Disney World is unarguably the largest family holiday destination in the United States. Super Bowl winners want to go there, kids want to go there, adults want to go there – heck, MY GRANDMA wants to go there! Can the everyday family afford to go to Disney World on a limited budget? YOU BET!
There are many options for you to consider on a Disney holiday. We’ll present as many of them to you as possible.
The obvious first choice is to stay on the property for maximum convenience and fun. At the time of this writing, the Florida theme park is currently offering the following packages for a six night, seven day stay for a family of four:
• £1,300 for a stay at a value category resort
• £1,700 for a stay at a moderate category resort
• £2,500 for a stay at a deluxe category resort
The value category resorts include All-Star Sports and All-Star Music hotels with the entire resort centered around those themes. They are fun for the kids and have themed pools and food courts. The rooms are standard, but comfortable and accommodate four people easily.
When we visited Disney World with our two children, we stayed at the All-Star Music resort and were very satisfied with everything they had to offer us. We were, after all, there to visit the parks, so our room was just a place to lay our heads. However, when the kids wanted to swim, we were happy to sip a tropical drink at the poolside bar while the kids splashed and played just a few feet away.
The moderate category resorts offer more amenities than the value priced ones. These resorts include the Caribbean Beach resort, Coronado Springs resort, and Port Orleans.
These resorts offer themed pools, full service dining areas, whirlpools, and watercraft rentals since most of these resorts are on the various lakes the property has.
I was on a company sponsored award trip and stayed at Coronado Springs. The rooms are more luxurious and roomy than the value ones, but we didn’t spend a lot of time in them preferring instead to visit the parks – obviously!
The food offered at this resort was more gourmet, and the pools were more elaborate than the All Star Music, but they were still fun at both places. It was nice to take a walk down the Boardwalk at sunset and enjoy the nightly fireworks from our balcony.
While I have never stayed at a Deluxe resort, it obviously follows that these are the nicest that Disney has to offer. These hotels include Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club Resort, Boardwalk Inn, and the Grand Floridian. These resorts have elaborately themed pools, world class restaurants, room service, valet parking, whirlpools, concierge service, and a fitness centre. They go out of their way to insure your comfort and satisfaction which can be very important for some people.
There are other options you have on the park grounds as well that you can consider for your Disney holiday. Disney also offers Vacation Club resorts that are basically condos that include the general amenities that Disney offers to all their guests. These units have multiple rooms, a kitchen or kitchenette, spacious rooms, and valet parking service. This would be a great option for larger families.
Finally, those who like to “rough it” might want to consider the camping facilities on the park grounds. Fort Wilderness offers guests the opportunity to stay in air-conditioned cabins or secluded campsites for tents and RVs.
There is a concierge desk and laundry facilities. They also have miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, and nature trails ready for exploration. We had friends who rented an RV and stayed at Fort Wilderness. They got to enjoy not only the fun parks at Disney, but it was combined with their other love of camping. There were 10 campsites in total, so they saved money by staying in the RV instead of a hotel and they brought a lot of their own food to cook over their campfire so they saved quite a bit on dining as well.
When you stay at one of the Disney resorts, you get added value as well. The complex has one of the most elaborate transportation systems around. You can hop aboard a luxury bus and arrive at whatever park you want to visit with no worries. The buses run at all hours and as a guest, you can ride them as many times as you want for free.
You will also get transportation from the airport to your hotel including baggage service. This is a great perk since you won’t have to worry about traversing the many roads that lead to the various resorts. They’ll take you directly from the airport to your hotel for easy check-in!
The parks open early and stay open later for resort guests. This is an especially great aspect of staying on the grounds because the lines are shorter after hours and you don’t have to wait as long to ride your favourite rides.
Of course, these prices don’t include getting to Orlando. You’ll have to book your own flights to get there. Because of the airport shuttle service, we highly recommend the airline option as it takes the hassle out of travelling.
One thing we found when staying at a Disney resort is to purchase a souvenir travel mug first thing after checking in. This mug allows unlimited drink refills during your stay at any theme park and at your resort. This saved us a ton of money on coffee and soft drinks. Unfortunately, the refills didn’t include those tropical drinks we had, but it was well worth it anyway!
You can also choose to stay off the property in a close-by town like Kissimmee or in Orlando proper. The advantage to this is you can book an air/hotel package that will probably be less than what you would pay utilizing Disney’s resort advantages. By staying off the property, you can also take in the other sights Orlando has to offer such as Universal Studios and Sea World.
The disadvantage is that you will possibly have to arrange your own transportation to the parks, although some hotels have an agreement with Disney to use their shuttle buses from their hotels. Check with your hotel regarding shuttle service.
You may also have to purchase your theme park tickets separately. Disney, however, does have many different packages that make it affordable and you can pick and choose the parks you visit. If you’re not especially interested in seeing the Animal Kingdom, you don’t have to purchase those entrance tickets.
We do have some general money-saving tips when taking a Disney holiday. Most of the parks will allow you to bring in small coolers. Bring in your own bottled water or soft drinks or pack a light lunch to avoid the high prices at the restaurants. You can also bring a backpack with you which is a good way to bring in your own snacks to keep the little ones from screaming for French fries or cotton candy which come at a premium price.
We do, however, highly recommend having one meal at a sit-down restaurant inside the park. The prices might be a bit steep, but the portions are generous and you’ll get a much needed rest while you enjoy good food. Eat at off-peak times to avoid long waits and enjoy great service.
We had one meal at a drive-in style restaurant inside MGM Studios. I ordered a chicken Caesar salad and couldn’t even come close to finishing it. My daughter had chicken fingers and fries which she snacked on for the rest of the day. Plus it was great fun having our meal inside a car while watching an old movie on the huge movie screen.
If you have little ones who love the Disney characters, schedule a character meal to thrill them. Do this first, though, because space is limited and they fill up fast. Don’t freak at the price – the look on your little one’s face will be well worth the money spent.
You will, of course, want to have souvenirs to remember your time at Disney. In the park, these can be quite pricey. A great money-saving tip is to look for outlet stores in Orlando. They sell official Disney merchandise at huge discounts.
Above all, HAVE FUN! You’re on holiday in the happiest place on Earth. Enjoy yourself and your family along with everything that Disney has to offer! Now let’s look at another holiday option for families – cruises!