By Michelle Leifur
think if we could go back in time and forewarn Binnie Betten that by starting the e-mail list DisneyDollarless, she was about to open up a Pandora’s Box of crazed Disneyphiles, she wouldn’t believe us. Six years ago Binnie and Stacy Fultz decided to start a small intimate list for people who wanted to better afford a Disney vacation. Using the information gleaned from rec.arts.disney.parks Usenet group and from their own experiences, Binnie and Stacy launched a new group called DisneyDollarless. Their initial plan was to create a quiet cozy list where everyone knew everyone else. They soon found that they had surpassed their initial limit of 50 people and the list kept growing. Through some seemingly innocent interviews and articles, the list quickly swelled to 500 members. Today, now known as The Mouse for Less, the list now boasts over 9,000 members and is supported by a network of more than 50 volunteers called ImaginEARs. Not only that, but Binnie soon found herself in the travel agency business specializing in assisting people to create their dream Disney vacations at the least cost possible!
“So wait!” you say. “There are TWO lists? What is the difference between DisneyDollarless and The Mouse for Less? I’m so confused.” Ah, gentle reader, DisneyDollarless, or DDL, realized that their name could be a copyright infringement and decided to find another name that would reflect a way to save for Disney. Thus DDL was renamed The Mouse for Less. Although the name changed, the spirit of the list remained. And the name gave us a better connection with The Magic for Less Travel. But I am getting ahead of myself!
Although the list has grown larger than what Binnie and Stacy had ever thought possible, somehow the list has managed to have a more intimate and friendly atmosphere than some other Disney fan lists. Part of this may have to do with the fact that many of the original 500 charter members are still a part of the list and continue to share their knowledge. We have celebrated weddings, births of our children and our own triumphs, as well as mourned with our fellow list-members when they have lost loved ones. We have supported families that have gone through many crises and been touched by their stories as we watched them unfold. Running jokes have kept the list light-hearted while regular features have allowed us to stay on track.
As the list grew, the need for a website also grew. Binnie set to work creating and maintaining an up-to-date website to assist not only the DDL/MFL list members but also those “Googlers” who found their way to the website. Features to the website include a children’s area, savings codes, downloads to make trips easier and more enjoyable, a photo gallery, message boards and a list of the Honorary Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers (those people who went out of their way to help someone else). These are all reflective of the closeness that the list has created with its membership. In fact, so many of our members have made friends through the list that they plan mini-meets, Illuminations cruises and have even rearranged their departure dates just to meet with other members of the list!
“And what about The Magic for Less Travel? How did that come to be?” Simple. Need. Binnie and others found that while some of us enjoyed making our own reservations, planning our meals, calling Disney directly, and seeking out discount airfares, many didn’t. There also seemed to be few, if any, travel agencies that would do the kind of work needed to assure their customers they were getting the best Disney vacation at the least expensive cost. While many travel agencies work off expensive vacations, The Magic for Less found that repeated satisfied customers was a much better way to go. By culling their experiences, learning the tricks of the trade and keeping a keen eye out for discounts, The Magic for Less found that they were soon to be the standard for Disney vacations. In fact The Magic for Less was one of the premiere companies to test Disney’s Interactive Vacation Tour!
When I interviewed several of the long-time members of the list, I saw a common theme run through their answers. They joined the list originally to find creative ways to save for Disney and they stayed because they liked the atmosphere and had established friendships. Some of these long-time members stated how much their lives have changed since joining the list. Tina Carlson said, “DDL/MFL has been such a big part of my life for almost 5 years that I could not imagine life without my Disney online family. Since joining DDL/MFL I have become one of the ImaginEARs, one of the website moderators and a TMFL travel agent. I would say the DDL/MFL has changed my life in a big, positive way.”
Lisa McClure told me, “I LOVE doing Fairy Godmother stuff for friends and strangers!” So what exactly is Fairy Godmother stuff? It can be anything from sending a postcard to someone who is down on their luck to picking up guide maps for first time visitors while on your trip. Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers have given people their Priority Seatings as well as made a purchase for someone while on their own vacation. The Honorary Fairy Godmother and Godfather program was started when the list realized that there were people who went to “infinity and beyond” to help another list member. Recognizing the niceness in others is one of the things which lead MFL to become the close-knit and fun list that it is today.
And to think that this whole thing started with two gals chatting about a small little list of people who wanted to save for Disney! Binnie has put her heart and soul into this list and along the way has encouraged others to do the same. Over the past six years, the list has grown and stabilized and grown again. It has expanded from a small intimate list to a large friendly gathering of Mouseketeers. But mostly it has evolved into the most helpful group of people dedicated to Disney vacations.
I asked Binnie what her hopes were for the next five years and she told me, “In the next five years, I would love to see our list and web site become the premiere sites for both saving money and finding useful Disney park information. We want to continue to locate new and exciting exclusive offers just for our members. Our new improved news letter is one way we hope to accomplish this goal.
“Magically Speaking was created especially to help subscribers save time, effort and money on Disney merchandise, Disney travel and Disney fun by providing readers with the latest in Disney tips, information and savings.” And that goal is already showing itself at The MFL website. Disneyland menus with pictures are up and functioning. These menus include pictures and a link for a printable menu! DisneyWorld menus are coming quickly as well!
Oh and one last thing, when asked what was one thing that some of the old-timers would tell to a newcomer, the nearly unanimous answer was, “Ask anything! No question is a stupid question!”