Hello, everyone. I’m Mark, NDD#102, and I’m new to the Disney Driven Life website, but not to the Disney Driven Life itself. My wife (NDM#237) and I didn’t set out to become “Disney People.” It just sort of crept up on us.
I guess it all began back in 2003, while I was in the Middle East with the military and Disney offered a great package for military members—40% off rooms, a free 5-day pass for the military member, and $99 5-day passes for the family members. My wife started planning a Disney World vacation for when I got back. With such a great discount, we were going to stay on-property for the first time. I had always thought that was just for rich people.
We had a great stay at the Wilderness Lodge. We stayed away from the World for the next couple of years, due to my son’s newly-discovered anxiety disorder. But, by 2006, we were getting a hold on his condition and learning how to cope with it. So we decided to try again. This time, we saved money by staying at the military resort, Shades of Green. I also took a close look at Disney’s ticket prices and realized that even though we were only staying for five days, we could save a lot of money on a future trip by buying 10-day no-expiration tickets and using them over two trips. The seed was planted for a return trip.
We planned another trip for 2007. This was when I really got serious about saving money on my vacation. We were staying for ten days, five at All-Star Movies, then moving up to the Beach Club for five more. I used hotel rewards points to pay for our rooms on the drive down and back. I joined AAA and got a 20% discount on the rooms at Disney World.
The next year, we made the big decision for me to quit work and go back to school. We figured that living on a student’s budget would preclude us from taking any trips for the next three years, so we snuck one more in that summer. This was the trip where people began asking us, “You’re going back to Disney World?”
Last year, we had planned to skip a Disney vacation. Then Disney offered another military discount like they did back in 2003. Even though I was retired from the military now, I was still eligible for the discount. Although we probably couldn’t afford it, we decided we simply couldn’t pass up the chance to enjoy this kind of discount. And if we were getting 40% off, we were going to make the most of it. We stayed at the Polynesian for the first time.
This year, Disney’s offering more great discounts. So we dutifully planned another trip. This time, I’m going to fulfill a childhood dream and stay in the Contemporary Tower, nerding out every morning at the monorail going through the lobby. We’ll finally be breaking out the unused days from our 10-day tickets purchased back in 2006.
So looking back, I see how it all happened. Like Pavlov’s dogs, every time Disney offers a great discount, I automatically book a trip. Not too long ago, I would’ve never thought that I could take my family on a vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth yearly (more often, if it wasn’t for school). I’ve learned over the past few years that with a little planning and research, any Disney vacation can be affordable, even the “dream” trips. I guess I’m a nerd extraordinaire, because not only am I a Disney geek, I actually enjoy the planning and budgeting. I look on it as a challenge to find the best deal on anything Disney, whether it’s the room, food, souvenirs, or movies. I get tremendous satisfaction seeing my predictions come true to within a few dollars. When I hold up the planned budget and actual budget at the end of a trip and say, “Look, honey. I was only $42 off in my estimate!” my wife simply smiles and nods her head and says, “Hmm. Yes, that’s good.” She’s a Disney geek, but definitely not a budgeting geek.
When we found out about this site, my wife and I agreed—these are “our people.” I offered my budgeting advice to JL and she took me up on it. This being the site for those with the Disney Driven Life, I’m guessing that most readers aren’t first-time or occasional visitors. Even though most of you are probably seasoned Disney travelers, with your own budgeting secrets to support your habit, I hope to be able to add at least a few tips that you haven’t considered before. Or maybe I can relate my experiences with a tip that you’ve heard about, but haven’t tried yourself yet.
Finally, this being the “Disney Driven Life” site, and not just the “Disney Parks Driven Life” site, I’m hoping maybe to offer some tips to funding other aspects of a Disney Driven Life, such as how to save money on Disney books and DVDs, or how to bring a little of the magic into your daily life at low cost or no cost.
I’m looking forward to sharing with and learning from all of you.
Contributed by: Mark (NDD #122). Mark is our resident “how to save money while living the Disney Driven Life” expert.