This past year, we were on a super tight budget leading up to our wedding but we knew we still wanted to do something fun for my 30th birthday. After looking around and crunching some numbers, we realized we could take a whirlwind trip to Walt Disney World with a base cost of only $300 each for flights, hotel stay, and park tickets! When all was said and done, the trip totaled about $500 each and we had a super fun three days. Honestly, we wouldn't mind doing a trip like this again! Keep reading to see how much ground we covered on a limited budget and in such a brief period of time!
Since our trip was going to be so brief, we decided to maximize our time at Disney World by taking a red-eye flight out of Los Angeles. We took off late at night to land in Orlando around 5 or 6 am. We knew we would be tired on Day 1 but this was our best bet to fit in everything we wanted to do in the matter of three days.
After landing in Orlando, we made our way to Disney's Magical Express and, since it was so early, we were the only ones on our bus! In no time at all we were off to Disney's Pop Century Resort.
Upon arrival, we were able to get a room right away which was super nice (we did pack a change of clothes & things to get ready in our carry-on bags if this wasn't the case). Disney offers a room check-in online where you can indicate that you'll be arriving early so we made sure to do that before we left.
Disney's Pop Century Resort is one of their Value Resorts which means it's one of the cheapest options for staying on property. We found a deal for the time we were visiting (May) and the room ended up costing about $100 a night. As you'll see, the rooms are very basic; however, everything else is "larger than life."
For breakfast, we decided to take a quick walk over the bridge to the neighboring property, Disney's Art of Animation Resort. I had stayed there before and I wanted to show Greg around since it's got the best design and theme out of all the Value Resorts.
After breakfast, we took a brief nap back at our hotel and then got ready for the day. To save money, we didn't plan to go to the parks on Days 1 & 3 of our trip. Our mission for the first day was to explore two new bars that had opened on property since our last visit: Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar in Disney Springs and Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar is themed after Indiana Jones and has some fun cocktails and food items inspired by the movies. It's located in Disney Springs and worth checking out! You can read our full review here.
After our brief visit to Disney Springs, we took a bus to our favorite hotel on property: Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is located at this tropical paradise and that was our next destination. Since it wasn't open yet when we arrived, we took some time to enjoy the resort. Isn't it beautiful?!
Shortly after it opened, we headed over to Trader Sam's Grog Grotto. We had frequented the west coast version (Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar) quite a bit so we couldn't wait to see how this one compared! Trader Sam's Grog Grotto was super fun and magical inside and we had a great time trying the menu items that were unique to the Disney World location. Want to know more? You can read our full review here!
For dinner, we got a couple of sushi rolls at the Polynesian's Kona Cafe. I had eaten breakfast there in the past (Tonga Toast anyone?) so I was curious about their dinner offerings. The bread & butter were excellent but the rolls were a little underwhelming in my opinion). Maybe we didn't order the right thing.
After dinner, we managed to catch a glimpse of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the lawn of the Polynesian Village Resort!
Day 2 was my birthday and also our one "park day" of the trip. We were headed to our favorite park of them all: Epcot. Because we were visiting in the spring, the Flower & Garden Festival was going on. For those of you who don't know about it, there are special topiaries and flower installations all around the park as well as food & drink kiosks unique to the event scattered mostly around World Showcase. There's also special merchandise, events, and attractions (like a giant butterfly tent).
Celebrating my 30th birthday in Disney World was pretty cool because it marked 25 years since my first trip, which took place on my 5th birthday. On my first visit, I was a huge fan of Minnie Mouse so I aptly wore a polka dot dress the night of my birthday. This year, I rekindled that love with a modernized version of that outfit (and some flowery ears from Floofy Arts to go with it).
Before World Showcase opened, we managed to get on a few rides in Future World, notably Spaceship Earth & Living with the Land. Then it was time to start our travels!
Some of you may remember our post about how we drank our way around the world at Epcot during our last visit. This time was round two: Flower & Garden Festival style. Once again we had a drink at each country but split each of those. Otherwise, that would have been way too many drinks and way too much money spent for each of us! We also snacked at almost all of the countries (which accounted for our lunch and dinner for the day). Enjoy our brief trip around the world!
What We Drank: Cucumber Margarita from La Cava del Tequila inside the Mexico pavilion
What We Ate: Tacos de Camarón (tempura shrimp served with hibiscus flower, caramelized onions, and habanero sauce) from the Jardin de Fiestas booth
We love the drinks at La Cava del Tequila so we make sure to stop by whenever we're in Epcot! This taco was pretty tasty too.
