To Go to Disney Magic Kingdom or not to Go, that Is the Question…

Majority of you know how I feel about Disney.  It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that it’s so stinking crowded and expensive. Being the cheapskate that I am, it’s hard to justify paying so much money for one day admission  when I could get yearly passes to Legoland for the same amount. But the problem is, my kids love Disney. And I love my kids.

I’ve written quite a few posts on this topic and compiled them in this aptly named round-up: No, I do not hate Disney If you have small kids and are thinking about going, I recommend you check out my unbiased, non-sponsored opinions. Disney will never be contacting me about hosting giveaways, I guarantee it.

Honestly, I will be the first to admit that Disney parks, especially Magic Kingdom are very impressive. There is a reason why they keep on raising the prices yet people are still coming in droves.

I think every family should visit Disney (specifically Magic Kingdom) at least once. However, if you are on a tight budget,  I  recommend you wait till the kids are a bit older. It’s hard to say in advance how they will handle crowds, stress and potential heat. Same goes for  parents.

Everyone is always happy in Disney parks, or are they? 

Sure, there is always that one perfect family who took their 6-month old and a toddler and everyone had a marvelous (marvelous!) time. Those are the  type of spouses who never (never!) argue and whose kids are champions in every sport under the sun. But I’ve seen so many miserable families in Disney  that I know what  I’m talking about. You will spend a lot of money and may end up regretting it. Or maybe you won’t, it’s impossible to say in advance.

If you have a lot in savings, by all means go for it. But if it will take you  several years to save up for this trip, make it count. Check out my Disney round-up for some ways miles and points can help you reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

My kids are 5 and 8, and I think it’s a good age to consider a Disney trip. In fact, I’m thinking about taking them to Magic Kingdom next January. The weather is usually nice during that time and Spring Break crowds haven’t yet arrived.

What gave birth to this idea is the fact that I booked a 2-night stay at the newly remodeled Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites-Waterpark (former Nickelodeon resort). It costs 25,000 IHG points per night, and looks like a fun place for small kids. So I was thinking, since we’ll be in Orlando anyway, why not go to Magic Kingdom?

How much?!!

Of course, then I remembered what it costs to get  in. Since Disney now uses dynamic pricing, this is what the tickets will run for a family of four in January of 2017:

disney 1 day

Gulp! Disney is the “Hyatt Vendome” of amusement parks. We would probably drive our own car, so would have to pay extra for parking. Then, of course, there is overpriced food and souvenirs. There is no way we would leave the park without shelling out at least $550 total. For one day. Let me repeat it: $550 for just one day!

Of course, as Florida residents, we have access to special discounts. But even those have been “weak sauce” lately. Here is a deal for 3 days, though there are blackout dates and you have to use your pass  within 6 months:

disney 3 day

Obviously, this is a better deal, but only if you want to visit Disney parks three times within six months. Personally, I’m OK going once every three years. Plus, if you plan on buying a 3-day pass, you might as well get a 4-day deal:

disney 4 day

This is very clever marketing. Basically, Florida residents get a 4-day pass for the price of 2-day admission. You would be crazy not to take them up on it. Well, I guess I’m crazy  because if we go, it will only be for one day. Like I said, the price of the ticket is only part of the equation.

There is parking, food, toys and of course, you need a hotel if you want to get your money’s worth. We live 1.5 hours away from Magic Kingdom and with small kids, it’s a bit far to do a  day trip.

 A possible compromise

But how in this world can I justify dropping over half a grand on one day in an amusement park? Well, after thinking about it some more, the only way I’ll consider it is if my husband and I end up getting Chase Disney Visa (you can find referral link for it at this DoC post).

The regular sign-up bonus is pretty small, only $200 Disney gift card. But if there  is nothing else available, I’ll consider it. I got a targeted mail offer of $250 Disney gift card awhile back, so maybe it will show up again. Of course, if I’m going to use up a Chase application, I should probably go for British Airways Signature Visa instead.

It comes with 50,000 Avios miles, and for now is not subject to 5/24 rule. Even though I don’t have specific plans for BA Avios for the next few years, getting 50,000 miles rather than $200 gift card  is still preferable to me. Note that the annual fee of $95 is not waived.

Remember, we are not talking cash here, though I guess I could sell  gift card at a  loss. If you shop at Sam’s Club, you can buy Disney gift cards at  5% discount. If you have Chase Freedom, you’ll also earn 5 points per dollar on top of it. If you happen to have Costco membership, through July 4th you can get a free trial at Sam’s Club. Details here 

There are a few credit card bonuses that might also be a good fit. Among them are Wells Fargo Propel, Capital One Venture Rewards and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. See  details here When buying your Disney tickets, you can go through sites like Orbitz to make sure your purchase is coded as travel. See this page for more details. Be aware, you can’t buy 1-day tickets via Orbitz or Expedia.

