For those of you planning your first trip to Walt Disney World or your first trip since FastPass+ launched, there are a few tips and tricks to make the most of it.…
Before you have even started your Disney vacation, you are fairly certain you will want to visit again. And Disney Guest Relations are more than happy to accommodate and set up on the right path to returning in the near future.
But, what exactly is a Bounceback offer and how can it save you money?
Bounceback offers are nothing more than promotions that guests are only eligible to book while they are currently vacationing at Walt Disney World resort.
You’re on your way to Walt Disney World and you have all of these plans as soon as boots hit the ground. But your plane is delayed due to icing on the wings, there is massive traffic on the highway and the queue for check-in is crazy long. All your plans for arrival are seemingly thrown out the window because you live by the philosophy “Failing to plan is planning to fail“.
On most days, I would agree with this philosophy. I can’t stand “winging it” and get increasingly frustrated when I hear horror stories of disgruntled travelers having a horrible time because they didn’t plan for this and that contingency. There are Plans A-G in my back pocket and they have all been committed to memory. Except arrival day at Walt Disney World.
There are too many moving parts, too many things out of my control, and too much can go wrong to have any solid plans immediately following arriving at Walt Disney World.
Arrival Day at Walt Disney World
Before Leaving the House
- Confirm luggage tags and paperwork
- Have USD cash on hand
- Notify Bank that you are leaving the country
- Arrive to the airport 2 hours before departure – 3 hours if it’s a large airport.
Disney’s Magical Express
If you are flying into MCO and have reservations at a Disney-owned hotel, you get complimentary access to Disney’s Magical Express. This shuttle departs every 20 minutes from the airport and will take you to your hotel in style.
How long will it take me to get from the airport to my hotel on Disney’s Magical Express?
The first thing to remember is that it often takes a minimum of 30 minutes after the plane lands to get to the point where you’re ready to leave the airport or make your way to Disney’s Magical Express. Off to the Magical Express.
After scanning your Magicband or presenting your Disney Resort Hotel reservation to the Disney representative you are faced with about a 25-minute wait to load the next shuttle bus, plus 35 minutes on average to reach your Resort hotel.
Considering the Magical Express is known for stopping at numerous hotels during a single run, you could be looking at roughly 75 minutes total drive time.
If this seems a little much, consider that a cab ride one-way from MCO to a Disney hotel will cost you at least $70.
Arriving at Disney World
What time can I check in?
For most Disney resorts, the check-in time is 3:00 pm. The variations on this are that the Fort Wilderness campsite check-in time is 1:00 pm and the Disney Villa Resorts
This doesn’t mean you can’t check in early, it just means you aren’t guaranteed to have a room ready. You are welcome to check in early, get your Magic Bands set up and explore the area while leaving your excess luggage at Bell Services.
But really, once you check-in you have all the privileges of a resort guest. You can use the hotel pools, charge merchandise, double check room requests, get your parking pass, and so on.
Do I need to go to my hotel first thing on my arrival day?
This largely depends on your mode of transportation. The Magical Express will only drop you off at your hotel. This also gives you a chance to drop off your carry on luggage and prepare for whatever activities you had planned for the rest of the day.
If, on the other hand, you are self-driving to Disney or renting a car from the airport, you are welcome to head straight to the parks. All Disney properties allow you to check in online and they will email your room number. Your Magic Bands are already set up to enter your room and linked to your entrance tickets.
The only hiccup comes from guests visiting from non-American addresses, as your Magic Bands can’t be mailed to you in advance. Unless you have a pair at home that you plan on linking to your tickets before arrival, you will need to visit the Check-in Desk to retrieve your Magic Bands before heading to the parks.
What exactly happens during check-in?
You’ll be asked whether you want to allow charging privileges for your party’s MagicBands and if so how you’d like to secure those charges. This is when you decide if little Timmy is allowed to charge his souvenirs to your Credit Card or he can fend for himself with a Gift Card you set up for him.
The check-in clerk will give you a resort map, parks maps, a WDW Times Guide, Disney Dining Plan information (if this applies to you), and other helpful information.
Explore Your Resort
You’ve paid for it, why not make the most of it. Check out everything the main hall has to offer, the pool, the grounds, take pictures, whatever you want.
Off Park things to do
Monorail Resort Hopping- Of all the things that we love to do on Arrival day, resort hopping is my favorite. Explore the resorts, get a taste of Disney, have dinner somewhere fancy and just relax. You may not have time to do it later so why wait until the end to explore the World.
