|Mickey, Sis and me, circa 1990 ish|
If you know me personally, you know that I have always said that I am not a crazy Disney person.
Sounds fun and fine and all, but I have always said that if my child wanted to love princesses, Disney or anything for that matter, it is because she genuinely loves them – not because I have forced it or encouraged it upon her. I wanted to wait for her to become interested in it on her own. Same with my boys.
Well, my little girl woke up one morning and somehow knew everything about every Disney princess, every word to the Frozen soundtrack (never having seen the movie) and she herself, over night seemed to rise and take on quite the princess role – high heels, make up and all.
My middle child took on the roles of Prince Charming, occasionally turning into Jake and the Neverland Pirates or Beast, and from there, their love of Disney was birthed. Annie M would be the Little Mermaid and Brother would run along being Sebastian. She would be Jasmine and he would pretend he was Aladdin and on and on. I honestly had nothing to do with it other than supporting it when they asked for Disney related birthday gifts or Christmas toys or to listen to music in the car.
Initially, I even refused to let the watch Disney movies or shows (we aren’t TV people in general), but in the past year, I have gotten a bit more relaxed with some of that. Namely, Frozen, Sophia, Cinderella and Handy Manny.
As I watched little Annie M recap Disney stories and role play with her brothers, the idea of doing Disney as a family kind of sounded appealing – or at least an idea to consider. I was kind of back and forth since Moose was still too young to form an opinion on it – much less care, but I also didn’t want to miss the opportunity since it was something the big kids loved.
A Disney trip sounded a tad crazy, maybe a little bit fun, a little stressful, somewhat of a financial stretch, definitely something I couldn’t believe I was even thinking, yet still something I wanted to look into and think about.
I made up my mind last summer after we were in Orlando for my Stella & Dot conference. My parents kept Brother and Annie M and Moose came with the hubs and me. When we were there, we tested the waters and took Annie M to a character dinner at the Grand Floridian. With the hecticness in 2014 of having a new baby, moving, living with my parents, and more, I don’t think I ever shared much (or anything?) about the trip.
We took an extra day and did Sea World and one night we did the character meal. Long story short, it was fabulous. Pricey, but worth it. Annie M danced and sang along with the piano man in the hotel lobby as we waited for our table and she performed for her onlookers as if she was on Broadway. They cheered and clapped and she curtsied before leading into the next Disney tune. I will have to find the pictures from the dinner, but the pic on the left is her coming off of a roller coaster ride at Sea World.
The character dinner including Cinderella, Prince Charming, the step-mom and the step-sisters was fun, and you have never seen a little girls eyes light up like hers did when Cinderella and Prince Charming pulled her to join them on the dance floor in front of the entire restaurant.
That was my first “hmmmm, maybe Disney sooner than later” moment.
In October of 2014, we took Annie M to Disney on Ice in Atlanta. I never posted about this either but it was right after we moved into our new home, right after Annie M’s birthday and the day of the show,my husband actually flew in from a work trip at 8:20 AM and fought Atlanta traffic to meet us at the Dome for the 10:30 AM show. Crazy.
As I watched her tiny hands clap, and listened to her sweet voice cheerily sing along, I told my husband that I wanted to think about a family trip to Disney within the next year.
To say he was not initially for the idea is an understatement. His objections included cost, time off of work, age of our kid, distance from home, craziness of a week at Disney with three littles and more.
I knew that he would take some persuading, but I got A’s in my “effective negotiations” college course and was confident. I figured I would read up, save money and research as I tried to convince him that now was as good as a time as any to go.
My quest to gather information, read and think began. I found some of the most amazing resources and helpful hints and tips through blog reading. On the flip side, I also found some of the most negative people on the planet.
As Annie M would say, “Why do they have to be so rude-y tude-y!?”
I couldn’t help but think that maybe if Grumpy and Happy showed up at some of these bloggers doorsteps, maybe they could have a slight word with them and sprinkle some pixie dust on their doorsteps to change their minds??
As I went into my planning, I took it all into consideration. Good blogs, bad blogs, happy blogs, grumpy blogs. I made notes, remembered points made, thought about the things people liked and disliked and all viewpoints were helpful as we decided what would work for us.
Some people like to surprise their kids with the trip but for us, I wanted the kids to know up front that we were going to go, and I wanted them to be excited about it, a part of the process and look forward to the day we left as we counted down the days and patiently waited.
We wanted the kids to see that it was a huge trip and that while it was going to be awesome and fun and something our family would experience together, it was also something we would have to work as a family to save money for and that it was something that for us, was a special treat.
