How Much Does A Disney Vacation Cost?

UPDATE: Click here to view 2016 cost estimates, broken down by US regions!

how much does a disney vacation cost
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Maybe it’s our penchant for animated furry mascots, but we Hipmunkers love us some Disney theme parks. As Disneyland continues to make headlines this summer with its 60th-anniversary celebration and the announcement of a $1 billion facelift, we couldn’t help but wonder: How much does it actually cost for a family to vacation at the “Happiest Place on Earth”? And what about its larger, East Coast cousin, Disney World? Is one location “happier”—at least where one’s wallet is concerned? How much does a Disney vacation cost?

We posed the question on Twitter and received responses that varied from a meme of Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil to a concise “Too much.” Real world estimates ranged from $200 per person per day excluding travel at Disneyland, to $3,500 for a five-day trip to Disney World, including airfare.

To find a concrete answer, we analyzed our 2015 data for average flight prices to Anaheim and Orlando from the 30 most popular airports in the U.S., in addition to the average prices for hotel stays in Anaheim and Lake Buena Vista (the city in which Disney World is located). We also looked at the average prices for Disney Resort Hotels and, just for fun, how much it would cost for the daily consumption of Tiki Juice Bar classics. Because, hello. Dole Pineapple Whip.

But here’s the problem with trying to gather data on Disney theme parks, to which any seasoned visitor can attest: there’s just so many available options—which is probably why the answers we received on Twitter differed greatly.

To provide any meaningful insight,  we decided to define the parameters of a Disney vacation to mean a four-day/four-night stay for a family of four with two children ages 3-9 (Tickets in both parks for children 10 and older are equal in price to an adult ticket).

Let’s take a look at what we what we found:

how much does a disney vacation cost

The columns on the far right and left represent the base prices, meaning on average, a family of four will spend more than $3,000 on travel, accommodations, and park admission at either location. Disney World is about $250 less expensive, however— and those are savings that can make a big difference when on a budget.

Now, as represented by the inner two columns, if said family wanted to stay at a Disney Resort Hotel instead of an outside hotel, there’s a good chance those prices will raise drastically.

Here’s a closer look at how the Disneyland Resort Hotels break down:

Disneyland Resorts

Grand Californian $620.42
Disneyland Hotel $552.73
Paradise Pier $423.10
Average $532.08

 

The three Disneyland properties cost an average of $532 per night ($2,128 for four nights), bringing the total price of the trip to $4,954.

On the opposite coast and encompassing a tract of land equal in square mileage to San Francisco, Disney World has a staggering 31 options with wildly varying price points. These range from $60 campsites to the $2,400-per-night Royal Asante Presidential Suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. To negate those outliers, we concentrated our query on the average booking prices at the 10 most popular resorts in terms of booking.

Even with the most extreme outliers eliminated, the cheaper average price for Disney World Resort Hotels reflects the greater availability of options for vacationers at the Florida locale:

Disney World Resorts
Port Orleans Resort – Riverside $255.40
Caribbean Beach Resort $205.41
Art of Animation Resort $245.58
Wilderness Lodge $374.62
All-Star Sports Resort $132.61
Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village $320.70
Polynesian Village Resort $455.55
Bay Lake Tower Resort $780.75
Grand Floridian Resort & Spa $577.66
All-Star Music $134.69
Average $348.30

 

At an average of $348 per night, a Disney Resort Hotel at Disney World will end up costing $822 more for a four-night stay, bringing the total price of the trip to $4,052.

The glaring omissions from these numbers are, of course, food costs; however, like hotels, these expenditures can vary depending on location, budget, and the willingness to spend.  Most estimates place costs between $100-200 per person per day. And as it turns out, we did find one aspect of Disneyland that is less expensive than Disney World: the cult-status Pineapple Dole Whip.

Along with other Tiki Juice Bar classics, the foodie favorite is surprisingly cheaper in California:

Dole Pineapple Whip
  Whip Float Soft Serve Pineapple Spear
Disneyland $5.19 $3.79 $2.99
Disney World $5.29 $4.19 $3.29

 

In the end, it seems that unlike one of Disney’s G-rated fairy tale iterations, there is no neatly packaged answer to the question “How much does the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ (on either coast) cost?’” The answer is really more of an unsatisfying and ambiguous, “It depends”. Perhaps it was Haley B (@BachFancy) who said it best with her tweet that “hotels (are) where you can way overspend.”

