A Disney World vacation is the hallmark of family memories and tugs on the heartstrings during every commercial and promotional program.
Kids want to experience it, parents want to relive it through their children, and Disney wants you to explore their parks (and spend your money).
As you go through the steps of researching and planning a Disney vacation, you might be asking yourself, is a Disney World trip worth it? We’re going to dig through the big pieces of what goes into a Disney trip to help you determine if the benefits outweigh the costs.
Reasons a Disney World Trip MIGHT Be Worth It:
First, let’s take a look at some of the factors that might make a Disney vacation worth the price, planning, and all of the preparation.
Disney Imagineering captures the imagination and immerses guests into the magical worlds of Peter Pan, Avatar, Toy Story, and Star Wars. Whether you’re hopping in a Doom Buggy to meet some grim, grinning ghosts, or blasting through the Himalayas trying to avoid a yeti, Disney has a way of transporting guests to adventurous new experiences.
Even the queues guests wait in before the attraction are, well, part of the attraction. You can see the history of what happened to the guests on a mysterious night in 1939 while you wait to ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. You can be sprinkled with pixie dust as you tour through the Darling nursery while you wait to visit Neverland with Peter Pan. Guests can even get recruited by the Resistance with a special mission and tour through the Rebel camp while they wait to board Rise of the Resistance.
Whether it’s experiencing a simple but classic attraction, like Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel or “it’s a small world” in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland, or experiencing the most advanced progress in technology and Imagineering, like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in EPCOT, each attraction has its own “je ne sais quoi” that is distinctly Disney.
There’s no shortage of world-class entertainment at Walt Disney World. In fact, some of the shows in Disney World rival the quality of shows on Broadway and in Las Vegas — but in a family-friendly way. Disney does everything top-notch — the sets, the costumes, the music, and of course, the talented performers who bring it all to life.
And the cherry on the sundae of Disney’s shows is that they center around the characters and stories we all already love. Disney grew its business in storytelling and the stage is just another venue to showcase those talents.
And the stage isn’t the only spot to find a mindblowing show. If you’re looking for a truly “wow” experience, look to the sky. Disney fireworks shows are second-to-none. Synchronized fireworks, projections, laser shows, and classic Disney music is the recipe for an unforgettable evening. Or if your affinity leans more toward your favorite Disney characters, the Fantasmic! in Hollywood Studios will help you complete your park day with a daring hero adventure as Mickey takes on the most dastardly Disney villains with pomp, flair,, and fireworks, of course.
Does anything transport you into that child-like wonder and whimsy quite like seeing your favorite Disney character — and hugging them?!
Character interactions, meet-and-greets, and even parades have their own kind of magic that even the “coolest” kids easily warm up to. And there is no shortage of characters to meet in Disney World. And Disney makes it easy to find them through the My Disney Experience App where you can locate where to find your favorite characters, and some of them even have options to book a Lightning Lane to secure your time to see them.
So, you don’t have to leave your Disney vacation without a hug from Mickey, if that’s on your list of Disney things to do.
Disney Magic/Disney Bubble
“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” Disney’s parks uphold this Walt Disney quote to many guests. That “Disney Bubble” is the phenomenon of stepping away from the stress, the bills, the laundry, and weight of every day “adulting” and stepping into an experience where Main Street, U.S.A. is clean, the Cast Members are smiling and welcoming, the landscape is perfectly pruned, and the Big Cheese himself is waiting give you a howdy and a hug.
The sheer size of Disney World (practically the size of San Francisco) means that you are nestled into a Disney cocoon with a wide parameter to keep you away from the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse you into fantastical stories in parks and their resorts.
The parks are the center of the immersive experience in Disney World, but that storytelling is woven throughout the Disney property to every restaurant, resort, and shop. That immersion and attention to detail is what makes Disney World a sense of escape from the responsibilities of daily life and what keeps many people coming back time and time again.
