I’ve been thinking about this since I returned from my trip to Disney. As you know we started planning it more than a year ago. I first started talking about our trip on my Blog in October 2018; however, we started planning it in February 2018. Visiting Walt Disney World is very costly to say the least. Every year it seems as though the cost of spending a week in Disney World goes up. Everything from hotel prices, admission tickets, airfare or, if you’re driving, the cost of gas. Disney is not a cheap trip. We live a modest lifestyle so, to be honest with you, my husband and I really had to work hard to be able to save enough money for us to be able to go on this vacation. It was kind of touch and go there for a while because we had some unexpected expenses come up. Our dog suddenly needed surgery and then our central air conditioning system had to be replaced. These were not expenses that we were prepared to cover; so, all the money that we had saved for our Disney vacation had to go towards those expenses. I can’t even tell you how many times I tried to start saving again and again, only to be hit by an unexpected cost and just our general living expenses.
When I began planning the trip to Disney World, I started to watch many YouTube videos, as well as researching on the Walt Disney World website. I asked friends and relatives who had previously visited the park all kinds of questions. I researched everything from where we should stay, eat and do. Should we stay in the park, should we not stay in the park, do we need a dining plan if we do stay in the park, should we drive, should we fly, just how would we do this?! As the months moved along and we were getting closer to our trip, I started getting very nervous about being able to cover the costs. Like I said, we live a modest lifestyle. I have an autistic child and therapy. Even though some of it is covered by our insurance, our co-pays are quite expensive. A few times during the year, my husband and I looked at each other wondering if maybe this wasn’t going to happen; should we postpone it and try again next year. It was difficult to navigate which direction to go next because it wasn’t just about us going on this vacation, it was our entire family. Our family members had been paying and saving for their trip as well, so we decided to just keep pushing forward and hope for the best.
As I was watched the YouTube Disney vloggers and their recommendations, it became overwhelming to me. I was completely stressed out over the cost of covering a Disney trip for my family. As I continued watching these videos and reading more blogs, I kept a running tab of all the items I needed to get before my trip. My list consisted of everything from Band-Aids to the most expensive Mickey Mouse ears you could possibly have. It was ridiculous. It was probably the last three months of planning and getting closer to our travel day when I realized I didn’t have a lot of the items that I really believed I needed for my trip. I remember talking to my husband worried that, ‘I don’t have this, I need this and I need that.’ So many times, he looked at me like I had three heads and would say, “Why would you need any of that?” My answer was always the same, “Because this is what we need! We must have these; this is what’s going to make our trip better!” I can look back on these conversations, look at my list and now realize how ridiculous not only some of the items that I wrote down were, but I really thought that I needed these things to make my trip amazing, perfect and magical. Nothing on that list that I purchased or never ended up getting would make any difference in how wonderful our Disney trip truly was. So, today I want to share with you my top three things that you actually need in order to have a magical and amazing Walt Disney World vacation and they won’t cost you a cent!
- Open heart, open mind – It’s important to keep in mind that once you enter the park, you’re leaving everything behind – all your stress, your trouble, your worries! Leave it at your home, hotel or in the car before you get out. When you enter the magical world of Disney there is something to be said about entering the ‘bubble,’ as many have referred to. As soon as you drive underneath the beautiful sign that says, “Welcome to Walt Disney World,” you have entered the magic. And, it truly is magical. If you are worried about fast passes and which ones you did or didn’t get, or the rides or attractions that you may not get to see, my advice is to let it go. I’m not trying to sound like Elsa from “Frozen” but, in all honesty, there’s a lot to be said for doing what you can and not worrying about the rest. Even restaurants that we were unable to eat at, today, I can tell you who cares? In all honesty, those fast passes weren’t the be-all to the end-all. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get to see Pandora’s Flight of Passage. It was okay that I was unable to see the Beauty and the Beast show, or I didn’t get to try a certain food at a particular restaurant. The best part of Disney is that you can always return and do and see all the things you missed.
- Be a kid again – Even if you are not traveling with kids, let yourself go back to a time when you had no responsibility and waking up at 10:00am was acceptable. So many of us as adults, always say, ‘if I had the chance to go back and do that again’ or ‘if I only knew then what I know now … I would do this.’ Here is your chance to do it! Enjoy every second of being able to let go of your daily responsibilities and enjoy good, old-fashioned fun. Run, skip and jump into each attraction like you’re experiencing an amusement park atmosphere for the first time. Go ahead and buy that plushy, eat the ice cream (we had ice cream at 9:30 in the morning every day), and just be a kid again! If you do have kids, they will love to see you acting silly and having fun with them. These are the memories that will stay with my children (and me) forever! Even though I was 14-years-old on my first visit to Disney, I remember how much fun we had as a family. We lived, laughed and loved throughout our seven days together! It’s a special feeling that I instantly remember when I think of Disney – my family, our love and our memories.
- Take pictures and videos – Okay, so yes, technically, the Memory Maker will cost you money; however, it will be so worth it. And, if you just can’t fit that into your budget, that’s okay because most of us still have our smart phones with picture and video capabilities. When I was there, I truly thought I was taking enough pictures and videos. Guess what? I didn’t! My one regret was not actually vlogging a lot of our trip. Even though I am not a Disney vlogger, I wish I had more of the moment-to-moment interactions on video. I don’t know what I was thinking. It would have been great to have more videos of my family in our rental home together, while on the rides, at shows and just walking around the parks. So, my advice, is take as much as you can. You’ll have these videos and pictures to look at when you return home. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked over everything since being back.
Lastly, let me just say this. Yes, I know the research, pre-shopping hauls and all of the planning is part of the fun. I’m not trying to take away from anyone sharing what things you will need for your trip. I realized that there are products and fun things (family t-shirts, autograph books or pin trading items) that contribute to the fun of Disney. My point is, don’t let that stuff overwhelm you and take away from having a good time. You paid a pretty penny for this trip, so go and just enjoy it!!
So, has there been a pre-haul Disney purchase you made that turned out to be useless during your trip? What was the most useful item you purchased that made your trip? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.