At the Grand Floridian, children can participate in Cinderella’s Princess Promenade. Kids can stroll down the Grand Floridian grand staircase and dance with her in the lobby of the hotel. Princess Promenade takes place daily at 3:30 p.m.
Mini Golf – Disney World has two separate mini golf destinations. The first is Winter Summerland Miniature Golf where you will get to experience Christmas year round. Second, you can head over to Fantasia Gardens across from the Swan and Dolphin hotel. At this course, you can play two 18-hole miniature golf adventures based on Disney’s classic animated film Fantasia.
Shopping – Either at your resort or at Disney Springs, some time off now to explore what there is to buy is a great way to know your options. Look know and buy later, or get your shopping out of the way early and shop til you drop.
Pool Day – If you want to swim and your room is not yet ready, you can use the changing facilities at the pool.
Catch the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from outside the parks – We recommend that you plan to watch the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom from inside the park at least once, but your arrival day is a great day to catch them outside the park. There are lots of places to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks outside the park.
Explore the BoardWalk – Disney’s Boardwalk is more than just a pier . It’s stock full of shops, eateries and great times.
Dining – Relaxing at a fancy dinner after a day of travel is a great way to start your vacation. However, you should not make any reservation earlier than three hours after your scheduled landing time at Orlando International. Sometimes even that is cutting it close. Remember that nearly all table service restaurants at Walt Disney World now require a credit card hold for reservations and a have a penalty charge for no-shows.
For even more ideas, be sure to read 40 Things to do at Walt Disney World without a Ticket. In the comments below be sure to share what you and your family love to do on Disney arrival day!
Learn the bus routes and timings
If you haven’t done so already, arrival day is the perfect time to study the Park Maps and bus routes. This will give everyone the heads up regarding wake-up time, boots out the door and on their way to start the day.
Each bus to the individual Parks will have a different ride duration time, obviously. It’s wise to be mindful of these duration times, expected departure time from the hotel, and possible delays due to overcrowded buses or traffic when deciding which bus to catch.
There will also be days when taking alternative transportation is necessary, like when you have early morning reservations, want to experience Early Morning Magic in the Parks or simply don’t have the patience to take the free buses this morning. This is when you will want to call ahead and reserve a Minnie Van, or ring up an Uber.
Is it worth it to go to a theme park just for fireworks or a parade on our first night?
This depends on a lot of things. Between the time it takes to get to the Parks from your hotel, how busy it probably already is by the time you get there in the afternoon and how tired you and your party are from traveling all day, it may not be worth it.
However, if you are staying at Disney for a significant length of time, say 10 days, then your entrance ticket is about $10 for that extra day. Spending $10 (per person) to see the fireworks or exploring late a night on your first day could be exactly what your family needs to get in the spirit of Disney.
Arrival and Departure Day do’s and don’ts
- Do make full use of Bell Services and Resort Airline check-in.
- On your arrival day, Do save time to get your room organized, your bags unpacked, and your park bag ready to go.
- Do remember to pack your TSA-approved sunscreen and swimsuits in a carry-on. Anything that you need that day since you probably won’t see your checked bag for another few hours.
- Do schedule grocery, stroller, and scooter/ECV deliveries on your arrival day so you’ll be ready to go on your first full day at Walt Disney World.
- Do remember to book a Bounceback offer before you leave. It is a lot less sad to leave Disney World when you already have another trip to return scheduled!
- Don’t schedule a reservation too close to your arrival. If you are flying, we recommend not planning any reservations (either FastPass+ or dining) for any closer than 3 hours after your scheduled arrival time.
- Don’t try to do too much on your arrival day, especially if you have a full day of travel before you arrive.
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Have you ever wanted to go to Disney solo?
The idea has crossed my mind more than once. Wouldn’t be it great to just take off and visit Disney World all on your own. No one to consult when making plans, making the most of Singe Rider lines and getting those coveted Fast pass+ reservations is so much easier when it’s just for one.
Not only will you be paying less, because math, but you can get up at the crack of dawn and not have to worry about walking sleepy-head and hearing the grumble-grumble of the pre-coffee partner.
Going Disney solo doesn’t have its downsides, I mean, who will take my picture when a Photo pass photographer isn’t around, and who will I eat with. But this is manageable with a little planning and a lot of confidence; those strangers aren’t going to volunteer to take your photo.
