18% of Families Take on Debt To Visit Disney: Be Prepared for These Surprise Expenses in Order To Avoid This

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Disney World is a popular vacation destination for families across the U.S. — and it’s an expensive one. A standard one-day theme park ticket starts at $109 for guests ages 10 and over, which means it costs a minimum of $436 for a family of four to visit “The Most Magical Place on Earth.”

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With costs so high, it’s no wonder why many families find it difficult to afford a Disney vacation. A recent LendingTree survey found that 18% of Disney visitors have gone into debt for one or more of their trips to the destination. And among those with Disney debt, 8% say it will take more than a year to pay it off.

Before committing to a trip to Disney, it’s important to understand how much it really costs, so you don’t take on debt in the process. Here’s a look at some of the expenses you should be prepared to pay beyond that advertised ticket price.

Make Your Money Work for You

Prepare To Spend More on Theme Park Tickets

Although Disney advertises that ticket prices start at $109, the LendingTree analysis found that ticket prices are rarely actually this low. In fact, tickets are available at that price for just 20 dates from November 2022 to October 2023. The actual average ticket price is $141.74, the analysis found, which puts the cost for a family of four at just under $567 — over $100 more than it would cost based on the advertised starting ticket price.

Based on this disparity, it’s no wonder that 48% of those with debt from a Disney trip told LendingTree that the cost of admission tickets was significantly more than they expected.

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Other Expenses To Prepare For

The cost of admission to the parks is just one of the many expenses you need to budget for when planning a trip to Disney. Among those with debt from a Disney trip, these are the expenses that over a quarter said were significantly more expensive than they originally planned for:

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Other expenses to watch out for include other transportation costs, food and beverage outside of the park, and fast passes and other add-on park experiences.

How Much Does a Trip To Disney Cost in 2023?

The baseline cost for a Disney World vacation for a family of four consisting of two adults, one child age 10+ and one child age 3-9 costs $6,320, or $316 per person per night, in 2023, according to the Disney blog Mouse Hacking. Here’s a look at how that breaks down:

How To Avoid Disney Debt

A Disney vacation can be a significant expense — but with careful planning, it’s possible to take a memorable trip without drowning in credit card debt after. Here are a few ways to make your Disney trip more affordable.

Stock up on discounted Disney gift cards. You can find discounted Disney gift cards at places such as Sam’s Club and online discount gift card exchanges. These gift cards can be used to buy your park tickets and other in-park purchases, like souvenirs.

Make Your Money Work for You

Visit during the off-season. “For Disney World, that may mean going in January or September, which may not seem ideal weather-wise, but honestly it may be a small price to pay to save literal cash on your trip,” Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, told GOBankingRates. “With inflation and travel having such high demand right now, booking in the offseason may be more important than ever if you need to save money.”

Bring water and snacks. Stashing water bottles and snacks in your bag can save some money on refreshments at the park.

Look for coupons and other offers. “Using websites like Offers.com and RetailMeNot will [get you] coupons that you can use to shave down the costs of visiting Disney World,” Mackenzie Shand, a shopping expert with Offers.com, told GOBankingRates. “Discounts on purchases in general, hotels and even tickets are just a few things you can effortlessly save money on by using coupon [sites].”

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Nicole Spector and Heather Taylor contributed to the reporting for this article.