Depending on where you live, your travel expenses for getting to Disney World will vary. For us, the big question was: do we drive or fly? Except it really wasn't a question, because I hate riding in the car. Plus we are going during the school year, and driving takes extra time which means Audrey would have to miss more days of school. So we decided to fly without much debate.
I feel like we got a fairly decent deal on our plane tickets, which were $220 round trip on Southwest. This includes all fees, and bags are free as well. We will fly into Orlando International Airport, then Disney's Magical Express (a free service provided by Disney) will pick us up and take us to Disney World. So there is no need to rent a car!
We looked into flying out of our local airport on Allegiant, which offers flights to Orlando's Sanford airport at fairly cheap rates. But they have so many hidden fees! You even have to pay for your carry on bags with them. Plus from Sanford, we would have to rent a car to get to Disney World. It seems silly to rent a car only to park it at Disney for a whole week. I think Southwest was the cheapest deal we could find.
Audrey being entertained by Mickey Mouse on the plane in 2011
I did find that it is cheaper to fly on Mondays and Tuesdays. Airfare sales also seem to be cheapest on Tuesdays, and most of Southwest's sales seem to start on a Tuesday. We were originally planning to fly back home on Sunday so Audrey could be at school on Monday. But the flights were so much more expensive, about $70 per person. It would have cost us almost $300 more to fly on Sunday rather than Monday. So we just decided to throw in an extra night at Disney's Art of Animation resort for $118 instead!
We definitely could have saved a little money on travel expenses by driving. But it would have been a two day trip for us each way, which means extra meals and an extra two nights in a hotel and more days of school missed for Audrey. So, paying a little extra to fly is worth the convenience for us.
When I initially priced out this trip, I forgot about all the little extras. The things that you don't think about ahead of time, but that start to add up as your trip planning progresses. I think there were about $400 in extra expenses that I didn't really think about when initially figuring out if we could even afford this trip! So I thought I would list out those expenses here, to help anyone else planning a trip to remember all the extra expenses!
During dinner at the Crystal Palace in 2012
With the free dining plan, our food is free, but we do still have to pay tips for our servers. At first, this didn't sound like that big of a deal, until I started to think about how expensive Disney meals are! We are doing five table service meals, and I have budgeted $100 for tips. Assuming each meal costs around $100 (some will be more and some will be less), then a 20% tip would be $20 per meal. This is not a small cost, so it is something to consider for all trips. Even if you are not going with free dining, take into account that your tips will be more because your meals will cost more!
If you already have a stroller, then you can avoid this cost. However, we no longer have our double stroller as Audrey has mostly outgrown needing to use a stroller. (And even if we did still have our double stroller, I would probably still rent a stroller, because ours was not easy to maneuver!). Even though Audrey doesn't need a stroller in everyday life, at Disney World, she definitely still needs a stroller. You walk A LOT at Disney. I've heard the average is about 6 miles per day, if you spend a full day in the parks! That's a lot for anyone to walk, especially a five year old. Plus, I don't know about anyone else's five year old (or six, seven, eight year old), but mine likes to dawdle and stop and look at everything. In a crowded park, when you are trying to get from one place to another, there is no tie for dawdling! The stroller is great to keep your family moving through the crowds, and to make sure you don't lose anyone! I would recommend using a stroller for as long as the kids fit within the size limits.
You can rent strollers at Disney World. They are big plastic strollers that don't look especially comfortable. You can rent the double strollers for $27 per day (for multiple days, if going for one day, it is $31). Single strollers are $15 for one day or $13 per day for multiple days.
In 2012, we took an umbrella stroller and then rented a single stroller. We thought it would be nice to have two separate strollers in case we wanted to go two separate directions. This trip we are just going to rent a double stroller. The City Mini single stroller we rented from Magic Strollers can be seen in the pictures above and below.
Last trip, we rented a stroller from Magic Strollers. It was great! They rent City Mini and City GT single and double strollers. They are nicer strollers than what you can rent at Disney, plus they are cheaper! You can go to their website for all the pricing, but for the City Mini Double it is $40 for the first day and then $7.50 for each additional day. Also, with the Disney strollers you can only use them in the parks. Magic Strollers delivers your stroller right to your resort, and then you are able to use it anywhere (parks, resorts, Downtown Disney, etc) throughout your stay. They will deliver to many resorts in Orlando, not just Disney, so even if you are staying off property, this would be a possibility.
We aren't really souvenir people so our budget for this is pretty low. I have planned $50 for souvenirs, and I am hoping to not even spend that much. On our previous trips, I let Audrey (Isla wasn't big enough yet) pick one thing to buy. And that one thing was limited to a stuffed animal in the $10-$12 range. I might let the girls get something a little more expensive this time, but I am going to try to make them wait until closer to the end of our trip. I'm afraid if they buy something on the first day, they are going to be ready for something new by the end of the trip. And that's not happening!
Audrey with her souvenirs in 2011, one from us and one from Papa John
Autograph books are really popular with kids at Disney, as they can be used to collect autographs of all the characters they meet. I don't really know the price of the official Disney books, but I'm sure they are expensive. So we are working on making our own autograph book! I will post pictures when it is finished.
Out of Pocket Meals
We will have a few meals while travelling that we will need to pay for out of pocket. I am also going to buy some breakfast food and a few snacks to travel with us. I'm hoping to keep all of these expenses around $100.
I think that covers every penny we will spend at Disney. I hope sharing all this info was helpful to those who may be planning a trip. I hope sharing all this info hasn't bored you to death either. I will be back one of these days with posts about our real life too.
Next Up: How to Find Extra Money to Pay for your Trip