Visiting Mickey? The Memories are Priceless, The Vacation $ Need Planning

I just returned from my family’s 19th trip to Disney, and as I’m writing several blog posts about the experience, I’m receiving queries from new clients who want to visit Mickey.

First timers usually have no idea of the costs involved.  They just figure it’ll be a lot. It doesn’t have to cost the moon, of course. A Disney vacation is like any other – we can match your family’s needs with a resort. I help clients look at their expected level of service, price points, desired room size, desired amenities, dining options, location preference, convenience desired, and recreation options. We can choose amongst 22 onsite hotels that range from value to moderate to deluxe to villas.

But before we get into looking at resorts, there are some basic things that are part of every Disney vacation. A quick look at those can help you get a fix on overall parameters, before we look at a resort. Let’s assume you have a family of 4 – 2 adults, 2 kids aged 5 and 11 (so one child in 3-9 years of age bracket, and one child in the junior age bracket of 10+ years of age).  Assume these costs are fairly fixed.

1. AIR – Air is going to be a significant part of your expenses. So, unless you’re driving, have frequent flier points, or are blessed with finding a rare seat sale, a good rule of thumb is to assume $500/person for return air ticket to Orlando. That’s $2000 for a family of 4. Air can cost more (especially at holiday travel times, when kids are out of school and everyone has the same week off). Or it can cost less (depending how much time and energy you want to invest to reduce costs), but it’s highly unlikely you’re ever going to fly 4 people to Orlando out of Ottawa for less than $1500 (and that’s snagging a seat sale), although you might do slightly better if you’re willing to drive 3-5 hours to the states (Plattsburgh, Syracuse, or Buffalo) or a bigger center (Montreal or Toronto). Of course, if you’re driving anywhere, you have to factor in additional expenses like gas, airport parking, overnight hotels, your driving time and lost vacation time, etc – and you really have to weigh those extra costs with the flight cost savings. 

Let’s assume we got some deals. We’ll use the half way mark of $1750 for air.

2. TICKETS – Park tickets to Disney are expensive. It’s a fact. Disney charges the most for one day tickets, and then every day you add, the cost per day goes down. Don’t be penny wise, and pound foolish. You’re spending a lot of money to go to Disney, so get the maximum day count on your tickets. We can talk about your family’s touring needs, but I generally recommend a park hopper (ph) pass (I have other blog posts about ph vs base tickets – see, and leaving the water park option off (you can add it when you get there if you find the weather’s super hot, and you find you really can’t fill your days with the four major parks… not usually a problem, but you never know… :-)…).  And I recommend to all my clients that we put together a vacation package with WDW Travel Company – I’d rather deal directly with the source, and the Mouse is the guy in the know. (Please don’t buy discount tickets from some online supplier who isn’t reputable. I’ve heard horror stories.) 

An 8 day park hopper (yes, 8 days – even though you might be going for 7 nights – you want to leave flexibility for travel days to visit the parks – it costs just a little more than a 7 day park hopper ticket) will run the family of four id’ed above $1385.57 USD.

Why do I suggest the maximum day count?  Some think, “let’s reduce the day count to save money.”  But that’s being penny wise, and pound foolish again. Why? Well, a 5 day park hopper ticket for the family of 4 id’ed will cost $1283.33 USD. And, the 8 day ph tix cost 1385.57. So – why not get 8 day ph tix, and get 3 more full days in the parks for less than $25 more/person.

But, let’s suppose your flight times won’t let you use an 8 day ph to even see the fireworks on the first night, say you land after midnight… So, let’s use a 7 day ph ticket for the family of 4 id’ed as our guide – that’s $1350 usd for tickets.

