Your vacation budget doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. You want to get the best possible trip at the lowest possible price. With Disney theme parks, that’s something of a moving target. Prices are ever-increasing, and you must decide the best ways to spend your money. Let’s evaluate the cost of all Disney vacation expenses, deciding where to splurge and where to save.
Since I can’t possibly know where you’re coming from, all I can do here is provide you with a few pertinent details. The main one is that it’s not necessarily cheaper to drive rather than fly any longer. Prior to 2018, guests who stayed onsite at official Disney resorts received free parking. That’s no longer the case.
For a week’s stay, you’ll pay somewhere around $100-$160 to park your car at your hotel. Yes, it’s steep and unavoidable. For larger families, it’s an annoyance but not enough to justify extra plane tickets, of course. When you fly, you do get the benefit of Magical Express and save yourself the trouble of the parental nightmare that is, “Are we there yet?” Only you can place a monetary value on that or using bathrooms gas stations along the way.
The part of travel that is up for debate is where to stay. When I say hotel accommodations, I’m speaking of a wide variety of options. You may want to rent a home, reserve an Airbnb, stay at a timeshare, book a third-party hotel, or treat yourself to an official Disney resort vacation. All of these selections are valid in their own ways.
Let’s be clear that you’ll pay more as you get closer to Walt Disney World, but you’ll get benefits that may justify the increased price for you and your family. In particular, staying at a Disney resort gives you access to Extra Magic Hours, times when only guests booked onsite are in the parks. With small crowds, you get to ride more of your favorites in a short period of time. Also, Disney resorts are spectacularly immersive.
Given the sheer volume of places to stay at or near Disney theme parks, you’ll get tremendous bang for your buck. Think of the situation in these terms. When you book a room for a business trip or a weekend getaway, you’re likely to spend as much as you would at a Moderate Tier Disney resort. Where would you rather stay for that money: a Radisson or Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter? Exactly.
At Orlando and Anaheim, the heavy amount of competition has kept the hotel situation reasonable. You can spend the night at extremely nice accommodations for no more than in your average tourist area. The difference is that you’re close to Disney and thereby living the dream.
The one tip I’ll give is that most people don’t spend a lot of time in their hotel room during a Disney vacation. You want to book a place that has fantastic logistics and amenities so that you’re not wasting valuable park time on transportation. But you shouldn’t splurge on more expensive hotels or better rooms unless you plan to use them.
The Disney Skyliner means that even the cheap All-Star Resorts provide relatively quick access to multiple Disney parks. There’s no need to spend more of your vacation budget beyond that. You’re already getting fantastic value for your money.