Either way, it’s safe to say that a day at either Magical Kingdom will end up costing somewhere in the range of $500-$1,000 per person per day for most visitors, including flight, hotel, food expenses, souvenirs, and incidentals. But if we have to choose a winner, the prize goes to Disney World. With its myriad of hotel pricing points, the most visited theme park in the world is also the most likely to fit into a myriad of budgets. But being a kid again? Priceless.

Kelly Soderlund
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Kelly Soderlund

PR and Content Manager at Hipmunk
Kelly Soderlund
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38 thoughts

  1. I just got back from a trip to Disneyland and my Dole Whip was $4.19. It is a family favorite for us that we get on every visit! Still a steal for $4!

  2. Did you get the Dole Whip Soft Serve or Float? It looks like they recently updated their prices in both parks. And yes, worth every penny.

  3. The thing you didn’t take into consideration is that at Walt Disney World, the more days of park tickets you buy, the cheaper they get. This is not the case at Disneyland. This is why every time I think I am going to book a trip to Disneyland, I end up doing Disney World instead. I can do twice as many days at Disney World than Disneyland for the same price. Plus there are twice as many parks so it just makes more sense.

  4. Actually, we did look at that! Prices at both parks drop depending on the number of days that you attend. For instance, a four-day trip at Disneyland cost $65/day, while a five-day trip is $55/day.

  5. I don’t think your methodology reflects the real world. No one stays at an “average price” Disney resort at WDW. Even the “moderate” priced resorts are cheaper than your average. If you’re trying to save money (which is, after all, what this comparison is all about), you’d stay at an All-star resort, which would cost roughly a quarter of the price of the Disneyland hotels.

    And, of course, WDW frequently offers discounts of 30 – 40%, or free Dining Plan options, which can also save families a bundle. Such offers aren’t available at Disneyland.

  6. Great review but I have some considerations for families that are not included here.
    First, if you stay on-property, be prepared to be captive to the outragous and poor quality food services and upcharges for things like parking and an in-room refrigerator. At Disney-world, for example, breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children at one of the huge, crowded hotel food courts, will cost you $50-70 dollars. For breakfast? Really? And this is for McDonalds qualiy food. You can do MUCH better than that off-property with a lot of hotels providing at least the same quality breakfasts for free. 2nd, the transportation system (at Disneyworld, anyway) is not the greatest for anything not directly on the monorail line. If you want to leave when the park closes, for example, you may end up waiting 2 hours or more for a bus to your hotel. This is a horrible thought when small children are involved. And lastly, there are a lot of top-notch convention hotels near Disneyworld that are not part of any chain. These hotel owners have been very uccessful operating independently to avoid franchise fees and they pass on at least some of that savings to the customer. They have their own transportation to and from the parks, often free and often faster than the park transit, and have similar or better amenities than the brand-name off-property hotels. Just be sure to look at the pictures and read the reviews before booking!
    Here’s one more thing to think about. Multi-day passes. If you have young kids and think you will be going back to Disney regularly, cinsider buying the longest possible multi-day pass with no expiration. I did this literally 10 years ago and still have a few days left. But be aware that if you buy a multi-day pass, you will get less of a “deal” on staying on-property because they want you to buy the passes when you book a room. The multi-day passes are not transferrable, either, so whoever uses it will need to use it up. It still works out better for a family, though, especially if you plan on staying off-property. There are also passes for Florida residents and other groups that you might want to consider.
    I hope that this is halpful!

  7. Thanks for your input! We looked at all 31 Disney World Resorts’ average booking costs on Hipmunk for 2015, and then utilized the the prices at the 10 most popular resorts. Of course there are a ton of ways to “hack” a Disney trip, but this study simply looked at the basic average prices to determine which was cheaper.

  8. No one really stays at any of the Disneyland hotels when the good neighbor hotels are right across the street for a fraction of the cost…

  9. We just visited Disney World in July and it cost us about $3,500 for a week there. Walt would turn over in his grave if he knew….

    We won’t be visiting again for a few years…too many great places to take the kids in the country and the world where you could get a fantastic vacation for the same price.

    WDW tickets, plus parking, plus stroller rentals plus food……way too much $$$!!!!!