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Beginner Guide to Doing Disney Solo
Don’t pack too much for your Disney vacation, and definitely don’t pack too much into the parks. While I have no idea how anyone can visit a theme park and go through the ‘no-bags’ line (it’s not natural), I have managed to fit everything I need into a single draw-string bag. And that includes my camera and snacks.
Bring a camera
I always leave the camera gear for him to lug around and take all of the vacation pictures so this tip goes out to everyone that’s like me. DON’T FORGET YOUR CAMERA! Sure, your iPhone counts, but it won’t get those amazing long shots of the parade. But it’s better than nothing. Either way, clear your SD card, or internal memory and charge the battery before heading out.
PS. Check that you have replaced the SD card before leaving the hotel room. True story.
There are so many opportunities to have your photo taken within Disney that there is no real reason not to at least visit the locations and ask them to use our own camera. I do suggest Memory Maker though. Our photographers have struggled to use my DSLR even after I programmed it.
Memory Maker or your own camera, this is the best way to make sure you are in some pretty amazing photos around the parks.
Plan your day
Just because you can go without a plan, doesn’t mean you should. Have your ADR and FP+ scheduled, then have a general idea of how you want your day to look. Start here, move this way towards your next reservation, stop there for a picture and don’t forget to hit up this shop for a souvenir.
A loose plan is still a plan. And we all know what happens when we fail to plan…
Get there early
This is where you are your own worst enemy. Without anyone to push you out the door, are you more or less likely to stick to your early morning schedule?
Get to the parks stupid early, rope drop what needs to get rope dropped and have a great time.
Go during the slow season
Since you aren’t bound by a school schedule, and you don’t have to negotiate time off with a touring partner, visit whenever you want. You should want to travel during off-peak; they have the lowest costs and lowest crowd levels.
- second week of January
- late February
- between the second week after Easter and the week before Memorial Day
- mid to late October
- second to third week of December
Try something new
Traveling solo is the perfect time to push your personal boundaries without the threat of judgement from family and friends. You can proudly show off your successes when you get home, and quietly never speak of the failures again.
I can see myself refusing to ride Mission: Space at the last minute. But no one needs to know that.
Maximize a hobby
Be it a collection, or a tour, there is something at Disney for everyone and this is the time to maximize your time. Tour the gardens, Behind the Seeds, and everything related to gardening at Disney. Take a restaurant tour to learn how the pros serve so many people in a single night. Or take a night
Whatever floats your boat, just do it.
Quick service meals aren’t that much of a problem when it comes to dining alone. Eat on the go, at a park bench, pack a lunch, whatever you need. People are busy and hungry and they aren’t paying much attention to anything beyond their own plate. But Table Service dining? That’s a whole other can of worms. Making a reservation, sitting down in a fancy restaurant, and being served, all by yourself, can crush even the most self-confident individual.
This is ironically the best time to visit a Table Service restaurant. It’s half the price! You aren’t paying for a second person to eat with you. And. There is that much more chances of the restaurant being able to fit you in vs a family of 4 or 6.
Don’t worry about being in your own company
Disney World is pretty low risk when it comes to getting lonely. You are surrounded by thousands of people, most of whom are in the same happy bubble that you are.
If you really can’t bring yourself to talking to your line neighbor or staring off into space while dining solo, bring distractions. Be it a kindle book, a cross word or your favorite blog downloaded onto your iPhone, bring something that will pass the awkward time.
Take your time and do whatever you want
Don’t rush from one place to another. Just take your time and enjoy Disney. Geek out at your own pace. Do it’s a Small World again and again if you really want to. Or Expedition Everest. It’s your holiday and there is literally no one around to stop you.
Enjoy a nice cocktail and a view.
If it’s getting late but you just can’t bring yourself to heading back to the hotel, that’s cool too. Find a great bar, and grab a great cocktail. Meet people, other solo travelers, and make friends.
Take photos with characters in the park
Just because you are solo doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to take character photos.
Do a special theme park tour
Again with the cost savings. Do a private tour, because you can! Maybe they need just 1 extra body to fill a seat and allow the tour to take place. You never know. It’s a public service really, helping that other family take the tour they always wanted. You’re welcome.
Take advantage of the single rider line… and get ahead in regular lines too!
The beauty of Disney is that there are a few single rider lines you can take advantage of. By far the best one is at Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom which seems to move a lot quicker than the others. Test Track and Rock n Rollercoaster are the other ones. These are quite big rides and by using single rider there’s no need to waste a fast pass on them.
