Friday, August 6, 2010

Disney Dollars (Grown Up Edition)

Just got back from our mega vacation. " Disney Girl Trip 2.0" starred Mommy, J (my cousin’s daughter and my honorary niece) & yours truly along with bunches of other friends – and it was amazing! You’ll be seeing my thoughts about this year’s vaca here and hopefully elsewhere in the blogosphere – you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out more.

Reflecting on my trip and posting to a few discussion boards led to some serious pontificating about why I invest so much time & money in vacationing. I spend most of my time in planes and hotels for business - why didn’t I enjoy a “staycation” or use my (many) points to go somewhere other than WDW this year?

And.......Can I be honest? While I am incredibly blessed to do what I love and not have to worry about getting evicted anytime soon… I started this year very worried about how much I was going to spend on travel. And by very worried I mean near panic attacks. Every time I turned on the tv people were losing their jobs. I didn’t have 6 months of living expenses saved "just in case" - what was I thinking taking a vacation??? I had to have one friend talk me off the ledge of cancelling it all more than once. I didn’t want to do Disney on the cheap cuz I thought the contrast from the previous year would be too stark (for me)… but I felt terribly guilty and irresponsible even considering a luxury vacation in these “harsh economic times”.

As hard as it is for me to even type this… if you’re trying to be frugal a Disney World trip is NOT a great way to do it. Thank goodness this blog isn’t about being frugal. It IS about being smart with how you spend your time & money while enjoying the good life. Cuz nothing hurts (me) worse than overpaying or wasting time.

A Disney vacation can be a resource hog folks… both for your time & money and especially if you have luxurious tastes. Disney has a million and one ways to spend every dime you came with and then get a few more. I know I’m not the only one who’s done mental accounting for just “one more thing” I HAD to buy or experience while on vacation at “the World”.  This makes advance planning & research critical. There are a ton of resources out there to help people save money on a WDW vacation. Websites, Travel Agents, Community Boards and Online Newsletters are your best friend.

Yes this will make you obsessive compulsive.  SO???  You end up with money in your pocket & stress free time with your family, which is priceless. Btw - I saved almost $3000 doing this. That pays for quite a bit of therapy. Just saying.

That said, I still get this question from time to time in every possible variation: Why Disney? Or Disney again? And there are folks who would probably make me have my head examined if they knew how much money I give to the Disney Company on an annual basis. I posted part of my “why” this week on a community board in answer to someone’s question regarding the value of an onsite Deluxe Resort stay at WDW and thought it might be worth posting here too.
So here's my two cents... cuz I think this is a really great question...

If I was going to Miami and I had to pick between the Ritz Carlton & a Disney hotel on South Beach I'd probably stay at the Ritz. (Ok, take my card away. Lock me in DISjail, whatever). That said I would never consider the Ritz in Orlando (and it has probably one of the best spas in the country.)

Why? Because there's nothing (yet) that's like staying on Disney property at a Disney resort for a Disney vacation. And when I vacation there it is to experience this inexplicable atmosphere that is truly, forgive me, magical. Disney Deluxe Resorts do this best. They combine detailed theme, great locations, and luxury in way that is without peer.

It's there in the smile of Teena the greeter when she welcomes you back or chats with you at the Beach Club. It follows you as you stroll from Epcot past the jugglers & funnel cakes to the Boardwalk Inn. It tempts you to ask your retired mom and 12 yr old niece if they want to head to the Magic Kingdom at 11:45 at night cuz it's only one monorail stop away, the park's open until 2am for resort guests, & you've got a little more energy. And then it convinces them to say yes.

It makes your jaw drop when you check into the Animal Kingdom Lodge or the Wilderness Lodge for the 1st time and see their majestic foyers. It makes you wish you could freeze time for a moment when you watch your girls make sand castles on the Polynesian Resort’s beach with Cinderella Castle as their backdrop. And it reminds you of a time when you were 11 and thought the coolest thing in the world was a train going right through the middle of a hotel.

I can't get that in Miami, or Vegas, or at the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons. I can only get it at Disney. Their variety of resort options (in one resort area) make it very tailorable to so many different types of people and their vacation styles/preferences. And while we may fuss (often & passionately) about the little changes that only dimly affect our amazing times at WDW, you can tell from the tickers that most of us cannot wait to go back and hear someone say "Welcome Home". 

It’s well worth it to see if you'll feel that way too. If you don't - well maybe I'll bump into you one day when I finally drive over to visit that spa at the Ritz 

So this is why we went anyway. I also paid off some personal debt ahead of time & did NOT go into debt taking my trip so my blood pressure is a low as ever and the panic attacks have stayed away, lol.  At the end of the day I am SO glad that we went on vacation and “did it up” the way I wanted to. It was just what I needed and, of course, I can’t WAIT to do it again!

Well? What do you think? Is my heart displayed prominently enough on my sleeve? How much is too much? What determines how you spend your pennies on vaca? Leave a comment – share your mental wealth!

My "TripTip"
If you’re gonna splurge – make it worthwhile. Go big or go home but DON’T spend money you don’t have  or more than other people are. The internet is your ally. Go explore. 


WDWStevieB said...

I always like looking at traveling and service though your eyes and experiences! Will it make me appear frugal if I say that lately: "I tend to enjoy luxurious Disney accommodations a'la DVC by using points, and up to a Moderate when using hard dollars?" I think to some it may, but I base this on a personal luxury/frequency scale I have found myself on lately...

I am finding that my trips to Disney have increased lately (who knows why is anyones guess-lol), but I consider anytime at WDW to be a personal luxury and of high value to me. Don't get me wrong, I love the Club level, and will love it again (and again)... but I am truly enjoying the value of my DVC membership in making my luxury fit into my scale :)

Does this make me a frugal/luxury man? lol

DisneyElisabeth said...

Great blog post!

It's a bit funny, I suppose, that I tend to spend a great deal more on hotels at Disney than anywhere else. I too am enchanted by the magic of the deluxe resorts at the World. I love their elaborate theming, the quick access to the parks via the monorail or boats, the restaurant options, etc.

That being said, I have stayed multiple times at Disney's value resorts when we needed to pinch pennies, and I had wonderful vacations on each of those trips too. Admittedly, I prefer the deluxe resorts, but I'd rather stay in a value resort than not go at all for sure.

I will be honest and admit that I think that Disney's resorts are way overpriced. A couple of years ago when the economy was better and discounts weren't as plentiful, the price of the resorts is one of the main reasons we bought DVC. Paying $500 per night or more for club level just didn't seem as worth it as it did when I was getting 45% off. Joining DVC enabled us to secure deluxe-level accomodations at greatly reduced prices, and to hedge our bets against future resort rate increases. Plus, though it's very hard to get into, AKV does offer club level rooms on points.

Since we only own enough DVC points for our annual December trip, we typically pay cash the rest of the year. Right now, with discounts being plentiful, we can splurge a bit on our resort stays. If things improve and discounts dry up, we'd have to scale back a bit.

All in all though, I am happy to pay more at Disney than I would anywhere else. The mouse has me hooked for sure!

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