3. FOOD – Food at the parks is certainly not free. If you’re there with hungry kids, it’ll cost you. If you want to eat with the characters, or have a nice meal, it’ll cost you more. There is the occassional free dining promotion (which is an awesome deal – and is on again at the end of summer this year for vacations from Aug.28-Sept.24th), which will save you ~$1100 for the family of 4 id’ed above for a week. (Call me if you want more details.) But if Mickey isn’t buying, paying for your meals in the parks and resort hotels will add up. Unless you’re extremely motivated to save money, and plan on making sandwiches/preparing some of your own meals, the dining plan costs can be used as a guide for budgeting for food. (And, the dining plan costs do not include booze or gratuities.)  The regular “plus” dining plan provides plenty of food, and meets most family’s needs – it gives one table service meal, one counter service meal, and one snack per person per night of stay. (There is a “quick service” plan that only provides takeaway/counter service meals. There is a “deluxe” plan that will allow for three sit down meals.) The regular “plus” plan costs ~$47/night/adult or junior 10+ years of age, and ~$12/night/child aged 3-9 years of age (there is a slight variation by season). So, on a 7 night vacation, you can assume you’ll spend~$1000 on food for a week.

So, we’re already at $1750 for air + $1350 for park tickets + $1000 for food = $4100 in the relatively fixed costs. And you haven’t slept anywhere yet!  (Obviously, if that’s pushing your budget, call me, and we’ll get you booked to go when the free dining is on – can save you $1000 off the top!)

4.) HOTELS – Your choice of hotel is where the true variable costs come in (unless you want to upgrade the dining plan, and/or add some other special tours, etc.) Looking at hotels, Disney has over 22 properties onsite, and I always recommend staying onsite for a pile of reasons (I have other blog posts about that too- see 

Disney’s onsites include value hotels (think Motel 6 or Best Western style), moderate hotels (think better Best Western or a Holiday Inn style), and deluxe hotels (think Sheraton, Hilton, up to Four Seasons style).  There are also some cabin accommodations (think wood cabin that sleeps 6, with its own bbq and picnic table), and there are villa accommodations (think time share-like condos that Disney rents out as hotel rooms).  We can pick the level of service, price point, room size, amenities, dining options, location, convenience factor, and recreation options that work best for your family.

Disney hotel rates vary by the season window. (I think there are 23 rate windows in a 52 week year, with pricing that changes also by weekday or weekend.) Suffice it to say there are value, regular, peak, and holiday rates. If we pick a value week (which, coincidentally, is when the free dining promo is on), here’s a rough guide of what hotel only room costs would be for a 7 night stay (so, this is excluding the air, tickets, dining noted above that added to the $4100 – and it exludes things like vacation insurance, souvenirs, photopass, etc.) for a stay from Aug.28th-Sept.4th

1. Value Hotel: Pop Century, preferred room:   $810.00

2. Moderate Hotel:  Caribbean Beach, preferred room: $1472.00 USD

3. Deluxe Hotel:

3a. Wilderness Lodge, woods view room: $2267.00 USD

3b. Contemporary Hotel, garden view room (monorail): $2385.00 USD

3c. Grand Floridian, outer building garden view room (monorail): $3488.00 USD

4. Deluxe Villas 

4a. Beach Club Villas deluxe studio: $2717.00 USD

4b. Old Key West, one bedroom villa: $3288.00 USD

Of course, there are multiple room categories at each of the 22 onsite hotels, so prices can fluctuate with your room choice.  And if we play with rate seasons, we can see other variation in the rates…(and there are sometimes room promos, in addition to other promos like free dining – but we can only apply one at a time).


If our family of 4 id’ed goes to Disney from Aug.28th-Sept.4th, you can assume the whole vacation at a value hotel will run close to $5000 USD. Staying at a moderate hotel will run around $5500. Staying at a deluxe hotel will run around $6300 +(depending on the level of deluxe). … but, if I can snag them the free dining at their selected resort for this week, we can take $1000 off the top of all these costs (so value ~$4000, moderate ~$4500, deluxe ~$5300+).

Now that you have an idea of the fairly fixed costs, and the variable costs, we can get your Disney vacation sorted. We all know that the memories you’ll take away are priceless.  Hopefully the above blog will give you an idea of the vacation $ involved, so you can do some planning.

Call me at 613-837-0699 or email me at [email protected] ! Let’s get started talking about the perfect Disney vacation for your family!