How To Budget For A Disney Vacation

You’ve thought about it, discussed it multiple times with the family, and finally decided to do it. You have just committed to a Disney Vacation. Yay!!! Everyone is excited and the kids are literally jumping for joy. Now you just have to figure out how to budget for a Disney Vacation.

I know … I hate to bring a little rain cloud into all the fun but, once everyone comes back down to earth, how to budget for a Disney Vacation is something that needs dealing with once you have made that fateful decision. I really do understand but here is something to help you whenever it seems overwhelming: look at the picture above and picture YOUR little princess there.

Once you see the actual cost of things, don’t panic, we’re here to help.

The Basics

Everything in this Basics section will be discussed in more detail later on.

So, what are some of the costs? As of summer 2018, a one-day admission to Disneyland, California is $105. A one-day admission to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Florida is $116. That’s the basic one-day, one park, adult pass. If you want to visit more than one park, the cost goes up.

Arrrrgggggg … that’s a lot and you want to spend four or five days on your Disney vacation with your spouse and two kids. Keep reading, it does get better.

A family of four, staying at the Disneyland Hotel, with a four-day Park Hopper Pass (A Park Hopper Pass allows you to hop between parks, as opposed to one park per day only, as many times as you like.) is estimated $3,218. If you stay “Off Property,” that is at a non-Disney property close by, the cost drops to around $1794. These costs do not include food or transportation.

The same family of four staying at a moderately priced Disney property with Park Hopper Passes and food at Walt Disney World, Florida for six days is about $3485 including food.  Notice the difference and that Disney California was four days without including food.

Another major expense is transportation. If you live far enough away that you will be flying in, you will need to factor in the airline costs as well. This is discussed on our post “How To Save Money On A Disney Vacation.”.

Snacks…. those churros, Yum… These are everywhere and are super yummy. They can be the perfect snack while waiting for the parade, fireworks, or other show to begin. There is an ice cream shop in the middle of Main Street that makes you think you are in ice cream heaven with their gorgeous concoctions. More about these later.

Planning meals at Disney while not breaking the bank account will take some time. You can get some really great meals for a reasonable price and you can get some terrible meals that leave you hungry and spend a fortune. We have done both so it is well worth it to put in some detective work before you go.

Hotels? Do we stay on Disney property or off property? That discussion will be in a different page that covers places to stay.

Several of these issues are discussed in detail in our post “How to Save Money On A Disney Vacation.” Of specific interest here is the cost of Tickets which you want to added into your budget.

A Disney Budget Savings Plan

Saving money is easier said than done. Next to loosing weight and exercising, it is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. But, like loosing weight and exercise plans, it often gets left behind as everyday life takes over. One of the biggest blocks to saving money is just getting started. So… let’s get to it.

I think the plan our family uses to save for our Disney trips works well and couldn’t be simpler to use. The first thing you need to do is set up a savings’ account called Disney Vacation. Whatever method you end up using for your Disney savings’, this first step is vital. Just the fact you now have a separate savings’ account called Disney makes it more real and actually helps you to be a little more faithful in filling it up.

Step 2 is the main event. At the end of every month I take all my funds that haven’t been spent and roll them into my Disney Vacation savings’ account. Because you are saving for something not in your normal budget, the entire family has to participate. Have a family meeting and work out a savings’ plan and Disney budget.

What can a savings’ plan look like? We don’t need to stop at the coffee stand on the way to work – get a large travel Mickey Mouse mug instead to remind you why you are saving. Cut back, or cut out, soda, it’s not good for you anyway. Do we really need to see that movie at the movie theater or can we wait for it to come out on DVD?

Sit down with your family and list how everyone is going to participate. IMPORTANT – Have everyone sign it, that’s important and helps everyone buy in. Even toddlers can get the idea although they may require special handling.

Family Savings Plan

The first chart here, titked “Family Savings Plan,”  sets you up with an easy way to save and build up your Disney budget. It starts off slow but requires more as you get closer to your goal. You do not have to use the chart as is, I have seen many charts for saving $5,000 in a year.  Let me challenge you to make your own custom chart for your own circumstances. One thing seeing this chart should do is give everyone a more realistic view that sometimes saving hurts but the reward, a Disney Vacation, will be worth it in the end.

