I’ll start by admitting that I went over budget.
Way over budget.
I guess I didn’t factor in the cost of Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream treats and princess trading pins as accurately as I’d thought.
As you’ve probably already guessed, my family and I just got back from Walt Disney World. It was a magical week – and an expensive one, as well. We took advantage of the well-timed trip to celebrate my daughter’s 4th birthday; we’d have taken the trip even if it wasn’t her birthday, but this way, I can pawn off the vacation as her birthday gift and avoid throwing her a party altogether. I know, I’m an evil genius.
And while my husband and I did everything we could to save money – from watching for room discounts, taking our own water bottles into the parks, and driving instead of flying – the costs still started to stack up as soon as we set foot in the good old House of Mouse. The subject of money on vacation can set even the most prepared individuals on edge, but it’s always important to parlay your experiences into money lessons you can take home with you. Think of them as a little souvenir from me to you.
You Can Have Too Much Of A Good Thing
Back in my early vacation planning days, I decided we’d spend a full week at WDW, arriving on a Sunday and leaving exactly a week later. I thought this would give us ample time to see all the parks and attractions without feeling rushed – and it did. But after about four days, my husband, daughter and I were exhausted. To be honest, I seriously considered going home a day or two early, and may very well have done just that if I hadn’t paid for my rooms in advance to snag the rock bottom rate.
Lesson Learned: Time is money, and if you budget too much of your time in any single place – yes, even Disney World – you may end up feeling like you’ve wasted it.
Even People On Vacation Will Steal
My mother warned me not to bring a stroller into the park. “Someone will steal it,” she insisted. I brushed off her concerns, labeling her a Negative Nelly. She was right, though. On our second day at Disney, someone swiped our stroller – the one we brought from home – while we ate dinner at Epcot. When I reported the theft, the customer relations rep told me, “You’d be surprised how often stuff like that happens around here.” Great.
Lesson Learned: Don’t assume that just because you’re visiting the happiest place on earth that nothing bad can happen. It can, and it will – that’s Murphy’s Law, after all.
Make Like A Teetotaller and Abstain
My husband loves to have a beer after dinner; my night ideally ends with a half-glass of white wine. But on vacation, drinking is a big no-no in our family. Why? Because it’s just too damn expensive. The margaritas at Disney’s Hollywood Studios cost $8.50 each; the craftsman beers at the Germany pavilion at Epcot were nearly $9. My husband remarked that he could buy an entire 6-pack for that price, and walked right by without a second glance.
Lesson Learned: While enjoying an adult beverage may help you relax – and feel a little bit more like an adult in a world so geared towards kids – but alcohol that costs that much is rarely ever worth it.
Budget For Souvenirs
Coming into the week, I had a plan for souvenirs. I had purchased a dozen Disney collector’s pins off eBay for $10; I planned to buy my daughter a lanyard, then let her trade the existing pins for ones she liked better. That plan worked great; by the end of the week, she’d upgraded all her pins from random Disney characters no one had ever heard of to the Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse, and Tigger. But she also caught the Disney merchandising bug (how can you avoid it?), and turned into a holy-mother-of-God terror halfway through the week. She’d tear through stores shouting, “Gimme that, gimme that, gimme that!” Her thirst for souvenirs was unquenchable. After I bought her a Disney autograph book (with matching princess pen), a Sleeping Beauty doll, and a Nala stuffed lion, I put on the breaks: NO MORE SOUVENIRS.
Lesson Learned: I should have done what a good friend of mine suggested. She bought cheap Disney gifts – a $1 coloring book, a $5 pack of Hanes princess underwear, etc. – before leaving for her trip to Orlando earlier this year. Then, she gave her daughter one of the small gifts every morning; in all, she says she spent about $10 on souvenirs and was able to avoid those greedy gimmies altogether.
Reader, what kind of money lessons have you learned on previous vacations?