Also look out for calls for a single rider when you’re in the regular queue and approaching the loading bay. They want to fill all available seats so will more than likely move you forward into the ride.
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Groceries at Disney World – Garden Grocer vs. Amazon Prime Now
As you’re probably well aware by now, Disney vacations aren’t cheap. But there is one area you can cut costs without damaging the vacation experience – food.
This is a terrific way to stock up on much-needed necessities without having to make a trip to the local Wal-Mart or Publix. Further, it can be a real money saver, as you can have essentials like fresh fruit, healthy snacks, and bottled water delivered for substantially less than you would pay for those things in Disney shops and at
Note: The Swan and Dolphin reportedly will not accept deliveries from grocery delivery services.
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Why get your groceries delivered in the first place?
Other than the obvious “not having to do the shopping yourself”, getting your groceries delivered has a number of conveniences.
Having breakfast in our room saves a lot of frustration and time.
Sometimes the more options you have, the harder it is to make a choice. Especially with children, reducing their options can reduce the stress of getting out of the hotel room and into the parks.
This also means not waiting in line for your food, or paying.
Late night snacks in the room are easy.
I personally love having a late night snack. The kids do too. The trek from the park to the hotel is long and exhausting and one needs replenishment, especially after a long day of touring.
In order to reduce the cost of Dining at Disney, and filling the gap in service that is grocery deliveries, Garden Grocer exclusively delivers a whole host of products directly to your Disney Resort.
Their site contains more than 5,000 products, and categories range from dairy and produce to baby care and beauty needs. If you’re willing to send them a copy of your valid photo ID, you can even purchase alcoholic beverages like beer and wine.
They only deliver to Disney resorts (with a few exceptions), so you must be staying on site in order to use Garden Grocer.
When you order from Garden Grocer, you choose a delivery date and time slot. If you haven’t yet arrived or your room is not ready, the bell desk of your hotel will take delivery of your items. This includes cold or frozen foods which will be appropriately cold stored. Once you are ready, you call down to bell services and someone will bring the Garden Grocer order to your room.
You will pay for the cost of groceries ($40 minimum), plus delivery fee ($14 for orders under $200, otherwise $2), and gratuity if you choose.
There are a handful of Off-site hotels that are approved for delivery;
- Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort
- Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort at Bonnet Creek
- Four Season Orlando at Walt Disney World
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando-Lake Buena Vista
Garden Grocer does not deliver to residential areas. This means Airbnb’s, Home Away’s and other similar rentals will not appear on their approved list in the near future.
Exceptions to this delivery policy at Disney Wilderness:
- Campgrounds – guests must be at the campsite to take delivery in person
- Cabins – if your cabin is ready Garden Grocer will deliver directly to the cabin
- Yacht Club, Beach Club Resort/Villas, Boardwalk Inn/Villas, and Campground only accept deliveries after 4 pm.
Ordering far enough in advance comes with a ton of savings, so why not take advantage of that and order a few months early. You already know what you want/need.
Garden Grocer pro tips:
Once the initial order is delivered you can replenish your order up to 3 times with no additional delivery charge.
Have you ordered from Garden Grocer before? If so, logging into your account gives you the option to copy a previous order. This feature saves time and helps you to remember the essential items you previously ordered.
If you order ahead you get an automatic discount:
- 15 days before 5% off
- 30 days before 7% off
- 60 days before 10% off
Do you have other questions? Garden Grocer has a frequently asked questions section that can probably answer them
Amazon Prime Now
Amazon Prime Now is a relatively new service to the Orlando area and is different than regular Amazon or Amazon Prime Pantry. As a member of Amazon Prime, you can shop more than 25,000 products that can be delivered through Amazon Prime Now for free within two hours (or one hour for an additional $7.99).
You’ll set the delivery location, pick a delivery time, confirm your personal information and payment details, and enter any special delivery instructions before placing your order.
Because this is Amazon, you will have access to anything and everything that Amazon carries in their warehouse (any items available for Amazon Prime), which can potentially help with stocking up on non-Pantry items like t-shirts and colouring books for the kids. Pros and Cons of each
- No membership fee
- 5,000+ products available
- $30 charge for same day delivery
- $14 delivery fee
- Only available for Disney resorts
- Beer and alcohol available
- Advanced order savings
Amazon Prime Now
- Fee of $99/year
- 25,000+ products available
- Same day delivery included in the membership fee
- No delivery fee
- Available for all hotels in Orlando area
- Beer and alcohol not available
- Occasional promotions
Assuming you already have an Amazon Prime account (Prime accounts for other country versions do not cross into the American version, sadly. You will have to open a new account and pay a membership again), Amazon Prime Now has beaten Garden Grocer by a land slide.
