By Carol Garcia
Let me start out with a disclaimer: I am not good at inexpensive trips. So, if you are looking for tips on how to go to Walt Disney World for little money, the best I can offer in this article is a cautionary tale of what not to do.
Last summer, my kids and I happened to be in Florida for my youngest daughter’s birthday. We really weren’t planning on spending any time at Walt Disney World, but the “free park admission on your birthday” offer from last year had me thinking…I already had an annual pass, one child was having a birthday, so for the price of two one-day admissions, we were set. We were driving over for the day, probably just needed some money for lunch, and that’s it — so I thought. We were off on our not-too-expensive Disney fix.
Well, it seems that “not-too-expensive Disney” is not in our vocabulary. First up, the tickets: We had planned another day at Disney later in the same month, and then another trip later in the year. Really, it made no sense to purchase one-day tickets when we had these plans. So, we decided to renew the kids’ annual passes. (Their passes renew in a different month than mom and dad’s passes. It helps the budget a little.) Since one child would turn ten during the year, we’re still saving money by renewing now, right? We get the tiny renewal discount, and the ten-year-old’s pass renews at the child rate. Yes, it cost hundreds of dollars, but it is a good deal.
Now comes the next hitch. Somehow my fellow Magically Speaking editor Erica and I discovered we would be in the World at the same time. My family was definitely going to the Magic Kingdom (the birthday girl’s choice), and Erica and her son could meet us there. Please know right now, that the rest of my expenses on this not-so-cheap-anymore trip I’m now blaming on my friend Erica! She denies it, of course, but she’s about to be a bad influence on me.
First off, we decided we really needed to do a table-service restaurant. After all, it’s a special occasion, and Erica and I only see each other every year or two, so we have catching up to do. Plus, my little princess is certainly worth a table-service meal on her birthday. Erica, who is far better at planning her own vacations than I am, actually makes the reservation and sends me the confirmation. What a friend!
Next, Erica discovers a special members-only DVC event being held at the Contemporary during our visit. We can either all go together and tour Bay Lake Towers, or she will schedule it for another day. Hindsight being 20-20, I should have stayed in the Magic Kingdom.
So the day finally arrives. We all meet at the Magic Kingdom, head to have a great lunch at the Crystal Palace, and enjoy the day. Then we head to the Contemporary, amid protests by the birthday girl. After being reminded by Mom that she was 9 pounds, 6 ounces when she was born and Mom deserves to do something fun today too, we were off.
Although she will never admit it, the birthday girl had a blast. An entire conference room full of DVC members sang “Happy Birthday” to her, she had lots of sweet treats (how can you pass up a free Mickey bar?), and she even got to dance with Mickey and Minnie while we waited to tour the villa. Truly magical.
By now, you can probably guess where the next expense came in this trip. Yes, we toured Bay Lake Towers, and I was in love. The tour ended on the observation deck atop the Tower. We were imagining the fireworks from this vantage point.
So, Erica and I decided that we would meet with DVC guides. While my son slammed down about 15 free lemonades at the bar (a record he is still quite proud of), I called my husband. I’m fairly certain that the call he received while sitting at work slaving away while his wife was off at Disney was far more pleasant for me than it was for him. I’m quite certain that he was a good sport and agreed that I should meet with a guide and call him back.
My wonderful DVC guide really didn’t have to work hard for this sale. He just had to put me in the brand new two-bedroom unit. Another quick call to my husband, and the promise of us selling another DVC contract to pay for this add-on, and we’re set.
So, what is the total of our inexpensive trip? Really, even I won’t add it up at this point. But here are some things I do know…
- Never try to go to Disney World for little money without a whole lot of willpower.
- Going to a DVC open house is not always inexpensive.
- Never trust your wife when she says she’ll sell a DVC contract.
I don’t regret any of it. We have subsequently spent our first trip at Bay Lake Towers and loved every minute of it! Hey, you can’t put a price on great memories.