Disney on a Budget

In January, we took Daughter Person to the most magical place on earth for her 5th birthday – Disney World.  We spent some time in Hollywood Studios, but mostly in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  We also got to spend an extra day because of the snow storm on the East Coast – we figured an extra day at Disney was better than waiting around in the airport with a 5 year old – we made the right call.  On Wednesday, we had our flights re-routed through Chicago (instead of DC) and flying on Sunday vs Saturday – no issues or delays getting home at all!  I used my miles on United to book our flights, so they were $30 in fees (and free checked bags!).

Park Tickets

We spent the most at once on Park tickets. We bought a 5-day pass through Undercover Tourist using two Barclay’s cards, $944 for the tickets, $800 statement credit for us.


We were going to stay in a Hilton via points, but for 2016, the Lake Buena Vista Hilton didn’t have the Disney Perks of an on-site hotel, so we changed tactics and paid for the Caribbean Resort.  The Magical Express was nice, and saved us from renting a car. But, we really wanted the on-site perks because it was Daughter Person’s 5th birthday and we wanted to make sure that we got reservations to Cinderella’s Royal Table on a Friday Night.  We had a better chance of that by staying on-site and being able to make the reservations 186 days in advance rather than 180 days.  We didn’t have a package, and we spent about $900 for 6 nights (vs the originally planned 5 nights).  No points, but used our cash back Fidelity card (2%).  Not having a package ended up being a good thing when we had to extend our stay by a night.

The resort was nice, but it made me think of a cheap motel because all of the room doors open directly to the outside.  It was clean, it had a cool pool, but it was nothing to write home about.  I’m pretty utilitarian in my hotel choices – it’s really just a clean place to sleep.


This is where we spent most of our money.  We didn’t go with a dining plan because we tend to eat very light for breakfast and lunch and then nice dinners.  The dining plan didn’t cover many of the dinners we had reserved and planned, so I Was planning on paying out of pocket for all the food.  We probably spent about $250/day on food and drink: breakfast, lunch, dinner and the occasional snack.  I did drink my way through the world at Epcot, so that was a good bit of it…  After talking with some folks, the dining plan might have been a good option for us.  I did try to help with getting the occasional kids meal for myself for lunches – no one asked or batted an eye, I wouldn’t have been able to do that on the dining plan.

Other Notes

We did get the Memory Maker photo package, which I thought was worth every penny.  You just find a photographer on property, ask them to take your picture, and scan your magic band, and the picture shows up online and I own limited digital rights to them.  We definitely got our money’s worth with this, and we didn’t have to worry about taking the pictures ourselves or not being in the picture.

Daughter Person had a blast, and already wants to go back.  Mom and Dad were stressed out with the crowds (and it was “low” season!), and aren’t planning on making a return trip until Daughter Person is in middle school or is at least tall enough to go on the rides at MGM and Universal Studios.  Then, we’ll probably stay off property, rent a car and do things on our own.

I was somewhat disappointed in the number of thrill rides available – I prefer my coasters to go faster than 30 mph (so does Daughter Person, she kept asking where the “real” roller coasters were). We didn’t ride that many rides, but instead played the various “games” at the parks.  The Magic Kingdom has the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card game and several adventures in Adventureland related to Pirates of the Caribbean, and Epcot has a Phineas and Ferb game with “Agent P” that takes you through the various countries and trigger neat effects.

The trip was worth Daughter Person’s enjoyment at seeing the “magic” for the first time, and 4-5 was a perfect age for it!

2 thoughts on “Disney on a Budget

  1. Mrs PoP

    Holy cow, Disney has gotten expensive! I did Epcot with my MIL about 5 years ago and stayed at the Swan. It was nice and super convenient, but we only did one day in the park.

    1. Mom Post author

      They do have special pricing for FL residents – we have friends in St Petersburg who have a “season pass” for less than we spent on 5 days. We have season passes to Cedar Point and they ran us $450 for all three of us, so yeah, it’s expensive. And, with the magic band, they make it easy to spend money!


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