When budgeting for a trip to Walt Disney World theme parks, most people budget for the usual things: hotel rooms and food. But what about all those extra costs and fees that aren’t well publicized and end up blindsiding you? Well we are here to tell you about 11 hidden Disney World trip costs you may not be aware of.
1) Seasonal Pricing
Your Walt Disney World vacation will most likely land in one of three categories: Value Season, Moderate Season, or Peak Season. The price of your theme park tickets and resort room will depend on which season you plan to visit. These prices will be significantly less during Value Season (think late August and late January) than they will during Peak Season (mid-March to mid-April for Spring Break, and the later part of December).
So if you are looking to save money, you might want to try for the less-expensive, albeit not always convenient, time of year where your savings can be quite significant.
2) Additional Taxes and Fees
There you are looking for a resort room on the Disney World website and you see a room for $254.00 per night at Port Orleans Riverside. Perfect! So you start to book your stay and as you are completing your reservation you come to the page where all the taxes and fees are located.
Yes, you knew there are going to be taxes, but were you aware of the Orange County Accommodation Tax? Suddenly your $254.00 per night stay is now $296.00 per night. That’s an extra $42.00 per night which for a four night stay is $168.00 that you weren’t really anticipating.
3) Parking Fees
Introduced several years back, Walt Disney World guests who have either rented a car or drove their own car to the resort are now subject to overnight parking fees. For Value Resorts it is $15.00 per night; Moderate Resorts is $20.00 per night; and Deluxe Resorts is $25.00
So if you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside, a Moderate resort, for four nights that would be an additional $80.00 to the cost of your Disney vacation.
If you are flying into Orlando and have no plans on renting a car and only relying on Disney World transportation, then this fee doesn’t apply to you but the next one will…
4) Cancellation Fees
Sometimes life happens and trips get impacted but the thing to remember is theme park tickets are nontransferable and nonrefundable. There is also Disney resort cancellation fees if you cancel your resort stay less than five days out from your Disney Vacation & you will lose your Disney resort stay deposit.
There is also no show dining reservation fees at $10 per person if you make a dining reservation and don’t cancel it. This can add up if you have bigger parties and forget a few dinner reservations.
At the beginning of 2022, Disney World did away with the beloved Magical Express. In case you didn’t know, Magical Express was the free bus transportation that met you at the airport and whisked you away to your Disney World resort. Many people often said that boarding the Magical Express marked the beginning of their Disney World vacation – once they boarded they felt they were in the Disney World bubble.
Well, now you are on your own when it comes to finding your way from MCO to Disney World. There are several options you can take to get from the airport to your resort, but it comes with a price. You can call a ride share company like Uber or Lyft, call a cab, or order a private car service.
You do still have the option to use a bus like in the Magical Express days, but it’s no longer free. Two of the main services you can take is Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyers. Pricing varies between the bus services but pricing starts off around $16 per adult and $13.50 per child.
This adds a significant hidden cost to your Disney World vacation but the good news is that once you are on Disney World property the buses, monorail, Friendship boats and Skyliner are all still free to use.
6) Credit Card Hold
You may not know that when you book a room at a Walt Disney World Resort that they may put a $100.00 hold on your credit card on top of what you already owe for the room. This is for any incidentals such as room service or upgraded WIFI. Now, the $100.00 will be released after you check out and if you never spent the $100.00 it will never show up on your credit card statement.
However, it may be a bigger deal if you are using a debit card to hold your room. Having that $100.00 on hold for 5 to 10 business days following could impact your Disney vacation budget.
Some people may think that just because they are at Disney World that means they don’t need to tip Cast Members. While it is true that you do not need to tip most Cast Members (nor are they allowed to accept anything monetary – though handing out stickers or candy is always appreciated), there are still many positions that deserve attention.
For example, Mousekeeping, luggage handlers, valet, Minnie Van drivers, but most importantly, your servers at table service dining. They are just like any other server you would tip at a restaurant outside of Disney World, so why wouldn’t you? A side note to this would be that if you have a large party (defined as a party of six or more) there is an automatic 18% gratuity added to your bill.
Now it is your choice whether or not you would like to tip in additional to the 18%, however, some people may not realize that the tip has automatically been added to the total of their bill and will tip an extra 20% on top of the 18% already added. So you’re actually tipping 38%.
Now maybe your server went above and beyond and totally deserves a huge tip, but if you’re not paying attention to your bill, you may find yourself spending more money than you had in your budget.