It has been mentioned that Amazon Prime has a large product base, but their Pantry product line is limited when compared to a full grocery store like Garden Grocer.
If you don’t already have Amazon Prime, or have very little use of it before and after your Disney vacation, then forget it. That $99 overhead is going to eat away at all of your savings and you are limited as to what you can order.
On the other hand, if you are already a heavy Amazon Prime user, like myself, then Amazon is the way to go. You will save $45-$65 each Disney vacation. That’s a lot of money at the end of the day.
Garden Grocer does have it’s flaws, like that crazy delivery fee, but they make up for it in their ‘purchase ahead and save’ promotion. Since we can order months in advance and have it waiting for us when we get there, I can’t see anyone needing the same-day delivery charge.
As a Canadian, we use our Amazon Prime constantly. A habit we picked up in Germany and their amazing Amazon reputation. But, this doesn’t matter to Amazon.com because our membership doesn’t cross borders. We can’t use our Canadian account on the American version and therefore would be required to make another Prime Purchase.
Knowing that we aren’t going to be visiting Disney twice in the same 12 month period (and even then, it takes at least 3 deliveries of the sample grocery list mentioned above before the Amazon membership fee becomes worth it), and I prefer to have my cocktails late at night while the kids are sleeping and we are talking about our day… or blogging.
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Disney’s Magical Express is a private ground transportation and luggage delivery service for Walt Disney World. Providing transit to and from Orlando International Airport and Disney’s Resort Hotels, for guests with
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Who can use Disney’s Magical Express?
Registered guests of Disney-owned hotels are eligible for Magical Express Service. These hotels are:
How do I set up my Magical Express ride?
When you make your Disney hotel reservation, you will be asked if you want to use Magic Express. Say yes. To make a Magical Express booking, you’ll need to provide your flight information and resort confirmation number.
A few weeks before your trip, you will be mailed a set of special Disney’s Magical Express luggage tags. These are to be placed on every checked bag in conjunction with your airline luggage tags. These let Disney Cast Members know which bags belong to their guests, and which hotel to deliver them to.
Disney tends to only send 1 luggage tag per guest. Should you require more, don’t hesitate to call Disney and ask for more.
Luggage Delivery Service
As I just mentioned, Disney will collect your bags from the luggage carousel and bring them to your hotel room for you. This also means you will not have access to them for a few hours after you arrive at the hotel. It is best if you pack everything you need for arrival day and checking-in into your carry-on bag.
Last minute bookings usually mean there is no time for Disney to mail you luggage tags. This simply means you have to retrieve your own bags at the carousel and join the Magical Express line a little later. Don’t worry. There is plenty of room on the bus to hold everything.
From the Walt Disney World website: “If the Orlando International Airport is your first point of entry into the United States, please follow the U.S. Customs & Border Protection process and claim your luggage upon disembarking the airplane. Once you have completed this process you will give your luggage back to the airport officials and proceed to the Disney’s Magical Express Welcome Center on B side, Level 1. Disney’s Magical Express service will recollect your luggage and deliver it directly to your Walt Disney World hotel room within 4 hours after you check in at the resort. For international Guests arriving after 10:00 p.m., please retain your luggage with you or pick it up in the baggage claim area and then proceed to the Disney’s Magical Express Welcome Center. Your luggage will accompany you on the motorcoach. If you have already completed the U.S. Customs & Border Protection process in another U.S. city, proceed directly to the Disney’s Magical Express Welcome Center on B side, Level 1. For airport arrivals after 10:00 p.m., collect your luggage for transport on the motorcoach.”
If you reside in the US or Canada and you make your Magical Express booking more than a month in advance, then you will get an envelope in the mail that includes a Magical Express voucher booklet and yellow ME luggage tags. All other International guests must claim their own bags in order to proceed through Customs.
Pro Tip – According to our dear friends at Canadian Mouse Trips, if you haven’t received luggage tags or don’t have enough, simply give Disney’s Magical Express personnel your airline luggage tag information and they will retrieve your bags for you. This is more work on their part, so it is not advertised, but it can be done.
Does Disney’s Magical Express have specific hours?
