One of the most common questions asked from first time visitors to Florida / WDW is “How much spending money will I need?”
This question is notoriously hard to answer, as what might suit Mr & Mrs Jones from Cardiff may not suit Mr & Mrs Smith from Glasgow!
The old adage “How long is a piece of string” was made for the spending money question!
This article will hopefully advise and point you in the right direction with some sample budgets and costing's, plus tips to help get the most out of your trip, especially if you are on any kind of budget.
For the sake of this article, “Spending Money” is referring to all the sundries (food, drinks, snacks, petrol, tolls, souvenirs etc) and NOT flights, tickets, car hire or accommodation. It is how much you spend on a day to day basis once your basics are covered.
Tips for those on a tight budget.
1. Divide your money into daily amounts and put into envelopes – any under spends can be put into the next days envelope and it’s easy to see what you have left. Allow a slightly bigger budget for your last days to buy anything special you wish to bring home. Allocate children over the age of 5 a set amount of spending money as this will stop a lot of “Can I Haves” at the gift shops!
2. Save coins in a jar before you go – this soon mounts up and can give you some extra dollars. Use the “Coin Star” machines at a lot of supermarkets to change it into “real money”! (Though there is a disadvantage of a 6% "charge" when using these machines! You may consider a seperate bank account with Nat West where you can deposit unlimited coins directly into your account via a coin chute within the ATM - without any 6% surcharge!)
3. Use the many “Coupon Books” that can be picked up once you arrive, or printed off from home. These can make big savings on meals, shopping and minor attractions like Mini Golf and Go-Karts. It’s easy to find coupons for free appetisers, kids eat free or 10% off certain meals. Most of the malls have coupons – just ask for a booklet at the Guest Information kiosks. Try this at the Florida Mall, Premium Outlets and Lake Buena Vista Outlets. Coupons are also available on I-Drive, Convenience stores, Hotels & most Restaurants & take-away's.
4. Shop around for gas (petrol) prices vary enormously and you can save anything from 30 to 60c a gallon. This can be a big saving if you are driving a MPV or a 4x4. Its not unheard of for the HESS stations inside Disney to be some of the cheapest around.
5. Share meals. This isn’t as tight fisted as it may seem! Portions are generally huge and for those with lighter appetites, it can make sense. It’s also perfectly acceptable – as is asking for a doggy bag in all restaurants other than buffets! Children can also share an adult entrée or two children can share either an adults or child’s meal. Just remember to tip accordingly (as if the whole party had separate meals). This usually works out at approx $1.50 for a child and $2 /$3 per adult who shared on top of the usual 15% gratuity.
6. Eat main meals at lunch time. Many restaurants offer a lunch menu that is considerably cheaper than dinner (for the same items). Disney restaurants such as the Crystal Palace offer a lunch spread for $7 less than dinner with very few less items available. Between a family this can make a big saving.
7. Take water and snacks into the park. Water in the parks is a hefty $2.50 a bottle, whereas Wal-mart sell a crate of 24 for $5! Freeze bottles and take at least a couple in. On a hot day, a family can easily spend $20 on water alone, so it makes sense to at least bring a couple of bottles with you. Also, leave frozen bottles in your car, they will be drinkable when you return! Buy a cooler from Wal-mart & fill it with hotel ice to keep things cold in the trunk.
8. Refillable Mugs – if you are staying at Disney hotel, you can buy one for $11.95 +tax and then refill it for free (with a choice of beverages) for the duration of your stay. You can also buy versions of these at the parks, but you will need to buy a new barcode for each days use.
Where Will Your Money Go:
Your biggest daily outlay will be food, so here are some guidelines on what sort of prices to expect. Again, depending on your tastes and budget, this can vary widely, so here is a selection of what it might cost you on a daily basis. There are five categories, giving you options for everyone’s budget.
Cereal / bread, juice / milk bought in the supermarket. Perfect for those in a Villa
or with some in room facilities. Cost per person: $2 tops.
Take your own food into the parks (yes, this is allowed, although its not officially sanctioned!). Be warned though that you will need a small cooler, else your ham sarnies will be molten lava in about 2 hours! Freeze bottles of water to keep your food cold. Even if you aren’t on a strict budget, it IS worth bringing in at least some water with you.
