Well, here we are at the end of our little series. We have tried to give you some tips to help out in budgeting your dream Disney trip, from food to travel to lodging. The last post deals with upgrades, and boy does Disney give you the chance to upgrade your experience at every turn. But which ones are worth it and which can you do without?
- Park Hopper and Water Park upgrade: We talked at length about this topic in a recent post , so we won’t revisit it in too much detail. We like the Park Hopper option so if one park closes early, we can continue the fun at another park. If you are taking a more leisurely vacation or are traveling with very little ones, you might want to skip this upgrade and stick to one park a day.
- Upgrade your dining plan: Some people can’t imagine a vacation without the deluxe dining plan. With that upgrade you get 3 meal credits and 2 snacks per day included in your plan. It might make sense if you have a long list of signature (2 dining plan credit) restaurants you’d like to try, but in our opinion, all those sit down meals take too much time away from the parks. Imagine the travel time it takes to get to all those meals! We recommend to skip this upgrade.
- A room upgrade. We upgraded to a water view room at Caribbean Beach on our first visit. I shuddered at the thought of staying at a Disney resort and having a parking lot view! The room was nice, but in all honesty, we weren’t in the room enough to enjoy it anyway. Upgrading to a preferred room might be good if you want to be closer to the resort food court and transportation to the parks. We don’t mind walking at the resort. It lets us get a feel for the property and enjoy the theming. If this is not you, look into a room upgrade and see if it fits in your budget. For us, a standard room saves money and works out just fine.
- Dessert Parties/ Dining Package: We have done both upgrades. The Wishes Dessert Party was enjoyable, but even I admit, my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I probably didn’t consume enough desserts and specialty beverages to make it worthwhile. The upside to dessert parties and dining packages is the reserved seating for such events as Illuminations, Fantasmic and the Candlelight Processional (an insanely popular holiday event at Epcot.) We have done the Fantasmic dining package twice, but only because it was included in the dining plan. If we had to pay out of pocket, we would pass it up and get Fastpasses for the nighttime show instead. If you have a special occasion to celebrate, a dessert party might be a fun way to go. They average $79 per adult, so make sure the person being honored likes sweets!
- Tours/ After Hours Events: Disney offers several behind-the-scenes tours at the parks as well as after-hours events. We did one such event called Early Morning Magic (read about our experience here ) and I thought it was totally worth the splurge. The tours range greatly in price and, while I’ve never done one, I have thought about treating my Disney-nerd husband to the 5-hour Keys of the Kingdom tour (at $99.00, we couldn’t all afford to take part.) If you’re really desiring to do some behind-the-scenes exploring, try the “Behind the Seeds” tour at Epcot. At $25 for adults and $20 for kids, it’s a steal, and you get to tour the gardens in the Living with the Land ride.
- Holiday Parties: We have to say, Disney does an awesome party! There are currently 2 “hard-ticket” holiday events that you can attend; Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We have done the Christmas party two times and watched many videos of the Halloween party on Youtube. They feature uncommon character meet-and-greets (think Jack Skellington and the 7 Dwarfs) complimentary treats and exclusive holiday-themed shows and parades. In addition to that, the wait times for rides are much shorter than during the normal park hours. The only downside is the cost. The parties run from $72 to over $100. The way we have budgeted for the parties in the past is to use the party as one of our park days and not buy a park ticket for that day. We go to the pool or visit resorts during the day and then show up at the gates ready to get into the Magic Kingdom at 4pm (the party runs from 7pm-midnight, and guests can enter at 4pm.) This way we spend about the same amount on tickets, but can experience the holiday festivities!
So, there you have it. Six questions to address when planning a budget for your Disney vacation. Answering these questions should give you a great idea of where your money will be going on your dream trip. Do you budget for a splurge or keep it frugal? We try to balance restraint with spending carefully on special experiences. Tell us what you think!