parking…but that alone is a small fortune for us. I completely agree with you that there should be a way to get discounts on one-day passes…for crying out loud…especially when you’re buying 11 of them!

    Thankfully, my kids know nothing about this trip (it’s a surprise) or the possibility of Disney, so there will be no disappointment if my husband and I choose to skip Disney! My kids will be beyond excited just to go to FL and stay at a resort!

    Anyway, thanks for giving me much food for thought!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Wow, that is a lot to think over Candace – glad to provide some food for thought. πŸ™‚ Totally understood why you’d want to take advantage of the free lodging and ability to keep costs down through doing your own meals. That said, understand that is still a small fortune not to mention your youngest kiddos very likely won’t remember much. Best wishes on making the right decision. πŸ™‚

  • Lori Stewart says:

    Yikes, with all the corners you had to cut and lunches to bring in- I wouldn’t enjoy Disney either and would certainly leave tainted that it is too expensive and my kids would not enjoy it – probably would lead them to splurge later in life because of the lack of ability to do so in their childhood. Do it right or don’t go–stay home and daydream about saving to do it right one day.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Ha ha, you’re commenting on a four year old post to tell me that travel hacking is going to cause my kids to splurge later in life. If you’ve read anything on our site then you’d know our kids don’t go without. Oh, and in all honesty, Disney was tainted for me years prior to this trip. There’s no need to pay inflated prices to deal with a horde of people.

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