Cost per person – approx $5 for sandwich, crisps (chips!), fruit and drink.
Fast food breakfast.
All the fast food chains do breakfast items for around $2 each. Muffins, Bagels, croissants, juice are all available at places like Mcdonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s.
Cost per person: Around $4/5 including drink.
Lunch / Dinner
Fast food is very cheap in the United States. All the big chains offer “meal deals” the same as we get at home for very cheap prices. A “Whopper Meal” from Burger King, or a “Big Mac Meal” from Mcdonalds will set you back the princely sum of about $5. Check out other “fast food” outlets like Wendy’s, Steak n Shake, Chik-fil-a and Taco Bell where you can get alternatives to Burger & Fries for a similar cost.
For value for money, the “All you can eat Buffets” offered by chains such as Sizzler, Ponderosa, Golden Corral etc are hard to beat. For a one off price you can choose from a vast assortment of breakfast goodies - eggs, bacon, sausage, hash brown, bakery items, fresh fruit, cereal, toast. Some even have a juice bar. You can nearly always find a 10% off coupon for these places too.
Cost per person: Around $8 inc drink, gratuity and tax. $5 for children.
Other options in this price bracket include non buffet restaurants like Denny’s and IHOP where a breakfast will be a similar price but you will order specific items rather than have a buffet spread.
Lunch / Dinner
As stated earlier, Its often cheaper to eat your main meal at lunch time, as many restaurants offer a slightly reduced menu for a lower cost. There is a mind boggling choice of restaurants to choose from, but if you are looking for value then check out Sweet Tomatoes (a salad buffet for lunch or dinner), all the “buffet” restaurants mentioned above do a lunch for around $10 inc or check out the food courts at the malls where you can try samples of the food on offer (go round a few times and you wont need lunch ).
This category doesn’t feature a breakfast option, but encompasses the HUGE selection of mid priced restaurants open for lunch and dinner. Most of these will offer a 3 course meal for an adult for around the $20 mark (this of course can vary widely depending on the choice of entrée but it’s a ball park figure). Sodas / water / coffee are free refills of course, so that helps! Choose from TGI Fridays, Chilis, Outback Steakhouse, Tony Romas, Bennigans, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze and Houlihans (to name but a few). All of these offer great value, mid priced meals and a family of 4 can eat quite comfortably for around $60…less if you share entrees or skip appetisers or desserts.
Parks / Resorts – On site eating.
This will nearly always be the most expensive option. A full on sit down meal with characters (either buffet or platter style) will be the priciest way to kill those early morning tummy rumbles! At approx $20 per adult (adult inc tax) and $12 per child for breakfast, a family of 4 are looking at $65 for this experience. Although not an everyday thing, they are fantastic for a treat.
A non character breakfast buffet is a little cheaper, but still around $18 per head ($14 child). Examples in this price range would include Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Yacht Club Galley at the Yacht Club (slightly cheaper than Boma).
Other onsite dining can be done at a “medium spend level” by using the Resort food courts and non buffet restaurant selections.
Expect to pay around $10 a head for a hot dish and drink ($6 for children).
Lunch / Dinner
On-site dining options are huge and varied. You can opt for the “fast food” style from the food courts at most of the resorts, or counter service at all the parks. Expect to pay around $7 for a sandwich or burger and $2-3 for a dessert such as carrot cake or a sundae.
There are also a huge range of on site mid prices eateries where a sit down meal, buffet style cost around $27 for adults and $12 for children. Examples include Hollywood & Vine at MGM studios and The Garden Grill at Epcot.
There is also a fine selection of more upmarket restaurants available where entrees can cost upwards of $30. A 3 course meal somewhere like the California Grill at The Contemporary Resort or Artists Point at Wilderness Lodge could push $200 for a family of 4 (with wine).
Below is a list of popular food / drink items on sale at the WDW parks
(thanks to BIG MARK for the list).
Soft Drinks $1.99 $2.29
Vanilla or Chocolate Milk Shake $2.79
Orange or Apple Juice $1.49
Bottled Water $2.50
Whole or Chocolate Milk $1.99
Hot Chocolate or Hot Tea $1.59
Coffee - regular or decafinated $1.59, $1.79
1/4 pound cheeseburger served with your choice of fries or carrots $5.79; add bacon $.79
Potato Chips $1.29
Child Hot Dog - with character cookies and child's soft drink $3.99
Apple Pie Sundae $3.99
Fudge Brownie Sundae $3.79
Strawberry Shortcake Sundae $3.49
Soft Serve Ice Cream $2.79
Ice Cream Float $2.99
Sample Budget for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children under 9), staying at All Stars for 14 nights with a car.
