According to YNAB, I spent $2,470.87 on my Walt Disney World vacation.
This includes six nights at Port Orleans Riverside, five one-park-per-day tickets, trip insurance, the extra clothing I bought prior to the trip, and all food and merchandise purchased on property. My flight was purchased on points, and I got free checked bags.
I budgeted $2,200 for the entire experience, and when I was creating that budget I added up all the fixed costs (like resorts and tickets) and estimated non-fixed costs (like food and souvenirs) to make sure I could reasonably hit my budgeted number. I had advance dining reservations at certain restaurants, for example, so I was able to look at the menu prices online and make an educated guess on how much I’d spend at each meal.
Where’d the extra $270.87 come from?
Turns out I didn’t budget enough for food, and I definitely didn’t budget enough for water.
If you visit the popular Disney World advice websites, they all tell you not to pay for water. “Every quick-service restaurant will give you a cup of ice water for free! Sometimes they’ll even have coolers and cups available, so you don’t even have to ask!”
Well. Those restaurants may have been offering free cups of ice water, but getting a free cup was not an easy task. None of the quick-service restaurants I walked by had visible coolers of water (interestingly, every table-service restaurant I visited offered a cooler, so you could have a drink while you waited for your reservation to be called). I could have waited in the long quick service lines to ask a Cast Member for free water, but the last thing I wanted to do was wait in more lines.
Fortunately for Disney World (and somewhat fortunately for me), there is a cart selling bottles of water and assorted treats every 50 feet or so. There are so many of these carts that they never have lines, and so I bought bottle after bottle of water because it was 95 degrees and humid and I got very, very thirsty.*
I also bought more food than I was anticipating, even though I had a perfectly good bag of Huel in my hotel room, because I never ended up going back to that hotel room until it was time to sleep. I was totally going to do the whole “rope drop the park, go back to the hotel and relax, go back to the park in the evening” thing, but the bus trip to my resort hotel took an hour each way, so… I just stayed in the parks and took breaks by visiting classic attractions such as The Hall of Presidents and Air Conditioning, The Carousel of Progress Including the Invention of Air Conditioning, and It’s Tough to Be a Bug in an Air-Conditioned Theater.**
So I did a little budget reconfiguration when I got back home, pulling cash out of other YNAB categories (like “dining out” and “home”) to cover the overspending.
As for that spreadsheet I put together before I left… here’s a sample entry:
This spreadsheet was based on information from sites like Touring Plans and EasyWDW, so it included “realistic” estimates of how long it might take to do a thing, but… everything took longer than expected.
I arrived at Magic Kingdom early enough to see the rope (though not early enough to touch it), but I still had a 30-minute wait to board Space Mountain instead of the reported 5-10 minute wait. Then I got delayed after Space Mountain because my purse got stuck in the bag where you stick your bags (a bit of mesh netting was wedged under my zipper pull), so they had to take the entire train out of commission to get my purse out of there. This didn’t shut down the ride, thank goodness; there were other trains running. But it slowed everyone down, so I didn’t get to Small World until after Extra Magic Hour was over, and I didn’t get to ride Haunted Mansion twice in a row because the standby line was already too long (I’d planned to ride it once in standby and then once with my 9:25-10:25 FastPass).
You get the idea. Every plan is perfect until it makes contact with reality, or whatever the quote is.
I did, however, get to ride everything I wanted to ride and see every show I wanted to see (except for Tower of Terror, which was shut down during my Hollywood Studios visit). This wasn’t due to my crafting detailed plans of action before entering the parks, because all of those plans became useless pretty quickly. Instead, it was because I had decided beforehand what I wanted to do and what I wanted to skip, and just stayed in the parks until I’d done everything on my list.
Which cost me an extra $270.87.
It was totally worth it. ❤️
*Yes, there are drinking fountains available. But every Disney World forum warns travelers to STAY AWAY FROM THE DRINKING FOUNTAINS, first because they claim Florida water tastes bad (I drank the water out of the tap at the hotel, it was fine) and second because they claim they’ve seen parents use the drinking fountains as diaper change stations.
**If you have never done It’s Tough to Be a Bug, you need to visit the attraction twice. First to experience the special effects, and second to watch all the other first-timers scream when they experience the special effects. There is never a line for this experience, so you should be able to go back-to-back.