Walt Disney World opened in October 1971, and fans flocked to Central Florida over the past year to celebrate the golden anniversary, ready to have fun with Minnie and Mickey after pandemic-related interruptions.
When the park opened, admission to what’s now called Walt Disney World Resort was $3.50 — or almost $25 today. Expansion through the years, as well as technical advances even the visionary Walt Disney probably couldn’t have imagined, are among the reasons why a one-day admission now costs a minimum of $109 for adults.
So just how much does a Disney World vacation cost? GOBankingRates looked at the cost of airfare and rental car, hotel stays and admission tickets to give would-be visitors a look at just how much it costs to take a trip to “the most magical place on Earth.”
If you want to travel this summer, rising airfares due to the increase in jet fuel prices will take a big chunk of your budget.
A pre-pandemic study from CheapAir.com said the best deals on airfare pop up 76 days before a traveler wants to fly, so using that guidance, GOBankingRates looked at the cost to fly to Orlando International Airport from six random cities in the United States. These were the lowest available round-trip fares we found, sourced from Travelocity, for a four-night stay in that time frame. Prices listed are per person and do not include extra fees for upgraded seats or any checked or carry-on baggage.
- From Albany, New York: $288
- From Chattanooga, Tennessee: $385
- From Cincinnati: $231
- From Indianapolis: $337
- From Los Angeles: $510
- From Portland, Oregon: $593
Tip: If you live equidistant between two airports, check fares from both. The distance between Chattanooga and Atlanta is 118 miles, but the round-trip airfare to Orlando from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta was $217, or $168 less per ticket, when GOBankingRates checked.
And there’s some good news on the rental car front. Prices have fallen — even though they still aren’t as low as they were pre-pandemic.
If you wanted to rent a car in Orlando last summer, the sticker shock was real. Because rental car companies sold thousands of automobiles when the travel industry came to a halt in 2020, they didn’t have enough cars to fill the demand post-pandemic. That translated to sky-high prices to rent in Summer 2021.
Now, for our sample period, they are a more reasonable $49 per day for a compact, or $271 for the four-day trip with taxes and fees.
Note: If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, Disney no longer offers its Magical Express Service from Orlando International Airport to your hotel. The service was discontinued effective Jan. 1, 2022. You’ll need to take an alternate form of transportation to your Disney hotel if you’re not renting a car, but the region’s SunRail and LYNX public transit systems can transport you throughout the area if you plan to see sites other than Disney.
Many non-Disney Orlando hotels offer airport shuttles at no cost.
The Orlando metro area has more than 450 hotels and 129,000-plus rooms, so the region has an abundance of lodging choices. There are more than 25 Disney Resort hotels in what’s called the Disney Resorts Collection, and they are divided into four pricing tiers: Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villas.
So what’s the difference between staying at a Disney hotel and a non-Disney hotel?
The Disney properties generally are closer to the theme parks, allowing guests to take a boat or the monorail to get there if it’s beyond walking distance. The proximity also allows you to leave the parks during the day and return later, especially if you have little ones who could use a nap.
The hotels are Disney-themed, to the delight of fans young and old, and you never know when Donald Duck or Goofy might stop by for a visit. Those staying at the hotels — and some selected off-property hotels — can sign up for the opportunity to get an early start on the day at the park with entry 30 minutes before opening to the general public.
Staying off-site could be less expensive than the value-priced to the deluxe hotels. Plus, frequent travelers can gain hotel loyalty points or redeem those they have on their Disney vacation, saving more money.
GOBankingRates checked room rates at Disney properties for the selected travel dates and found that a night at the Value-category Disney’s All-Star Music Resort costs $179 for a standard room. The upgraded Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, a Moderate-category hotel, is $279. A lagoon-view room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a Deluxe property, is $705. None of the prices listed include taxes.
Off-site, Hyatt Place Orlando/Lake Buena Vista starts at $162 per night — paying in advance will save almost $20 a night — with the Sonesta ES Suites Lake Buena Vista-Orlando priced at $198. Rooms at the luxury Four Seasons Resort Orlando, complete with water park, begin at $1,148. All are within five miles of Disney World Resort, and the prices don’t include taxes.
Tip: If you’re considering staying at a Disney property, you might save money by contacting the Disney vacations department, where representatives can inform you about specials and package deals that include park tickets. If you plan to book a room off-site, look for special offers, such as stay three nights, get the fourth night free.
Now That You’re There
It’s time to hit the parks. Since the pandemic, you must make a reservation to go to Walt Disney World Resort parks. And a ticket comes at a hefty price. A standard ticket starts at $109 for ages 10 and older ($104 for ages 3 to 9) before taxes, according to the park’s website, but the actual price depends on the day you visit the park. In fact, expect to pay more for your ticket if you visit during a high-demand time, such as the week of Thanksgiving or the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the price is $159 for a single-day ticket. In our selected travel window, a one-day ticket price was $139, or $134 for ages 3 to 9.
Disney World has four parks: Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Your admission is good for one park, though Disney offers the “park hopper” option for about $65 extra, allowing visitors to switch parks after 2 p.m.
With so much to see and do, you likely will want to go to the parks for more than one day, and the price drops with each day of your visit. If during your stay in our travel period you visited the parks for three days, the cost of two adults and two children (ages 6 and 10) for admission tickets to one park would total $1,614 with tax. Fortunately, Disney World’s website has a calendar that shows the ticket prices for every day of the year, helping you to plan ahead for tickets at the best price.
The family memories to be made on a Disney World vacation will last forever. They’ll just come at a price.
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