Did you know that the city of Orlando, Florida has been crowned the United States’ tourism capital? One of the biggest reasons for the high number of tourists is the Orlando theme parks. Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal, and several other installments draw millions to the city annually.
If you’re curious about planning your next visit, you may be struggling to pick which park to go to. What’s the cost of an Orlando family vacation to SeaWorld or Disney World? Read on to find out what you should be budgeting!
SeaWorld Cost vs. Disney World Cost
Before we get into the details, we should look at the overall. Ultimately, the cost of a vacation is drastically different depending on a family’s desires.
Some may take a day trip and only need to see one park. Others may not spend any money on food or a place to stay.
Personal preferences can drastically alter the cost of your visit. It’s best that you begin by looking at everything your family is going to want to engage with.
Does your family want to see multiple Orlando theme parks, or is your trip solely to see the attractions? What if your family is more interested in one of Disney’s specialty resorts than Disney parks themselves?
On face value, many would say that SeaWorld is cheaper, as a day ticket is a lower cost. However, others may say that Disney is cheaper, as you get more value from their many parks.
The choice is yours to make, but we’re happy to help you make an informed decision. Read on for a brief overview of how much it costs to visit these two parks. We’ve also included some important information on visiting Orlando as a whole.
To start, we’ll look at the prices of tickets to each of the Orlando theme parks. If you’re heavily frugal, this may be the only factor that matters.
We’ll look at food, entertainment, and more in a moment, but some people may not need such information. If you’re careful, you can have a day at the parks without spending a penny on food and beverages.
Others may have a place to stay down here that lower the cost of a trip. As such, ticket prices are arguably the most important factor.
A day trip to SeaWorld can be as cheap as around $70. For this cost, you’ll enjoy everything SeaWorld has to offer. Many other tickets will offer entry to other SeaWorld parks.
Disney’s daily tickets are considerably more expensive. A standard theme park ticket can cost above $100.
An important note is that every member of your party will need a ticket, with some exceptions. Infants or newborns sometimes have discounted tickets, and in some parks, they may get in for free. Make sure you aren’t forgetting anyone’s ticket or you’ll be denied entry to any park.
There’s more than just one type of ticket to the Orlando theme parks. It’s important to know what sorts of special tickets SeaWorld and Disney offer.
SeaWorld has tickets that you can use to get into more than one park, such as their Aquatica waterpark. These are great if you’re in Orlando for the summer and are worried you’ll get tired of one park.
SeaWorld also offers a “Fun Card” pass. You can use this card for unlimited visits to both parks for the year that you’ve purchased the pass. The prices and conditions can change, so don’t always bet on this option being available.
Disney World has a plethora of options for your tickets. Their Park-Hopper tickets will allow you to take their transit stations from one park to another. If you’re quick and don’t mind the travel, you can visit multiple parks in one day.
They also offer the “4-Day, 4-Park Magic Ticket” which has a similar benefit. You can use this ticket to visit each park once. If you’re visiting for a week or so and want to see all of Disney World’s attractions, this is a wonderful option.
SeaWorld and Disney will frequently post discounts on their tickets. If you look around holidays, you can often find tickets at a steal of a cost. SeaWorld often cuts prices around Memorial Day, for example.
Orlando is also rich with third-party vendors that sell tickets at a discount. You can dramatically lower the cost of your Orlando family vacation by finding a reputable vendor.
Search for these vendors online ahead of time to get the best option. If you’re already en route to Orlando, you can easily find one of these vendors around the touristy areas. Disney properties, International Drive, and the Universal area are great places to look.
A final option for tickets is to pay attention to the many promotions the Orlando theme parks will offer. If you’re patient and wait for the right promotion, you can reduce the cost of your ticket significantly.
One common promotion is for college students. Local universities such as the University of Central Florida will give promotional discounted tickets to students. Some go so far as to buy a park out for a night, such as the Universal Studios’ “Universal Knights” event.
Another promotion is for Florida residents. Disney and SeaWorld both offer cheaper tickets for residents of the state. If you live at the tip of North Florida, you’re eligible for these tickets just the same as someone who lives next to Disney.
Keep an eye out for promotions for all the Orlando theme parks. Finding a great promotional deal can help you save money on your trip. With the extra funds, you can sometimes fund another day at the parks.
A trip isn’t as simple as buying a ticket and arriving at the Orlando theme parks. Traffic around these parks is often heavily congested, which can add to your costs.
Driving your car into Orlando means you should be aware of what costs you’ll accrue. The amount of driving necessary will increase the costs in gasoline.
Should you choose to rent a vehicle once you’re here, the price won’t be affected by either park. Still, you’ll need to be aware of the cost of gas and other factors that may increase the price.
If you’re ridesharing, you won’t need to worry about gasoline or a vehicle. However, there are still some costs to be aware of in such a situation. Here’s a quick overview of traveling around the parks.