One suggestion is to have one of your kids work on a savings’ chart if they are old enough. Not only will you get a good chart but your child will have a better appreciation of what it takes to save up for a Disney trip. Besides the chart, it’s fun to make a large thermometer with construction paper and put the numbers in starting at Zero and going a little way past your goal. Every time you make a deposit to your Disnay Vacation account, color it in to raise the temperature on your thermometer. Another suggestion is to use a combination of two savings’ plans. Use the chart to put in the required amount for the week and then roll any extra unspent funds at the end of the month.


Kids Can Save For Disney Too

Here’s something all you parents can go over with your kids:

Gone are the days when we could give our kids $5 or $10 and they could get all they wanted. On our last Disney trip they each got $50. However, it wasn’t free money. They had to earn it.  As they were only five and six years old their earning potential wasn’t much. We set up a system where they earned Disney Dollars for certain jobs they could do at home and also for good behavior such as not fighting in their car seats when we were driving somewhere. They were each able to earn close to $50 so we rounded it to an even $50 for each.

Savings Plan For Kids

Older kids can learn to do jobs around their neighborhood such as yard work, mowing lawns or shoveling snow, baby sitting or having a yard sale, tutoring younger children, pet sitting for people in your neighborhood going on vacation, washing cars for about $5 per car. For an extra $10 they may be interested in having the inside done as well which is washing the interior windows, vacuuming the floors and seats, washing the dash and the inside of the doors, and so on. Maybe you could make some money by washing windows for your neighbor’s house.

With all these jobs you can ask if they want to set a schedule where you come back each week or two. If you do a good job and are friendly and polite, it may lead to a steady source of income to save for your trip.

Try asking for an increase in your allowance if you do a few extra jobs around the house each week. The worst that can happen is your parents say no.

Advertise by making fliers and creating a website. You can make free web sites at,, or to show case the different things you are doing. For those who are earning money the chart of the right may help.

Make Your Own Chart

Of course you can customize either of the charts above. Chart 3, titled “Make Your Own Savings Plan,” is there for you to do just that if you want. It’s a good project for a teen, especially in making a chart for themselves. You can copy and then paste it onto a WORD document to print out. If you decide you want to leave it on your computer, to type the figures in instead of writing them by hand on a printout, be aware the chart isn’t formatted to handle adding and keeping a running total column. You will have to do it yourself.

Make Your Own Savings Plan

Budgeting For Dining

This section on dining is to help you in setting up your budget. There will be other posts that deal with dining in much greater detail. Dining is one of the major expenses so you definitely want to set up a budget and a plan for it.

When you are budgeting for meals make sure to get the Disney App! One of the many things about the Disney App is that it lists all dining options from counter service to buffets to full-service sit-down restaurants. Not only that, it has the menu for each place and includes prices which you will find quite valuable for your budget planning.

The Disney App is only a mobile app. To access menus and prices on your lap top or desk top computer, click on the appropriate one below.

For Disneyland, California menus and prices click here.

For Walt Disney World, Florida menus and prices click here.

Without considering discounts, Disney dinning packages, character meals, or other special things, you can figure a family of four will spend $70 to $200 a day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I try to estimate on the more expensive side when I am planning. Using the menus in the Disney App you should be able to plan where you will have each meal and about what it will cost.

You definitely want to include a character meal. These average about $35 to $40 per person. You have to do your research to see which venue would work best for your family. My favorite is Goofy’s Kitchen for breakfast, located at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts.

Are character meals worth the expense? Definitely yes! I will never forget Minnie Mouse coming to our table and hugging our son. She held him for a long time and lightly rocked him back and forth. He was 10 years old at the time and was glowing afterward. Of course the little ones will love it but even your teens will love it too. It is a place where everyone is enjoying meeting the characters, it’s during a family meal, and none of their friends are around to see them go all gooey over meeting a Disney character. So, for your teens, it’s a safe place to enjoy themselves.

