Florida & Disney 2016

As I mentioned a last week, I planned a little trip to Florida for the end of February!  The main idea was to visit some family that lives outside of Orlando, but it kind of fused with some more family staying at Walt Disney World the same week.  Since they live out in South Dakota, I jumped at the opportunity to get everyone together.  One of the first times we’ve had the South Dakota family, Florida family, and Boston family together in a long time, and only the second time in my son’s life!

Obviously, we couldn’t leave without spending a bit of time at Disney World with them…

We’ve also benefited hugely from the South Dakotans on this trip.  They do Disney (in part to visit the Floridians) almost every year, so they know the all the ropes.  I do not.  And Disney has a whole mess of ropes to learn.

Give me a timeframe, location (read:  not Disney), and budget and I’ll plan you a great trip!  But Disney?  Kind of complicated…and expensive.


So, here’s how the trip broke down.  Again, it wasn’t very long.  We were hindered in part by the girlfriend’s limited time off remaining after our Peru excursion a few months ago.

Day 1:  Flight from Providence to Orlando, left at 8AM.  Spent the day and that night with the family.

Day 2:  Checked into Disney and met up with the rest of the family, hung out at Hollywood Studios, where we took advantage of the “Extra Magic Hours.”  If you’ve got a stay booked at one of the Disney resorts, you can take advantage of these extended park hours!  We stayed at the Disney Port Orleans Riverside.

Day 3:  Animal Kingdom and then Magic Kingdom for more Extra Magic Hours.  Second night at Port Orleans.

Day 4:  Epcot, and then more Magic Kingdom in the evening for some rides and fireworks.  Last night at Port Orleans.

Day 5:  Spent the morning at Magic Kingdom, then wandered around Disney Springs for lunch.  Made our way back to the family’s house for the evening, just west of Orlando.

Day 6:  One last day with the family, then caught a later flight MCO-PVD.


Flights were great, and Southwest let him check out the cockpit on the way home!


I don’t work too hard on budgeting for short trips like this one, but I wanted to have some main categories for everything to fall under:

  • Disney:  $2,400.00  Really high for 3 nights right??  I mean, Disney is Disney though.  You know you’re going to spend top-shelf money, and I’d argue that you get top-shelf service too.  Plus, this included a nice hotel, 4 days at the parks, and the Disney Dining Plan.
  • Transport:  $850  This is simply three roundtrip flights PVD-MCO and parking at the Providence TF Green Airport.  I came out ahead on this by redeeming Barclaycard miles for the flights.  Since my family is in the area, getting to/from the park and the airport were easy.
  • Souvenirs:  $150  I budgeted $50 per person (me, girlfriend, kiddo).  We’re not a super “souvenir-y” family, but I knew we’d want to pick up a few things.  In reality, I had a feeling it would look more like $20 for me, $60 for her, and $70 for the little guy.  Boy, was I wrong..
  • Gifts:  $230  I should also mention that both of their birthdays were during our trip, so we did a little birthday celebrating while in Disney too!  This budget was for those birthday gifts, and some flowers for my mom as a way to say thanks for planning the trip!  She’s part of the “South Dakotans.”
  • Food (not at Disney):  $50  I budgeted quite low on food outside of Disney.  Most of our time outside of Disney will be with family, eating home-cooked meals.
  • Other:  $100  I always include a miscellaneous budget in my trips, usually a small dollar value, it’s just used to capture random one-off expenses.

The total projected budget was just under $3,800.  Before we delve any deeper though, I want to make a few comparisons at the macro level.  Especially when looking at my 18 day Peru trip, this budget seems HUGE.  Two important (and obvious) notes:  Disney is more expensive than Peru (duh…), and this trip was for three people, whereas only two of us went to Peru.

The budget comes in at $211/person/day.  Let’s talk details.

The Disney Dining Plan is the first point of contention.  The plan comes in at  $61.84/day for adults and $20.96/day for kids, our total cost of food would be $144.64/day, or about $434 total, 18% of our total Disney line item.  Keep in mind that we only actually stayed at Disney for 3 nights, so the Disney Dining Plan was only for 3 days.  Still, $90/day is a little out of my normal range, but I have to say, the food at Disney’s restaurants is great!  I’m not so upset about this number right now with my full belly…  I’ve estimated the amount of money we would have spent on the items we paid for with the Disney Dining Plan at around $416.20, including some dollars we left on the table by not using all of the credits.