The rides, the shows, the characters — that immersion into a story or setting that transports people out of their daily lives and into a world of fantasy helps generate moments and memories that will last a lifetime. Disney has mastered that magical combination and relies on it for promotions, marketing, and to keep guests coming back and inciting that itch for families to book that first trip to make their own batch of lifelong Disney memories.
Those memories are one of kind. Many people make Disney trips to celebrate monumental occasions or life milestones. A birthday, an anniversary, a proposal, a honeymoon, celebration of a new job, graduation, or baby announcement. Disney vacations are also a favorite for family reunions, school and team trips, and multi-generational gatherings. It might be the last trip for some or the first trip for others, and for many, it might be their ONLY trip to a Disney park.
Reasons a Trip to Disney World Might NOT Be Worth It:
There are so many reasons why can justify the need to visit the Disney parks, but there are also several layers of factors that make that final decision complicated. Let’s get into those!
It’s hard to put a price tag on memories, and with inflation, those prices keep going up. When a park ticket starts at $109 per day, a stay at the cheapest Disney World hotel will still run around $200 a night, and dining at the cheapest Disney quick-service restaurants can run between $15-$34 per meal per person, a 5-night trip for a family of 4 with just these basics can run up a bill just under $5,000. And that’s not factoring in airfare, souvenirs, or those little extras like Genie+, Individual Lightning Lanes, snacks, parking, or airport transportation.
When the median American household income in 2021 was $70,784, a $5,000 5-night Disney trip is about 7% of that annual income. That kind of price tag requires a lot of research and weighing the options to see if that kind of investment and the expectations associated with it will balance out.
After many people canceled their trips and vacations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, air travel surged in 2022 in what some experts called the summer of “revenge travel.”
Now that it’s been almost a year since the initial surge, is the pent-up demand for flights finally abating? We saw BIG crowds in Disney World in the summer of 2022 as many people took vacations that they’d previously postponed. But once the summer break ended, crowd trends at the parks seemed to return to a fairly normal schedule.
And the typically slower seasons (like the months of September and January), have still been seeing steady crowds. This could be due to the still quelling “revenge travel,” but also, since COVID-19, more technology and resources are available for individuals to work remotely, and students have access to complete coursework online. So, parents have a bit more incentive to take kids out of school during the school year to visit Disney World with the weather or prices might be more accommodating.
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again and again. Summers in Disney World can be BRUTAL. Navigating the Disney World parks in the summer is a whole different ball game than any other time during the year. Not only can the heat be unbearable, but it can rain at the drop of a hat, too.
Hurricane season in Orlando brings almost daily rain showers, high humidity, and, yes, sometimes even hurricanes. Rain can make touring the parks a soggy experience, humidity can make it feel sticky and miserable, and hurricanes can close parks down for a day or two.
Though hurricanes can happen, they’re not a daily occurrence like the common heat and humidity that resides in Orlando. Most months of the year, late March through early November, will see temperatures above 80 degrees, with humidity regularly over 75% and rarely under 50%. This heat and humidity combination can make spending hours outside touring a theme park a new test of endurance.
While you’re testing your endurance in the heat and humidity, why not toss in spending hours on your feet on the hard concrete? As we’ve mentioned, Disney World is the size of San Francisco, and through Disney provides many transportation options to get you to and from the resorts and parks, you really have one source of transportation within the parks — your feet. Many days at Disney World involve more than 20,000 steps (really!), so this vacation may not be the best time to break in your new kicks. Plus, let’s be honest…you don’t want to be sweaty AND blistered!
So, if you drive a desk for a living (as many of us do these days), you may not be physically prepared to be on your feet all day, let alone traipsing around theme parks on the hard concrete. And sometimes, walking is the EASY part, when you’re standing in a queue on that same hard concrete, it’s all you can do to shift your weight from one foot to the other. At the end of the day, your dogs will be barking. And at the end of your trip, you may find that you need a vacation from your vacation.
