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A Floridian's Guide to a Disney Vacation on a Small Budget.

Updated on March 9, 2020

Awe and Wonder is affordable

My little girl and her first time seeing Cinderella's castle.
My little girl and her first time seeing Cinderella's castle.

Dreams can come true with some patience and a little elbow grease.

Floridian's have the best of the best at their finger tips when it comes to relaxation and fun. There are the beaches, the night life and of course Walt Disney World a place where even adults have the opportunity to be awed and amazed. What happens though if you have a strict budget, leaving little wiggle room to enjoy such a splurge such as a "Dream Vacation"? With just a sprinkle of patience, a HUGE HELPING of planning and that vacation can become a reality. Even for tightest of family budgets.

Attendance Levels at WDW

Based off the Walt Disney World website this is what the typical attendance looks like per month.
Based off the Walt Disney World website this is what the typical attendance looks like per month.

Step ONE! Plan a time to visit.

So I can admit it, as a Florida girl I am spoiled. I have these amazing places to visit at my finger tips but I don't want to be herded around with every other person that comes flocking to Disney's gates. I want the rides line to be short, the parks to be somewhat empty and the weather to be cool and sunny. It is a DREAM vacation right?

I know for my family the first two weeks in November are normally the best time to visit. The lines are short (even for the more popular attractions) and though Disney will NEVER be empty the parks do seem less crowded and the weather is normally gorgeous. However that is just what I have found that works best for us. Yes, my daughter misses a day or two of school but it is planned well in advance and she has her work with her to complete once her day of fun has ended.

If you don't want to take my word for November being one of the BEST times to visit I went ahead and pulled some information from Walt Disney World website on attendance levels. That way you can plan the BEST time for your family.

Disney Fun

My daughter and I waiting to see "A Bug's Life" in Animal Kingdom
My daughter and I waiting to see "A Bug's Life" in Animal Kingdom

Tickets! Park Hopper? 3 days or 4?

Now that you have the perfect time picked out for your vacation its time to purchase the tickets. This is going to take some patience and some investigative leg work on your part. The best part of living in Florida is that Walt Disney World offers us discounts. For example there is a special going on today called Discover Disney. It is a 3 day ticket with no park hopper for entrance to any of the theme parks in Disney for $119 per person plus tax and if you wanted to add the fourth day it is only $10 bucks extra.

A regular one day ticket costs $89 dollars x's 3 days would cost normally $267 dollars.

That is just one example of what Disney offers us Floridians to entice us to enter their theme parks. It is a total savings of $148 dollars per person in your family for 3 days. Not bad huh? There are some restrictions with these tickets so always verify before you purchase what those restrictions are.

I tend to make my plans 1 year in advance so I can price shop. It is about getting the most for your money. So take a deep breath stay calm and when you find the deal that matches your wallet hit purchase and you are one step closer to having your dreams become reality.

My daughter and I in the Lobby of Pop Century during one of our November trips. Its awesome because they have everything decorated for Christmas.
My daughter and I in the Lobby of Pop Century during one of our November trips. Its awesome because they have everything decorated for Christmas.

Where to lay your head?

On Disney grounds or not? This is a personal preference but in my opinion just as you have found the amazing ticket prices you can also find amazing room prices on the actual property. I have stayed in Pop Century, Coronado Springs, Beach Club Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge. During the LOW attendance months Disney tends to also discount these rooms to all time LOW prices as well.

Yes, you can find a cheaper place to stay outside of the grounds but is it worth it?

Off Disney property you need to spend money on gas and on tolls to drive to your decided park for the day and once at the gate you have to pay to park your car. I have done this option and I have spent on average $40 dollars. Where if I decided to just stay on Disney grounds and maybe spent $5 dollars more a night I would not have spent all that extra money I could have used to purchase a souvenir or something else.

The benefit to staying on Disney Property is once you arrive and exit your car you don't have to enter your vehicle again until you depart. They have buses running around the clock that literally pick you up right outside your hotel door. If you want to drive yourself to the park they will give you a FREE parking pass just because you decided to stay on grounds. Less gas, no tolls, no parking fees. SIGN ME UP!

This is about your vacation, you will decide whats best for your family. Whatever is going to cause the less amount of stress is the option to choose.

Again this portion of the planning is going to take some patience and some time. So plan, plan, plan as far in advance as you can. And start saving those pennies because they add up quick.

I tend to find the best deals for the Disney resorts is on the Disney's site itself. You can choose to use the other common travel sites but I have found they charge fees for booking through them.

My daughter meeting Cinderella before going to eat lunch in her castle.
My daughter meeting Cinderella before going to eat lunch in her castle.
Inside Cinderella's castle waiting to eat lunch.
Inside Cinderella's castle waiting to eat lunch.

The Day has ARRIVED

Congratulations! You have planned and have found the best deals to begin your family vacation. The best part about vacations is the opportunity to create such amazing memories. Now that you have saved some money on the room and on the tickets think about how you want to spend the remainder of your budget.

My husband and I made a deal on our first trip. For each park we pick one NEW thing we want to experience. We realized on our first trip we tried to cram it all in and lost site of our budget as well as not remembering all the amazing moments because there was so many. So the next trip was planned with that in mind.

For example we wanted to have a meal in Cinderella's castle. Yes, it is possible and you must reserve a spot in advance. We assumed lunch would be more reasonable and less crowded than dinner so we signed up for lunch. It was fantastic and for the 3 of us the bill was under $80 dollars which included deserts and a cocktail each for my husband and I. To say the least the service was impeccable, the food was delicious and the servings were surprisingly large. We got to meet Cinderella prior to entering the castle and took some pictures. It was the best to see the look on my daughters face. So pick something memorable and feel like you SPLURGED, relax and enjoy the memories.

Magic Kingdom at night the 3 of us!
Magic Kingdom at night the 3 of us!

To Sum it all up!

You have to look for the deals! You have to make the plans! It can be done and it has been done! I have done this for my family a total of 5 times already and the MAX amount we have EVER spent is $1200 dollars that is all inclusive (gas, tickets, food, room and extras). That was when we were just a family of three now that we are a family of four it will add to our expense. My trick, I purchase things separately. One month I purchase the tickets, the next month I book and purchase the room. Its easiest to break it apart and purchase little by little that way when your day arrives its all bought and paid for. Then you can sit back and enjoy and maybe even be awed and amazed yourself.



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