I’ll probably delve deeper into this in another post in the future, but for now:  The Disney Dining Plan didn’t save me any money this trip, but I’d probably still get it in the future.  If you’re planning on using it, just be certain to maximize the value.  You can do this by picking certain restaurants over others, certain meals, and snacks.  Plus you have to be sure not to leave any value on the table at the end of the trip.  If you leave Disney with snack credits left over, you missed out.

While we’re talking food.  I spent about double my budget, or just under $100 on a budget of $50.  The major difference here was the gratuity on the Disney Dining Plan.  I should have known that the tip wasn’t included on the Disney Dining Plan, but didn’t do enough research beforehand.  When someone else plans a trip for you, it’s easy to slack off on your own research…

I spent $810 on flights, so right around my target of $800.  Roundtrip flights PVD-MCO for 3 people.  We happened to fly Southwest, but for nonstop we could have also gone with Delta or JetBlue from my nearby airports of BOS and PVD.  I also redeemed $500 worth of Barclaycard Arrival+ miles on the flights, so my real cost was only $310.


And this is what we got.  Pins…

Next up?  Souvenirs.  Wow.  Disney really knows how to get you to spend money.  We spent double our souvenir budget.  My sisters collect those Disney pins, so we kind of got sucked into that with them.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but we spent more than $250 on those tiny little pins…  The other $50 on souvenirs (for a total of $300 spent) was on assorted things throughout the parks.

I actually saved some money on Disney itself though, as I budgeted $2,400, and only spent $2,254.49 when all was said and done.  This cost included Parkhopper tickets for 3 people/4 days, 3 nights at the Port Orleans Riverside hotel, and 3 people/3 days of the Disney Dining Plan.

My total cost was right on target before travel hacking:  $3,786.35.  After 50,000 Barclaycard Arrival+ points, and a $50 Disney gift card sign-up bonus, my out of pocket cost was $3,236.35.  With just a bit of work, I knocked 14% off the sticker price of this trip!

Packing List

  • Clothing
    • 3 pairs of shorts
    • 1 pair swim trunks
    • 2 pair jeans
    • 3 T shirts
    • 1 tank top
    • 1 button down
    • 1 long sleeve
    • 1 light hoodie
    • 1 raincoat
    • flip flops
    • sneakers
    • Vans
    • sunglasses
    • belt
  • Electronics
    • phone + charger
    • Kindle + charger
  • Miscellaneous
    • snacks + gum
    • sunscreen
  • Bags
    • small roller suitcase
    • backpack
    • REI 18L Flash Pack (daypack)
    • REI 40L Roadtripper Duffel (just for expansion, we always come with more than we left)


After all that, what would I do differently?

For one, I’d slow down.  This was an ambitious few days at Disney, and I’ll admit that it was fun, but too busy.  I don’t sit or stay as well as Fido does, but this was a busy trip even for me.  I would have preferred a few extra days.  If When we go back in a few years, I’ll be sure to book a longer trip, and to get more quality family time.  And no, dodging long lines and running from park to park does not count as “family time.”  Another recommendation?  If you’re short on time, skip Disney Springs.  It’s basically Disney-speak for “outdoor mall.”  Although great to walk around, the majority of activities there involve shopping and eating.  Trust me, you can shop and eat until your wallet’s empty and your stomach is bursting within the parks, no need to go here to do it.

I also would have left the snacks and extra sneakers and pair of jeans at home.  The Disney Dining Plan took care of all our food at the park, and then some.  The only time I found myself snacking was nestled into a giant flying metal tube, 7 miles over the ground.  And I just didn’t end up using all the clothes I brought.

Other than that, I’d say it was a success!  I live for roller coasters, I got to see some family, and we all enjoyed the warm weather.  I love Boston, but you’d be hard pressed to find a native that wouldn’t gladly trade a week in a New England winter for a week 1,000 miles farther south.

Thanks again for the read, and I hope the sunshine brings some opportunities to travel for you too!



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