Monday, October 19, 2009

where dreams come true and people go bankrupt

Our trip to Disneyland was really fun.

But we are now totally broke and will be living off of rice for the rest of the year.

When we began to plan this trip last week, we had originally intended to stay at the Disneyland Resort. But when Charlie called up and found out that a two night stay at the resort and one day passes to Disneyland would be a whopping $1,567.00 (ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SEVEN DOLLARS), we laughed and laughed. Because surely they were kidding. Who charges seven hundred dollars a night for a standard hotel room during a recession?

I'll tell you who: Walt Disney and his little partner, Mickey.

They weren't kidding. They really do charge $700.00 for a standard hotel room at the Resort.

On a weeknight.

In the Fall.

So we made alternative arrangements.

But even with our savvy planning, two nights and one day visit at the Most Magical Place on earth was shockingly expensive. Let's look at some numbers.

Charlie and I had to pay to get in. That was $72.00 each, or $144.00. Henry is under the age of three, so he was free. Since we went on the triplets birthday, they were also free. The 21 buttons that they gave to us were free. (What the heck is up with all the buttons?! Can I smelt them down and make coins??)

Six classic Mickey Mouse ear hats with embroidery, $97.28. While I was forking over five twenties, I tried not to ponder that the material used to create these hats couldn't have cost more than four dollars.

Instead, I tried to fill my mind with how awesome it was that these hats will last a lifetime. Or at least until the children outgrow the youth sizes that I purchased within the next six months. Gah. I should have bought the adult sizes and lined them with cotton balls.

Breakfast at The Inn with Minnie and Friends was $125.00. The chintzy birthday cakes that came in even chintzier plastic treasure chests (two princess and one pirate themed) were $15.00 each, for a total of $45.00. Not including tax.

This "HEY EVERYBODY WE'RE AT DISNEY IN 2009!" family photo was $35.00.

Two salted pretzels and two boxes of popcorn were $18.00.

One Buzz Lightyear toy. One Buzz Lightyear Laser. One box of Monster Inc. figurines. One turtle dude from Finding Nemo. Just a few small miscellaneous toys that we picked up at the Disney Store because it was their birthday (and how could Henry not get something when his siblings did?) $84.00.

Then there were the shuttle passes from the hotel to the park. That only cost $12.00.

One breakfast. One lunch. And two dinners at the hotel. $325.00.

Room service for six hot fudge sundaes with candles. $21.52.

Lodging. $378.00. That included parking.

My calculator is missing or I'd give you a grand total.

It could have been worse. If we had to pay for the kids, that would have added $248.00 to our tab. And, I actually refused the children's requests to buy balloons. They each wanted a Mickey Mouse balloon, but when I found out that helium latex balloons were SEVEN DOLLARS EACH, I had to put my foot down. Like I'm going to pay TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS for four balloons that will either be let go of, or popped, or drive me clinically insane within seconds. I also steered William away from the foam sword and shield, which saved another $20.00.

And when a woman dressed up as a Fairy Godmother walked up to my children, holding a basket of brightly wrapped papers tied with bows, and offered one to each of my children and in a singsong voice told us that this was a solicitation for the Bippidi Boppity Boutique, where the kids could go in and have their faces painted and hair styled - I considered possibly saying yes, until I caught a glimpse of how much these "makeovers" would cost and then, while my children begged, "Please Mommy, PLEASE!" I once again, said NO.

I'm sure my children would love to have makeup applied and their hair highlighted and spiked, but I'm not paying $75.00 for my five-year-olds to look like they are 20, until they take a bubble bath in a few short hours and all the makeup and glitter goes down the drain.

Other thoughts...

We were there on a Wednesday, middle of the week, school is in session and it was RAINING.

Still, there were lines everywhere. When you consider Disney has a global draw, it should probably have come as no surprise that there was a 45 minute wait for Space Mountain and 70 minute wait for The Matterhorn. But I was surprised.

A bit agitated, even.

Absolutely no one was in a hurry. Everyone went painfully slow. It's almost as if they are doing it intentionally to limit the number of rides that you can fit in on any given day so that you need to come back again. And spend more money. And then, even more money because you'll need to visit the adjacent Park, which requires an entirely separate ticket to enter.

Does it sound like I'm being cheap?

With age, it seems to be getting worse. I've already started scowling at my kids every time we go shopping and whisper through clenched teeth, "You need to get a JOB!" the same way my mother did to me.

How old do you need to be to have a paper route? Six?

While I appreciate that Disney is a business, I don't appreciate feeling like I've been robbed. And it's not just at the Park. Walking through Target yesterday afternoon, my children spotted the new Disney's Snow White movie that has recently been released on DVD. It was $19.99. For a little piece of plastic, $20.00? Oh yes - I know that there are artists and technology and packaging and yadayadayada ... but man, I am in the wrong line of work.

