We’ve all seen the snapshots of friends in matching Mouse-themed outfits, smiling for pictures in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Once you have kids, going to Disney World quickly moves to the top of your bucket list — but there’s a hitch. It’s expensive. How much does a trip to Disney actually cost? That depends on myriad factors, but I’m here to share with you our recent experience (and how big of a hit our bank account took).
Day one: Magic Kingdom
3:00 p.m. — Our first day started in the afternoon because I had to knock out a writing shift that morning. Then we decided to eat lunch before heading to the park so we wouldn’t be tempted to spend a ton of money on food. We are staying off-site, so we had to drive to the park.
3:30 p.m. — We have to drop by Disney Springs to pick up our tickets. We chose six day-tickets for two adults (me and my husband) and our two children, ages six and eight. Our ticket total for one day is $335.34.
4:30 p.m. — Finally, we pull up to the Magic Kingdom gates. Admittedly, I nerded out quite more than anyone else in our vehicle. We are directed to a parking spot, pull in and then have to catch a tram to get into the actual park. This takes up a decent amount of time, after which we spend more time going through metal detectors before boarding the monorail. The monorail takes us to the actual park entrance and we file in excitedly. Almost immediately, we are sidetracked by a store selling plush Disney characters. We buy a medium Stitch for my daughter and a medium Sorcerer Mickey (from Fantasia) for our son. The total comes out to a little over $40.
5:30 p.m. — Fortunately, the park isn’t crazy crowded, so we’re able to swing through Adventureland and walk onto Pirates of the Caribbean, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Jungle Cruise. We also hit up the Country Bear Jamboree before going to our Fast Pass rides: Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland, and Haunted Mansion in Fantasyland. Fast passes are free to reserve, but you can only reserve three per day ahead of time.
7:30 p.m. — We haven’t felt super hungry since we ate a late lunch and have been hyper-focused on rides, but we stop at a cart to grab a bag of popcorn. It costs $5. My husband and I also eat some trail mix we packed in our backpack.
8:30 p.m. — We’re easily able to walk onto It’s a Small World, so we do. Then we sit down to eat sandwiches we packed in an insulated cooler bag. We happen to be back near Cinderella’s Castle, so we catch the Happily Ever After fireworks show around 9 p.m.
9:30 p.m. — Right after walking on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, we decide to head out since the park closes at 10 p.m. On our way out, we catch the Once Upon a Time projection and fireworks show. You can file that part of the night under priceless.
10:30 p.m. — All told, it takes us about an hour to get out of the park, wait in line for the ferry, get dropped off at our parking lot area and then walk to our car.
Daily Total: $380.34
Day two: Animal Kingdom
4:00 p.m. — We head to Animal Kingdom a little later in the day, trying to beat the oppressive Florida mid-day heat. We already have our tickets, which cost $335.34 for all four.
4:30 p.m. — We hit no traffic on the way, and it’s a far quicker process to get from your car into the park at Animal Kingdom. So, we’re through security and in!
5:00 p.m. — We have a fast pass (free) lined up for the kids to meet Mickey and Minnie at the Adventurers Outpost. This character meet-and-greet turned out super-cute, so we ended up buying the unlimited downloads of photos from this day so we could gift them to family. That package cost $69.99.
5:30 p.m. — After thoroughly terrifying our six-year-old thanks to A Bug’s Life Journey, we head to Dinoland U.S.A. to use our remaining two fast passes: Primeval Whirl and Dinosaur. Our kids kill quite a bit of time playing in the Boneyard area, while my husband and I cool off in a shady spot.
6:30 p.m. — Between the walking and the heat, we’re all famished. We decide to grab quick service dinner from Flame Tree Barbecue. Our daughter gets a chicken drumstick kids’ meal, our son gets a hot dog kids’ meal, my husband has the half chicken entrée and I have a salad. Our total comes to around $40.
7:00 p.m. — We walk on Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Kilimanjaro Safaris with minimal wait times (in fact, no wait for the latter two) before making our way out of the park. We also are in the right place at the right time to see the evening projection show at the Tree of Life.
8:30 p.m. — We’re back at our car and headed home before 9 p.m. and, miraculously, we managed to make it out of the park without buying any trinkets or toys.
Daily Total: $445.33
Day three: Epcot
4:00 p.m. — Have you noticed the pattern yet? We’re afternoon-evening people, apparently. We just spent the better part of a year in the Pacific Northwest, where the temperatures rarely got higher than a balmy 74 degrees. We’re not ashamed to admit we couldn’t hack Florida’s peak-of-day heat and humidity. Native Floridians, you win. We already have our tickets, which cost $335.34 for all four.
4:30 p.m. — Again, it’s far easier at Epcot than Magic Kingdom to get parked and through the gate. We’re visiting during the International Flower & Garden Festival, so there are beautiful character topiaries almost immediately upon entering. It’s lovely!
4:45 p.m. — On the way to our fast pass rides, we realize there isn’t much of a line to do character meet-and-greets with Baymax from Big Hero 6 and Joy and Sadness from Inside Out. These end up being our favorite character photos from our trip, so we shell out the $69.99 to access downloads. We’re obviously wishing at this point we would have paid the $199 upfront for the Memory Maker, which would have automatically given us all of our photos. So, just FYI, worth the cost.
5: 30 p.m. — We enjoy our first two fast passes, Soarin’ and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. We walk onto Living with the Land (a surprising favorite for the whole family).
6:15 p.m. — Before heading out of that area, we decide to grab a quick service dinner at Sunshine Seasons. The kids both get chicken wraps, I get tuna poke and my husband gets the barbecue pork sandwich. Our total comes to around $38.
