How much money should I expect to spend on vacation?

I’m taking my family to Orlando in a few weeks; this will be our first family vacation. We’re going Saturday-Saturday, spending 1 day at cape Kennedy, 2 days at Disney World, and 3 days at Universal Studios. The trip and activities are already paid for. It will be me, my wife and our two kids (ages 8 & 10). We’ll probably eat most of our meals outside the parks, to save a few bucks, but otherwise I don’t think we’re really on a tight budget.

7 days of meals, souvenirs and sundries for a family of 4. How much?

Keep the kids away from the souvenir shops. Period. If at all, go on the last day and let them pick ONE thing. You can really spend a lot in those places and most of it is way over-priced simply because of the trademark/copyright logos and designs.

Surprisingly, you might find some relatively cheap places to eat in those places if you can deal with just a hot dog and fries and a drink for lunch - but good idea to eat at Denny’s or IHOP or wherever before you go, and plan to eat dinner at a local restaurant near your hotel.

As far as how much you will spend? Well, it would be possible to drop thousands of dollars if you were fabulously rich and didn’t care what anything cost. But you can keep costs down simply by avoiding hanging around the souvenir shops or wandering into pricier restaurants in prime locations. Just keep guiding the family to all of the fun, “free” things that are already paid for.

As a resident of Orlando, let me advise you the best place to get souvenirs is the CVS or Walgreens closest to the theme park.

My advice for meals on Disney days is to eat a big breakfast, grab some pretzels, ice cream or other cart snack later on, leave the park at 4 to get dinner and go back. However, keep in mind that the restaurants right outside the gate are all tourist traps as well. Head down 192 towards Kissimmee and you’ll find the typical chain restaurants that are more reasonable.

For a seven day trip, if you are practical, you could probably get away with spending around a thousand dollars after hotels and theme parks are paid for.

Instead of asking about souvenir cost, why not establish a budget? The kids will learn how to choose and how to resist wanting that, that and that. It is not like they are unique to one section of the park. Of course the budget should be generous enough to be reasonable.

I don’t see how you could eat dinner outside the park there and still get the full value of your ticket. Unless, that is, your kids can last a long time without food.
But if you make a grocery run for simple breakfast food you can have that before you leave for the park, saving restaurant money and cutting down on the calorie intake. That’s what we do usually.

I don’t think any of us will have the stamina to still be in the parks at or after dinner time. I think one late evening at Disney and one late evening at Universal will be about our limit.

I figured on breakfast at the Awful Waffle or a little breakfast joint, snacks & lunch in the park and dinner at Outback or something like that most days.

For souvies, we do this. We give our kids a certain amount of money that is theirs to spend as they please. If they waste it on the first day, then that’s that. If they have money left over at the end they get to keep it. Saves a lot of bugging from them and keeps the costs reasonable.

For food, I would budget for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks. One of the best things you can do to save a little money is to bring snacks and drinks with you. Disney World certainly allows this.

On top of that, if your hotel does not have complimentary breakfast, eat in the room by either bringing a cooler (ice is free) or using the fridge in the room for milk and having cereal or whatever.

Actually, I did establish a budget, and I already have some cash set aside and allocated for the trip. I was just looking for some independent validation that I estimated right.

It’s hard to say, really. The kids now have to save their allowance for their souvies so that isn’t a cost for me (we were giving them 100 dollars in previous years). Here is my breakdown for our upcoming trip:

100 - souvies for my husband and me
100 - groceries for breakfasts
50 - disposable cell phones
5 x 4 x 7 = 140 for snacks in the parks
15 x 4 x 7 = 420 for lunch
30 x 4 x 7 = 840 for dinner

For a total of 1650.

Now, if I were trying to save money by not eating at the park/at sit down restaurants I could probably get it down to:

100 - souvies for my husband and me
140 - groceries for breakfasts and snacks
50 - disposable cell phones
0 x 4 x 7 = 0 for snacks in the parks
10 x 4 x 7 = 280 for lunch
15 x 4 x 7 = 420 for dinner

Bringing it to 990.

I’d say somewhere in-between is a good spot.

Having lunch outside the parks is tricky. Dinner is easier. Usually, by the late afternoon, if you haven’t left the park all day, you and the kids are done for the day. You’ll be tired before supper hits.

We go to Disney every year and our touring strategy is:

Arrive at opening
Stay until about an hour after lunch
Go to the hotel and swim/nap/go to the pool bar
Head back to the parks just before supper
Leave when tired or park closes whichever comes first

I assure you that we can get in more attractions this way than if we tried to keep at it all day (since the crowds are lighter closer to park opening and close) since we wouldn’t make it past about 4 pm.

I knew a guy ages ago who used to work as an executive at Disneyland, and that was almost exactly what he suggested!

He also mentioned that the slowest day of the week was, surprisingly, SUNDAYS!
The reason? Travel day…that was when people flew/drove home, or flew/drove in. Those who flew/drive in were busy getting into hotel rooms, etc. Most mistakenly think Monday would be the slowest day, and they would be wrong.

Supposedly, most people who go on Sundays are locals who know it is slower that day, and even they only go early and leave fairly early as there is school/work the next day.

I second this method. You will be surprised at how much a 2-3 hr R&R at the hotel will help you–and your kids. Getting away from the cacophony of the park for some time is also refreshing in itself.