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Is Disney World Too Expensive for the Average Family?

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Is Disney World too expensive? It’s a question that gets asked every time Disney raises its prices. And with the recent hike for Annual Passes and Resort Parking Fees, some Disney fans are claiming that they’ve been “priced out” of a Disney vacation.

Is disney world too expensive for the average family?

So, we thought we’d break down the numbers and try to answer this burning question. Is Disney World too expensive for the average American family?

The Cost of a Disney Vacation

There is no doubt that a Disney vacation is expensive. Even when you use our tips to save money at Disney World, it can still cost a few thousand dollars. Our upcoming trip to WDW is costing us $2,700 on just our 1-bedroom resort room and 4-day park tickets alone. Add the cost of getting there and back, plus dining, and we’re looking at over $4,000.

Think that’s just us? Here are some other examples of what a Disney vacation can cost from around the web:

  • $5,726 for a family of four (Money We Have)
  • $211 per person per day, not including transportation (Vacation Kids)
  • $4,885 for a “cheaper” Disney vacation in 2017 (Money)
  • $8,792.02 was the precise amount spent by this family of four that stayed 7 nights at a Deluxe Resort (Romper)

Ways to Cut Costs

Disney World is pricey, but there are ways to save on major expenses like park tickets, hotel, travel, and food:

  • Discounted tickets through Undercover Tourist will save around $200 for a family of four.
  • Choosing to stay at a Value Resort or off-property hotel can stretch your dollar.
  • Driving instead of Flying is usually easier on the wallet.
  • Buying your own groceries and making meals in your hotel. Packing lunch/snacks to bring to the parks. Even splitting meals when eating out will save you money on food.

Bare Minimum Cost to go to Disney World

So, on the low end, for an enjoyable week-long vacation to Disney World, I’d peg the minimum amount you’d have to spend for a family of four at $3,295. That would give you a day of travel each way, a day to enjoy each park, plus an off day in the middle to hang out by the pool and recharge. It would break down like this:

  • $1593 for 4-day park tickets
  • $642 for 6 nights at a hotel (Disney Springs hotel, including daily hotel and parking fees)
  • $460 for round-trip travel ($360 for gas, $100 for food, assuming you don’t stop overnight)
  • $500 for food ($200 for groceries to cover breakfast in hotel room & packed lunches, and $300 for casual dinners in parks or resort)
  • $100 for souvenirs/snacks

Average Family Vacation Budget

Now that we have an idea of the cost of a Disney vacation, we can see if that fits into the average American family’s vacation budget.

There’s a debate to be had over what amount families should spend on travel. Some consider it purely a luxury that you can live without. We, on the other hand, prioritize travel because we view it as worthwhile for personal growth, family bonding, and mental health.

What Percentage of Income Should Families Budget for Travel?

According to Forbes, Americans spend an average of 10% of their income on vacations each year. They pointed out that some spend as much as 15%, so it’s safe to assume some spend as little as 5%. We even came across this family that spends 40% of their budget each year on travel! WOW!

Financial Guru Dave Ramsey backs up that number. He suggests 5-10% of your budget goes to recreation, which includes travel. He’d probably advise against it if you’re working your way out of debt, though.

5-10% Rule Applied to the Average Family

Last year, The U.S. Census Bureau reports that “family households” (this excludes single people living alone or groups of unrelated people sharing a place) had a median income of $77,713. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the mean amount of state and federal taxes for 2-4 person families was around $12,500.

Applying the 5-10% rule, that means the average family household should have $3,250 – $6,500 of an after-tax income of $65,000 to spend on recreation/vacations each year.

The Disney Poverty Line

So, who is getting “priced out” of taking a Disney vacation?

The threshold appears to be families who make less than $40,000. After paying taxes, these families would have to use the full 10% of their travel budget to take the most affordable Disney vacation. Below that you start falling short. This is the “Disney Poverty Line”.

But the good news is that the $40,000 income level is in the 35th percentile of all families. That means 65% of families in America earn that much or more. That’s still the majority of American families that should be able to budget for a Disney vacation.

Is Disney World Too Expensive?

Based on conversations on social media, combined with our experience, we got sense that maybe Disney was getting too expensive for most families. But surprisingly, that is not the case, at least according to the numbers.

And in reality, a Disney vacation is something many families only do once or maybe a couple of times in their lives. It’s the kind of thing you often plan well in advance and take time to save up for. When taking that into account, even families who make a little bit less should be able to save for a trip to Disney over a couple of years.

What Do You Think?

Do you think Disney World is too expensive? Leave a comment below, tweet us @advinfamilyhood, email us at hello@adventuresinfamilyhood, or join our facebook discussion.

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Stacy Mizrahi

Monday 21st of December 2020

We just tried pricing out our own vacation and, honestly, I could either do Disney for 4 days or do an entire week at a regional park and still pocket cash. I grew up around Mouse Land so I get the hype. But at the end of the day, my child is going to have fun on rides and splashing in the water. Disney sells the magic but it comes at such a premium that I choose to explore the alternatives.

James Cameron

Thursday 24th of December 2020

There's nothing wrong with that, Stacy. There is a wealth of value and great experiences to be had in many places. Disney is just one option.

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