For our family, including my mom it would have been between $9 & 11,000 to stay on site. We have a very large family and at Walt Disney world it does not matter if you are 90 or 3 months old you count! So we opted to stay off site. We found a house 15 minutes from the Magic Kingdom. It was a 6 bedroom, 2 master suite, full kitchen, pool and hot tub lap of luxury oasis! It was $1000 for the entire week. Now do you see what I mean by finding alternatives to major expenses? Of course that adds some new complications and expenses. How do you get to the parks if you fly?
We considered renting a car but a rental car would have cost just as much for us (huge family) as it would have been to for us to fly our entire family down. We were considering to drive the 17 hours. Before you actually go though with the drive make sure you factor in the cost of gas and hotel stays. Also think of the ride home. For us, I would have been in our local mental institution after attempting to drive that far with 8 people in our 8 passenger car...SO what is the solution? The auto train. In the end it did cost as much as flying, however, we had our car and a very relaxing ride down. For our family it was around $1500 ( this included our car) as opposed to the $3000 it would have been to fly and rent a car. The only downside to the auto train for me was that I did not sleep well. So it made for a very long first day for me
Eating at the parks is expensive hands down. For our family to eat it was about $250 for dinner. This was one thing we splurged on. Food is very important to us and we like to eat well so that was one of things we could do because we had saved money in other places. Lunch was about $70. Now a way to save even more is to eat at the house. Seriously, it would potentially save you well over a thousand dollars! Make lunches in the morning and bring them to the parks with you. They make a variety of insulated picnic totes these days that are just fabulous. Go home in the late afternoon, have a swim a rest and some dinner. Keeping it simple, pasta and sauce, no muss no fuss! Go back to the parks and enjoy a snack and some fireworks.
Park passes are one thing you just can't get around. Here is a little tip though. If you buy a year long park pass, it is not that much more, you could potentially go to Walt Disney World 2 times in a year and pay for passes one time! The passes begin the year on the day your purchase them so if you purchase your pass on March 1, 2011 you are able to return on February 1, 2012 and pay nothing for passes. That saves you a bunch of money, it is almost like 2 family vacations with one major expense paid for!
In the end what matters most is that your family has a wonderful time, with as little stress as possible falling on the parents, remember its your vacation too. I am a planner, to me its one of the best part of the trip. Why? Well, as you watch all of your planning unfurl before your very eyes and you see the joy in the faces of your family, you just smile realizing that you have done something really good. These memories for your kids are amazing but I think for you as the parent its even more then that. You are able to provide the trip of a life time and memories that they will take with them for the rest of their lives and even pass on to your grandchildren. That is monumental as a parent. I hope this helps you in your decision making process and in planning your trip. I have listed some links below to help you on your way. We loved our trip and we cannot wait to go back! Much Love and Safe Travels!
Where we rented our home:
Amtrak Auto Train
Picnic Time Insulated Totes