Bottom line

Disney can be a  magical place, no question about it. If you plan everything ahead and do your research, a visit there could make for an unforgettable experience. But it comes at a steep price. Right now I’m working on beefing up our emergency fund, so will have to shelve the idea for the time being.

If I end up getting Chase Disney Visa bonus X 2, I’ll consider  it. If not, I’ll probably wait another few years before going back to Magic Kingdom. This time around, we’ll just enjoy the waterpark at the hotel and maybe splurge on a Rainforest Cafe. My kids have been to Disney before, so I don’t feel the pressure when it comes to this family  “rite of passage.”

Readers, what are your thoughts? Are you like me, as in too cheap for magic?

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9 thoughts on “To Go to Disney Magic Kingdom or not to Go, that Is the Question…

  1. Disney sure makes it tough to visit for just one day! I will say, however, that the Fast Pass + has made our recent visits so much more enjoyable. When I went last July with my daughter to Magic Kingdom, we rode the rides in the morning with almost no wait. I scheduled our fast passes for mid-day, and then after we used them we went back for one more at a time. I missed that new system when we visited Disneyland, which still has the old paper tickets for fast passes. As an alternative, maybe you could take the kids to the new Crayola Experience in Orlando? We enjoyed the one in Minnesota. But it’s not nearly the same level of excitement as the Magic Kingdom.

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  2. More ideas to cut down on the total cost of Disney for one day….bring your own food into the park! It’s totally allowed. For souvenirs, you could shop at an outlet before your trip (or even the Dollar Store) for cute Disney items to give to your kids instead of the expensive souvenirs in the park.

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    • @ Nancy You are a brave soul going to Disney, Orlando in July! I definitely think it’s possible to have a wonderful time if you plan it right. I just have a hard time with ROI looking at the price. I’m OCD like that, I can’t help it. 🙂
      Bringing food with you definitely makes sense, though, I’ve always been too lazy to do it.
      Thanks for your tip on new Crayola Experience. Never heard of it, so went to their website. Looks great, I might take kids there. I think we’ll just wait few years on Disney, though eventually, we’ll have to go. My kids love it way too much.

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  3. Going to Disney in January!!! I’ve been planning for over a year already. For the tickets, (I was declined for both the Barclay and Venture TWICE in the past year even with my STELLAR FICO score), so I am using a combination of Swagbucks rewards and probably the Disney Visa (was also thinking of using the $300 bonus for opening the Chase checking account but will probably need it for my trip in August to AZ). Will look into the Propel – I am staying at the Swan so will need some travel cash card for the resort fee and transportation to/from hotel.

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    • @HML I think your daughter is the perfect age for Disney, I really do! Plus, with two of you in the family (I think?), the cost of admission won’t be such a major issue.
      There are a few cash back offers on the market, but none are spectacular. This Wells Fargo Propel offer may not be around much longer according to DoC Here is the linkhttps://apply.wellsfargo.com/creditcard?execution=e1s1&page=OSMA_GETTING_STARTED_PAGE&token=_ryUDmCMlFsrBrk90r_Ljd8PDdC7YnNX
      You may need an existing relationship, though. Be aware, you might have to fax tax returns.There are a few other cash back offers, check Bank of America.

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  4. We took our kids to the Magic Kingdom earlier this month for the first time. It is so overrated. We had more fun at our local theme park, Holiday World, one week later. I will probably never take them to Disney again.

    We did stay at the Holiday Inn Orlando Suites – Waterpark our first night in town. The rooms are okay, the included water park was fun and nice. I would probably stay there again for the right price. We spent the rest of our trip at the Orange Lake Resort in Orlando, which is also Holiday Inn. I liked it a lot better personally if I had to choose between the two.

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    • @Holly Sorry you didn’t like it. This is precisely why I put this post together. Many families do love Disney, but quite a few don’t. The assumption is that everyone will have a good time at Magic Kingdom, guaranteed, and that’s just not true. Disney is very good at marketing. Unfortunately, many find out that it’s not what they expected after they have already dropped a few grand.
      I still think it’s an impressive place that deserves a visit, I just wanted to caution my readers when it comes to cost. Fortunately for us, we live in Florida, so we got 4-day passes for $139 each. One of my kids went free. We also used hotel points for lodging. Majority of families, on the other hand, spend a small fortune on this experience.
      We did have a good time, but it was very stressful. My goal is not to discourage people from going, but consider alternatives while the kids are small. Oh, and beg them to avoid summer season!

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