Disney World is virtually its own city, and families the world over dream of vacationing within its confines. Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom beckon travelers the world over. For many people, a Disney World vacation feels out of reach. Costs associated with travel, hotels, and even dining can seem to be more than the average American’s budget. Fortunately, you can plan an affordable trip with your family with a little time and research.

Disney World is comprised of several theme parks, water parks, resorts, and dining locations. The costs associated with park tickets and hotel reservations fluctuate depending on the season and day of the week. Value seasons, when fewer people are visiting, tend to be less expensive. Disney also typically runs promotions during these times of the year, such as free dining, to encourage vacationers.

Disney also has a variety of tickets available to make your trip more affordable. You can add the ability to travel to multiple parks each day with park hoppers. If you’re looking forward to visiting Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon, Disney’s water parks, you may want to add Water Parks and More to your tickets. A Disney travel agent can help you choose the best options to fit your budget. Once you know when you want to go, it’s time to look for hotels.

When you go to Disney, you have the option of staying at a Disney World resort hotel or staying off-site. Disney hotels are often more expensive, but they include perks such as free parking and the ability to make ride selections via FastPass 30 days sooner than off-site guests. If your family enjoys camping, Fort Wilderness is comprised of reasonably priced campgrounds. Military families also have the option of staying at Shades of Green, which gives you many of the benefits of a Disney resort at the price of an off-site location. Pick the choice that is best for your budget. If you have a large party, staying off-site and renting a house could be better than staying in a Disney suite.

When creating your Disney budget, you have to remember to take dining into consideration. Some promotions include dining options and you can often add meal plans to your resort stay. It is important that you crunch the numbers to see if a dining plan will work out in your favor; for most families, the dining plans end up being a disadvantage. Review meals for the locations you want to eat at to see if you will come out ahead.

Dining at Disney is also a place where you can trim some costs associated with your trip. You can bring in picnics with your family rather than have lunch at a restaurant. If the members of your family do not have big appetites, you might also consider sharing meals. Most restaurants allow you to share unless they are an all-you-can-eat buffet. Adults can also order off of the children’s menus in many restaurants. Almost any dining location at Disney will also provide cups of ice water for free, which can be very cost-effective instead of buying bottles of water.

Disney often has special events during the year. The Magic Kingdom has Halloween and Christmas parties, and many of the parks have dessert parties during the week. Tickets to these events can be pricey but often come with exclusive opportunities, such as prime fireworks viewing locations.

For most people, the trip to Disney is not complete without bringing home souvenirs of the trip. To reduce your budget, you can plan on specific items to bring back. Many families bring home a Christmas ornament representing their trip. If you plan to meet Disney characters, you can bring inexpensive items like t-shirts or photo mats to have signed. PhotoPass photographers located around Disney parks are always willing to take photos of your family without having to pay Disney prices for photos.

A Disney World vacation can be an exciting trip for everyone in your family. Careful planning can make it a memorable experience that doesn’t break the bank. Know what you want to do during your trip so you can budget for it, and remember that not everything goes according to plan. Smile, meet Mickey Mouse, and have the time of your lives!

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