Can you still get a deal on a Disney vacation? Three families who traveled to Disney World in November of last year tracked and reported their spending.

Lynn and Daniel Wiltse of Hilton Head, South Carolina, are passholders who try to keep costs down because they visit a few times a year. They have three kids, ages 3 to 11.

Elaine and Michael Carpenter of Pearl River, New York, made their first trip to Disney. They have two children, ages 7 and 5.

Kim and Blair LaCour of Avon Lake, Ohio, have taken several Disney trips and cruises over the past few years. They have three children, 5 to 9 years old.

One thing the families had in common: They visited during a time when they could get the Disney Dining Plan for free. That deal — often offered during the slower fall months — erases hundreds or potentially more than $1,000 from a trip’s cost.


advertisement | advertise on newsday

The Wiltses’ seven-day stay ended on Thanksgiving. They estimated their cost as $6,052 — $1,210 a person — including five annual passes.

They bought a package costing $3,990 that included a stay in a family suite at the All-Star Music Resort, two park hopper tickets and the dining plan. They paid extra to upgrade their quick-service dining plan that was offered for free at budget resorts to one that included sit-down meals.

The family then used $1,260 credit from the two park hopper tickets toward five annual passes.

The Wiltses were able to renew four annual passes at the old rates, paying $590 apiece for four people. A brand-new pass for their 3-year-old daughter cost $797. “It definitely can be frustrating when you see the price increase,” said Lynn. “I try to look at the bigger picture, of what you get in the Disney experience with your annual pass and how many times we come a year.”

The family limited extra purchases, just a $15 stuffed animal, and kept travel costs to a minimum. They paid $150 for two tanks of gas and two meals, one on the way down and one on the way home.


For the Carpenters, the trip from Nov. 13 to 20 was a once-in-a-lifetime deal. They signed up for credit cards that provided them with a perk: $400 in gift cards that offset their cost.

Once in the parks, “we really didn’t spend a whole lot of money there,” Elaine said. “Everything was obviously very overpriced.”

The Carpenters reported their total cost at $5,200, or $1,300 a person. That included the gift cards they applied and $1,070 for plane fare.

Lodging at the moderate Caribbean Beach Resort and theme-park admission cost $3,085. To avoid buying extra food in the parks, the family spent $90 for extra food delivered from a service called Garden Grocer.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Gifts and souvenirs came to $145, including a $17 autograph book for 7-year-old Calum and a $20 stuffed animal for 5-year-old Eden. The Carpenters also sprang for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets, another $300.

“No regrets; no need to rush back,” Elaine said of the trip. “The free dining was a huge factor for us, so we felt we got a good enough deal.”


Kim LaCour does not try to do Disney on a budget. “When we do it, we want to do it right. We like to be right by the monorail and have that top-notch service and special touches.”

The LaCours spent $7,250 — $1,450 a person during their stay that ended the day before Thanksgiving. The bulk of that cost was a $5,257.58 package that included six nights of a standard room at the Polynesian and five days of theme-park admission. Kim said she received no discounts but earned a booking commission of $477.20.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The LaCours spent $300 on tips, alcohol, sodas and coffee, and a few extra quick-service meals.

Expenses included $34 for boat rental at the Polynesian, $55 for stroller rental and $169 for advance purchase of a Memory Maker package of digital photos taken on rides and by Disney’s photographers. (Advance purchase since has dropped to $149.)

The standard dining plan the LaCours got as part of their package ordinarily would have cost $1,066 for their six-night stay.

“It’s a supply-and-demand thing,” LaCour said of the increasing expense of a Disney vacation. “For the experience that Disney gives, it does cost. . . . They have to make sure they price it appropriately. That means the prices do go up.”