8) Memory Maker
Memory Maker is the photo package you could either purchase separately or it was included in certain tiers of annual passes. So every picture that was taken on a ride, or at a character meet and greet or by the many of photopass photographers roaming around any of the parks, would show up on your My Disney Experience app, and was yours to keep and print out whenever you wanted.
Well you can still do that, but if you’re an Annual Passholder you now have to buy Memory Maker as an add-on for $99.00 on top of what you are already paying. If you are not an Annual Passholder, then you can buy Memory Maker for $69.00 for one day, $169.00 for the length of your trip (if bought in advance), or $199.00 if bought during or after your trip. Not going to lie, Memory Maker can be a great extra, especially if you are the picture taker in the family and are rarely in photos.
Having someone else be in charge of taking the family pictures is quite nice and guarantees you will be in them. But it really only makes sense if you are going to make a point of stopping and waiting in sometimes long lines to get those perfect pictures in front of Cinderella Castle. If you only end up taking one picture at one park, then paying $169.00 for your four day trip may end up being a waste of money.
9) Park Hoppers and the Longer You Stay the Less You Pay Ticket Deal
If you go on Disney World’s website and look at the price of tickets you’ll find that their standard ticket starts out at $109.00 per ticket and maxes out at $159.00 (plus tax) depending on the time of year (remember the Value, Moderate and Peak seasons we talked about all the way at the top of the page?). That price also does not include extras such as Park Hopper (which will allow you to visit more than one park a day after 2pm), Memory Maker, or admission to a water park.
So you keep looking at the website and realize that if you buy tickets for four days, well then the price per ticket drops to $106.00 per ticket. But wait! If you increase your stay to six days, then the tickets will only coast $78.00 per ticket. Staying longer and going to Disney parks will actually save you money! On tickets, yes. On your resort room and parking fees…no, probably not. But you’ll need to do the math on that one.
But wait! If you’re going to the parks for six days then maybe you need to add the park hopping option in case you want to end every day at Epcot or Magic Kingdom so you can enjoy nighttime entertainment. Then your $78.00 per ticket turns into $93.00 per ticket. And since Florida feels like the surface of the sun right now, maybe add the Park Hopper Plus option so you can go to the water park for a few days. Now you’re up to $98.00 per ticket. And since you’re here for longer than you planned then might as well get Memory Maker…it’s a viscous cycle.
10) No More Free MagicBands
Once upon a time you were able to score a free MagicBand just by staying at a Disney World Resort. Sure, you also had the option to buy one with cool designs, but you didn’t have to if you didn’t want to spend the extra money. But really it was the thrill you felt when you got that box in the mail several weeks before your trip. Receiving that magic mail meant that your trip was only weeks away!
Well, add MagicBands to the list of things that used to be free and are no longer the case. Now if you want a MagicBand you have to pay anywhere from $19.99 for a single color band (that used to be free) to $44.99 for one of the new MagicBand+ designs.
11) Genie+ and Individual Lightening Lanes
Before we go any further with this last topic, let’s have a moment of silence as we remember our dearly departed friend, FastPass+.
If you haven’t been to the Disney World theme parks in a few years, then you are going to want to familiarize yourself with the new FastPass+ system known as Genie+. This system replaced the FastPass+ system we all knew and loved and the biggest difference between the two was that while FastPass+ was free, Genie+ costs $15.00 per person per day.
So instead of getting up one morning 60 days before your trip to pick three FastPass+ rides at 7am, you now have to get up before 7am every morning of your trip (that you decide to purchase Genie+) and cross all your fingers and toes that you can get a Slinky Dog Lightening Lane! On top of that, you may end up paying extra (between $8.00 and $15.00 per person) to skip the line using the Individual Lightening Lane attractions.
So your family of four is staying for four days and you want to purchase Genie+ for three of those days. You wake up every morning for three days and purchase Genie+ for a total of $180.00. You also want to make sure you all get to ride Rise of the Resistance and Flight of Passage, so you purchase those as separate Individual Lightening Lanes at $12.00 a piece for a total of $96.00.
Of course that is on top of the $180.00 you paid earlier. So where it used to cost just the price of a park ticket to ride everything at Disney World you wanted to, it will now cost you $276.00 for a family of four to ride at a minimum six rides.
So there you have it – 11 hidden trip costs you need to be aware of when planning and budgeting for your next Walt Disney World vacation. If you enjoyed this article then you should check out some of our other content, including what are the best shoes for Disney World.