  10. As a Disneyland nut (three season passes for the family since 2009) I can appreciate this article. It takes into account how much it would cost for a one-time visit, but with the season pass it brings the cost of each visit down considerably. Case in point, I pulled off a 5-day Disneyland trip for $400, by using hotel points and not including the extra cost of season passes. I suppose that gets into the realm of ‘hacking’ a Disney trip. The graphics and data work well together, and it’s the data that really tells the story here. I think the Anaheim area hotels are estimated a bit high (4 nights@$645) but you did state you were estimating with a broad brush.

    Good job!

  11. You never looked at the economy resorts in Florida. My friends and I went and stayed there, and it was quite a bit cheaper for families. My only hint would be to upgrade your room a bit and be near the cafeteria and pool.

  12. You’re also forgetting the huge savings and ease of the Magical Express. I.E. $65 cab ride from MCO or $24pp for shuttle.

  13. You should also mention that if you stay at a non-Disney hotel then you’d need a rental car and have to pay for parking, which is outrageous. Staying at a Disney hotel you could bypass the rental car and take Disney transportation for free.

  14. We prefer Disneyland and the costs have always weighed in favor of CA over FL for us. Flights from here are always cheaper to the west coast than the east. Disneyland does not do the heavy discounting or packages that DWorld does and it is really too bad. For a younger family CA is the way to go – not the humidity or heat, more compact park making it easier to cover with kiddo’s. There are off-property hotels a block from tram stops if you choose. The touches of a Disney hotel – even the budget ones can’t be beat for kids.

  15. We had our very first trip with 5 of us to DisneyWorld in June of this year, it cost us just over $1,000 per person for a week staying at a suite in AoA, and that includes flight from Baltimore. Every time I plug in dates and check package prices that’s the price I get regardless of time of year, so I’d say your calculations are off a bit. This also included DDP with one ts, one qs, and one snack, add in the extras including souvenirs it cost us around $7,000 total and that included renting a stroller for the week, BBB, and memory maker. Also included 6 days of park tickets. We can’t go to a beach for that when we drive. Side note, we could have stayed at OKW cheaper because the discount was cheaper but chose AoA for our little ones :)….Disney is affordable when broken down.

  16. Unfortunately, the no expiration tickets are no longer available. Also, you can’t switch tickets between people, as each ticket is now registered with Disneyworld.
    This does make it difficult to save; I bought two no expiration tickets right before they were no longer available. My husband and I are seniors and we usually do park hopping for a day or two, so we have four more days left on our 5 day no expiration tickets.

  17. I would love to spend some time at Disney World with my wife, just to have some light fun. But it’s clear we will never go — not at these prices. For what Disneyland or -World charges, we could go on an African safari or better. The prices at both parks are just silly.

  18. Regardless of which park costs more, they are both expensive! Early this year, I spent several months researching all the common, and not-so-common ways to save money at Disney World.

    My family ended up taking a 5 night/6 day trip to Disney World for $1,600. This cost included everything from staying on-site to tickets and even four table-service meals. It also included smaller costs that you don’t often think about, like parking at the airport, tips, etc.

    We definitely made some strategic decisions with travel rewards in order to save, but we also made several other smart decisions that enabled us to save big!

    If you are in planning mode for your next trip, or you’re new to the Disney experience, the Disney World: Super Savings Guide can help you to save big on your trip!

  19. Just a quick note about HodgePodge’s post: Yes the no expiration ticket hack used to be my family’s favorite way to save money over 2 trips. Alas, Disney has done away with the NO Expiration option.

  20. This is really helpful information. As a travel agent that only specializes in Disney, I can also echo the same “it depends” answer to a family looking to book their vacations.
    However, the advantages to using a travel agent from an authorized/earmarked Disney Travel Vacation Planning service are invaluable -and could be well worth the time to investigate a good agent instead of booking Disney direct. After all, they have FREE services with the best interest of their clients in mind.
    Thank you for putting together this article!
    Victoria – Disney Planner for Hi Ho Vacations
    aka “Travel Disney Mom”

  21. Cheryl, “Disney is affordable when broken down.”

    What does that mean? If you ‘break it down’ you mean you know what each item cost….so it’s affordable? I don’t get it. Or do you mean if you break down the given price to a sale price???

    Affordable to whom? You have no idea my financial situation so how can it be affordable to me? I was there ….ONCE…I won’t go back. Too much pushing, shoving, waiting, disappointment…..yet my coworker goes every year like it’s Heaven on Earth. huh???

