Planning Your Disney World Budget: 9 Unexpected Expenses You Can’t Afford to Miss

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When it comes to planning your Disney World budget, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the obvious expenses, such as hotel, food, and tickets. But unfortunately, as much as you try to plan and budget ahead of time, a trip to Disney is full of unexpected costs that can easily derail all of your careful Disney budget planning.

To simplify your Disney World vacation and expense planning, we’ve gathered all those unexpected expenses into one place, along with some tips to help you shave a few dollars off the cost of your trip.

Airport Transportation Can Add up Fast

Walt Disney World is located 30 minutes from the Orlando airport, so understandably, there is a lot of traffic going back and forth. As many Disney regulars know, the Disney’s Magical Express was a complimentary airport transportation service for resort guests. Your luggage was even brought to your room for you! However, this complimentary service came to an end recently.

That means you’ll be looking for alternatives to Disney’s Magical Express, and these costs can add up fast. A Lyft or Uber ride from the Orlando Airport to Walt Disney World averages $23 depending on your resort. Taking the Mears Connect shuttle, a similar service to Magical Express, will run you $26 per child and $32 per adult, round trip. It’s an expense you definitely want to add into your budget planning.

Thinking about Parking Costs while Planning Your Disney World Budget

Some of you can automatically check this right off your list, because you don’t plan to drive a car. But if you are driving to Walt Disney World or renting a car, parking fees will add up fast!

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Parking at Disney World’s four parks is free if you are a staying at a resort on the Disney property. If not, parking gets very pricey, very quickly! Costs start at $30 per day and can go up depending on the day of the week, time of the year and where you decide to park. Preferred parking spots closest to the park gates are obviously higher.

If you do opt to drive to the parks, a one day pass will allow you to park in any of the four main theme park lots, and let you park hop to other lots on the same day for no additional fee.

Disney World Budget for Transportation to and from the Parks

Speaking of cars and parking, another hidden cost that can derail the planning of your Disney World budget is transportation to and from parks. If you are staying at a Disney World resort, you always have the option of taking Disney‘s complimentary transportation at no additional cost. However, that isn’t always the most practical solution.

monorail above EPCOT, a free transportation option to consider while planning your walt disney world trip budget
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For many of us, the thought of waiting in line for the bus at Magic Kingdom after a long day in the park is exhausting. If you (or your kids) are getting cranky with the wait, you can always call an Uber or Lyft for an additional cost. To compare all of your park transportation options, be sure to read this.

If your budget does not allow for staying on Disney property, or your offsite resort doesn’t offer a shuttle, you will have to budget for transportation to and from the parks to your resort or plan to pay for parking (see above).

For those staying at offsite resorts with a shuttle, there may be shuttle fees associated with it. This fee averages around $10 a person, which adds up to $28 a day for a family of four.

Planning Your Disney World Budget Extras Like Photopass and Memory Maker

Moving away from all costs related to transportation, we have photos! Disney World has many many photo ops. However, most of the best ones are provided by Disney Photopass photographers.

Disney Photopass photographers are stationed at prime locations around the park to record your memories for you. You have the option of getting all of the photos taken by Disney, including ride photos, by purchasing the Memory Maker. You may also buy select photos individually.

Deciding whether the Disney World memory maker is worth it for you requires an evaluation of the pros and cons, and it’s something that many people don’t consider until they are in the park having that first photo taken. If this is your first trip, you may really want that professional family snapshot taken in front of Cinderella’s Castle, specifically if Tinkerbelle is included!

memory maker should be considered when planning your disney world trip budget
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If you are planning to purchase a lot of Photopass photos, or ride photos, and have the budget, it might be worth it to purchase the Memory Maker. In short, the Memory Maker is a package where you pay one fee that includes all of the Photopass and ride photos from your entire trip. The money-saving trick you need to know, however, is to purchase it in advance.

The advanced price of $185 works out to be worth it if you purchase ten or more photos. However, if you wait until you are already in the parks to decide on the purchase, you’ll have to shell out $210 to get a copy of your favorite images.

Tipping: It May Seem Obvious, but It Isn’t Always

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While everyone knows that tipping is a necessary cost when eating out at a table service restaurant, it does not seem so obvious if you have the Dining Plan. The Disney Dining plan, whether the free promotion or paid, works out to two meals a day and one snack.

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There are different plans, which you can read about here, but regardless of the option you choose, tipping is not covered by the Disney dining plan. This means that if your vacation package came with free Disney Dining, you still need to factor in tipping waitstaff while planning your Disney World budget.

While tipping waitstaff is an obvious one, not everyone is aware that tipping maid service staff is also customary. When we plan a Disney World trip, we often prepare by collecting and saving dollar bills leading up to our departure.

Daily, we will leave $3-$5 under the maid card in a prominent location in the room. This may not seem like much, but if you are budgeting your trip to the dollar, (as many of us have to do while at Disney!) those few extra bucks add up quickly.

bed in the Grand Floridian made up by mouse keeping, tipping is an additional cost to consider while planning your disney world trip budget
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Also, don’t forget those very helpful bellhops. If you have luggage delivered to your room, plan to tip $1 to $2 per bag.

