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Walt Disney World on a Budget

Updated on May 28, 2013

Going to Walt Disney World on a Budget

Disney World is one of my favorite places for a family vacation. When I was growing up my parents and I would go just about every other year. Now I get to go with my own daughter and husband. I was 2 years old on my first visit and I've been 19 times so far. :)

I'm a big fan of Disney, but not of spending a fortune to go. I think we do a pretty good job of planning- cutting back on most things and splurging on a few. On this lens I'll share what we do traveling as a family to Walt Disney World on a budget.

Best times to go

Value Season

I really love staying on Disney property. To make this more affordable we go during Disney's Value Season. No matter which hotel you stay in this is when the nightly rates will be the lowest. It's also when the parks are less crowded.

2013 Value Season Dates:

January 2 - January 9

January 13 - January 17

January 21 - February 13

2013 Value Season 2 Dates:

August 4 - September 13

If those dates just aren't possible for you the next dates to look at would be during their Fall or Regular Seasons. If you are on a budget and trying to save money you will want to avoid their Peak and Holiday Seasons.

Note: Weekend rates are higher than weekday rates year round.

Where to stay

Value Resorts

If you go during the Value Season, Value Resorts can be as low as $96 a night. They certainly aren't fancy, but really, how much time to you plan to stay in your room or even on the hotel property. One day we will splurge on a really nice Disney Resort, but right now this is all we need.

Currently, there are 5 different Value Resorts to choose from.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort

DisneyPixar movie themed

Located in Disney's Wide World of Sports Area

Disney's Pop Century Resort

Fads of the 20th-century

Located in Disney's Wide World of Sports Area

Disney's All-Star Movies Resort

Disney film characters

Located in Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort Area

Disney's All-Star Music Resort

Music inspired

Located in Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort Area

Disney's All-Star Sports Resort

Sports themed

Located in Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort Area

Each of them include:

* Bus Transportation to the Theme Parks, Water Parks and Downtown Disney

* Quick Service Dining

* Themed Pools

* Arcade

* Playground

* Gift Shop

The typical room has 2 Double Beds and sleeps 4.

All-Star Music now has Family Suites which are twice the size and sleep up to 6.

You can find more first hand info about Disney Value Resorts at Princess and Pirate Vacations.






curated from my Flickr account

Another option

If you don't mind "roughing it"

Campsites from $54 a night

Disney Fort Wilderness Campground

Located in the Magic Kingdom area

Features available at all campsites:

* Water

* Charcoal grill and picnic table

* 20 amp/120 Volt, 30 amp/120 Volt, 50 amp/250 Volt outlets

Tents and cots are available for rent.

Disney Dining Plan

A Pre-Paid Meal Plan

When you purchase the Disney Dining Plan you can relax and eat where you like without having to worry about how much each item costs. Your meals are paid for in advance. You can choose snacks and meals at selected restaurants throughout Walt Disney World Resort including some that feature Disney Character Dining, which is so much fun when you go with young children.

Table-Service Meal which includes an entree, dessert (or full buffet) and non-alcoholic beverages. Children ages 3-9 must choose from the children's menu if available.

Quick-Service Meal (cafeteria style) which includes and entrée and dessert, or a combo meal, and non-alcoholic beverages. Children ages 3-9 must choose from the children's menu if available.

Snack. There are many options to choose from wherever you go. There's pretty much anything you can think of from ice cream to popcorn to fruit or a drink.

Reservations are typically required for Table Service meals, including all Character Meals which can sell out months in advance. For a complete list of Walt Disney World Restaurants and Menus in each park and hotel check out the DIS website.

2013 Meal Plans:

Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan per person per night

2 Quick-Service Meals

1 Snack

1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

Disney Dining Plan per person per night

1 Table-Service Meal

1 Quick-Service Meal

1 Snack

1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan per person per night

3 Meals (table-service or quick-service)

2 Snacks

1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

Premium Plan per person per night

3 Meals (table-service or quick-service)

2 Snacks

1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

Special Perks

Platinum Plan per person per night

3 Meals (table-service or quick-service)

2 Snacks

1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

Even more Special Perks

For more information on the Disney Dining Plan Disney's website offers PDF Documents for each option under Related Resources.

