I Spent 6 Days at Disney World and This Is What It Cost
In my regular life, I’m careful with my spending. At Disney World, not so much. Here's how I did on a $1,795 budget.
This month’s edition features Matt Kirouac’s six-day trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth, where Mickey-shaped waffles cost more than you might think but good vibes come free with the price of admission.
I’m a different person when I’m at Disney World. In my daily life, I try to be responsible and sensible with my spending and saving, but all bets are off the second I arrive at the Most Magical Place on Earth. I resign myself to the fact that I will be spending egregious amounts of money—and I do it all with a Goofy-sized smile on my face.
I recently squeezed in a five-day trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a period when I’ve generally found the parks to be at a rare lull and overall travel expenses reasonable. The result was a whirlwind of rides, snacks, holiday gifts, character hugs, glowing Shirley Temples, and nostalgic experiences—both solo and with friends. Here’s a breakdown of what I spent on a solo Disney World vacation as a travel writer and certified Disney Adult.
About the traveler
Job: Freelance Writer
Annual salary: $61,000-80,000 per year
Location of residence: Oklahoma City
About the vacation
Where: Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida
How long: Six days
Planned Budget: $1,795
Flights: $319.97. I flew round-trip from Oklahoma City to Orlando.
Hotels/Lodging: $530.19, at between $68.04 and $182.07 per night. I stayed at the Sonder Wellborn hotel in downtown Orlando, a historic property that’s shockingly affordable for its location and architectural significance; the property’s Norment-Parry House is allegedly the oldest documented residential property in town.
Rental car/cabs or rideshares/public transit: $345.45. I booked a rental car through Turo, which is basically like Airbnb for cars.
Relevant prior purchases: $1,229, which is the price of the Disney World Annual Pass that grants me endless entry to all of the parks.
Day by day
Day 1 - Wednesday
Total cost: $39.01
My husband dropped me off at Will Rogers World Airport early in the morning for my flight, and since the departure was before 6 am, I held off until my layover at Midway in Chicago to buy my usual airport coffee—in this case a $4.67 medium coffee from Dunkin’, plus a granola bar from Hudson News for $4 (figured I’d save the deep-fried calories for Disney).
I landed at Orlando International Airport around noon, making a beeline to my Turo rental car in one of the airport parking lots. From there, I drove promptly to EPCOT, my favorite Disney World park. Since I was starving upon arrival, I perused the food options at the park’s Festival of the Holidays before settling on a sizable smoked salmon latke for a bargain $6.
I followed my meal with a visit to Frozen Ever After. There’s something inexplicably comforting about snaking through the ride’s wintry indoor pathway, which is all decked out in faux-Scandinavian hygge. But the experience is even better when I do so with a beer, so I grabbed an IPA from Block & Hans in the America Pavilion ($12) and joined my fellow riders in the line. Alcohol isn’t cheap in Disney World—I didn’t drink much on this most recent trip, which saved a bunch of money—but I usually do shell out for an overpriced drink or two.
After that, I went on Soarin’, which currently has a temporary California theme, and joined the virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, easily my favorite of the newer rides on-property. By the time I exited the indoor roller coaster, it was dark, I was exhausted from my day of travel and fun, and I wanted to beat the mass exodus before closing, so I left Disney and headed into Orlando, where the hotels (and drinks) are far cheaper. Exhausted, and not really in the mood to coordinate a restaurant visit, I went to Sprouts Farmers Market and picked up a chicken salad wrap and a few Liquid Death sparkling waters for $12.34 and called it a night.
Day 2 - Thursday
Total cost: $111.01
When staying in Orlando, my favorite way to start the day is with breakfast from Deli Desires. As much of a Disney sycophant as I can be, I’ll be the first to admit that Disney food can’t hold a candle to Orlando food. This is particularly true in the morning, since Disney’s on-site coffee options are lackluster, overpriced, and frequently plagued by long lines of caffeine-deprived tourists. So before driving the 20 minutes to the parks, I grabbed a large coffee with oat milk and vanilla along with a latke breakfast sandwich ($18.76).
Then it was off to Magic Kingdom, where I tried a bunch of rides I’ve somehow never been on, like Carousel of Progress (amazing!), the PeopleMover (fine!), the Walt Disney World Railroad (sure!), and Disney’s hot new attraction, TRON: Lightcycle Run (brief, confusing, and not very comfortable). Throughout this period, I confined my spending to a pair of cheeseburger and pepperoni pizza spring rolls from the Adventureland Spring Roll Cart ($14.75). It’s my favorite spot for a quick snack in a park that’s mostly sugary treats and turkey legs.
After a few more staple rides, I took the Monorail out of the park before driving back to my hotel. I met a friend for dinner at Prato, a stunning Italian restaurant in nearby Winter Park, where we shared fennel arancini, an escarole Caesar, and the Fiorentina pizza with spinach crema and speck. I also got a glass of brut rose, and after splitting the bill, my half was a very reasonable $43.68.
We went for a nightcap at Sunroom, a cool, quasi-tropical cocktail bar where a Christmas-themed menu offered up the Sticky Bandit Swizzle with gin, yellow Chartreuse, cinnamon, lime, mint, and an Angostura liqueur called Amargo-Vallet. I paid for both our drinks, which came out to $33.82.