The Magical Express buses run 24 hours a day. Whatever time you arrive at MCO, there will be a bus to take you to your hotel.
While the bus service runs all day, the luggage delivery service does not. If your flight arrives after 10:00 p.m., because it was scheduled to do so or because of a delay, then you must collect your luggage from the carousel on your own and bring them with you to the Magical Express check-in desk.
Is there entertainment on the bus?
After watching short clips about what to expect at Walt Disney World, you will be shown a variety of Disney shorts.
Do I need a car seat?
No. Florida law does not require car seats on buses, nor is there any mechanism to attach a car seat to the bus seat. Your baby can sit on the seat next to you or on your lap. If you happen to have a car seat with you, your driver can stow it underneath with the luggage.
How long will it take me to get from the airport to my hotel using Magic Disney Express?
The first thing to remember is that it often takes a minimum of 30 minutes after the plane lands to get to the point where you’re ready to leave the airport.
From there, you are looking at about 25 minutes to load the next shuttle bus, plus 35 minutes to reach the first hotel. Considering the Magical Express is known for stopping at numerous hotels during a single run, you could be looking at roughly 75 minutes total drive time.
If this seems a little much, consider that a cab one-way from MCO to a Disney hotel will be at least $70.
What’s the process for taking Disney’s Magical Express home?
The day before you depart, you’ll get a note either on your room door handle or under your door telling you what time the Magical Express bus will pick you up. The pick up spot is always right out side the hotel main entrance. The note you will receive includes a bar code that will function as your bus ticket/voucher.
For domestic flights, Disney’s Magical Express pickup is generally about three hours prior to your flight departure time. This may be four hours in advance for international flights. This is to give ample time for traffic-based delays, as well as security and luggage handling at the airport.
Late evening flights
If you have a late evening flight, and check out is at 11 am, you can still enjoy a day out in The World. Simply bring your bags to Bell Services and have them tag everything. Be sure to arrive at least 15-20 minutes before your scheduled Bus departure time to reclaim your luggage.
If security is an issue, let Bell Services know that there are valuables in your luggage, such as camera or medical equipment, and they will secure it in a separate room.
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How Much Does it Cost to go to Disney World? Because there are so many visitor options, and travelers go in with widely varying expectations, must-haves and bucket lists, Walt Disney World is not a one-size-fits-all type of vacation. By comparison, this is the most expensive holiday, and least relaxing, that you are ever going to have.
How much does it actually cost for a family to vacation at the “Happiest Place on Earth”? This post takes a look at Walt Disney World vacation price ranges for each element of the trip, from park tickets to hotels to dining and beyond.
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How much does a Disney vacation cost?
How long will you stay in Disney World?
Let’s start here. One of the biggest factors in price will be the length of your stay. Obviously, a quick 2-night stay costs a lot less than a 10-night stay. The average Disney-goer, that plans on returning within the next few years, with children, tend to stay 5-7 days.
You can read more here about how many days you need for Disney World
Time of year
Deciding on the right time of year to visit Walt Disney World can literally half the cost of your overall vacation. High season is notably more expensive, more crowded, and exponentially more uncomfortable due to weather.
Take flights, hotels and ticket costs into consideration when deciding on a date, not just what is more convenient to schedule or event. Unless it’s RunDisney or May the 4th, most events are weeks long for this reason.
Are you going to fly or drive to Disney?
Some days you can find a great flight out to Orlando for $250 per person. That includes checked bags and everything. Other times, it can cost $500 per person, no checked bags and you land at midnight.
Play with departure airports. We know from experience that driving 5 hours to another international airport, even crossing the border to an American airport (Canadian here), can save a truckload of money.
Canadians should consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada since they can really reduce the cost of your flights in points, cash rewards or inhouse discounts.
Even though $250 is pretty reasonable per person, that’s still $1,000 for a family of four ($1,300 for Canadians). Many people would prefer to drive to Orlando to save money. For example, the drive to Orlando from Toronto is 20 hours. It’ll require about $200 for gas and probably another $100 in hotels, but a Canadian family will still save close to CAD$1,000.
This is called Opportunity Cost; does 4 extra days of vacation time used simply to get to and from Disney worth saving $1000? I think it is but then again, I work from home.
It’s possible to see Disney World without a rental car. Many hotels offer free airport pickup and have a free shuttle to the various Disney properties. Take a look at what your hotel offers before booking your rental car.
The biggest mistake people make is choosing a hotel that’s too expensive.
