We just got back from an AMAZING holiday trip to Disney World that I will never forget. I planned and budgeted for almost a year to make this bucket list trip a reality.
I am also planning a trip in June for myself and my sister that I am currently budgeting and paying off. I am always asked, "Isn't Disney expensive? Don't you have to budget?" The answer to both questions is a resounding YES! Disney isn't cheap, although what vacation really is?! My mantra about many things in life is, "You get what you pay for." That doesn't mean you spend frivolously or without intention. It just means that you can plan and spend wisely to enjoy wonderful things.
As usual, on this blog, I am all about getting the best VALUE for my money, not necessarily doing things that are in and of themselves all around "cheap." I am in search of high quality for the best price. There are many ways to do Disney more frugally and there are also many ways to budget so you don't go into debt for your magical vacation.
When I am planning for a Disney trip there are a few basic questions I consider first...
When do I want to go?
How many nights?
Where do I want to stay and how much is it per night? (We always stay on property for convenience, resort perks, and the FULL Disney experience, but you can certainly stay offsite and save some money there).
How much will flights/transport and food approximately cost? (Again, you can drive and save some money, but I love to fly because it's quicker and there are so many great discount flights to Orlando these days.)
The earlier I book ahead, the more time I have to pay it off and the smaller my monthly payment will be.
When you choose to go to Disney can VERY much influence the price. We typically try to go in more "off" season times because it's not only cheaper, but less crowded and better for our travel schedule. I do lots of research online through Pinterest and Walt Disney World Prep School to make date determinations (and for which resort to stay at). I also like to call Disney directly and get a quote so I can somewhat budget and make an estimate of how much to start saving for.
I also have found many great budgeting info graphics and spreadsheets on Pinterest...but here's a sample one I created as an example of a self-guided budget timeline.
Another great thing about a Disney vacation (and booking directly through them) is that they offer discounts throughout the year, as well as a great cancellation policy. You can cancel up to 30 days out and get a full refund, no strings attached. I like that security and peace of mind. You only have to pay $200 to make your deposit and you can either make payments up until your trip (final balance due one month out from date of arrival) or pay in a lump sum. I have done it both ways, and much prefer the monthly payment option for budgeting purposes and not putting large amounts of debt on our credit card.
To give an idea of what my upcoming June trip budget looks like, here is an idea of how I am planning.. (keep in mind, you have to prioritize what is important to your family. Maybe you could care less about luxury accommodations or fancy meals...splurge on what is important to you. If you want to save, stay at a value resort or off site. If you want to save on food, have groceries delivered to your hotel and pack lunches for the parks.)
Keep in mind, this is just ONE way to budget. There are countless other plans out there and advice on the web. Also, I love food when I travel. It's not a priority to some. You also don't have to spend EVERY day at the parks and can save money that way by having a "resort" day.
There are many ways to save money while you are there, but I think the most important thing is to decide what is important to your family and then budget for that.
As always, please reach out via the message section of the blog if you have trip planning questions related to budget. I am happy to assist. With a bit of foresight and planning and the discipline to stick to a budget, I believe a Disney trip is a realistic vacation option for families of all income levels.