Day 3 - Friday
Total cost: $132.99
I started my day at Foxtail Coffee Co. for some pre-park coffee, a Topo Chico, and a Kind bar ($12.35). I met a friend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and we immediately went on Toy Story Mania, an interactive attraction where you toss digital darts and pies at targets. We did a lap around the park before lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby, one of the few full-service Disney World restaurants I always make a point of visiting each trip. During this visit, I eschewed my usual—Cobb salad and a Manhattan—in favor of the weirdest thing I’ve ever ordered in my life: a lentil-based vegan shepherd’s pie and a Shirley Temple with a glowing “ice” cube. Grand total: $48.52 (and a little bit of my dignity).
After lunch, we checked out Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, the latter of which I hadn’t seen since I was a kid but still found slightly terrifying. After my friend left, I took the walking path past the Disney BoardWalk over to EPCOT’s Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, another newer attraction that I adore.
I headed back to Orlando to meet another friend for dinner at the Wellborn, my hotel’s on-site restaurant. Sitting in the enchanting outdoor courtyard, under strings of twinkling lights, I had a couple glasses of Prosecco while we shared tomato toast, crispy calamari, soy- and balsamic-glazed Brussels sprouts, and Basque meatballs. My portion came out to $72.12.
Day 4 - Saturday
Total cost: $155.06
I played today by ear, since Orlando was forecasted to get record-breaking rain and I didn’t necessarily feel like traipsing through a monsoon in the parks. When I woke up, though, it was merely overcast and barely drizzling, so I decided to go full-steam ahead to Animal Kingdom, first stopping off at Target to get some provisions—Pepto Bismol, a Perfect protein bar, two kombuchas, and a grande coffee from the in-store Starbucks ($21.50).
The rain actually worked in my favor, because the crowds at the park were negligible. The wait time for Avatar: Flight of Passage was only 35 minutes, which is about 90 minutes shorter than usual. I was also able to go on Kilimanjaro Safaris (five-minute wait), Dinosaur (no wait), and It’s Tough to be a Bug (10-minute wait), all by lunchtime. At Satu’li Canteen in the park’s Pandora-themed section, I dropped $15.53 on a Diet Coke and an order of Cheeseburger Steamed Pods, a.k.a. two fluffy bao buns stuffed with cheeseburger filling and served with crunchy slaw and root vegetable chips.
It was starting to rain a little more heavily by this point, so I walked back to my car and drove over to Disney Springs, the free-to-visit Downtown Disney replacement filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment. I spent $86.87 on a cozy pullover and a beanie since I was unreasonably cold all week, and a pair of Mickey socks for my husband, all from the World of Disney shop.
After that, I treated myself to a movie at the Disney Springs AMC theater—something I often do as a solo activity. This time, I saw the Beyoncé Renaissance film ($25.62), which was a staggering way to kill a few hours. Before heading back to Orlando, I picked up one of my favorite guilty pleasures: a $5 bourbon chocolate chip cookie from The Polite Pig at Disney Springs. These things are huge, doughy, and studded with an excessive amount of chocolate chips. I wound up eating this for dinner as I watched A Goofy Movie in bed—perfect.
Day 5 - Sunday
Total cost: $67.65
If I’m going to spend the time and money on breakfast in Disney World, it’s going to be Mickey Waffles in my favorite hotel nook. And by that, I mean the Solarium at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. It’s the only place I order Mickey Waffles, complete with a cup of coffee and sides of sausage and unabashedly fake maple syrup, because I just adore the property. After I polished off the last of poor Mickey’s left ear, my bill came to $18.93.
I walked back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to hit up the rides I hadn’t gotten to yet: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Star Tours, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (which I got stuck on for several minutes and had to exit through some back room). I also shamelessly waited 30 minutes to meet Mickey and Minnie at Red Carpet Dreams. Both mice seemed to love my new Mickey-themed pullover.
For a quick snack, I popped into nearby Baseline Taphouse, a legitimately cool beer bar with a California theme, where I ordered a super-sweet Wild Strawberry Lemonade and some Spiced Almonds for $10.74.
I exited the park and drove back over to Disney Springs so I could shop and meander without the damper of yesterday’s rain. This also meant a revisit to the World of Disney, since I remembered seeing a holiday-themed turtleneck that I forgot to get the other day. Along with a Diet Coke, this came out to $48.72.
I kept it casual for dinner, and grabbed a couple bao buns—teriyaki chicken and sausage pizza plus a taro milk boba tea—from YeSake for $20.50.
Day 6 - Monday
Total cost: $11.02
My go-to routine for leaving Disney World is to book my return flight for later in the afternoon, so that I can spend the morning in Disney Springs. In the morning I checked out of my hotel, threw my bags in the rental, and drove to Disney Springs for a leisurely morning. While I was there, I tried Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew, a whimsical bakery where the fritters are as colorful as the drinks. For $11.02, I snagged their signature Purple Glazed Ube Donut and a coffee with oat milk and vanilla syrup. It was a beautiful day, so I spent the next hour or so just walking around and soaking in my final Disney moments before driving back to the airport, dropping off the car, and heading back to the real world.
How it all broke down
Upfront and travel costs: $1,195.61, not including my $1,229 Annual Pass
Costs from the week: $516.74
Final total: $1,712.35, not including my $1,229 Annual Pass.
How much I spent compared to my original budget: $82.65 under budget