As inflation and prices continue to soar in the U.S., it may be time to look abroad. Abu Dhabi, with its famous Yas Island tourist district, aims to be the Orlando of the Middle East. I compared prices and it was really cheaper to go to Abu Dhabi than to go to Walt Disney World.
For comparison, I looked at June, September, October and December of this year. After these hours, it can be difficult to check Disney rates as policies and offerings are not fully announced. During these times, I’m mostly looking at September and October, which are the months I personally recommend friends and family come to Orlando.
Walt Disney World has the shortest wait times and the most pleasant weather during the early fall months. It also means lower airfares and better hotel rates. Coincidentally, it is cheaper to visit Abu Dhabi at the same time of year.
Airline tickets are the hardest sell in Abu Dhabi
I won’t kid you, flights from North America to Abu Dhabi are long, most flights from the east coast take an average of 13 hours. Prices may seem daunting, but compared to the rest of the trip, these flights might be the only thing holding you back from having a memorable trip.
I compared flights from New York and Chicago — the two most populous cities in the U.S. that are far enough from Florida to warrant a flight, but not close enough to California to justify a trip to the Disneyland Resort.
From New York City, NY
The two fares are very different, I agree. But you need to level the playing field a little bit. Flights from New York to Abu Dhabi include one personal item, one carry-on bag and stored luggage. It also includes seat selection and three meals aboard a luxury airliner.
To do the equivalent on a New York to Orlando flight, you’d have to jump up to $712, then add $60 per passenger for checked bags, which brings the price up from $3,688 to $952. Still, the Orlando option is 1/3 the price, but the flight is the only time the Orlando option wins.
From Chicago, IL
These flights are in about the same price range as Chicago. You still need to upgrade your Orlando flight and buy your luggage. That means a flight from Chicago to Orlando costs $1,274 and a flight to Abu Dhabi costs $3,579. As in the first example, this is the only trip to Orlando that costs less.
Just for comparison, Los Angeles, CA to Orlando costs $1,512 and Abu Dhabi $3,920 on the same dates. Vancouver, Canada to Orlando is $1,653 and Abu Dhabi is $5,137. Tickets from Austin, Texas, to Orlando are $1,386 and to Abu Dhabi are $4,191.
Comparing hotels is hardly comparable
After your flight, you naturally need a place to stay. Walt Disney World offers a variety of hotel types, ranging from budget to luxury. Abu Dhabi, even its great value hotels, mostly offer mid to high-end accommodation. On these dates, the absolute cheapest hotel rates at Walt Disney World are still $20 more a night than the ultra-modern 5-star W Abu Dhabi YAS Island above.
The price difference is stark, especially when you consider that every Abu Dhabi hotel on the right is a minimum 4 star hotel. For transparency, all Walt Disney World Resort hotel options on the left include park admission, while in Abu Dhabi on the right, only the WB Abu Dhabi Hilton includes park admission.
theme park tickets
Hilton WB Abu Dhabi Steps away from Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi and YAS Waterworld. Both parks, as well as Ferrari World and Sea World Abu Dhabi, are included in the accommodation price.
The four YAS Island Parks, YAS Beach and YAS Mall are all within a free bus ride from the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and W Abu Dhabi YAS Island Hotel. None of these hotels currently offer packages. But YAS Island theme park offers a four-park package for a total of $734.84 for the whole family. One park per day, one park per day, suitable for the whole family, and tours cost less than $750.
If you want to include Disney’s water parks, your trip will add $276. WB Hilton Abu Dhabi and YAS Island Theme Park Package Included Huge YAS Water World (It has a roller coaster fly over the park).
Food prices can make or break a trip
Disney Dining Programs Haven’t Returned to Walt Disney World, But It will indeed return in January 2024. If you decide to add the Disney Plan to your trip, it will provide two meals a day, one snack and one refillable drink cup. Adding this plan will cost your family $1,734.
Yes, you can save extra money if you decide to dine within your budget. Currently, the average fast food meal at Walt Disney World costs about $14 for an adult and $10 for a child. These adult entrées don’t include anything but the entree and a glass of water. The average cost of table service is $38 for adults and $13 for children. Again, this only includes entrees and water. When you add drinks, snacks, appetizers and desserts, the price of a home can quickly add up.
Affordable Abu Dhabi Dining Options and Packages
In contrast to Disney, YAS Island offers its own meal plan. 40 signature table service restaurants in numerous hotels and parks around YAS Island. This plan includes a full lunch and dinner service (appetizer, main course, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage) for $49 per day for adults and $24.50 per day for children.
If you stay at Hilton WB Abu Dhabi, your buffet breakfast and dinner are included in your room rate.Alternatively, W Abu Dhabi YAS Island offers signature drinks and club packages such as $54 All You Can Drink Pool Party.
Explore the world for less
Math is clear. Families heading to Walt Disney World this year could theoretically spend more in Orlando than they would round the world to Abu Dhabi. This is definitely not a drag on Disney. I’m an annual pass holder for Walt Disney World and visit often, but I do want to open people’s eyes as I did when I visited Abu Dhabi myself recently.
Comparing dollar to dollar, a family of four from the New York area can visit Abu Dhabi for $6,065, including three meals a day, a five-star hotel and access to all the parks on Yas Island. That same family can go to Walt Disney World for $7,009, stay at Disney’s lowest-end hotel (all-star movies), get two meals a day, one snack, and access to all of Walt Disney World’s parks. If the family wanted a similar hotel stay, their price would jump to $10,604.
No matter how I twisted, shifted or budgeted, I couldn’t (during the aforementioned months) travel to Walt Disney World for less than a trip to Abu Dhabi for tickets, dining and hotel options.
Traveling abroad can certainly be stressful for families. Customs, strange laws and language barriers can be a deterrent. While I can’t vouch for every city or every experience, I will say that traveling to Abu Dhabi is not difficult.
Customs took me less than 15 minutes and English was always available. YAS Island offers free transport to most hotels, and taxis are cheap – there’s also Uber in the city. The city is very clean and has a reputation for being safe. The hotel I live in, W Abu Dhabi YAS Island, provides local and American meals and room facilities.this Impressive Yas Island ParkThe new Sea World Abu Dhabi The most incredible marine parks in the world.
If you’re curious about dress codes and customs in the UAE, read the article below where we discuss how many of these online warning sites are exaggerated. Yes, women can wear bikinis, no young girls don’t have to wear face coverings to go out. Yes, T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are allowed in most tourist areas.