While nearly every parent dreams of taking their kids on a magical Disney vacation, not everyone can afford the outrageous costs required to visit a Disney park.
Not only do most families need to fly to Orlando or Southern California to get close to Disney World or Disneyland, but lodging costs can be pricey, too – especially if you want to stay on a Disney property. Then there’s the price of transportation, food, and souvenirs, which can add up to outrageous sums over the course of your trip.
And, let’s not forget park tickets. Earlier this year, Disney quietly raised the price of park tickets as much as 9 percent. This means that a one-day ticket to Disneyland California will set you back $135 during peak times. Meanwhile, a day at Disney World in Orlando will run $129 thanks to these new prices. You can book a multi-day ticket for a lower per day price, but that means more lodging, more food, and more costs.
Better Ways to Spend $5,200 - $7,250 On Travel
A study from the Orlando Sentinel shared some examples of how a Disney vacation could look when you tally everything up. In the end, the families they profiled spent between $5,200 and $7,250 for a week-long trip. That’s a ton of cash you could stretch a lot further if you chose a different vacation option altogether.
If you’re not hellbent on a Disney trip and want to get more bang for your buck, consider these options:
#1: Take two or three cruises with a budget cruise line
Budget cruise lines offer all kinds of sales and deals that can make cruising especially affordable for families. Many cruise lines let kids cruise for free, for example. You may also find special deals that include onboard credits, free wifi, or drink packages.
For the price of a Disney trip, you could easily cruise twice with any budget cruise line. After all, seven nights in the Caribbean on the MSC Seaside for the average family of four (kids ages 6 and 8) would set you back just $1,915 for an ocean view room in October.
If you could drive to the cruise port, you could skip airfare and cruise three times for the price of an average Disney trip!
#2: Spend a week at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean
Believe it or not, you can take your family to an all-inclusive resort for a weeklong stay in the Caribbean for less than you’d pay for a Disney trip. This even accounts for the costs of flying out of the country, and you’ll have plenty of resorts to choose from in any destination you choose.
Consider a stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica, for example. Here, you could spend seven nights at the IBEROSTAR Rose Hall beach all-inclusive resort for $982 per person for a family of four with kids ages 6 and 8. That’s $3,928 total, and this price includes airfare, lodging, food and drink (even alcohol).
This package deal includes flights from Chicago, so make sure to check prices from your home airport. Also shop around among different Caribbean islands and resorts to find the exact trip you want at a price you can afford.
#3: Take your family to your favorite city in Europe
Want to plan a trip that provides more opportunities for learning than a week at an all-inclusive resort? Consider taking your family to Europe. No. Seriously. For the price of a Disney trip, you can absolutely afford it.
You’ll need to compare prices for flights from your home airport and play around with different destinations, but you’ll find plenty of options that cost a lot less than $7,200 – even when you include the costs of food and fun.
Take this sample trip to Rome, Italy for example. If you book a package deal out of Chicago in October, you could travel for as little as $2,500 including flights. Bed-n-breakfasts scattered around Rome offer extremely low rates you can combine with inexpensive airfare. For $600 per person or $2,400 per family of four, that would leave a lot of cash leftover for train rides, taxis, food, and tours.
Now, let’s say you want to go to Athens, Greece instead. If you depart from Boston in October, you can find package deals that include hotels and airfare starting at $606 per person. Once again, at $2,400 for a family of four, you would have plenty of money leftover to eat famous Greek specialties like Saganaki and Moussaka, and still visit the Acropolis and the other historic sites in the area.
#4 Take a Mediterranean Cruise
Last but not least, consider taking a Mediterranean cruise. This option is a lot more affordable than you probably think, even when you add in the costs of airfare.
Take this MSC Cruise out of Genoa, Italy on the MSC Opera, for example. Inside cabins are just $719 per adult, and kids under 11 cruise free. This means that, for less than $2,000 after you add in the costs of mandatory tipping and taxes, you could take your kids to several ports in Italy, France, and Spain.
Also keep in mind that your cruise fare includes your lodging, food, and entertainment, so all you’d need to cover are your flights, port activities, and any extras.
There are a ton of different cruises all over the world you can also consider, and one of the best websites to search is VacationstoGo.com. Even after you cover the costs of flying abroad, these cruises are often a lot cheaper than the average Disney trip – and a lot more cultural, too.
The Bottom Line
If a Disney trip is on your bucket list, don’t forget to think about all the other places your vacation budget could take you. There’s an entire world to explore with sights and sounds that are a lot more interesting than any theme park can provide.
There's nothing wrong with taking the kids to Disney, but make sure you know what you're giving up.