The typical guest spends 12-plus hours each day touring the parks, so it can seem like a waste to pay top dollar for a hotel. If you’re spending that kind of time out of your room, it doesn’t matter if there’s a view.
A significant portion of your vacation will be eaten up by accommodations, regardless of how you look at it. Mostly, because you are charged based on occupancy, and not per room. This means you will pay more to have 4 people in a single room than 1 person in a room. Though this is still cheaper than 4 separate rooms, one still needs to consider this additional cost when creating your Disney budget.
Option 1: Stay at a Disney World Resort Hotel
Here are the starting prices for each range of Disney World Resort:
- Campgrounds – starting at $55 a night.
- Value Resort Hotels – starting at $110 a night.
- Moderate Resort Hotels – starting at $204 a night.
- Deluxe Resort Hotels – starting at $345 a night.
- Deluxe Villas – starting at $385 a night.
Option 2: Book a Hotel Close By
Staying off site will definitely cut costs. But at what expense? You no longer have the ability to purchase Disney Dining Plan, don’t have access to Early Magic Hours and the transportation to and from the parks can be spotty at best. There’s that Opportunity Cost again.
If staying off-site, we recommend using Booking.com to make your hotel reservations. Their free cancelation policy, amazing customer service and a wide selection of hotels make it easy to know exactly what you are getting into. In addition, they price match and you’re not required to pay until after your stay for almost accommodations. After five bookings, you become a member of their Genius program which gets you an extra 10% off on selected properties. We have been using them for years during our European adventures and have never looked back.
It is very important to remember; you are allowed to bring food into the parks! Even if you are just packing snacks and drinks for the day, do it.
There are plenty of places that offer inexpensive meals, and “snacks” can definitively double as a meal, and shared with a partner.
If you do decide to purchase meals in the parks, we would recommend budgeting $45+ per person, per day. Less if you have small children.
Which is better; Disney Dining Plan or Pay Out of Pocket?
When the words “budget” and “dining” are mentioned in the context of a Walt Disney World vacation, the first topic that typically enters the conversation is the Disney Dining Plan. If you are trying to do your Walt Disney World vacation on a tight budget, consider the Disney Dining Plan a non-starter.
Without question, purchasing the Disney Dining Plan will cost you more than it would cost you to eat at Walt Disney World on a tight budget. What the Disney Dining Plan offers is peace of mind in paying for your food in advance and knowing that you don’t have to worry about it when you arrive.
The Disney Dining Plan is for “foodies”; those willing to buy the higher tiers of Dining Plan and eating at Table Service or Signature restaurants for the majority of their vacation. This requires a lot more planning on your part, sitting down to eat more than many would prefer (schedule about 2 hours per meal) and over all, this is a lot of food.
Obviously, taking advantage of the Free Disney Dining Plan promo is a no brainer. The cost of upgrading your tickets from base to hopper cost less than the price of budget-food so this is money saved. Other than that, we do not suggest the Disney Dining Plan.
Attractions & Theme Park Tickets
Note; Disney is aware that it is cheaper to purchase extra ticket days than it is to purchase Park Hopper tickets (5-day tickets $414 vs 4-day Park Hopper $476), they have thus re-branded the tickets to be known as 1 Park per Day Tickets. This means you literally can only visit 1 park per day, regardless of your intent to use another ticket for the second park. You will be asked to purchase a Park Hopper (for the entirety of the trip, not just the one day) or turned away.
Disney recently changed their fee structure. Depending on the season and which parks you go to, the prices will vary, but it breaks down into the following categories and average prices:
- 1-Day Regular Ticket – $105
- 1-Day Regular Ticket with Park Hopper Option – $155
- 1-Day Regular Ticket – $110
- 1-Day Regular Ticket with Park Hopper Option – $160
- 1-Day Regular Ticket – $124
- 1-Day Regular Ticket with Park Hopper Option – $164
Multi-day tickets – This will always be the best value since Disney heavily discounts tickets when buying multiple days.
I should also add that Canadians sometimes get a cheaper rate for multi-day tickets. A 4-Day ticket with admission to one park is $316 ($79 per day), while a 4-Day park hopper ticket is $382 ($95.50 per day) – as of January 2019. These tickets don’t appear to be tied to days purchased like regular priced tickets, rather they are a single price for the whole of its availability.
How many ticket days should I buy? Do you need a park hopper for Disney World?