1x Character Meal - $65
4x Offsite Buffets - $26 x4 = $104
6x onsite “food court” breakfasts- $32 x6 = $216
2x “Fast Food” breakfasts- $16 x2 =$32
1x Theme Park breakfast (non character) $32
Lunch / Dinner
Assumes several “main meals” eaten at lunch and the fact most families will only have a snack if they eat a large meal at either lunch or dinner.
5x Theme Park Counter Service / Food Court lunches / dinners $30x5 = $150
1x Character Dinner = $90 (inc gratuity, tax)
2x Resort / Park “sit down” meals” $85x2 = $170
4x “Offsite” meals (TGI Fridays or similar) $60x4 = $240
2x Offsite “Fast Food” $20x2 =$40
Snacks inc ice cream ($2.79 each), water ($2.50), fruit ($1.75), chips ($1.29), popcorn ($2.59), turkey legs, smoothies ($2.59) over 2 weeks = $200
Souvenirs (allowing $20 per day) 20x 14 = $280
Miscellaneous – tolls, petrol, mini golf, cinema, parking (for non Disney parks) = $350 (approx $25 a day)
Added together this gives a “rough” guide budget of:
or (approx) $124 per day
. This is of course is a very loose guide, and does not include any shopping splurges and a fairly meager souvenir budget.
This works out that a family of 4 could manage on £1250 spending money overall. (assuming the dollar rate to be around the $1.40 mark or above).
Here is another budget (this time an actual spend) by DIBB member TinkTattoo
who traveled as a party of 4 (two children aged 8 & 9), spending 3 weeks in an offsite Villa
and 5 days onsite. They gave themselves a daily budget of $150 a day and this is how it worked out:
“Our budget was $150 for food and extras (we had a separate budget for (non food) shopping) We always had breakfast in the villa and off site we ate mainly in buffet restaurants or bought stuff back to the villa to eat. I kept a record of our daily spends in my 2005 trip report and here are some of the days”
Non park days
Lunch – McDonalds $20.29
Publix Grocery’s $77.07
Golden Coral $39.23
Total $136.59 $13.41 under budget
2 Ice-Creams $4.48
Caramel Latte $3.30
Golden Corral $39.23
Total $70.15 $79.85 under
Golden Corral Breakfast $24.75
Steak and Shake $24.00
Total $48.75 $101.25 under
2 Pins at GF $16.81
Pirates Cruise $60.01
Kona Kafe coffee and pastries $15.72
Petrol, 24 cokes and a hot-dog $28.70 (petrol price $2.15 per gallon)
TCBY Yogurt $9.88
Golden Coral $43.03
Total $189.84 $39.84 over
2 x Chicken and Rice $6.37
2 x Subway $11.70
2 x cokes $4.00
2 x Ice-creams $6.03
2 x Latte’s $5.50
Golden Corral $ 39.43
Toys R Us $35.60
Yu-Gi-Oh Cards $12.51
2 cokes $2.43
2 Beanie Babies $14.89
Total $138.46 $11.54 under
Cape May Breakfast $70.00
2 x Cokes $4.00
2 x Pins $16.95
2 x Ice-creams $7.45
2 x Drinks and large popcorn $12.50
2 x Subway Subs $10.04
Total $139.46 $10.54 under
Refillable Souvenir Cup $6.04
1 refill $1.49
2 coffee’s & a Muffin $7.64
Lunch @ Seafire Inn & Bar $31.78
3 Ice-creams $10.20
Total $68.13 $81.87 under
1 refill in Sea World $1.49
Sting Ray Food $4.00
Total $141.68 $8.32 under
Lunch at Cosmic Rays $26.25
3 x Ice-creams £7.50
1 Coke $ 2.00
Golden Corral $39.23
Total $74.98 $75.02 under
Buns and coffee $14.96
3 burgers, fries and a coke $21.68
3 Lollies and 2 cokes $11.50
Ice-Creams and water $9.55
Stitch and Nala $27.61
Total $131.53 $18.47 under
Quicksilver Limo – paid for by Granny
Discovery Cove photos $106.49
Niamh’s Shorts $15.96
2 x Subway Subs $13.56
Total $136.01 $13.99 under