Traveling Around SeaWorld
SeaWorld is a relatively easy area to get around. Compared to Universal and Disney, the traffic is often lighter.
Part of the reason for this is that SeaWorld’s property is smaller than both parks. Located near Williamsburg in the Greater Orlando area, its entrance is easy to reach and typically only clogged during peak traffic times.
Ridesharing is easy in this area and you should only need a ride to and from the park. If you don’t prefer rideshare, there are several bus routes you can use instead.
There are also hotels close enough to SeaWorld that walking to the park is feasible. It’s important to be wary of when you’d be making this walk. Orlando weather is heavily unpredictable in the summer as well as having uncomfortably high temperatures.
Traveling Around Disney World Property
Traveling around Disney World’s property isn’t as simple as arriving at the gate to the park and being done. Non-natives are often surprised to find that Disney isn’t a few theme parks.
Disney property is massive enough that most locals consider it to be its own city. The location has separate emergency response teams, shopping centers, and medical facilities. By comparison, Disney World is roughly the same size as San Francisco.
As such, ridesharing and taxis can often be more expensive, as you’ll travel farther. Traffic is also more significant, particularly around peak times.
If you’re traveling around the property without a vehicle, you’ll need multiple rides. The cost of these trips can add up considerably before you’ve realized it.
Thankfully, Disney has a robust public transportation network. A great deal of funding has gone into this network, which many locals consider to be greater than the general Orlando transit systems.
Most Disney resorts have bus lines or trams that can take you directly to a park and back. Keep an eye on when these run so you don’t find yourself spontaneously stranded.
Room and Board
Travel and tickets settled, it’s important to know where you’re staying. Did you know that the cost of where you’re staying isn’t solely the cost of your room?
There are several factors that will affect your costs in Orlando. For example, you may find a room cheaper if you stay farther away from the park of your choice. While this can save money for the room, you may end up spending more overall when you include traveling to and from the parks.
It’s also important to know about the many differences that staying near these parks includes. Here are some of the factors in price for each park.
Staying Near SeaWorld
SeaWorld is large, but there are fewer options for places to stay near the park. Double Tree Resorts presents several lovely options for places to stay.
These rooms are fantastic for a prolonged stay, especially if you’re taking an Orlando family vacation. The many amenities can help keep your family entertained and comfortable while away from the parks.
There’s also a surplus of other options if these resorts feel more extravagant than you need. SeaWorld is on Orlando’s famous International Drive.
If you’re unfamiliar with this road, it’s a rich source of nighttime entertainment and a tourism hotspot. Dozens of hotels dot the roadway that fill any need, financial range, and more. Consider looking at the many options to find something that fits your desires.
Furthermore, these locations are great if SeaWorld isn’t your only destination. From International Drive (typically called “I-Drive” by locals), it’s roughly a 15-25 minute drive to Universal and Disney properties.
You’ll also enjoy being close to several major highways, including the cross-state I-4 and the beach-going 528. These are great options for reaching other areas of Florida on your vacation that your hotel is conveniently close to.
In short, staying near SeaWorld has a massive range of costs and benefits. Research the dozens of hotels nearby to see what best fits your needs.
Rooms on Disney Property
Staying on Disney is somewhat more in-depth, as the options have greater variety. While SeaWorld has slightly limited options on SeaWorld-owned resorts, Disney is famous for their properties.
Disney offers multiple resorts that families can stay at. These resorts are focused on an Orlando family vacation and provide countless amenities, including park transit.
As a result, they’re often exorbitant in their pricing. The famous Disney Contemporary Resort has monorail access to the nearby Magic Kingdom, for example. A single night in this resort can approach the four-digit numbers.
Many Disney resorts flaunt similar prices but are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It’s also important to note that these resorts have limited availability. You’ll often need to book your stay months, sometimes years in advance.
Staying on Disney property is generally several times more expensive than staying near SeaWorld. If you’re choosing where to stay solely on cost, SeaWorld is the best option. For a more in-depth choice, you should consider the amenities and experiences both options give.
While many of the resorts on Disney property are pricy, there are other options available. Disney didn’t build a few resorts for the highest price range and leave everyone else to make do, after all.
One of the best places to stay on Disney property is the aptly named Hotel Boulevard. The road is within walking distance to the shopping area Disney Springs and is exceptionally close to the aforementioned I-4 and 528 highways. If you want to stay near Disney but want to see other parts of Orlando as well, this is a fantastic choice.
Many people also choose to stay in a city over in local Kissimmee. Kissimmee has a reputation as being a nearby landing spot for tourists that are aiming for Disney.
The plentiful places to stay in Kissimmee are strong options and are also cheaper. Kissimmee also has several tourist attractions you may enjoy experiencing during your downtime between the parks.