Here’s the good news: each additional day of Disney World tickets costs less than the day before. This is thei attempt to keep you longer than you may feel is necessary, since additional tickets can be as low as $20 per day (per person).
Taking your touring plan into consideration, we suggest having 1 rest day for every 5 days booked. We also don’t suggest you purchase park tickets for your arrival day or departure day. There is so much going on and too many things can go wrong. Relax, check in, explore your resort and possibly a few neighboring resorts and go shopping at Disney Springs.
We say every 5 days, because we don’t believe in leaving the parks half way through the day. The same philosophy for arrival day applies here; tickets are expensive and so you should get all you can out of them. Staying for only 5 hours then leaving to rest at the resort is a waste of a park ticket and the transportation to and from Parks can be brutal at odd times of the day.
And what about the Park Hopper?
This depends on how long you are staying, what your touring plans are and the age of the company in your party. Transportation to and from each Park is chaos; they don’t travel from park to park – guests must transfer at a Resort first. This is valuable touring time lost.
If you only have a few days and want to visit each park for a specific reason, sure. Get a Park Hopper. Staying for 10 days and want to catch Illuminations more than once, go ahead. Visit Animal Kingdom all day and pop into Epcot for the evening. Grab a Park Hopper.
But if you are staying for 7 days, have little ones and plan on using your rest days to get some much-needed relaxation and pool time, you will hardly use your Park Hopper Ticket for what it’s worth. It would be better to burn a few tickets on half days in each park than Hop around the parks.
Remember, you can come and go from that one park as often as you please. Go back to the hotel for lunch and a nap, then return fresh in the evening for more rides and the evening show.
Dare I say it, there are other things to do in Orlando besides Disney.
Orlando does have attractions under $20 including the Orlando Museum of Art, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and Orlando Odditorium. If you’re thinking about heading to the Kennedy Space Center; it’s $50 for adults and $40 for children.
Universal Studios can cost a pretty penny itself. They offer 2-Park Universal Express Unlimited Pass add-on for $99 per person, plus your base ticket of $114 per park/day. Many readers have chosen to split their stay between the two theme park giants and spend a few nights on Universal Orlando property to take advantage of their deals.
If you aren’t driving to Disney, you will need to figure out how you are getting around. If you are staying at a Disney World Resort, there isn’t much to worry about. In fact, if you stay in Disney World the whole time your transportation costs are $0.
Like we mentioned before, Disney transit is great but it can be slow. And sometimes it is not the easiest to navigate, specially if you have little ones. You may want to look into Minnie Vans, Uber or another ride-share program to help get your family to their breakfast reservations on time.
Memory Maker Photo Package
If you book at least 3 days in advance, you can get some good savings on the package ($30). The Memory Maker is well worth it in our opinion. It goes for $169 if you buy it in advance or $199 if you buy it at the last minute
Private tours & Excursions
There are so many back stage experiences, private tours and enhanced adventures that guests need at least consider them before making a final budget.
Check out WDWinfo for their comprehensive lift of Backstage Tours, prices, length, and restrictions. They start at $30 per person, up to $299. Disney has also released new details on a 6 person $12,000 per day backstage tour, unlimited Fast Pass and included meals. Just in case you were interested.
Finally, the last thing you need to budget for is your additional costs. If you’re
We suggest anywhere from $100 per child to $500 per week per family, and everything in between. But don’t forget, you have to bring these back home with you.
What Does a Disney World Trip Cost? The Results Are In!
On average, for a family of 4, spending 7 days in the parks, you can expect roughly $30-$60 per person/day on food. And an additional $40 per day for the family on snacks.
This comes to about $5,726 (with flights) but obviously, there are plenty of ways to reduce your costs without sacrificing the experience.
Doing some math, that comes to $1268 per person for 6 nights, 7 days. Or $211 per person, per day. Plus the $200 deposit. This doesn’t include tips/gratuities for Mouse Keeping for Table Service restaurants.
Get our Best Disney Tips
Save money by buying these 5 items before you leave home
- Mouse Ears (everyone has them on)
- Glow sticks (for the evening fireworks)
- Pins and Lanyard (Pin trading is HUGE with kids at Disney)
- Cooling Towel and Sunblock
- Water Proof Smart Phone Bag
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When planning a Disney vacation, two of the first questions that come up are: when are we going and how long do we want to stay? Since it’s probably not feasible to stay forever, here’s my guide to determining how many days to spend on a trip to Walt Disney World.
You can read more here about How Much Does A Walt Disney World Trip Cost?…