A pretty common question I get asked is how much money should I plan for when I'm at Disney World?
Really, the answer is going to vary as to your personal needs and wants, but here's a few categories to keep in mind when trying to estimate how much to allow in the “extras” budget.
Tipping-- If you get Table Service meals, you will need to tip. Disney will automatically add that to your ticket if you are in a part of 6 or more. Of course, you can always tip higher, or lower. While you can do that with cash, it might just be easier to put it on your credit card or use your magic band. Unless you decide what you want to eat ahead of time, you might not be able to figure out the gratuity amount until you are there. That said, you can still get a general idea by looking at the menus ahead of time which is always a good idea to do.
Mousekeeping-- There are a lot of opinions on tipping Mousekeeping. Some people do, some people don't. To be honest, our first trip I did not. It didn't even occur to me. On our second trip, the woman who cleaned our room was so nice and helpful, and she made several towel animals for the boys, but I didn't have much cash on me so I only left a tip at the end. Ever since I've kind of been annoyed with myself for that, because what if she wasn't the person who cleaned our room that last day? She wouldn't get the tip even though she did most of the work. This last time, I was prepared. And had little bundles (you can go here to read the article on tipping with examples) one for each night of our stay. While no, it's not necessary, since we were there several days, I just think it's something nice to do for the person who picks up our soggy towels and makes the bed. It can be an icky job at times I'll bet, and a little thank you might brighten up their day. I'm actually glad I did tip daily, because we had 3 different people cleaning our room. (Sadly, only the first lady did anything special with the towels. We had a man right up til the end and while it was clean, it wasn't “extra magical” like the first lady had done.)
While we are all about saving money on our trip, it's not at the expense of showing gratitude towards someone else, it's something that we are able to do because we have saved money on our trip. Check out some of these adorable ones Mousekeeping thank you envelopes Pinterest links to! Mine were not that awesome, but it's fun to see them! For tipping, the general guidelines are about a dollar a day, per person.
Souvenirs-- Whew! This category depends on if you are a shopper, or if you are just a looker! It's really easy to get carried away here! So I’m breaking this up into Kids and Adults.
Kids – What we do with the kids is give them $50 each from Mommy and Daddy but they also have to save up ahead of time. Since it's hard for kids to do that on their own, I just make it mandatory. A year or so before we leave, each allowance it's $1 into the vacation jar. When their Granddaddy sends them a little extra for Easter, or Halloween, they usually put that in there too. I try to encourage them to do some extra jobs and put money in there, because once they are there, that $50 from Mommy and Daddy really won't go too far if they want a big thing. I'm not mean though, I don't stick firm to that $50, if it totals $55 or something. And they know, if they really, really want something, chances are good I'll pick it up and set it aside for Birthday or Christmas. If you have kids too young to understand saving and spending, their saving up won't really apply, but if you have older kids, it sure doesn't hurt to have them save up a little allowance since you're the one paying for the trip! My oldest whispered to me our first day there, “Wow Mommy, you are right. Once we got here, we do want everything.” He was extra glad he had saved up so much!
Adults-- We actually plan out about $100 for each of us out of our vacation budget. We sometimes spend more though, because during a Disney vacation year, we don't get each other Mothers Day, Father Day or Birthday gifts, since those dates fall on either side of the trip. Instead, we take another $100 or so, to pick out some things that catch our eye down there. Anything above that, we use our personal spending money on. Both my husband and I tend to get things that are smaller in size and meaningful, or practical, like kitchen things or a wallet for me. I love things that bring the Disney Magic into our every day. You might be different, you might want to get a really nice handbag, some new shirts or even spend it all on experiences while you are there. Be sure to give yourself enough fun money though if you can't get to Disney often so you can enjoy splurging on things to give you Disney memories until the time time you go back. Frequent visitors may not really want to spend much, because they go so often and have it already.
Pressed Pennies and Quarters-- If you or your little people like pressed pennies, you are in luck! Those machines are everywhere, however a lot of people don't think to carry change around with them. Be sure to have quarters and pennies with you. They are slowly adding some machines that you can pay with a credit card, but those really aren’t as fun as the old fashioned hand crank kinds. Because it's very easy to do those machines mindlessly, if you have little kids who want to do it, just to do it, setting a limit might be a good idea, say, two or three times each a day so you don't blink, and realize you spend $20 on a handful of pressed pennies. (Unless you collect them, or make jewelry with them, of course!)
Meals and Snacks-- If you have the Disney Dining Plan, you won't really need to worry about extra money for meals and snacks, because the portions at Disney are so generous, and most of the time the heat also keeps your appetite smaller. If you aren't on the plan, you can get a good idea of the menu prices beforehand. Quick service you can get an entree, like a burger and fries, and a soda for around $15. Table service of course will be more, but chances are, you aren’t going to want to have that much cash on you. Snacks can be a dollar and up. If you do have the Disney Dining Plan, to make the most of your money, go for the snacks that are generally $5 and up. If you want a banana, go ahead...but pay out of pocket. That $2 isn't a good use of your snack credit. Save that credit for an eclair over at the France Pavilion in Epcot. You can go HERE to read more about the Disney Dining Plan and HERE to read more about Disney Dining Plan Tips and Tricks! so you can maximize your credits!
Specialty Drinks-- If you love fancy coffees, or want to sample some International adult drinks at Epcot, be sure to add that to your budget. Alcohol is not included in the Disney Dining Plan for 2017, though in 2018 it will be, however the drinks at Starbucks (even the biggest ones!) and milkshakes and some frozen drinks throughout the park are a snack credit and are a good value.
Laundry-- Some people do their laundry on vacation. Disney doesn't charge an arm or a leg to take advantage of that. Personally, it's not something we do because it's vacation, I'd rather be finding a Dole Whip or doing some Pin Trading than laundry, but sometimes you just need to wash something. At last I saw, it was $2 to wash, $2 to dry, and $1 for detergent. Or, you could just bring a little bit of detergent from home.
Misc cash-- There is a restaurant in Disney Springs we love to go to, Wolfgang Puck's Express. While it's not table service, it's not quite counter service either. You order, but they bring you your food, and stop by to see if you need a drink refill. We can use it on the Quick Service Dining Plan, so we aren't paying out of pocket. A lot of people don't tip there, but we do. It's usually just $5 or so, but we specifically make sure we have a little cash in our backpack for things like that.
While at Disney, is really is possible to go the whole time wallet free and with just your magic band. If you don't have one, your credit card will do, but it also doesn't hurt to have a few dollars in cash with you. You never know when you'll spot something and you can't use your magic band to pay. You might run into a tip jar at an ice cream place, so a few ones tucked in your pocket could be helpful.
When you are planning your trip, don't forget to think about these kinds of expenses when making your budget. It's better to overestimate how much you will spend and come home under budget, then to get home and faint when the credit card bill comes in!
Have I left out anything that you budget for your time on a trip? What's your biggest splurge, or your biggest save when you go to Disney?
When not doing everything Disney, you can find me loom knitting, gardening and bargain hunting. After all, a dollar saved is a dollar towards Disney! I am not a Disney Vacation Planner, so I'll never be pushing my services, however on occasion I might post Amazon affiliate links. You won't pay a dime more, but buying through my links helps support the maintenance costs for the site.