I have an email from November of 2014 that I wrote to friends telling them we were saving to go to Disney in the fall of 2015.
For almost a year, we saved. Now to many dual income families (and some one income!), this trip was by no means a “huge expense.” We got a great package deal, stayed at a moderately priced hotel, both boys were free with the exception of two or three meals and for the rest of us, it was pretty much all inclusive (meals, etc) with our plan. But for a one (fixed) income family, these big trips are something we save, budget, plan and work towards.
For us, the Hubs and I put (and always have) $100 a month in a “travel” fund. When hubby and I go on an overnight or if we take the kids somewhere, it comes out of this travel fund. Hubby or I have never really been tempted to pull from this account as once our money is tagged for something, we are typically pretty good about leaving it there and only using it for that purpose.
That said, I did an initial trip pricing guesstimate and then figured that if we saved almost a year of monthly travel money (the next 12 months before we would go), plus a little already in the account, plus extra savings along the way, plus some Stella & Dot earnings, the trip would be paid for.
More on this later, but I used the Disney website to search for deals, packages and to give me a guess at our starting costs. I had a travel agent book for me because lots of them are stay at home moms and their service is free to us. I easily could have booked it on my own, but I am all about giving others commission and such when we can and this was an easy way to do just that.
Here is a screen shot of one of the plans I was looking at – and ultimately the one we chose. I used the number (not including taxes) as my base and then we added a few hundred for contingency.
To remind the kids of our savings goal, we had a Mickey Jar. They would find pennies, do chores or put gift money in the Mickey Jar to help us save. Annie M earned over $60 in a lemonade stand and put it all in the Mickey Jar – and we had a yard sale and put our earnings towards the trip.
Honestly, I would take the kids money out of the jar when they weren’t looking and put it in their piggy banks or occasionally treat them to something small at the store. I had no intentions for them to “pay” for the trip, but they didn’t know I had taken the money from there or moved it to their rooms. To them, they knew they were helping us get to our goal and to Disney and they understood the basic principle that they had choices to make on how to spend or save.
Annie M would ask for something at a store and then she would say, “never mind, Mom. I would rather us save our money and go to Disney, so I will put this on my birthday list or I will save for it later.” Now, it wasn’t THAT easy every trip to the store, but lots of times they connected the dots and worked hard to help us be diligent and think of how we were spending our money.
I know it sounds a bit crazy that a 5 year old and almost 3 year old would comprehend this, but we talked about it off and on for the better part of the year, so they very much so understood the concept. They understood the value of making choices and this also helped us when we finally got to Disney as we had no issues with “wanting” extra stuff there. They also understood that getting to do something huge, fun and awesome like this required hard work and sometimes takes time.
Here was our Mickey Jar that held our pennies for the last year!
Funny story about our jar. I made it when we were living with my parents last summer – in August right before we moved into our new house. My husband came in one night from work and I held it up proudly and smiled as I told him that is where I was going to save our money to go to Disney. He kind of cocked his head funny and wanted to know why I made a teenage mutant ninja turtle looking thing. 😐
Do you think it looks Rafael-ish or Mickey!? Come on, peeps!
Some people are probably all like WHY IS SHE GIVING MONEY DETAILS ON HER BLOG!? Isn’t that personal??
I suppose it is, but my point with telling you all of this is for a few reasons…first of all, I want to be transparent and honest and I love when I read blogs that give information for me to think about and compare and consider. I also don’t want people to think that money grows on trees around here and that my kids are treated on fun trips to Disney as they please….not that anyone thinks that, but I wanted friends and readers to know how we planned and how we made it happen – and that includes the financial side.
I want to share how our family works towards fun goals and then celebrates when we achieve them. I wanted to share how we include our kids in the process and how even at the ages of 5 and almost 3, they have learned valuable lessons from all pitching in….Moose at 18 months is clearly too little!
I want people to know that with a little effort, teamwork and creativity, Disney is financially do able for all people – and even if it takes a few years to get you there. Its worth it.
I want friends and readers to know that we don’t take trips like this for granted – and we certainly want our kids to understand the value of hard work and the rewards that can be reaped!
In summary, the trip has been in the making for over a year. From convincing the hubs, to saving our pennies, to reading, planning, watching for deals, to booking and finally making it to meet the mouse, its taken time.
Every bit of it was worth it – even my husband agrees – and I think sooner than later, we will begin once again saving our pennies to take the fam back for another magical experience!
OH! One other thing about trip planning and kids knowing?? The line, “Mickey wont be happy with how your acting” totally works to straighten up sassy behavior!