In order to escape the heat and minimize your time standing in line, the promises of Genie+, Disney’s paid “skip-the-line” system, may seem to be the solution. We’ve seen Genie+ reach prices up to $29 per person per day, and when you tack that on to what you’re already paying for your theme park ticket (which can range from $109-$189 per person per day), plus tax, that can be an additional $116 for a family of four — and that’s just for one day. Plus, it doesn’t include those super popular attractions that are only available through Individual Lightning Lane selections.
If you can get over the price tag tacked on to your vacation, the next obstacle is learning how to navigate Genie+ to make sure you maximize the value of the purchase. You have to learn which rides to make Lightning Lanes reservations for, which ones to prioritize, and when you’re eligible to make your next Genie+ Lightning Lane selection. It’s a combination of an art and a science that does require some research and strategy, and you’ll need to do your homework in advance.
We help by providing our own research to help guide you through the nuances of navigating Genie+, so you’re not on your own, but you’ll still have to do the work of reading our posts and watching our videos to learn all about it!
You’ve arrived at your Disney World Resort, and you can’t wait to stroll down Main Street, U.S.A, and see Cinderella Castle in all its glory and splendor. So you gather the family, and head to your resort’s closest Disney Bus stop waiting for Magic Kingdom bus to help you start your vacation in the Most Magical Place on Earth. Everyone’s excited and anticipating when the bus will arrive, and one is coming up the drive! It’s almost here! Wait, is that a Magic Kingdom bus? No… no… wait, it says Animal Kingdom on it. Ok, the NEXT bus will be it. Waiting…waiting…. yay! Another bus…. for EPCOT. Ok, the NEXT bus… waiting… waiting… Disney Springs. Ok, the NEXT bus, it’ll be the next bus, and here it comes…wait, no, Animal Kingdom, again.
It happens to all of us. Sometimes you hit that Disney Transportation lottery, where you arrive at the station right when your bus/boat/monorail pulls up. But sometimes you have wait. And wait. And wait.
In the beginning of the day, when you’re still full of energy and anticipation, it’s a little easier to wait. But at the end of the day, when the entire park empties out, and they all seem to be staying at your resort, and all seem to need to get on to YOUR bus, well, that’s when the exhaustion from the heat, stimulus, and walking from your day in the park has used up all of your energy and patience.
At the end of the day, those Disney bus drivers are trying to get as many guests back to their resorts as soon as possible. So, that means those buses get packed. Like, standing room only, packed. You’re gonna get to know your closest neighbor very well. And if you have a tyke, you might be holding them on your lap or on your hip because you have to collapse those strollers.
So just because Disney transportation is free — it doesn’t mean it’s the most convenient.
So, after all of that assessment, is a Disney World vacation worth it?
There are a lot of intangibles that you get with a Disney vacation, memories, laughter, and unique experience that you can really only get from a Disney park. Disney provides immersive experiences, top-notch attractions and entertainment, and an escape from the responsibilities of reality and “adulting” that seems pretty priceless.
But Disney does manage to put a price tag on this experience, and that price tag seems to go up every year. Additionally, more and more “perks” are being shifted over from free to paid experiences. And if you can swallow the price tag of all of this magic, there are some aspects to a Disney vacation that aren’t so magical, like the heat, the crowds, and the mileage you’ll put on your little tootsies.
A family Disney World vacation seems like a right of passage, but like any expense that could run several thousand dollars, you’ll have to do the research to see if it’s the right fit for you and your family. And while you do that research, realize that even Disney vacations aren’t perfect. Things can (and will) go wrong. You might have to wait 30 minutes for the next bus, it may rain in the middle of your EPCOT day, you could get a blister, or a sunburn. But no matter what, you will come home with unique Disney memories.
So, a Disney vacation can still be worth it, if you know your “spending comfort zone” and plan accordingly to stay within that zone during your vacation, or save up in advance so your trip doesn’t stress you out over finances, but an experience you can enjoy.
If you want more tips for maximizing your time in the park and having a great vacation, stay tuned to AllEars!
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Is a Disney vacation worth it to YOU? Tell us in the comments!