What We Drank: Einstök White Ale
What We Drank: Dragon Pearl (beer, honey, cream, and tapioca pearls) from the Lotus House booth
What We Ate: Gaoli Beef Bun from the Lotus House booth
Thank drink, while weird sounding, was surprisingly good! The beef bun was right up our alley as well.
What We Drank: Beer Flight (Paulaner Original Munich Lager, Schöfferhofe Hefeweizen, Warsteiner Dunkel, and Köstritzer Schwarzhier Black Lager) from the Bauernmarkt: Farmer's Market booth
What We Drank: Rossini (sparkling wine and marinated strawberries) from the Primavera Kitchen booth
The American Adventure
What We Drank: Shipyard Maple Bacon Stout from The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews booth
What We Ate: Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Has with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños from The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews booth
The flavor of the beer was more subtle than we were expecting and the Beef Brisket Burnt Ends was the best thing we got to eat all day!
What We Drank: Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy from the Hanami booth
What We Ate: Frushi (fresh pineapple, strawberry, and melon rolled with raspberry coconut rice, sprinkled with toasted coconut, and whipped cream on the side) from the Hanami booth
This Frushi ended up being my second favorite dish of the day - surprisingly tasty!
What We Drank: Desert Rose (sparkling wine topped with pomegranate liqueur) from the Taste of Marrakesh booth
What We Drank: Kir Imperial (sparkling with with Chambord black raspberry liquor) from the Fleur de Lys booth
What We Ate: Tarte à l'Onion Alsacienne (Alsatian onion tart with sautéed onions, fresh thyme, and rosemary on a flaky puff pastry crust) and Cassoulet au Confit de Canard (pulled duck confit with braised flageolet beans) both from the Fleur de Lys booth
We had high hopes for the food in France, which is why we chose to order two dishes there. The onion tart was pretty good but the duck confit was very bland! That was probably our least favorite dish of the day.
What We Drank: Port Wine from the Rose & Crown Pub
What We Ate: Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing from the Cider House booth
What We Drank: Moosehead Draft
We successfully made it around the world and felt pretty good! If you split drinks, take your time in each country, and snack along the way, you're sure to have fun on this tour!
After a day of world traveling, we had some time to hop on a few more rides: Test Track, Ellen's Energy Adventure, and Mission: Space. Then it was time to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Greg had never seen this fireworks show so it was about time. A great end to a great day!
On our last day, we decided to do one of my favorite things: tour the monorail resorts. I know, we had already spent some time at the Polynesian on Day 1, but we couldn't resist. Since we couldn't afford to stay at a Deluxe Resort on this trip, we wanted to make sure we still got to spend quality time at them. Maybe it's because I have such fond childhood memories of these properties, but the resorts along the monorail route are some of my favorite places anywhere!
Polynesian Village Resort
Grand Floridian Resort
Around 2:00 pm, it was time to board our Magical Express from the hotel back to the airport. We were back in Los Angeles before Day 3 was over!
We were able to do a ton of great stuff across the limited span of three days. For any of you new to Walt Disney World, you may have also noticed that there's a decent amount to explore on property beyond the four main theme parks. We only scratched the surface with our trip but we managed to fit in some of our favorite activities.
For anyone wondering how we managed to do all of that for $500 each, here's the breakdown of our costs for the trip:
- Airfare: $98 per person (we had enough airline points to comp our flight home from MCO to LAX)
- Hotel: $113 per person ($226 for 2 nights at the Pop Century Resort)
- Park Tickets: $102 per person (for a one day, one park ticket to Epcot)
- Food & Drink: $175 per person (approximately)
GRAND TOTAL: $488 per person ( ! )
While we splurged a little on food & drink and saved on our hotel and park tickets, this mini-trip could always be done a little differently. For someone sticking to more of a budget on meals, you could potentially stay at a Moderate Resort or you could opt for the Park Hopper option (to hit more than one park in a day). If you were super frugal with your food, travel, and hotel, you might even be able to buy a 2-day park ticket within this budget!
New to Walt Disney World (or Haven't Been in a While)?
We wouldn't recommend this trip to anyone who's never been to Walt Disney World or to anyone who hasn't visited in a while. There is too much to see at the resort that you would feel like you were missing out! I've visited 15 times and our last trip together was a year and a half before this one so we were okay with this very brief stay.
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Has anyone else taken a brief trip like this to Disney World in the past? We'd love to hear all about it in the Comments section below!