I should be in PLASTICS.

Then there were two separate Disney Princess dress-up doll sets that the girls told me that they REALLY wanted. At $35.00 a piece, that's another $70.00. I didn't buy them, because I just know that within a day of those items being in our house, they would be lost or broken or the itty bitty tiny shoes would be sucked up in to my unforgiving vacuum. But how much do these things really cost to make? I'm guessing no more than pennies.

Even though I don't buy these items myself, Disney is everywhere. It's on toothbrushes, pajamas, cups, plates, cups and underwear. There's no escaping it and kids have gotta have it, like a druggie's gotta gotta gotta have crack.

I'm trying not to dwell on the expense, because we really had a wonderful time. Charlie and I spent a lot of much-needed time talking while we waited in line and since it took us over two hours to meet the Princesses, we got the rest of our lives completely sorted out.

But I think that for anyone who might be planning a trip to the Magic Kingdom, my suggestion is to fill your wallet up to the brink with money, and then just PRACTICE opening it and SHAKING EVERY LAST DIME OUT. And then stand around waiting for the money to reappear. Chances are by the time you're ready to give up, it will finally be your turn.

And almost instantly, you'll forget the misery of it all and just bask in the wonder on your children's faces.

Because it's ALL worth it.

It really, really is.

Now just keep cheerfully repeating that to yourself as you review your bank account statement. Soon enough, you will not only believe it - you'll be ready to plan your next trip.


  1. You guys could've stayed in Long Beach... FOR FREE! We are only 11 short miles from the Happiest Place on Earth! Did I mention the FREE part?

  2. There's no escaping it and kids have gotta have it, like a druggie's gotta gotta gotta have crack. LOL!

    Love the family picture!

  3. I was in Disneyland the first weekend of this month. It's my favorite destination vacation. My parents took my brother and I almost every year for 8 - 10 years before I even turned 13 (my brother is 3 years younger than I). Granted, that was 20+ years ago, I'm sure it still cost a pretty penny. But my parents knew that seeing how much fun we had (and knowing how much fun my dad had with us), they didn't mind the cost so much. They didn't buy us all the extras, but we may have gotten 1 souvenir a piece, but that was it. Plus we were traveling from San Francisco!

    In any case, even if Disney does rape you on the cost, it really is worth it. Even as an adult. ;o)

  4. We've been there twice, it really is a racket. I also find it cheaper to package everything up including meals! But I learned that AFTER we returned the second time when Disney emailed me and said, "Hey stupid, you over paid,"

  5. Wow $700 for one night??!?!?! I went for a week and stayed in the park and I dont think I paid $700 for the week. Glad you had a great time, love the pictures!!!!

  6. Jen. Jen. Jen. You don't buy the kids anything. Or eat there. And you get free passes from strangers in line at Trader's because you look like you "need them". And you stay in your friend's fifth wheel in her driveway for free. Oh, and you bring the biggest backpack ever filled to the rim with snacks and drinks.

    Or go bankrupt. That's the only two options: mooch or bankruptcy.

  7. That is so wonderful! Even with the money spent:) We went (Florida) in 2001, before my last was born. We haven't been back, it is expensive. I hope to go again sometime soon. I know even as teens my older girls will still love it!

  8. Wow! Just wow. That does sound expensive.

    I guess now's not the time to tell you that because we had free airline tickets and free lodging for 7 of the 10 nights we were in Europe, our family of four was able to do a ten day trip to England and France for $4,000.
    You could have gone to the beaches of Normandy instead of Disney...

    But seriously, your kids look so so happy and I know they will remember this for a long time.

    Your accounting of your expenses had me laughing and thinking of my husband who relaxes by sorting credit card receipts and matching them to the statement. His new favorite saying: Keep your friends close but your receipts closer.

    Great post.

  9. See now I have always wanted to go again (I was in 4th grade my only time) but this is why I wait becasue I am so so frugal that I know I will not have a good time because I will be so stressed out and irritated about how expensive everything is, so thank you for this post so I can mentally prepare myselt for the day we finally do go.

  10. Ha, I could have written this post!!! We've been to Disney the last two summers and OH.MY.GOD it is expensive!!!! We learned a lot on our first trip that helped w/the second though. First and foremost, if you are staying on property (we were at World, not Land though) get the dining plan. It really does save a lot. Do they have that at Land, surely they do? We've never been there. We did end up with 5-5 day passes that Disney sent us due to issues we had on our last trip, that alone is $1400 towards our next trip (which won't be anytime soon because let's face it, we've paid the employees paychecks for the next five years at this point and will be saving a long time before we can go back). Of course, it's all worth it in the end, just like you said!