If your planning a trip to Disney World on a budget, you’ll definitely want to factor in these costs.

Water: The Necessary Cost that Keeps on Coming

Water, we all need it, we all drink it, and at Disney World, we all overpay for it. But we accept it as part of the vacation experience.

While planning your Disney World budget, however, I highly doubt many of us think to plan for multiple bottles a day at around $3.75+ each! If you are traveling with a family of four, and everyone drinks 3 bottles a day, your daily water cost could be $45. More importantly, your weekly total will be $315, for just water! And your prices will be higher if you opt for soda or Gatorade instead.

Many will purchase one bottle of water and refill at water fountains. While this is a great option, the water in the Walt Disney World resort is infamous for having an awful taste. For most, bringing a bottle or refilling a bottle is worth it to save some cash, even if the flavor is…displeasing.

Additional budget friendly water options include:

  • Purchasing a case of bottled water from a grocery store prior to your trip and bringing bottles in a backpack to the park. (If your trip is long enough, you can even have Amazon Pantry ship water to you).
  • Bringing a reusable water bottle with a filter to fill up at water fountains without the displeasing Florida-water taste – this is a great one!
  • Bring drink flavor packets or liquid to enhance the water flavor.
  • Ask for a cup of water at any Disney food cart or fast food restaurant. Sometimes, it’s even filtered, eliminating most of the nasty Florida water taste.

Rain Gear: When You Need it, You Need it, But Your Budget Doesn’t

We have found that one of the worst in-park purchases has got to be rain ponchos. While ponchos at Walt Disney World are thicker and more durable than less expensive ones available off site, you certainly pay for it.

Ponchos in the resort cost a whopping $25 a piece during our last trip! While off site you can buy a two-pack of  ponchos at the Dollar Tree for a little over a dollar. The best part about the dollar store ponchos is that the price makes them disposable.

ponchos help keep your dry in the rain, and when bought ahead of time, really help when planning your Disney world trip budget
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After a stereotypical quick yet heavy afternoon Florida rainstorm, no one wants to roll up a sopping wet poncho and stuff it back in their bag or pocket for the rest of the day. But many who purchase the Disney ponchos are forced to do so.

Along with ponchos, any other items you may find yourself needing in the parks or at your resort will be heavily marked up. A Disney World trip is not a trip where you want to purchase necessary items once you arrive. To ensure you are prepared, check out our packing list here.

Genie+: Something You May Want to Budget For

Genie+ is essentially a Fastpass replacement. Fastpass revolutionized the Disney World experience, and Genie+ is continuing in its footsteps. The downside; its not free.

Genie+ allows guests to book time slots to return to rides and skip the standby line by accessing the new Lightning Lane line. During busy times, Genie+ will save your family precious time in line, and possibly allow you to fit more rides into your day.

The purchase of Genie+ allows you access to the Lightning Lane for almost all rides except for two “special” attractions in each park. These rides are often in high demand, and are not included.

Instead, to access the Lightning Lane for these rides, you will need to purchase an individual lightning lane pass for each guest, with a variabl per ride cost. For a complete list of rides included in Genie+, as well as those that require an individual Lightning Lane, click here.

As far as your Disney budget goes, here is the bottom line. We recommend you consider adding Genie+ especially if your trip falls during a busy season such as holidays, spring break, or summer break.

Genie+ costs start at $15 (plus tax) per person per day and Individual Lightning Lane passes typically cost between $7.00- $30.00 per person per ride. These prices range based on the ride itself, its popularity, and how busy the park is.

Planning the Park Hopper into Your Disney World Budget

A park hopper pass allows you to visit more than one Disney park per day. This means, you could head to Magic Kingdom for breakfast, ride 7 Dwarf’s Mine Train, hop on Space Mountain, and then head to EPCOT to meander around the World Showcase in the afternoon.

The park hopper is worth adding to your Disney World budget if your group prefers riding just the headliner attractions, or if you have a shorter trip. The Park Hopper will allow you to fit more parks into your schedule by visiting more than one in a day. However, if you are looking to keep your Disney budget a bit lower, the park hopper option is certainly not a necessity.

Final Words on Unexpected Disney Budget Expenses

In the end, planning your Disney World budget and keeping it on track is hard work, but the best way to stay on budget is to plan ahead, using the tips above to acount for the often hidden costs of traveling to Disney.

Have we forgotten any hidden expenses you have encountered? Let us know!

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Mother daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S.

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.


Ali Patton

Ali is a travel blogger for Seconds to Go, where she shares her experiences traveling the U.S. with her co-blogger Mom, Kathleen. She is also an avid Disney travel enthusiast, and with multiple Disney World trips under her belt, is a knoweldgeable resource for all things related to Disney vacations. Ali can be found managing the Seconds to Go social media accounts as well as the famed Double Z Farm pages on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

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