Character Meals

We've done quite a few character meals and my daughter has loved them.

Some of our pictures

1st & 2nd: Akershus' Princess Storybook Breakfast in Epcot

3rd: Dinner with Winnie the Pooh characters at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom

4th: Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in The Grand Floridian

5th: Dreams Come True Dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table in the Castle at Magic Kingdom

6th: Breakfast with Winnie the Pooh characters at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom






curated from my Flickr account

Souvenirs on a budget: Special Pajamas

Before you go to Disney World getting your kids a new pair of pjs can be an inexpensive gift that can be given on your first night in the hotel. You can save money by buying them at home and bringing them with you as a surprise. One less souvenir to buy while you are there.

Park Tickets

Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom

The longer you visit the less park tickets cost per day.

Base Ticket Price for age 10+

1 day ticket $89.00 ..... $89.00 /day

2 day ticket $176.00 ... $88.00 /day

3 day ticket $242.00 ... $80.67 /day

4 day ticket $256.00 ... $64.00 /day

5 day ticket $268.00 ... $53.60 /day

6 day ticket $278.00 ... $46.33 /day

7 day ticket $288.00 ... $41.14 /day

8 day ticket $298.00 ... $37.25 /day

9 day ticket $308.00 ... $34.22 /day

10 day ticket $318.00 . $31.80 /day

Base Ticket Price for ages 3-9

1 day ticket $93.00 ..... $83.00 /day

2 day ticket $164.00 ... $82.00 /day

3 day ticket $226.00 ... $75.33 /day

4 day ticket $239.00 ... $59.75 /day

5 day ticket $250.00 ... $50.00 /day

6 day ticket $260.00 ... $43.33 /day

7 day ticket $270.00 ... $38.57 /day

8 day ticket $280.00 ... $35.00 /day

9 day ticket $290.00 ... $32.22 /day

10 day ticket $300.00 . $30.00 /day

Base Tickets only allow you admission to one Theme Park per day, adding the Park Hopper option lets you come and go through multiple Parks on the same day. I recommend that added cost. There's also a Water Park Fun & More option, and a No Expiration option. Go to the Magic Your Way Tickets page for their added costs.

So, realistically, how much does a Disney Vacation Cost?

To give you an idea I'll share the cost of two recent trips - January 2008 & January 2009.

We are a family of 3; 2 adults and 1 child. We stay in a Value Resort during Value Season for 5 nights. We purchase 4 Day Park Hopper Tickets and the Disney Dining Plan. We fly into Orlando from Boston.

Cost for Hotel, Park Tickets and Dining Plan:



Cost for Flights:



2008 Total cost: $2,371.82

Cost for Hotel, Park Tickets and Dining Plan:



Cost for Flights:



2009 Total cost: $2,684.39

For 2010 and 2011 we changed our vacation packages so I didn't add them here for comparison. Problem is, I'm not sure if we'll have the exact same package again so I might as well start again with our 2012 trip.

We stayed in a Value Resort for 5 nights and purchased 4 Day Park Hopper Tickets.

(Note: This vacation we did not get the dining plan and used Air miles for flights.)

2012 Cost for Hotel and Park Tickets: $1,763.52

Autograph books and pens

These are other items you can get a better deal on ahead of time. Plus if you buy them before you go you'll be ready for action as soon as you see your first character. :)

How's that Luggage of Yours?

Do you need luggage for your trip? This lens is all about being frugal so here is a tip. Make sure to check out LuggageOnline.

They have great prices and even better sales.

There's Free Shipping on orders of $100 or more (and if you are buying for everyone in your family it adds up quick), and free returns.

The best part is there 110% Low-Price Guarantee. If you find the same item selling for less somewhere else within 30 days they will refund you 110% of the difference. You, can't go wrong with that!

As an example this Samsonite Nested 5-Piece Set Retails for $495.00.

Luggage Online's price is $299.95.

Compare flights to Orlando, Florida

Make sure you look at different days of the week, as well as different airlines when comparing flight costs. Leaving on a Wednesday is typically less expensive.

Save up to 70% off published airfares on major Airlines with

Clicking on image will open up a new page.

Planning your trip

The Complete Walt Disney World 2012
The Complete Walt Disney World 2012

Plan the perfect trip whatever your budget.


