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The Disney Cost of Living

Ok, ok, I KNOW I have touched on the cost of living here in Florida, but if you are coming to live here to be close to WDW, there are certain things you need to know. When your vacation spot becomes home, it’s a reality that some wallets aren’t ready for. I am here to tell you how we have been coping with the Disney cost of living, enjoy!

Living so close to the Mouse is such a huge joy- it’s what we ALWAYS dreamed of. Now that we are living the dream, we have learned to manage our money much more effectively when it comes to enjoying our favorite place on Earth. For those of you relocating in the near future, or any time in the future, you have to be prepared for not only the cost of living in a new state, new city, and basically new area… but also the costs of enjoying the MANY opportunities here in the Central FL area.

If you are here to be close to WDW, you have to hold into account the cost of annual passes, food, souvenirs, gas to and from the parks, wear and tear on your car to and from the Parks, and any time you will need to take off from work to enjoy it all.  FL residents have a great deal now where you can put a deposit down on the first day you buy your annual passes, then pay monthly on it the rest of the year. This option is perfect for those, like us, who can’t afford to throw down almost $2000 in Annual Passes the first day.

I have said before that in our first month of living here, we were spending almost $40 every time the four of us sat down to eat in the Parks- and that was just counter service.  When you live so close to Disney World, the temptation is to eat there all the time. Why go to McDonalds when you can to too Sunshine Seasons then ride Soarin after? Why get an egg roll at the local Chinese place around the corner when I can grab a yummy one at Animal Kingdom and take a safari after? You can see where I am going with this. Now, of course this is why we moved here- to enjoy it any time we feel like it. But when you leave a life where WDW wasn’t around the corner, you probably didn’t eat out as much, now have a theme park to spend your money at all the time.  It’s become a no brainer to grab sodas and water bottles for the Parks before we leave, and making a special day now to eat in the Parks instead of all the time.  I am telling you, as exciting as it is to be eating there all the time, it will wear on your digestive system and your wallet- so keep it special by making and budgeting a plan for it.

Because we live close, it only takes a small amount of gas to get to Walt Disney World. But, Downtown Disney is the furthest from us, so I have to make sure I have the gas before I even make plans to head over there. You can get caught up in the magic FAST and realize that your gas tank is near Empty and you still have a week left of driving to do before the next check- so keep gas costs in mind. Also the wear and tear on your car- if you don’t live close, the drive time will wear on your vehicle faster.

I could write a book on souvenirs alone! I have drooled over so many wonderful items in WDW that I would love to own, but it’s timing and money that I have to wait on. Life comes first, even in the happiest place on Earth, so keep in mind that most of the time the items will STILL be there when you can eventually afford them. It is also a huge blessing because while on vacation, you hem and haw over what to buy and should you…etc… But when you live here, you can think on it and go back the next day if you choose.

I guess what I am getting at is that when you live in a normal town, most people head to the movies or out to eat, they don’t have a theme park right next door. Think of where you love to spend the most money, and then imagine it being in driving distance all the time. Can you live close and still keep your money? Well, it depends on how much you will be heading to the Parks. Annual Passes are always the first cost, but after that is really up to you. You can split meals with someone, bring your own snacks and drinks in, ask for gift cards for birthdays and Christmas- there IS a way to make it affordable. Most people, like us, can sit on a park bench in Magic Kingdom and just soak in the magic- that just costs admission.

What can you do free of charge in Walt Disney World? Well, you can ride the Monorail around the Seven Seas Lagoon or the Monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom. You can ride the WDW Busses from Resort to Resort, or any of the boats, too tour them and take pictures. The movies that are shown outside at the Resorts are also free of charge.  The 6:00 show at the Polynesian has the Fire Chief light the torches for the evening, very cool to see and free of charge. You can also take a DVC tour, free of charge, and sometimes you get little perks that come along with it.

Also, not on a Disney note, be aware of EVERYTHING to do in the Orlando area. From the plethora of Resorts around the area to try out, to the Restaurants, to the other attractions. Universal Studios, Sea World, Legoland, and the Holy Experience are just some of the other them parks that will take from your budget as well. We have found that making a special time every other month for the above Parks seems to work the best for us, plus it keeps it exciting.

I just wanted to touch on this subject because I want those relocating here to be aware of it. We had saved a lot of money to start our new life here, and we STILL found ourselves surprised at how fast the money went when we were at the Parks. It is so exciting to fulfill a dream and I want everyone to feel what our family feels when we walk among palm trees in the FL sun. Just be aware of the Disney cost of living and know that if you want to be able to enjoy it on a regular basis that you are prepared to pay for it. I hope this helps those of you who have this on your minds… God bless your day!


  1. Great Blog Amy!!! It’s the reality of all the Magic. It helps to know that though you prepared to best of your ability – unfortunately life gets in the way and by living your dream there is also the reality of the dream. I know when we go to Disney we work hard and save. Even when we are vacationing we get caught up in all the wonderfulness of Disney that we have to stop and say do we really need this. Nothing better than coming home from vacation with money in your pocket and no surprises. thank you Amy for sharing your experiences with us – you da bomb diggity 🙂


  2. Another great blog post, and very useful to your readers. That’s why we all love you. Thank you very much for sharing your insight.


  3. My wife and I have been going to Disney a few times a year for years now and finally joined Vacation Club at the end of 2008. We had also been annual pass holders for some years but had to give those up a year plus ago when money got tight.

    We had held off any trips for awhile but back on July 4th weekend we finally had to have a Disney fix (at least being in DVC helped out with the expense of the room itself). We took this trip’s opportunity to explore some of the features outside of the parks themselves. Among other things we went to the Tri-Circle D Ranch evening campfire (even won the evening trivia contest) and watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks show from the campground’s beach. Also went to the minigolf course outside Blizzard Beach and afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian (though it was somewhat a bit of torture to ride the monorail past Magic Kingdom knowing we couldn’t go in 😦 ).

    In all we both agree that it was a different experience for us…but we still wanted the parks!

    Fortunately we had a bit of improvement in our finances since and got our annual passes again earlier this month.


  4. Wonderful blog with lots to keep in mind that I’m sure some haven’t thought of. Its always nice to hear especially from someone who is experiencing things that you may be planning etc.


  5. Would it be considered stalking if one was at the Poly every night to watch the lighting ceremony? I’m pretty sure that’s where I’d be. 😉


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