As the happiest place on Earth, Mickey Mouse’s home delights guests, but the cost of vacationing at Disney parks these days can make happiness feel out of reach.
A one-day park pass for out-of-state residents to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida will cost between $124 and $189 beginning Dec. 8, according to CNET. Tickets to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are between $114 and $179. Animal Kingdom prices will remain the same, ranging from $109 to $159.
The prices reflect the second increase this year, leaving Disney-lovers to wonder how to visit without breaking the bank.
Saving on flights, parks, lodging
Half of Disney travel expenses typically boils down to flights, especially as airfares have risen 42% over the past year, with holiday prices estimated to break records for the highest uptick in the past five years.
According to Lauren King, a travel agent from Key to the World Travel, Disney offers cheaper tickets during January, early May, September, and December — as long as you visit before the holiday rush. During these lower admission months, ride queues decrease.
For non-Florida residents, purchasing a Disney World vacation package is cost-effective, Shannon Devine, an independent travel agent with Academy Travel who specializes in planning Disney family vacations told Insider.
“Vacation package(s) would include a discount overall for the room and the tickets being booked together. So, that would apply to people who don’t live in Florida as well,” Devine said, stressing flexibility when booking.
Average vacation package prices for a family of three to five people are around $3,500 for a one-room hotel for five nights during the holidays. For a shorter weekend trip, it’s $1,200 to $1,300. During non-holiday seasons, longer trips at moderate resorts cost around $2,500 for a family of three to five.
Alison Pringle, an independent agent with Academy, frequents Disney regularly. She said her family favors staying at a value resort for the days they visit the park and switching to a deluxe lodge for days they explore the hotel’s amenities, especially since Disney offers a luggage transportation service.
“That way, you can see different resorts, but you can also save a couple hundred dollars on lodging a night,” Pringle said.
Some amenities Pringle’s family loves include picnics at the Grand Floridian, riding ponies at Fort Wilderness ($8), making bath salts, mosaics ($25) and shadowboxes, tie-dying Mickey shirts ($20), cane pole fishing ($8) and listening to jazz singers.
“It’s not expensive to do those things, and they’re actually some of our favorite memories.”
Ticket prices are date-based, meaning each date correlates to a (mostly) fixed price of admission. Slight fluctuations might arise.
Don’t flounder on food
Disney’s resort and budget lodges allow grocery deliveries from Amazon and Instacart. Since the hotels have refrigerators, you can store food and save extra money.
Pringle orders healthy breakfast meals and snacks to eat prior to entering the parks each day. She noted for adults, Instacart also delivers alcohol.
Disney offers a few different dining options. Quick-service meals allow customers to walk in and order food at a counter, rather than reservation dining, which is more expensive.
Studying the menu before your trip helps control the budget. Pringle said a family of four can eat at Disney for $100 to $150 a day; if you want to splurge on a character meal, allot between $200 and $250 for that day.
Bringing snacks and drinks into the park can cut costs. The park has free water stations throughout, and most quick-service restaurants or food stands offer free tap water to guests. A bottle of water costs $3.75 in Disney World and $4.39 in Disneyland. You also can purchase 24 packs of bottled water outside the park for a fraction of the price.
Additionally, Devine said sometimes it’s better to splurge on a room with a kitchenette so you can cook more meals in the hotel and make sandwiches to take into the park.
To park hop or not to park hop
Disney’s park hopping option permits guests to travel between the four parks daily. But those who purchase park hopping passes can only switch parks after 2 p.m. until each park closes.
Devine proposes guests can save some money by avoiding the park hopper option. “Just plan to do one park each day to save a little bit of money,” Devine said.
On the other hand, Pringle always chooses the park hopping option.
“If we see the ride times at Epcot are low, we can go there in the afternoon. I feel like a park hopper can help you manage your time better,” Pringle said. “I know it’s more expensive, but then we don’t end up buying four to five-day tickets.”
Get creative with souvenirs
Devine says purchasing an autograph book before heading into the park saves cash. Amazon sells Disney-themed autograph books starting at $5.99 and Disney photo albums for under $20. On Disneyland’s website, personalized photo albums run between $79 and $115.
Disney Tsum Tsums or smaller stuffed animals are at Walmart or Target for a fraction of Disney parks’ costs. Plus, these smaller trinkets are more manageable rather than giant stuffed animals.
“I’ll do Minnie ears that I’ll find on sale at Shop Disney, and that way, we’re not spending $40 (at the parks) on Minnie ears. We’re spending maybe $19.99,” Pringle said.
Use credit cards with rewards
Pringle said she uses the Disney Visa card because it allows her family to get savings and rewards that go toward souvenirs and meals.
In addition to the Disney Visa, her family uses the Target RedCard, which allow patrons to purchase Disney gift cards with a 5% cash-back offer. Pringle said she uses the cards to pay off the trip in the months leading up to the family vacation.
Pringle also gives each of her children a Disney gift card, between $50 and $100, for their personal souvenir budget.
Devine similarly advised seeking out deals on Disney gift cards and stocking up.
“If you know what your budget is outside of the hotel and park tickets, leading up to your trip, stock up on Disney gift cards, sometimes you can get a good deal at Target, and sometimes Costco also sells them in a bundle where you save a little bit of money,” Devine said.
For an estimate of Disney trip costs, visit the Disney World Coast Calculator.