  11. We live in Burbank and I know what you mean. I think it was one of the smarter promotions to have people get in free on their b'day. We did that for our twins (why, not at least we had two free that day, right?) but between the parking, my husband and my tickets, the character breakfast, etc. they stil made PLENTY from us. We didn't even have to stay at a hotel and we didn't buy any other food or buy any stuff.

    And what is it with the lines! I thought we were in a recession. We've only gone on a weekeday and have only been able to ride 3 or 4 rides. Very frustrating - especially when considering how much money we paid to be there. I think October is a bad month to go there - it is just as crowded as the summer because of all the Halloween stuff (I think??!)

    For next time, we know a lot of moms that have learned to buy Disney crap on sale before their trip, bring it (and not show it to the kid) and then "buy" that for their child while they are at the park. We also bring our own food/snacks.

  12. Priceless.

    Love, Marg.

    PS Does this mean we/you aren't running the Goofy marathon in you promised? ;-)

  13. Wow -- times have changed. I grew up an hour from D-land and went at least once a year but we never, ever dropped that much money there. It's kind of sad that it's SO commercial. On another note, when we were kids, we each got some Disney stock when we saved $100 in our bank account. I wish I still had it. :)

  14. If the expense alone wasn't enough to scare me (it really is outrageous!), the photo of the CROWD pushed me over the edge. I'm almost hyperventilating at the thought of how easy it would be to lose track of a child in that crowd.

  15. I went to disneyworld as a child and.... I didn't really like it *gasp*. It could have been that it was 94 trillion degrees outside and there was a 2 hour wait for everything, but I distinctly remember not being impressed and asking to go home. We flew across several states to get there, so going home was not an option, lol.

    It looks like your kids had an amazing time, so the money was definitely well spent :)

    ...But here's hoping my daughter magically doesn't love disney when she gets older, so we can save some money! LOL

  16. I don't think the Mouse Wizard is feeling any economic strain.

    Glad you had a blast, but the expense is killer.

  17. Jen, we went to WDW in FLA labor day week, and got the meal plan thrown in for free... 3 of us - the baby was free. 7 days, with parkhopper tickets, transportation including flights from VA all for $2500!! Our incidentals bill at the end was $300 total and that included the fridge in our room (we had groceries delivered). Could it be the last minute planning that did you in? We intentionally did labor day week because my kids are not in school yet - like yours...

    They do get you with the toys - as each ride dumps you out in a store... My 4 year old had a major meltdown because she wanted a big expensive buzz, and i did not give in. She got a set of characters she still plays with every day for 1/3 the cost at the end of the trip...

    Love the pics though!!


  18. We took three kids to Disneyworld for a week this summer and yes, it is expensive, but you need to take snacks, not buy them and each kid gets one souvenier. (even the birthday kid..they will get other things) There are other ways to save too.

    The lines weren't too awful bad for us, but that is why they have Fast Passes. (do they have those in DL or just the world?) It's the greatest invention of all time and we never waited more than 20 minutes for anything.

    The pictures are priceless and it's something you will remember forever!

  19. I could cut and paste this post into my blog because we just experienced your experience a few weeks prior!

    At one point during our trip, my husband said to me, "I'm already missing an arm and a leg, what have you got left?"

    I had to remind him OVER AND OVER that it isn't every day that we spend our life savings on taking the kids to Disneyland and that he should just enjoy himself. Plus, we saved at least $500 by not having a crazy birthday party at our house!!!

  20. OMG!!!! I've been telling my kids that perhaps this year for their birthdays we'll go, but they won't have a party....I haven't been since my oldest was in 3rd grade (8 yrs ago?) That pic of the amount of people is insane! Definitely appreciate that tip of buying the stuff on sale ahead of time and "buying" it and giving it to the kids once we are there. My kids' birthdays are in May. A trip in January may be a better (less crowded) time.
    That was a very educational post! Thanks!

  21. Looks like you had fun. Like another reader, I'm rather frugal. Have never been to Disneyland and between the lines and the expense, am thinking of other vacations in the years to come. Would they really miss it that much? Hmmm. I guess I'm the one who does not want to go.

  22. And that, my dear, is why they only turn 5 ONCE.

    Now you are off the hook for huge parties until they turn 16!

  23. This made me laugh...we JUST booked our first full blown family trip to Disney for January. We got the room at a disney hotel for 4 nights for $267, so we're hoping that's a good start! My fave was your sorting our your whole lives in the princess line. I shared the whole post with Hubby!