Starbucks Coffee $7.49
Petrol @$2.25 a gallon $26.50
Lunch @ Vero $36.94 (including $11.99 for a refillable mug)
Dinner KFC/Pizza/Taco $18.90
Total $97.77 $52.23 under
2 coffee’s $ 7.48
Lunch @ Vero $32.01
Island Grove Packing (Vero Shop) $13.11
1 round of Mini Golf $2
3 x Ice-creams $7.77
Vero Fridge Magnet $6.42
Hair Braiding $35.00
Total $128.12 $21.88 under
Latte and Danish at Vero $5.65
Starbucks coffee $3.54
Snacks for the kids $8.01
Photo CD and Waterproof camera film $11.01
Total $58.35 $91.65 under
Croissant Moon $7.84
Comic Strip Café $10.84
Moose Juice $4.80
Unicorn Cart $12.74
Thunder Falls Lunch $31.09
Croissant Moon $1.26
Trading Company $35.62
3 refills $4.24
pizza and Coffee $7.34
Target Groceries $15.72
Total $131.49 $18.51 under
Croissant Muffin Coffee $7.40
Thunder Falls lunch $37.32
Blue Dragon $11.04
Scooby Shirt $21.29
4 x refills $5.48
Sweet Tomato $31.14
Disney Store $13.83
Total $135.78 $14.22 under
Staying on-site at DVC
Main Street Hair Cut $7.00
4 Pins and a Stitch T-shirt $54.11
3 Poncho’s $18.99
Cosmic Rays $24.34
2 cokes and Ice-cream $8.50
Internet Access $9.95
Total $159.54 $9.54 over
Conch Flats ice-cream x 4 $9.25
Goods to go 4 x Burgers 3 x Fries $26.15
Back lot Express $24.66
Rice Crispy Treat $3.00
2 cokes $4.00
Ice-cream at MGM $2.86
2 x Cokes $4.00
2 flashing light things $6.00
Petrol @$2.55 plus 2 coffee $23.98
Total $119.15 $30.85 under
Lunch by the pool $25.95
2 Ice-creams $6.76
Raspberry smoothie $2.50
Seasons food court $28.14
Epcot Passport $10.60
Chicken Strips, coke and Hot Dog $11.49
Coffee and drinks for Illuminations $14
3 x Coke $6.00
Total $105.44 $44.56 under
Lunch at OKW $25.10
Rainforest Café $100
Total $128.93 $21.07 under
Here are some helpful comments from DIBBers on what spends they take and what they manage on.
Janny – Party of 3 (1 adult &2 children aged 15 &11)
“Least we have managed on was $120 a day, staying at Disney All-Stars for 2 weeks.
Food approx $70 a day (counter service only, 3 full meals a day), all onsite at WDW, leaving $50 a day for "stuff".
However, we prefer to have closer to $200”.
Orlandosgr8 - Party of 3 (2 adults, 1 child aged 3)
“We normally budget for $200 a day, and big purchases go on the credit card and are paid off when we get home. In 2004 we ate out most nights and had breakfast in the Villa
, and came back with $150, this year we ate mainly at the villa with a few take-outs and came back with $660.
Vabeth – Party of 3 (2 adults & 1 child aged 10)
“We would usually eat two meals a day (one in the parks and one at the counter service or I-Drive!) We have eaten at The Crystal Palace, Rainforest cafe, Planet Hollywood, O'Hana's, Hollywood and Vine amongst others! Then throughout the day we would buy drinks, ice cream sweets etc.
We are non-drivers so rely on hotel-Disney transport! I am a bit of a spender so i can honestly say we don't scrimp on anything!
We always bring back lots of gifts for family and friends!
Our daily budget would be around $200 and DD would have $300 spending money for the 2 weeks!”
ClareH – Party of 2 adults
“We're allowing roughly $200-$300 a day for food and drink. Some days will be less as we'll be eating breakfast in the concierge lounge. Other costs will be fuel (although we're getting a free tank as part of our insurance package), and general spending money - I guess around another $500-$800 each”.