  22. Disney is certainly an expensive splurge, but I don’t think anyone goes into the park expecting to be on a low budget trip. That said, in a weird way, Disney could be considered one of the more cost efficient trips (outside of a cruise, but that’s a whole different story for a different day). When you think about the fact that you can find something to do at the park from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm, the ticket price isn’t so crazy. It would cost me about $500 for my family of 4 to go to Wrigley Field here in Chicago (including parking). That provides about 3 hours of entertainment (insert your Chicago Cubs jokes here…), and Disney is about 13 hours. And, nearly every hotel near Disney offers free shuttles to the park, so renting a car isn’t a necessity. My family hasn’t gone to Disney World for a while, but it’s really hard to beat as a clean, fun, family trip.

  23. We priced going to Disney World when my daughter graduated from high school since we had never been able to afford it when the kids were small. For less than the cost of Disney, we spent two weeks in Ireland, Scotland, and England. I know where my money will go in the future and it is not to a mouse!

  24. Thank you for trying to put some kind of handle on how much a disney vacation is. The comment that no one stays at the park any more is wrong. I liked Scott’s answer – one has to do one’s homework if one is planning a trip there. If you don’t want to buy the Unofficial Guide, camp out at a bookstore or library and read one. Oh, and then compare to other trips – maybe you can afford to go to somewhere like Ireland instead!

  25. Very good reason to take your family camping, hiking, on a ferry or short train trip to the county fair, an Old Time Fiddlers’ contest, fruit-picking farm, street fair or any interesting event nearby instead of becoming part of the herd of consumers who don’t realize they don’t have to spend a huge sum to have a great time with their families.

    Natural history museums, science and industry museums, children’s museums all sponsor events with people wandering around in costumes, face-painting, food vendors, hands-on exhibits and various creative opportunities. With the death of public funding, many aren’t free anymore, but they’re a durn-sight cheaper than the corporate venues that have become shop vacs for what should be your savings–and don’t require standing in long lines and making everyone tired and cranky. If you haven’t invested a King’s Ransom, you’ll feel comfortable leaving when you feel like it, not staying til who-hung-the-pup to try to get your money’s worth.

  26. This explains why growing up in Tampa, my parents would NEVER stay overnight at a Disney resort. No matter how late we stayed at the park (until closing at 1 or 2 am), we would drive the 1.5 hours back to Tampa. I don’t know if it was a curse or blessing to live so close to “the Happiest Place on Earth”.

  27. I like the concept but LAX would have been the more appropriate airport. John Wayne is certainly closer but WAY more expensive and challenging to arrive. Curious to know where average airfare would land if you factored that in.

  28. Thank you for the perspective. I think Disney Good Neighbor hotels should be differentiated from Disney on-site hotels and shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re looking for value.

  29. How expensive or affordable a Disneyland trip is is purely subjective. I agree that it’s pricey, but depending on your family, your interest, your income, the price may be worth it.

    We took our kids for the first time last year. With stayed off site (and were able to use some hotel points) and we purchased 2 day tickets, 1 park per day, with a third day spent at the special Halloween party event, which was approximately $80/person.
    We also did two character dining experiences.

    I think we spent around $2500.00 for that trip. We had a really good time and have booked our next vacation for October 2016 (to once again do the Halloween Party). This time, I’m really “splurging” – we are staying onsite at Disneyland Hotel for 3 nights, and we did park hopper tickets. We prepaid for two character dining experiences again. That package (3 night stay, 2 day park hopper tickets for family of four) was $2700. That doesn’t include the Halloween party tickets which aren’t on sale yet. That’ll bring it up to the $3000 mark. And then taking into account gas for driving, food, souvenirs, other expenses I plan to do such as preferred dining for nightly shows, it’ll probably be close to $5k.
    Will it be worth it? I’m not sure yet. Staying onsite was a huge added expense at $435/night. And the park hopper tickets were more. I won’t do this every year, but while my kids are young, I think it’s a fun family splurge. But, admittedly, I have the discretionary funds. I certainly wouldn’t go into debt for the trip.

  30. Wow didn’t know about the billion dollar face lift to the park. That’s great news, it’s such a wonderful place to visit, I can’t imagine what a billion dollar uplift will look like. Great info can wait to visit after it’s all done.

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