Here it is, I’m spilling all the beans... magic beans you could say. Your most asked question was all about the budget so I will break all the costs down for you piece by piece! Also, for all my mamas traveling with toddlers and/or husbands that don’t want to have every minute planned but ya kinda need to plan ahead a bit to fully enjoy Disney... I’m breaking our agenda down for you too! Oh, and of course I have lots to say about the food too... like always. 😂 Let’s do this...
1. Establishing a budget: $3,500
When Brad told me he wanted to take us to Disney as the most extravagant anniversary gift I have ever received... my jaw about hit the floor. He said, can we do it all for $3,000? I said... oh, I will make it happen... airfare, hotel, & park tickets - you got it... But food and souvenirs? That is where the extra $500 came into play - we decided that number was fair and stuck to it.
- I consulted my Disney guru sisters and started looking at dates and promos for the resort hotels. I knew taking a toddler it would be crucial to be near the parks so we could quickly return for nap time and still be able to enjoy as much time at the parks as we could.
I kept putting in dates to see when the rates were the lowest & read a few blogs that suggested the week after the Marathon was a very slow week & usually had a hotel promo. Sure enough, it did. There was a promo on just two hotels: Coronado Springs & The Grand Floridian. My heart skipped a beat at the thought of staying at the Grand... if you’ve ever been to Magic Kingdom you‘ve seen it’s beautifulness right across the lagoon... but it’s been known to come with a major price tag.
2. Choosing a Hotel
Set priorities. Ours were being at a Monorail hotel for easy nap times. Turns out we could afford to stay at the Grand for 4 nights in a Garden View Room (their lowest cost) & stick to the budget. We could have chosen a value resort and stayed for 5 but I thought the experience & being able to take the monorail or boat and be right there seemed worth the trade off! Plus, one more day means more food & park costs too... so 5 days and 4 nights seemed the best way to stick to our spending plan.
We saved $150 by taking Ren before her 2nd birthday because any child under 2 can travel without their own ticketed seat. She’s free at Disney until age 3 so we were good there too!
Hotel Cost: $2,100
- Majority of our budget went here, but it made all the difference to us with how we experienced Disney with a toddler. And the monorail was her favorite part. Worth it.
3. Choosing Flights
I wanted to get affordable flights but also wanted direct flights at good times since our trip was a shorter one. So I used the Hopper App to help search the best times to buy. we found a direct flight during nap time for the way there & a direct flight in the early evening for the way back for $389 total. Definite win.
We each had a backpack with snacks, toys, and all our tech & ended up checking only one bag ($30) and had a small roll on carry on that they let us check at the gate for no charge. We put our “Magical Express” tags on them so Disney picked them up at baggage claim for us and sent them directly to our room upon landing. Amazing. It’s a free perk of staying in a Disney hotel - you just have to call to reserve your spot on the bus & give them your flight info.
For the way back we were able to check our bags right at the hotel & went bag free for the day. The hotel brought them to the airport for us & we simply picked them up at baggage claim back in Chicago. Magic.
4. Park tickets
Turns out, the longer you’re there, the cheaper the park tickets are... Disney is smart. So we didn’t get a deal on ticket prices for being there less than 5 days. We decided to get a single park ticket for each day. The wonderful folks at Disney sent us two free Hopper Passes for the third park day in turn for sharing our experience on Instagram - um YES, I’ll take that deal! A Hopper Pass allows you to go to any and all parks for that day.
Ticket cost: $350 for 4 - 1 day park passes
Disney saved us about $300 in park tickets by sending us hopper passes - magic once again.
5. Spending plan for the parks & food.
You could literally spend $500 a day on food and gifts at the parks... it’s scary. So setting the budget at $500 for the whole trip took some thought. We knew we would have two days not at the parks & planned to enjoy Disney Springs and our Hotel Pool - totally recommend having non park days just to recoup & relax.
We brought snacks, breakfast bars, & chocolate to cut costs on as many meals & cravings as we could. The resorts also offer $20 endless refillable mugs for all fountain and coffee beverages. We bought one and would trade off who chose to refill it. There was a washing station right by the refill station so it was easy to switch off. You can also refill water bottles there and ask for a glass of water at the parks free of charge. So we spent $20 on drinks (not counting Margaritas in Epcot, of course).
We planned 3 expensive sit down meals for the week & decided the rest would be quick service and snacks to make up the difference. We ended up loving our quick service restaurant at our hotel and it had a great view of the castle and fireworks too. So we didn’t feel like we really had to sacrifice anything. If anything, the days we didn’t have an expensive meal we felt more free to get fun snacks at the park as we went... there’s something about a $100 Character breakfast that makes you feel less enthusiastic about springing for that Dole Whip later... so that was a one time thing for us.
For souvenirs, Ren received about $50 in gift cards for Christmas from family and friends so we only spent $50 out of our budget on her... it’s easy to spend money on a little lady like Ren at Disney....
Brad and I picked out one item for ourselves & we said too bad so sad to family and friends. 😂 Sorry, it would have cost us another $500 to get every niece, nephew, and pal a gift... although looking back I wish I would have gotten a pack of Mickey suckers or candy to hand out when we all met them for dinner when we got home... my bad guys. I could go on and on about Disney all day! I still have so much to say about reservations, fast passes, parks, and rides... but I’ll break that all down in another blog post.
In a nutshell, Disney is magic & expensive... so it takes planning and creativity to make it magic on your pocket book too. I knew traveling with just one child who didn’t require any hotel or parks fees was a chance we wouldn’t have for our next Disney trip in the future so we took advantage & stayed at the hotel of our Disney dreams. We checked that off the bucket list for now & in a few years I am sure the next trip will look a lot different... and yes, Brad already referred to a “next time“ - magic.
Stay tuned for another blog post on parks, pools, and fastpasses.