Willo65 – Party of 2 adults
“We allow for $100 each per day for food etc and round up to nearest $1000 so for 2 weeks we took $3000 and this covered most of our spends. However we did use a card to pay for the occasional expensive meal or parking etc”.
Diane – Party of 3 (2 adults & 1 Teen)
“We usually allow about $150 per day, this covers all our snacks/meals, fuel and odd bits of souvenir and essential shopping.
We tend to eat off-site, usually having a hearty breakfast and then light snacking through the day before a decent evening meal. We spend on average between $40 - $65 on our evening meal, some days we don't bother to eat out at all, if tired or not hungry we will pick up something to eat later in our room.
We don't 'hold back' - if we want an extravagant meal we will have one, equally we don't feel the need to sample every fancy eating place when we are there”.
Betty Boop41212 – Party of 3 adults
“We are on a tight budget, so we only have $80 per day, we are going for 21 days otherwise we would have more, we are staying in a villa”
ali-s Party of 4 (2 adults & 2 children aged 6 & 8)
“Allowed $170 a day for breakfast, lunch , snack/drinks, dinner, souvenirs, housekeeping tips & bus / I ride transport, had money left over at the end of 2 weeks- I would call us careful.”
big dog ush – Party of 3 (2 adults and one teen)
“We stay in hotels, I-Drive area. Normally buy all park tickets in advance. Spending money for use in Orlando is therefore only for food, drink, souvenirs and shopping is usually £2,000. We've been pretty lucky in the last couple of trips getting around the $1.80 mark giving us about $3,600. We've always managed quite comfortably on this and never had to find extra funds”.
Tink Magic – Party of 4 (2 adults and 2 children aged 11)
“We normally budget approx $150 per day which pays for our meals and small gifts. Any other bigger purchases would go on our credit card (incl Christmas pressies) We have gone on less than this budgeting on $100 per day”
Curlywurly – Party of 4 (2 adults, 2 teenage children).
“We like to take approx $200 a day for food, fuel and whatever else takes our fancy! Some days we will spend more than others depends on where we eat etc...
This would include buying small items at Walmart like bottled water, bread, juice, snacks etc”
mackem party of 2 adults
“We budget for $100 per day and still bring cash home! ”
Happy Hammer (party of 4, 2 adults, 2 children 11 & 9)
“The last 2 trips we have budgeted for $360 per day We always have a buffet breakfast,a snack in the park for lunch and for dinner we go to places like Magic Mining co,T.G.I Fridays, Dennys, Angels, Sizzler or Damons. Once in the holiday we have a character meal and also go to Planet Hollywood and the Rainforest cafe.
We also do plenty of shopping for Timberland and Tommy Hilfigger, that we couldnt afford to buy back home. We also buy plenty of park photos and other souvenirs.
In 2004 we came home with $200 and last year we returned with
Frantic Frog – Party of 4 (2 adults and 2 children aged 9 &10)
“We usually average out about $150 a day and find that is plenty”
ChattyChick157- Party of 4 (2 adults, 2 children aged 5 & 7)
“This year we went for 3 weeks and took a total of £2650 and if we hadn't treated ourselves to pc software, the boggy creek airboats and a day at typhoon lagoon we would have had money left over to the tune of around £400”.
Georgemac – Party of 3 (2 adults & 1 teen)
“Last year we had $4700 for 14 nights, came home with about $1100 so we spent on average $260 per day.”
Tiggerpooh (party of 4, 2 adults, 2 children aged 9 & 13)
“We have in the past allowed £1000 in spending money. We have always bought money back. On this years trip we plan to take £1000 for spending money. This will cover food, fuel, souvenirs and presents. The children usually have their own spending money of about £60 each”
Villainlover – Party of 3 (2 adults & 1 Teen)
“Breakfast in Ihop, Dennys or Village inn ... between $20 -$30
Dinner is usually around the $100 in steak house type places
Lunch is probably around $30
Buds around the park are around $5-6 each- we like at least $200 day for food/snacks and this is on a budget in my eyes.”
00Swan - Party of 2 adults
Took $2,000 cash/travellers cheques for our 14 day holiday in heaven - staying at hotel offering complimentary breakfasts.
Mainly snacks during the day and lots of soft drinks/ice creams. Each evening meal was either an appetiser/entree each, or entree/dessert each - 75% of evening drinks were soft, but a few beers with the meals for 25% of the time.
