When we started planning our Disney trip, my husband and I both knew what we wanted it to be. We wanted to make it the trip of a lifetime for our kids – since it’s probably the last time we’ll all be able to go to Disney World together. We had only been 2 other times, once in 2002 when our oldest daughter was 5 and then again in 2010 when we were able to take our 3 youngest. In 2002 we stayed with family and drove from Lakeland, Florida to Orlando for 2 days out of our weeks’ vacation to take our daughter to Disney World. In 2010, we planned for the whole week at Disney, but stayed off-site to save money.
I think I’ve mentioned before that we use our tax refund to pay for our annual vacation. Typically we use only a portion of our refund (because of our family size we usually get a decent amount) and the rest goes to other things – but this year almost all of it was allotted to our trip, as even a basic Disney vacation is an expensive trip in itself. However – we still want to save wherever we possibly can, so that maybe we can afford some of the little things we wanted to do but that weren’t necessities like hotel, tickets, travel and food expenses. We told ourselves that if ALL we could do was afford to get there, go to the parks and eat every day – that was enough. But the more we save on those necessities, the more we have left for special things like flying instead of drive, attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and purchase the Candlelight Processional dinner package (so that we’re guaranteed a seat).
This time we definitely knew we wanted to stay in a Disney resort – that was a must, and of course more expensive than staying off-site so it was also the reason we had to allot most of our refund towards our vacation.
Our dream was also to fly instead of drive – although we normally love road trips, our youngest 3 have never been on an airplane, so that would make the trip that much more special for them. But flying a family of 6 is usually a budget-buster, even if you can find super-discounted fares. Luckily, we heard about a deal through Southwest that if you got a Southwest Visa, you’d earn 50,000 Southwest Rewards points if you met their qualifications*. The qualifications weren’t hard for us to meet, and once we’d done some quick calculations we realized we’d be able to get at least 3 round-trip tickets to Orlando out of those 50,000 points which cut our out-of-pocket expense for airfare in half! When Southwest opened up their December schedule, I booked and actually ended up being able to book 3 full round trip tickets with our points, and another one-way ticket also. So out-of-pocket we only had to purchase 2 round trip and 1 one-way ticket – even better! What we ended up spending on airfare ended up being only a small amount more than we would have spent driving – and the savings of time spent traveling vs. on vacation more than makes up for the cost! I was so excited that everything ended up working out this way for our travel. Another bonus to flying in with Disney is that you get to take part in their “Magical Express” free of charge – they not only pick you up at the airport, but also pick up your bags and transport them to your hotel room without you having to lift a finger! Definite bonus, and while the kids could not care less about that particular aspect, it really ups the magic content of our vacation for the grown-ups!
So, so far we’ve not really ‘saved’ any money in the aspect of real dollars spent – but for basically the same amount of money we are able to fly instead of drive, not only increasing our vacation time and lessening our weariness from driving 16+ hours but also making this a milestone for our 3 youngest children by taking their first plane ride. For this mama, that equals a savings that can’t be measured in dollars!
I’ll keep you updated with our plans as they come about – Disney has just released the hours for December, and we’re almost at the 180-day mark so that we can make any dining reservations we are planning – and I’m crossing my fingers that Disney releases a free dining offer in July – so hopefully there will most definitely be more plans coming together in the near future!
*The current qualifications for this offer are that you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of activating your card. I want to stress that I would only recommend doing this if you can use that $2,000 to purchase/pay regular monthly expenses and then use your budgeted money for those expenses to pay the bill when it comes. If you can’t do that – then racking up $2,000 in debt to earn a couple of flights is NOT worth it!