Ever since our son was born, I knew it was coming … family vacation to Disney World!

Well, this was the year we “did Disney.”  We spent 5 days and 4 nights in Orlando and I must say that it was a grand old time.

The trip was truly a priceless opportunity to gather an extended family for a special occasion. At the same time, no one was interested in breaking the bank – this was an extra trip above and beyond our normal vacation.  With four families coming together, a fair amount of planning (most of it not done by me) was required.  This definitely saved us a ton of money and helped things go smoothly.

Our Expenses

Magic Kingdom, disney world vacation planning

Travel & Lodging:

  • Flights: $750 (3 tickets @ $250)
  • Parking: $125 (at the airport)
  • Rental Car: $113 ($88 (used points for some of it) + $25 for gas)
  • Rental House: $391 (our family’s share, ⅓ of total cost)


  • Park tickets: $378
  • Souvenirs: $50


  • Groceries: $174
  • Restaurants: $217

TOTAL: $2,198

Pretty good, I think!  I chit chatted with someone on the plane spending $2,500 just on hotel to stay at one of the resorts.

I feel like we got the best of Disney.  We saw the sights (fireworks! parades! characters!), rode the rides (Space Mountain! Star Wars! Thunder Mountain!) and had plenty of frivolous impulse purchases (turkey leg anyone?).  Five may also be the perfect age to take a kid: big enough to skip the stroller and take on most of the rides.

What we didn’t do was stay at one of the many resorts, buy tons of Disney schwag, or eat in every restaurant.

How Did We Do It?

Here are the key decisions that helped us save money and keep the trip financially sane:

  • Renting a house and sharing the cost.  This was the bargain of the century.  We had a 6 bedroom house with a pool and a gameroom for the kids.  We had one “home” day where we just hung out by the pool.

  • Eating at home or bringing from home.  Having a house with a full kitchen allowed us to eat breakfast and dinner at home, and pack snacks and lunches for the parks.

  • Buy in advance.  We bought our plane tickets 30 days in advance, and changed our plans slightly to get a good price.

  • Look for discounts.  We were able to find discounts on our park tickets that saved us over 10%.

  • Setting limits.  We told my son he could choose one thing to remember the trip.  (He settled on some Pirates of the Caribbean gear.)  It’s especially important to establish this rule up front, as all the rides exit right into the middle of a gift shop!

 In summary, planning pays off!  This is a core belief of mine, so it’s nice to see it in practice.

What about you?  Was your trip to Disney a blast?

tower of terror! disney world vacation planning

Any opinions are those of Sara Stanich.

Sara Stanich