Evening meals were probably average prices - usually around $50 between us, including tip. Eating at medium places mainly, TGI's, Race Rock, Olive Garden, etc.
Including some souvenirs , some clothes, shoes and lots of chocolate we eventually spent about $2,250 between the two of us”
Trueblueangel (party of 4, 2 adults, 2 children 9 & 12)
“Last year we stayed at All Star Movies and we managed really well on $150 - $200 a day. We're not fancy eaters but we ate out all the time”
Bevs97 – Party of 4 (2 adults & 2 children)
“We have taken between $75/day to $150/day but are more comfortable with $150, when we have taken less we have used the credit card more.
The $150 is divided into daily envelopes to help us to budget, these are kept in the safe and one is removed daily.
This covers all our food except a couple of fancy meals, and all food and souvenir shopping. If we go clothes shopping then that would be put on the card”.
janjan – Party of 3 (2 adults & 1 child aged 8)
“We generally use $200 - $300 per day on food and stuff!
On a whole we try to take as much as we can (we like to shop big time). This year taking $5000 in total and we are staying in a villa.”
Janeywaney – Party of 4 (2 adults & 2 teens)
“We have allowed $200 per day for food and drinks and bits n bobs. Any major purchases will go on our flexible friend.
We usually stay onsite and have no car so no fuel to think about or parking charges at other parks”.
Typhoon Tilly – Party of 4 (2 adults & 2 children aged 9 & 12)
“We generally budget 'around' $270 per day. That would be for snacks, meals, drinks, shopping, tipping, gas etc.
However, if we're feeling particularly extravagant we would use the credit card for a more expensive purchase and pay it off immediately upon our return”
Big Mark – Party of 4 (2 adults & 2 children)
“On our last two visits we had a budget of $150 a day, that's staying onsite at All Star Movie's and eating most meals on site or in the parks.
We were on a budget and this money was only used for meals, snacks, drinks, ice creams and some public transport.
We did have sit down service meals every other day, breakfasts at ASMO's, lunches were counter service in parks mostly, some days we were over budget some under”.
BCKloon – Party of 4 (2 adults & 2 children aged 5 & 13)
“We usually have a average budget of around $200 to $300 per day for the 4 of us”.
Disneydaft – Party of 2 adults
“Normally we budget around $150 - $175 per day staying off site. That is for meals, shopping, transport and everything else”.
If you never darken the door of a shopping mall or gift shop whilst in Orlando, then your $$$ will go a lot further! However, for most of us, shopping is part of the experience. How much you spend will be unique to each family, however here is a guide of some items popular with UK visitors.
. Look out for “3 for 2” at the Reebok outlets. Expect to pay on average $40 for adult Nike or Adidas trainers from the outlet malls…maybe even less for sale items! The latest styles can be found at the regular malls for around 30/40% less than at home. Kswiss are often on 2 for $89 at Footlocker. Skechers usually buy one get one half price.
Timberland and Rockport
are popular with Brits and big savings can be had. Timberland boots are often $40 or less with Rockport even cheaper.
Its worth noting that bigger shoe sizes are much easier to find in the US and there is more choice in mens size 12+ and ladies size 8+.
. Many designers have outlets in the Orlando area. You will find Ralph Lauren, Versace, Tommy Hilfigger, Calvin Klein to name but a few.
Some bargains to look out for are 2 Ralph Lauren shirts for $40, Ralph Lauren T Shirts from $12, Versace jeans for $70, Levi Jeans for $25, Tommy Jeans 2 for $60, Osh Kosh kids dungarees for $10.
Billabong / Roxy / Animal T shirts
$20 or less from the Quiet Flight Surf Shop at Downtown Disney.
Designer Handbags / purses
– expect what you pay in ££s to pay in $$$. So a Dior purse could cost $300 rather than the £300 it would at home. Look out for Louis Vitton, Chanel and Gucci bargains.
– all brands cheaper than the UK. Dior / Clinique / Benefit are all available from $8 upwards. Look out for end of ranges at the outlet malls where lipsticks, moisturisers and mascaras can be had for only a few dollars.