When setting up your meal budget, it’s a good idea to have a couple of different places picked out for dinner. You can never anticipate when and where you might get held up around dinner time.

We always bring breakfast food with us. Using the coffee maker you can get hot water for your oatmeal packets. Don’t forget to pack spoons and a bowl for each person or a package of paper bowls. I also love to have Danish pastries or bear claws. Boiled eggs made at home will keep along with fruit such as bananas or other fruit that you cut into serving sizes before leaving on your vacation then put in the fridge when you arrive at your room.

Keep in mind when choosing your hotel, if staying off Disney property, that some hotels offer breakfast as part of the package. I have never been disappointed. More on this in the posting on places to stay.

Lunch is a bit more difficult to pack but we have packed a loaf of bread and sandwich makings. At least a couple of times we have a late lunch as our main meal of the day. Lunch is often less expensive than dinner, sometimes way less depending on where you go.

Our schedule may look something like: Oatmeal and boiled eggs for breakfast. Early entry to the park at 8:00 AM. Kids snacking throughout the morning. Return to the hotel around 11:30 for rest and swimming. Lunch as main meal at 2 or 3 PM depending on when lunch prices stop, Back in the park with snacks. Light dinner around 7 PM. Return to the hotel to get the kids in bed by 9 or 9:30.


How many miles do you walk per day at Disney Parks? According to my research, the average person walks 6 to 10 miles with most probably closer to the 10 mile mark than the 6. That’s a lot of energy you are burning. When you burn up a lot of energy you then, of course, need to refuel. Yay! Snack time!!!

Ah yes, those yummy churros which I mentioned right at the beginning. One New Years night, while waiting for Fantasmic (the creative and colorful nighttime show with Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice) to begin we were a little bit chilly. The delicious smell of the ever present churro stands was wafting over, around, and right up into our noses. Think of old cartoons where the character floats away toward some wonderful smell. Warn churros hit the spot. We all could have thoroughly enjoyed a second, or even a third, but, at $4 each, that gets a bit expensive.

Gibson Girl Ice Cream … The perfect thing for a warm day on Disneyland’s Main Street. Just thinking about their delicious concoctions is making me wish I was there right now. My favorite is their Chocolate Chip Cookie Hot Fudge Sunday for $6.99. (Vanilla ice cream smothered in hot fudge sauce with a ton of whipped cream on top and a large chocolate chip cookie sticking out of each side like wings. And… it has a cherry on top.) I’ve also had their terrific Single Scoop Waffle Cone (Pictured here) for $4.99 while waiting for the parade to begin.

My other favorite is the Tiki Juice Bar at the entrance to Enchanted Tiki Room. The menu is small with few selections but who needs a large menu when all you really want is their famous Pineapple Dole Whip Soft-serve for $5.99. It’s soft vanilla ice cream covered with pineapple juice.

Just about anything you want can be found somewhere. Kids burn up so much energy they probably need refueling snacks at least once between breakfast and lunch and then twice between lunch and dinner. It’s all affordable if you don’t over do it and keep within your budget.

Know before you go! As you set up your spending budget you need to include snacks which, buying at the park, are so easy to get the better of you. Menus and prices for all Disney restaurants and food vendors can be found in the Disney App.

We always bring most of our snacks. The children have small Mickey and Minnie fanny packs I bought online before our trip. We fill these up with snacks like granola bars, apples, cheese and crackers, raisins, and so on. We keep water bottles in our larger adult back packs. By replenishing the fanny packs every time we return to our hotel room, the kids can then snack throughout the day without whining or complaining about being hungry.

Always more to come.

Setting up your Disney budget is the most important thing you need to do.  Some people spend up to two years setting up their budget and saving.  Usually I will start about year in advance, or as soon as I know we are going.

For the future, we plan to have more check lists and forms to help simplify your planning.  Stay tuned.  Just as Disney is always changing, we will be adding new content.


I love to hear from my readers.  Please leave a comment below.






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