We just returned from our annual family vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth, so I thought I’d share some budget-minded thoughts and lessons learned from the trip.
After a trip, I always like to compare our actual expenses with what we budgeted. Since my budget is based on prices we’ve paid in previous years, it’s usually pretty accurate. This year, though, I underestimated how much our hotels for the trip down and back would cost. On the other hand, I overestimated how much gas was going to cost, so everything pretty much evened out.
I forgot to budget tips for the bellmen. Not a whole lot, but I like to budget down to the last dollar. I’ve already added that expense to our planning worksheet.
The kids spent more on souvenirs than I had planned, although my wife and I made up for this by spending less. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that we gave our 15-year old daughter room charging privileges this year, rather than giving her cash every day to spend. As many adults with huge credit card debts know, when you’re not physically handing over the cash at the time of purchase, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve spent. It’s like getting your goods for free, until the bill comes due.
Next year, I think I’ll buy my daughter a Disney gift card before we leave. They’re sold at our local supermarket and you can choose the amount to put on it. This way, I won’t have to give her money each day, she won’t have to carry (and worry about losing) cash, but she’ll still be held to a budget.
Mickey’s Mart in Downtown Disney Marketplace is closed. Does anyone know when this happened? It seems like it was still open last year when we were there. For those who don’t know, Mickey’s Mart was the place to buy gifts where “Everything’s $10 or under.” You can still find inexpensive souvenirs at Disney World, but just not all at one convenient place anymore.
Something I’m really disappointed in myself for is forgetting to use discounts. The official policy of the Disney Visa discount is that you get a 10% discount on purchases over $50. In previous years, however, I’ve received the discount on any purchase. Most of the time this year, I forgot to ask for the discount. The couple of times that I did, I didn’t get it because my purchase was less than $50. My wife did get the discount the one time she purchased more than $50 worth of merchandise, though. What we should have done, but I didn’t think of it in the hurry to buy souvenirs and continue touring, was to put off our purchases until the end of the trip, or at least the end of the day, rather than making multiple purchases of less than $50. I’ll have to make an effort to improve in this next year.
This was my first year using an Annual Pass. Because I wasn’t used to having one, I usually forgot to ask for the Annual Pass discount. When I did remember, I received 10% off, regardless of the purchase amount. I did remember to ask for both Annual Pass and Disney Visa discounts at the Pirate’s League, but was told that there are no discounts for that service.
Speaking of the Pirate’s League, we had the opportunity to compare its makeovers with Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique’s when my daughter got a princess makeover and the rest of us got pirate makeovers. I know that in most cases, there’s no comparison. A pirate simply isn’t a princess. But if you have a girl who would be as happy to be a pirate empress as a princess, the Pirate’s League is almost half the price of the Boutique and you get more “booty.” Plus, there’s a pirate’s parade in the afternoon (they let princess participate, too). Don’t worry about the pirate empress makeover–it’s totally “girly,” with everything in pink and no scars or skulls. My wife loved hers.
So there you have it, one family’s budgetary lessons learned from their trip. I hope it helps you plan for your own upcoming trips. By looking at your own expenses after your trips, you can learn how much you’re actually paying for the various parts of your vacation and maybe find some ways to reduce those expenses next time.
Contributed by: Mark (NDD #102). Mark is our resident “how to save money while living the Disney Driven Life” expert.