7:15 p.m. — We have an 8 p.m. fast pass for Mission: SPACE, so we pop into Journey into Imagination with Figment first since there is no line. Then my husband leads us the longest way possible, through the entrance of the world showcase and back up, in order to get to Mission: SPACE. We walk on the green side and then use our fast pace for orange. Word to the wise: If you get motion sickness, do not attempt the orange side. My husband was pretty much out of commission after this.
8:30 p.m. — We make our way out of the park and to our car easy peasy.
Daily Total: $443.33
Day four: Magic Kingdom
3:30 p.m. — It’s my daughter’s 8th birthday! We get to the park a little earlier than normal so that we can stop by City Hall to get a birthday pin. It takes about half an hour to get to Magic Kingdom and around another 40 minutes to get in the gates. We already have our tickets, which cost $335.34 for all four.
4:45 p.m. — We immediately stop by to get Marlow’s birthday pin. It’s hot. I’m sweating. Could there be a million people here today? It feels like there are a million people here today. Sweat is dripping down my spinal column. Can the people behind me see this? Dear God, give us a button so we can be on our way.
5:20 p.m. — Our first fast pass is for the birthday girl, who wanted to meet Rapunzel and Tiana. Despite the fact that this was super-cute, we opt out of buying the photos for this day and instead just stuck with the ones we snapped with our phones.
5:45 p.m. — After leaving the princesses, we head to Fantasyland’s Storybook Circus area. Despite not having had dinner yet, we indulge the kids by letting them get Mickey-ear ice creams from a snack cart. This costs around $10. I pop into souvenirs shop and get a chocolate covered strawberry for $4.25.
6:00 p.m. — We use our second and third fast passes on Dumbo and Barnstormer. We walk on to Prince Charming’s Carousel and the Mad Tea Party. We also decide to do Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World again.
8:00 p.m. — We had dinner at Be Our Guest, which cost $60 each for me and my husband and $36 each for our kids. This ran us around $250 when all was said and done.
9:00 p.m. — We decide to skip the fireworks, thinking if we leave the park early we can beat the crowd. Spoiler alert? There’s no such thing as beating the crowd at Disney. It took us nearly an hour-and-a-half to get back to our car.
10:30 p.m. — Back at the car, we’re officially exhausted and headed out for the night.
Daily Total: $599.59
Day five: Animal Kingdom
5:00 p.m. — Since we know Animal Kingdom is easy to get into, we leave a little later. We already have our tickets, which cost $335.34 for all four.
5:30 p.m. — Our first fast pass is to see the Lion King show, so we make the trek across the park. We stop along the way to see the various animal enclosures along the way before arriving at the show (which was amazing… go see it).
6:00 p.m. — Immediately after exiting the show, torrential rains proceed to pour from the heavens. We are those people who did not buy ponchos, so we huddled beneath the umbrella of a food cart abandoned by some clever Disney employee undoubtedly wearing a poncho. We remain huddled here for 45 minutes before just giving up and walking in the rain to Pandora.
7:00 p.m. — We make it to Pandora in time for our fast pass on Na’vi River Journey. We’d hoped to stick around to see the entire outdoor area light up after dark, but the sun was still up by the time we were done.
7:20 p.m. — We’re sopping wet. Our son is having a meltdown. We’re headed home for the night.
Daily Total: $335.34
Day six: Hollywood Studios
5:30 p.m. — It’s our last day, and we’re all pretty worn out. But we’re pumped to visit Hollywood Studios, so we drag our tired legs into the park. We already have our tickets, which cost $335.34 for all four.
6:00 p.m. — Our first fast pass is for Muppet Vision 3D, so we book it that way. Surprise, though, that actually stops at 6 p.m. sharp. Make a mental note before you go! We head to our next fast pass at Star Tours, which we immediately go on again because we all love it.
6:40 p.m. — Our next fast pass is in Toy Story Land on Toy Story Mania, which is easily one of the best rides at Disney.
7:20 p.m. — After a bit of back and forth over what to do next, we decide to eat and then flee the crowds of Toy Story Land ASAP. We eat at Woody’s Lunch Box; my husband has “Totchos,” I have the vegetable macaroni salad and tomato-basil soup, and the kids both have grilled cheese. Our total is around $30.
8:00 p.m. — Our son discovers the Xbox Game Port next to the Path of the Jedi, and he wants to set up camp there. While he gets his gamer fix, my daughter and I head next door to wait in line to meet Olaf from Frozen. Thank goodness the sun has set by now, or else I would melt before we finally get to meet the singing snowman.
8:30 p.m. — We have no more fast passes and the wait at pretty much every ride is over half an hour, so we decide to call it a night and head home. We’re back and in our PJs before 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $365.34
Things to note
There are a few ways we could have saved money on our trip. For starters, we’ve heard that a Disney-specific travel agent has access to better deals than we have booking on our own. Also, we could have packed all of our food instead of eating at the park (you’re allowed to bring in a small cooler with food and drinks).
We did save money in several ways, though. We always brought in our own water or Gatorade, as well as snacks to munch on. We didn’t spend much money on extraneous toys and souvenirs. We didn’t add the Park Hopper option (which would have been an additional $35 per person per day), knowing we had a full week and could spread out our visits. And, most notably, we saved a ton of money by staying off-site. Choosing an onsite resort hotel will add hundreds (even thousands) onto the total. At the time of publication, the cheapest onsite lodging available is a campsite at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort ($56 per night) and more moderately priced hotels can run anywhere between $115 per night for a room at the All-Star Movie Resorts, and close to $600 per night at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
What isn’t included in this cost breakdown are the Disney-themed clothes we bought for the trip. Still, from what we can tell, this would still be considered a low-to-moderate budget Disney trip. In our own personal experience, it is several thousand dollars less than we spent on Universal Studios in 2017.