Offer other frugal Disney fans your best tips

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    • johnny-knox profile image

      johnny-knox 5 years ago

      Pretty informative and detailed lens. Congats!

    • reells profile image

      reells 5 years ago

      Good tips! I've used many of these myself.

    • Carashops profile image

      Cara 5 years ago

      I love WDW. Great lens.

    • fastpass2disney profile image

      fastpass2disney 5 years ago

      Really enjoyed reading your lens - thanks:)

    • OrlandoTipster profile image

      OrlandoTipster 5 years ago

      I heard on the news that Disney is going to be cutting back on Extra Magical Hours :(

    • Mariajomith profile image

      ria 5 years ago

      excellent disney lens, i love that you were so thorough with prices

    • CamelliaPenny profile image

      Perrin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Love this lens! Great info on saving money at the Mouse's House. We loved staying at Pop Century . . . I saw it was your favorite Value resort, too.

    • chrisqw profile image

      chrisqw 5 years ago

      This is a great lens, full of useful info for peole thinking of visiting WDW - which is me! Many thanks.

    • Onlinemum3 profile image

      Onlinemum3 5 years ago

      Great lens. Interesting about the value season. We are in the UK so it is a bit more expensive but thanks for some great ideas of how to save some money.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      great comparisons you've done here and when to go, enjoyed this, thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hey all you Disney fans, There is an awesome contest on the Lifetime website right now! Prizes include a trip for four to Walt Disney World Resort, cash and video cameras. Drawings are held weekly so check it out soon! The link is luck!

    • BuildABetterMouse profile image

      Steve and Annette 7 years ago

      Be sure to request the free Disney vacation planning DVD through the Disney World website. It is basically a long commercial but the nice thing is that they sometimes send out email PIN codes for discounted rates. These sometimes mirror the general public offers but sometimes they are exclusive offers or offer more flexible dates.

    • profile image

      TheDisneyVacation 7 years ago

      Check out Downtown Disney for less expensive shopping offers.Wonderful lens!

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 8 years ago

      My family is going to DW for Thanksgiving, but it looks like I won't be joining them because I just found out that I'm pregnant! I want to go!!!

    • profile image

      BeautySecrets 9 years ago

      Thanks Christene. My family and I have enjoyed Disney World in Orlando many times. You did a great job with this lens. Disney World really is a place where "Dreams Come True". Congrats Christene.

    • profile image

      linstein 9 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens - lots of valuable information in a clear, easy-to-read format! If you live in Florida, don't forget to look for special deals for FL residents before planning your trips!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Very nice! Welcome to All Things Travel.

    • QuantumTraveler1 profile image

      QuantumTraveler1 9 years ago

      Thanks for providing all this great info. I especially enjoyed your section on where to stay on Disney property.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 9 years ago

      Well you know how much I love Disney..... You are right, the value resorts are a really good option for families on a budget. Add in the dining plan and you get a really good deal. Watch out for the free dining plan in September if you are thinking of going back.

    • Teacher Adez7 profile image

      Teacher Adez7 10 years ago

      Hi Christine, I love this lens. I was raised in CA so Disney is a staple for me, but I have never been to Disney World. Thanks for this lens for a peek! 5*'s from me for a job well done.

    • profile image

      ebizsalez 10 years ago

      very nice lens and layout. thank youbigsaveontravel

    • Bookmama2 profile image

      Bookmama2 10 years ago

      A really nice lens. I came here after seeing your post in the forum about a 1 Star rater. Looks like the rest of us have you almost back up to the well-deserved 5-Star rating. I like the Orbitz airline ticket search. And we have stayed in the All-Star Sports Value Resort -- it was nice!

    • GoodInfo LM profile image

      GoodInfo LM 10 years ago

      It's expensive to go to Disney World. This information is very useful. Five stars for sure from me! : )

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 10 years ago

      Great information - this lens will be very helpful for my next Disney trip!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 10 years ago from USA

      This is great. I can't wait to get back to Disney. I haven't been in years!

    • profile image

      chloecavanaugh 10 years ago

      Very good lens, left you *****YOU DESERVE IT!!!!!!

    • profile image

      ebizsalez 10 years ago

      very good information. thanks for sharing.from fellow lens: bigsaveontravel