A Disney vacation may end in debt, but there may be few regrets

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A new survey found that a trip to the 'happiest place on earth' may end with sky-high bills

This holiday season, inflation has been top of mind for many consumers. The rising cost of day-to-day goods has made the financial burden of buying holiday gifts more stressful than usual. 

While recent studies have shown the lengths consumers will go to get every gift on their wish list, what about a vacation to Disney World

A new survey conducted by LendingTree asked over 1,550 consumers if they’d be willing to go into debt for their Disney vacation – and if they’d regret doing so. 

Perhaps the biggest findings from the survey was that 20% of respondents said they have gone into debt for a Disney vacation, while more than 70% of that group said they don’t regret their decision. 

“It’s no secret that a trip to a Disney park is expensive, but that is a price many Americans are willing to take on some debt to pay,” said Matt Schultz, LendingTree’s chief credit analyst. “That speaks to the power of Disney and is also further proof of just how many of us value experiences and memories that can come with them. 

“Taking on debt for such things can be okay, as long as it is done in moderation. However, doing it too often or to too big a degree can be a recipe for trouble.” 

What are the financial risks, and who’s willing to take them? 

The survey broke down the primary costs associated with a Disney vacation, as well as who is most susceptible to going into debt for their trip. 

According to Mouse Hacking, the price of flights, transportation to and from Disney World, a five-night stay at a Disney resort, five-day park tickets with a paid line-skipping service (Genie+), and a standard meal for a family of four (two adults, one child aged 3-9, and one child 10 or older) would cost $5,731 this year ($287 per person per night). 

However, by 2023, that price is anticipated to increase to $316 per person per night, making that same vacation over $6,300. 

The study identified which groups were most likely to go into debt for their Disney vacations: six-figure earners (26%), parents with children under 18 (30%), and millennials (27%).

However, members of these same groups were also the most likely to use discounts to fund their trips – 49% of six-figure earners, 51% of parents with young children, and 50% of millennials. 

According to participants who have gone into debt for a Disney trip, the top three things that cost more than anticipated were park concessions, admission tickets, and hotels. 

A budget can help

With over 71% of the participants in debt from their Disney trips having no regrets about how they spent their money, the survey revealed that quickly making payments could be the reason. Eighty percent of participants said they’d pay off their Disney debt in under six months. 

However, for those who aren’t looking to add to their debt, LendingTree did offer some budgeting tips. 

For starters, utilizing credit card rewards – whether that’s for airfare, hotels, or other vacation-related purchases – can help reduce out-of-pocket costs. Experts also recommend opening a 0% balance transfer credit card if possible, which will cut interest out of all of your payments, and make it easier – and faster – to pay off debt. 

Lastly, they suggest over-budgeting. While it’s hard to know exactly how much you’ll speed on food and drinks every day, targeting your budget higher than you expect can help you enjoy your vacation without breaking the bank. 

There are also several Disney blogs that help travelers make the most of their stay on a budget. Sites like MagicGuides.com, MouseEarMemories.com, and DisneyTouristBlog.com, among countless others, provide resources for Disneygoers to travel affordably. 

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