As any parent knows, the cost of a trip to Walt Disney World resort can add up quick! So when is the time to splurge and what can you save on? The list below will help you decide.
Splurge: Disney's Yacht Club and sister hotel the Beach Club are the perfect choice for families looking for the best. Situated perfectly between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, these resorts have easy access to all four theme parks, beautifully landscaped lawns, and the best pool in all of Walt Disney World. Stormalong Bay is a three acre delight, full of water slides, a slow river, and a sand bottom pool. Rooms from $300 per night.
Steal: Disney's newest resort is The Art of Animation (pictured), which has value-priced family suites. Each room can sleep up to six people and is equipped with a kitchenette and two bathrooms—and we all know that space is the ultimate luxury for big families. Each room is thoroughly Disney-fied, themed inside and out to delight the kids. Three sections of the hotel, Finding Nemo, Cars, and The Lion King have family suites, while The Little Mermaid section has typical two-bed value rooms. Rooms from $125 a night.
Splurge: Looking for the best view in all of Disney World? The California Grill, perched at the top of the Contemporary Hotel, hosts a panoramic view of the Magic Kingdom. It's perfect for watching the fireworks, since the restaurant pipes in the music and lowers the lights during the show. And the food is phenomenal, as well—think oak-fired steaks, flat breads, and amazing sushi, prepared by their in-house sushi chef. A typical meal can run up to $60 a head.
Steal: Dining with picky eaters, big eaters, or simply looking to save? Mosey on up to the Trail's End Restaurant (pictured) at Disney's Fort Wilderness Lodge and Campground. The buffet meal has something for everyone with fried chicken, smoked ribs, roasted meats, and a special kids section. And be prepared for some of the best chili that can be found in the west! Dinner here will be $20 a head, but the grub will be cheaper at lunch.
Splurge: The Magic Your Way tickets give each guest the ability to customize their experience. Just determine before leaving home how many days are needed, and purchase the base ticket for up to ten days. At the top of the line, tickets can be expanded to include the Park Hopper option, which allows guests to visit more than one park per day, and the Water Parks Fun and More option, which allows guests to also visit Disney's two water parks, Disney Quest, golf, and miniature golf. The No Expiration option should only be added if a guest knows they will be returning for another trip. Tickets start at $89 per day, with each option adding $59.
Steal: Disney is always offering package deals to guests, particularly if they are willing to travel during the off-season—i.e., those times in the fall and spring when school is typically in session and thus the parks are less crowded. Savings are found during the months of September and January, when prices can drop as much as 40%.
Splurge: Cinderella's Royal Table—located of course in Cinderella's Castle (pictured)—is the ultimate in character dining. Cinderella greets her guests, with up to five princesses that visit guests at their table. A family picture with Cinderella is included, and the little ones also receive a magic wand or a sword. The castle serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and you should expect to pay up to $60 for adults, $35 for kids. And this is the hottest ticket in town; reservations are a must, and should be made exactly 180 days in advance.
Steal: If you want characters and a reasonably priced meal, breakfast is the way to go. Check out Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club resort, which features Goofy and four of his friends. The breakfast buffet is a traditional American breakfast, complete with Mickey waffles! And 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian offers Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and the Mad Hatter—characters less frequently seen around the parks. Breakfast buffets average about $30 per adult, $20 per kid.
All photos courtesy of Walt Disney World