- many US exclusive items of popular toys. Some popular buys include Bratz dolls, Thomas The Tank Engine wooden accessories (40% cheaper than UK), Lego, Playmobil and Konnex. Try KB Toys, Toys R Us and the Lego store at Downtown Disney.
– You can buy this at reduced prices at several of the outlet malls. It is usually last season’s items or seconds, but occasionally you will find the same items still for sale in the parks. Pins are a good buy here – usually $3.99 (compared to $6.99 upwards in the parks) and they can be used for trading.
children’s clothing, toys, collectables and are all found in abundance at the outlets. Ts and sweats are often less than $10 and many kids Ts and dresses for only a few $$.
In the parks (or resort gift shops) expect to pay $20 for a large Mickey or Minnie soft toy, $40 for an adult collared T shirt, $20 for a kids one. There are lots of items under $10 including Mickey lollies, autograph books and pens, keyrings and charms.
For the more extravagant guest, there are diamond Mickey watches and original film cells – don’t forget your Platinum Amex cards for those!
– ipods, PSPs, cameras etc are all popular with us Brits. Most are generally cheaper in the US, but check the warranties are valid back in the UK (most international companies like Sony and Apple will have worldwide guarantees).
An ipod shuffle
costs around $69, ipod nano 2GB around $200, a PSP $200, a Nintendo DS Lite $130 (prices correct Summer 2006). Games for Nintendo DS retail for $25-$35 each and for PSP around $40.
Please remember when you are shopping, that there is a limit of £390 (from 1st Jan 2010) per person allowance for goods brought back into the UK. Anything over this will need to be declared and the appropriate duty paid.
Don’t forget also, that all items purchased in Florida are subject to a sales tax of
The Little Things Add Up!
Here are some items that you might not have thought about including in your budgeting.
– not a big expense, but keep some change handy, especially when driving to the airports.
– keep some dollar bills saved as you will need $3 to get a trolley from the car drop off area.
Locker / Towel Rental
- Locker rental Small $7 Large $9
$2 refund or souvenir mug, on return of key.
– various machines in the parks where you access the net for 25c a minute ($1 minimum)
– American’s all expect one! Valets, porters, cleaners, tour guides, boat drivers…the list goes on! How much you tip is up to you, but $2-5 is normal for a valet or porter. $1 per head each day for your hotel cleaner (more common at Disney resorts as “mousekeeping” can leave surprises for generous guests!). Plus of course, a gratuity of at least 15% is “expected” at most restaurants.
– if you are not a WDW Resort guest or Annual Passholder, then parking will cost $17 (correct at April 2014) per day at each of the 4 main parks (it is free at the water parks and Downtown Disney). Universal and Sea World charge the same. Its often an unexpected expense and this soon mounts up.
Petrol / Gas
– although much cheaper than at home, the cost of fuel in the States has risen dramatically in recent times. Bear this in mind when you choose your hire car. A big 4x4 or MPV will often have a V6 or V8 engine and you will watch the needle sink to zero pretty fast in one of these. If you are on a budget, then choose a saloon car.
It’s also worth “Pre paying” your first tank of fuel for your rental car back home as the rental companies will charge about 1/3 more than the current fuel prices.
Taxis / Shuttles / Buses / I-Trolley
– If you aren’t having a car, then you will need to allocate some money for transport costs. How much will depend on where you are staying and what areas and parks you wish to see. All WDW transportation is free (buses, monorails, ferry boats etc), so if you are staying on WDW property, then moving “around the world” is free and easy!
If you are staying offsite and wish to visit a WDW park or resort, then its often easiest to make your way to either Downtown Disney or the TTC (Ticket & Transportation Centre) where you can then pick up a relevant free Disney bus to your destination.
Have a look at www.golynx.com
who are the local bus operator and offer cheap day or weekly passes.
For those of you staying on I-drive, then its worth buying “Unlimited Ride” passes for the I-Ride Trolley bus which transverses the length of International Drive (from the Premium Outlets in the south to the Prime Outlets at the northern end). Here are the prices:
• One Day Pass
: $3.00 per person
• Three Day Pass
: $5.00 per person
• Five Day Pass
: $7.00 per person
• Seven Day Pass
: $9.00 per person
• Fourteen Day Pass
: $16.00 per person
Please note that these CANNOT
be bought on the Trolley itself, but from many outlets on I-drive. Check out www.iridetrolley.com
Taxis may need to be used for some journeys and costs vary, however (as a guide) expect to pay around $60 from the airport to a Disney Hotel and $45 to I-Drive / Universal area. A taxi from WDW to I-Drive is around $30.
