Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Allocating Money on a Disney Trip

This post was suggested by an awesome tweep and fellow blogger, Kim.  Kim told me she'd like to see a post about budgeting money because as a college student, she needs help with it.  And really anyone can use tips about allocating money, so here goes nothing!

When you are planning a Disney vacation, you really have five main expenses: transportation, lodging, tickets, food, and other things you'd like to buy on your trip (henceforth known as souvenirs).  Which of these will cost the most is entirely dependent on your individual trip.  Flying in from another country?  Expensive airfare.  Staying at the Grand Floridian during Christmas?  Expensive lodging.  And so on and so forth.  The time of year will have a lot to do with your expenses, so keep that in mind.  A trip the last week in January will be much less expensive than a trip the last week in December.

The first step in allocating money for a trip is to figure out certain things ahead of time.  These include when you want to go, where you want to stay, and how many days.  Then you can price your transportation, lodging, and tickets.  These things can be planned and allocated for in advance, and they are easy to allocate for because you know exactly how much you'll be spending.

Your actual spending money in the parks is different.  To allocate for food, you'll have to do a little research.  If you have ADRs, you can figure out approximately how much you'll spend by looking at the prices of the different menu items on  For quick service, you can probably guesstimate similar prices everywhere.  Also make sure you leave some money for the occasional snack or drink when the moment strikes you.  Even if you're on the Disney Dining Plan, you'll have to allocate some money for tips.  And you never know when you might want an extra meal that you don't have the credits for.  For souvenirs, it can be tough.  The best way to go about this is usually to set a certain amount of spending money, either per day or for the whole trip, and try not to go over this amount with souvenirs.  Yes, that means you can't buy every Disney Dooney in the store, unfortunately.  But there's always the next trip!

Finally, always allocate a little extra money for both the random little things you might have forgotten about or something that might come up unexpectedly.  For example, don't forget you'll need to bring extra money for tipping Mousekeeping and the people that bring your bags from Disney's Magical Express.  Also, you never know when there is a fantastic sale that you just have to have, or an emergency where you need to buy something you hadn't packed, like Bandaids or medicine.

Overall, it's better to be a little liberal with the amount of money you are allocating for each area, even if it means cutting down in other areas.  You never know when something unexpected happens and you need some money.  So Kim, did I properly answer your question?

How do you allocate your money on a Disney trip?  Do you leave a little extra to splurge on merchandise or snacks?  Do you spend the majority of your budget on one thing?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!  And remember, I only need 47 more Twitter followers to give away something straight from Walt Disney World!


  1. Thanks so much for the post, Amanda! I will be using some of these tips on my upcoming trip 4 weeks from today! Since I am on the DDP I will look at for pricing so I can figure out how much money to budget for tips. Since I'm only gone for 4 days I think I'll budget my souvenir money for the whole trip, and then have a little cushion for "unforseen" expenses


  2. Woot, glad I answered your question!

  3. We allocate so much for breakfast,lunch & dinner. Normally it's $7,$10 & $15 per person, per day. We budget about $5 more for dinner and/or lunch if we know we're doing more sit downs. We budget for each day including travel days. (Even though we take the red-eye to WDW - we count that day.) That way, snacks & the unexpected late evening dessert seems to be covered in the food costs. (We very rarely spend $14 for breakfast for the 2 of us, and if we do the Ohana breakfast, it's a snack or very light meal for lunch, so it all works out.)

    I put everything in the spreadsheet. The cost of shuttle from home to airport & back, souvenirs,(extra food money for Food & Wine samples this next trip), money for special parties & events (Mickey's Not so Scary & Party for the Senses this next trip), etc, besides the airfare, car rental & room. Right now, we're dual park APers, so don't have cost in admission.

    Even those (heaven help me but we sometimes do) things that are non-Disney, like going to see Harry Potter at IofA, this trip. Tips are the only thing we don't budget as we always have a little extra cash on us just for things like that.

    Money for souvenirs gets added to & lowered - depending on what else we're doing. If we have it, we'll bring more, if we suddenly add additional cost somewhere else, it comes from that amount. As I never know airfare until we buy it, we budget high & can move money around, as things fall into place. I was just able to re-do our car rental for $70 cheaper, so that money was added to our spending money.

    As we spent years in debt, now we have the money saved before we go, so there's nothing to be paying on once we get back. One check to the credit card company for anything charged - bbalance of room, an occasional meal, etc as those mileage points add up & the money's already in our account.

  4. Lots of awesome tips, thanks!

  5. I have lots of ADRs for my upcoming trip, so I did look at the menus and came up with an approximate amount of money I'll need. Then, starting about 3 months ago I've been taking between $20 and $50 out of each paycheque to set aside for my food for the trip including snacks (I have just over $300). Since I'm Canadian I have it in cash and I'm going to go to the bank and change it to American next week. I also bought my Disney tickets a few months ago and my Universal tickets were my birthday present. So on the actual trip I'm going to have very little I'll have to pay for... I'm afraid of coming home and then not being able to pay for my upcoming credit card bills. Everything has been paid for beforehand, and slowly so there was no huge lump sum at once. The only things I'll have to pay for at the parks are any souvenirs, and I'm going to limit that to under $50.

    I am lucking out that we're driving and I won't need to pay any of the gas, and we're staying at a timeshare so I also don't need to pay for the hotel. Now... the cruise that I'm doing in Feb will be different, I'm really hoping I don't regret booking it! I lost my job AFTER booking it (well, I found out I will be out of a job after August) and I haven't been able to find a new one yet so I'm not sure if I'll be able to pay for it.

  6. Aww, good luck paying for everything!