  24. I think that makes your grand total under $2000!

  25. Oh, and charging for the hotel shuttle to the park is just INSANE!!! Baaaddddd, customer service.

    Dude -- I could have shuttled you around :)

  26. my poor children. i'll let them choose in a few years: college or disney world.
    great post.

  27. WOW! Sounds like a blast and the memories the kids will have forever are what it's all about right? (priceless as the commercials say) BUT....... How are you going to top that next year? Actually we never made it to D.L. when our kids were young due to lack of finances and it is a regret that still raises it's ugly head now and then when I'm thinking back about the job I did as a mother.
    P.S. It's only money and you just don't get to take it with you when you go but you do get to leave the love and attention you gave as a legacy in the hearts of your children.

  28. One of many cuzzins!10/20/09, 10:18 PM

    Best vacation we've had as a family was at Disneyworld in 2000:

    Flight to Florida = around $1000.
    Week in Dad's timeshare = free.
    Rental Car = around $400.
    Ate in at the time share = frugal.
    Disney character lunch = too much.
    4tix 4days in Disneyworld = $600?
    Other stuff I'm forgetting = $500?

    My children ages 18 & 16 still enjoy the photos and reminiscing about the fun we shared. We don't remember the lines, crowds, stress of the expense. It was a very happy week.

    Your children will also remember it and have the added special memory of celebrating a birthday with Mickey. How cool is that for a five year old? And in ten years they'll tear at your heartstrings when they say "thanks Mom and Dad for doing that for us."

    Well done.

    Congrats to you & Charlie for accomplishing so much in these past 5 years!! Happy triplet birthday to Mom and Dad, too!!

  29. We just got back from DisneyWorld a few weeks ago. This was the first year that we did a package that included meals. We each had one table service meal, one fast food meal, and one snack per day. It was SO nice to be able to eat guilt free and not have to dish out nearly $100 everytime we ate. We will never go without the meal plan again. We also enjoyed the hopper passes that allowed us to hop from park to park. We love Disney. Every time we the kids get older.. it is a whole new experiene. Do they do the fireworks over the castle at DisneyLand? That's one of my favorite things. Did your kids like the Toy Story ride.
    It surprises me that the lines were so long. We always try to go to DisneyWorld in Sept. because that's one of the slowest times. We rarely had to wait over 15 minutes for a ride..most of the time less. If there was a line we would just come back another time and catch it when there wasn't. Maybe it's like that at DisneyWorld because there are so many parks.
    Your pictures are precious. It looks like everyone had a great time!!

  30. We did 6 days - 3 days in Summer, 3 days in winter - in Paris. You need to look at it from this angle - you saved money - you didn't have to buy any airfares and you got away with 1 day (when you really need at least 2).

    Kids love it - it's magical.

    You can save money by only buying ONE souvenir each from every place you visit on a holiday. It helps to remember.

    I would prefer to spend my money on memories for the kids (through family holidays/outings) rather than new clothes, new furniture or new toys.

    In the end - that's stuff. Not many people NEED more stuff.

  31. Practical question: did you take the pram (stroller/ jogger, whatever they may be called where you are!)?
    We're going to a much smaller Australian theme park this weekend, but it's a similar concept, and I think we need a pram just to cart all the gear around in, even though the kids won't need it.
    I'd appreciate any practical thoughts or advice you'd have on such matters!

  32. You should've gone to DisneyWorld. I have friends (with 2 kids mind you) who went for 10 days at the beginning of the month and, including park passes for every day, flights to and from Buffalo and ALL food, it was under $3,000 (Canadian, but considering the exchange that's still under $3,200 American today).

    Is California really that much more expensive than Florida?

  33. The prices are completely ridiculous. However, since I went to college not far from Disneyland, a couple of my music buddies had season tickets, and would go there to listen to live music while they did their homework. They also had musical gigs at Disney throughout high school. :)

    It does look like you had a great time!

  34. Dude, I live in Alaska and we don't spend that much at Disney. Craigs list the tickets. Or, like Michelle said, just look like you need them. My line always works, 'Oh, we're just poor, poor eskimo's from northern alaska, and we really wanted to take our eskimo kids to disneyland for the day, too bad we don't have any money..." People like eskimo's like people like triplets, its bound to work!

    The hotel we stayed at for a week cost us $600 for TWO double rooms, right outside one of the gates. Kids took whatever they wanted to eat in their own backpack, and got a grand total of $20 to spend for the day. What they got was their choice. My oldest son was smart saved all his money and mooched off his sisters, brother and our friends. :) Sheesh!

  35. We are here at Disney World right now... only because of the free birthday thing, and the free military thing, and the fact that we rented a townhouse off the resort.

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