Arrange a price before you set off and if happy with the service, most drivers have a card so you can use them again.
- Mini-Golf, Cinema and boat / cycle hire can be ideal breaks away from the parks. Adult cinema tickets range from $6-$9 depending on show time.
Mini golf averages from $10 per adult game and $8 for kids, although there are always coupons available for discounts, plus if you play more rounds, then the subsequent rounds are often half price. Pirates Cove offers a 36 hole game for $13.95 for adults and $12.50 for kids.
Rent a “Surrey Bicycle” for $18 per half hour for a 2 seater, or $20 per half hour for a 4 seater. Available at the Boardwalk and Port Orleans Resort.
Various boats are available at Resorts by water or Captain Jacks Marina At Downtown Disney. Prices as follows:
Sea Raycer by Sea Ray
(2 guests maximum) $21.59 per 30 minutes
21' Sun Tracker Pontoon Boat
(10 guests maximum) $34.74 per 30 minutes
(8 guests maximum) $24.88 per 30 minutes
How Shall I take My Money?
Apart from “How much to take?” the next question is nearly always “In what form shall I take it?”. Cash, Travellers Cheques, debit cards, credit cards? Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Cash – easy to use, accepted everywhere! Downside is there is no comeback if it is stolen. A certain amount maybe covered by your travel insurance, but it is certainly not wise to carry large amounts of cash. It’s a good idea to take some hard currency, but if you wish to manage without the use of cards, then its advisable to take the majority in Travellers Cheques instead.
Travellers Cheques – Easily replaceable if stolen which makes them a popular choice. Make sure they are in US DOLLARS – other currencies are next to impossible to change. TCs in $$ can be used as cash nearly everywhere. The new “Travellers Cheque Card” is an excellent middle ground between using a credit card and traditional TCs. Always take at least some “real money”, especially in small notes, as you will need them on arrival for tips, tolls and sundries.
Credit cards - Although its understandable why many people do not like credit cards, traveling in the States is one place where it can be prudent to have one, even if you don’t have one at home.
Apart from the obvious reason of having some emergency funds available, a credit card can be invaluable if you need any medical care.
Even a brief visit to a doctor and a simple prescription can rack up fees of a $1000, and although can be claimed back on your travel insurance, they do (in most cases) need to be paid up front in walk in clinics or to doctors on call (hospitals will usually be happy with your insurance details but you may still need to pay cash for medication which can run into hundreds of dollars).
If you are travelling with cash or Travellers cheques alone, then this could seriously damage your holiday. So, although it is admirable not wanting to rack up any debt whilst on holiday, it is worth considering keeping a credit card tucked away for any unforeseen emergencies.
Another advantage, is that credit cards give the “bank rate” not the tourist rate on currency conversions, and if you have a no fee card, they can be a prudent addition to a budget conscious travellers wallet!
Debit Cards – now more widely accepted in the USA. Look out for the Cirrus and Maestro signs which means you can use your UK Switch or Solo cards (although most UK banks are conforming to Worldwide standards and are changing to the Cirrus and Maestro branding). Visa
debit cards are accepted everywhere you see the Visa sign. Debit cards are another excellent “middle ground” between using cash / travellers cheques and credit cards.
As you can see, budgeting for a holiday to Florida / WDW is something that is unique to each family! It can be done on a very tight budget, or conversely, you can spend, spend, spend as there is no limit to the amount of fine dining (or indeed, fine shopping!) options!
At the end of the day you are in one of the most amazing places in the world, and you will have the holiday of a lifetime no matter what your budget. Orlando caters for all and even a frugal budget can go a long way here.
Its never usually a one off trip either, so save any of those spare dollars as its pretty likely you will return again…and again!
Many thanks to all the DIBBers who helped contribute to this article. Obviously those who are already mentioned above, but posts by Sean & Sue, D15ney, Bovril, Karen Mouse, Chuckles, Doreen, Barry&Caron, magsbabe, ambersmom, Spookysarah and Bubsi were all invaluable. Thanks also to Wilma-Bride, dave01UK and NatalieD for checking the article.