The city also isn’t purely tourist-centric, making it a bit more homey. If you don’t want to get swallowed up by the constant surge of tourists, Kissimmee is an option worth considering.
An important note is that Kissimmee is about 30 minutes away, depending on traffic. It’s a better option if you have your own transportation. Ridesharing or taxiing from the city over will quickly increase your costs.
Cost of a Trip to the Park
You have your room booked, your park tickets in your hand, and your travel arranged. What other costs should you put into your budget?
It’s no surprise that the costs don’t stop once you’re in the park. Here are some of the extra costs that you should think of before you finalize your trip.
Many parkgoers local and out-of-town alike find themselves balking at the cost of parking. Some passes may include the cost of parking, so you won’t have to worry if you have the proper ticket. Parking also isn’t a factor if you’re ridesharing or have someone dropping you off.
Parking in some resorts may incur a fee. You should sort out the cost of parking before you book your nights, as this catches some visitors off-guard. Thankfully, it’s typically complimentary for resort guests to self-park, but valets will incur a cost.
As far as the parks go, there are steeper fees to park. Disney offers one-fee day-long parking passes.
After you pay for parking the first time, your pass will be good for the rest of the day. For example, if you start your day at Magic Kingdom and then go to EPCOT, you won’t need another parking pass.
Preferred parking for a car or motorcycle is $45 or $50 per day. Standard parking is $25 per day instead. An oversized vehicle such as a shuttle, camper, tractor-trailer, or limo is $30 per day.
It’s important to note that pricing is seasonal and frequently changes. Disney also provides charging stations for electric vehicles and plentiful handicapped spots.
One important quality-of-life benefit is the “Car Locator” app. If you have the My Disney Experience application, you can easily track where you’ve parked. Once you see the thousands of cars in the massive parking lot, you’ll be thankful for this app.
SeaWorld parking works much the same as Disney parking and at a similar cost. If you have a Florida Silver, Gold, or Platinum Annual Pass, you’ll receive complimentary general parking. Depending on the day, you may also receive complimentary preferred parking.
Otherwise, parking fees start at $30. Preferred parking jumps to $45, while VIP is $60. Prices are sometimes lowered if you purchase the parking pass in advance online.
Both Disney and SeaWorld offer wonderful food and beverage options. However, the costs range dramatically for all Orlando theme parks, which makes it difficult to rate which is more or less expensive.
Disney offers some luxury restaurants that are significantly more expensive than anything SeaWorld offers. Dinner at the Be Our Guest experience is roughly $70 per adult, for example.
That isn’t to say that everything at Disney is such a price. Both parks offer a wide variety of different culinary options that cover many different price options.
Overall, you should consider the cost of food to be the same at both. Expect to spend about $15-$20 at respective quick-service restaurants. Plentiful food stands will dot both parks with cheaper, snack-style options that can become the highlight of your trip.
With all of that considered, one thing that Disney has over SeaWorld is variety. Disney property is significantly larger and packed with restaurants of all different styles, nationalities, price ranges, and tastes.
Animal Kingdom is a wonderful example of this range. African, Asian, and American style foods dot the park at wide range of costs. Enjoy a low-cost street corn outside of the Safari or book a reservation at the pricy Tiffins.
You aren’t going to go back empty-handed, are you? Both properties offer a stunning array of souvenirs and park-themed memorabilia.
Factoring in the costs of merchandise is vital for your budget. If you’re bringing kids, they’ll reach for the manatee plushies at SeaWorld faster than you can imagine.
The cost of souvenirs is roughly equal at all Orlando theme parks. It isn’t suggested that you pick your vacation based on which has cheaper merchandise. Still, should you choose to do so, you’ll find both parks charging you similar amounts for similar products.
Finally, the last thing you should consider is whether you’re visiting the park during a special event. All Orlando theme parks throw events frequently, especially around holidays.
SeaWorld has a Halloween event meant to rival the famous Universal Halloween Horror Nights. Howl-O-Scream tickets often are priced differently than standard SeaWorld tickets. Without these tickets, you may find yourself escorted out of the park earlier than expected.
Disney’s events change depending on what park you’re visiting. Magic Kingdom rivals Howl-O-Scream with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween, centered around children.
One notable event is EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival. Tickets remain the same price, but the park’s World Showcase is filled with stands representing many different nations. These stands provide delicious multi-national treats, but their price swiftly adds up.
The Cost of Orlando Theme Parks
The price of Orlando theme parks can vary considerably depending on your desires. If one only compares the SeaWorld ticket price to the Disney World ticket price, SeaWorld is the cheaper option. We suggest making a list of your priorities and what you want to see in Orlando, as well as informing your choices with a budget.
For more in-depth reads on what you can experience with Florida’s theme parks, be sure to browse our site. We have plenty of deep dives and guides on how to make the most of your visit!