The $1,696 Mailbag – Part 1

I’ve received many responses from that $1,696 commercial blog I had written a few weeks back. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write and I apologize if I have not gotten back to all of you.

I thought I would put together a mailbag blog filled with some of the notes I’ve received. Here is Part 1 of the Mailbag!

Barbie writes:

“Thanks for your entry about the Magic Your Way commercials. It’s great to read a fair commentary on what is and is not included in a very non-critical presentation of facts. We love Disney and vacation there often – “we” are a family of four just as Disney defines it: 2 adults, 1 child, and 1 junior. We have found many ways to make our Disney vacations affordable, so that we can visit multiple times in a year. (We spent a weekend in February, 11 nights in May/June, and will spend 3 nights in December.) We often run into people we know when we visit – I don’t know exactly how that happens, but it nearly always does – and when we compare resorts and/or vacation lengths, our friends often comment something like, “How can you afford it?” or “Wow, that’s an expensive hotel, isn’t it?” or “You must really take Disney World seriously.” Well, we work hard to make it affordable and appreciate when all the costs of any particular element of the vacation are well-known to us. Thank you for helping other families know what they are getting into so that they, too, can enjoy and relax without the constant shock of more spending. (We usually end our vacations under budget, and that’s the way we like it.)”

Barbie’s point is simple“¦.we all need to work hard to make our vacations affordable. That means always being on the lookout for deals, discounts, and ways to slice expense here and there.

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From Crista”¦

“I will agree on the cost from the commercials. I have a family of four. When we went to WDW the commercial “cost” was $1400. We had two adults, one 7 year old and one under the age of 2. We stayed at the Pop Century for 7 days and six nights. We did get the park hopper tickets and ate at one restaurant a day. We brought snacks or ate once a day at our hotel. We packed suitcases full of food including breakfast. We only drank water at the park and spent an average of $20 a day. We bought souvenirs almost everyday. And last but not least we flew to the Park and parked our car at our airport for the week. So in the end our cost for our vacation was $3432. Even if that seems like a lot, with the right planning it can be the vacation of a lifetime and I would do it all again. This was the first WDW trip for my husband and two boys. My husband felt like a little kid again. Priceless.”

Crista and her family made choices that helped them make their vacation affordable. Young families should take note of how Crista’s family saved money. There’s a bonus here”¦teaching the children some lessons on how to be frugal.

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I was excited to read this from Chica”¦

“I was really interested when this post popped up on my feed-reader, as my GF and I are planning our first trip to Disney together right now. For a while, we thought we absolutely couldn’t afford it, and we’re not exactly the norm (no children) for a Disney Trip, but we crunched the numbers and figured out we could do it.

We’re going December 14-20th, flying from Philadelphia and spending one day at each park, with a break one day for Downtown Disney and a movie.

Here’s our budgeting:

Package from Disney – $1009.82
This Includes:
– 6 nights Pop Century Standard Room
– 4 days park admission (non park hopper)
– Disney Meal Plan for 6 nights (this was a special promotion that was emailed to us after we signed up for the mailing list)

Flight Round trip from Philadelphia – $365.00 for both (including all fees)

Alcohol and Tip money for expenses not covered by Meal Plan – $150.00

Souvenir money (including our Christmas present budget for friends/family/each other) $300 ($150 each)

Now, we can always guarantee some unexpected expense, so we’ve built in an extra $150 cushion into our budget

Grand total comes to $1975.00

Now, we like to over budget and have extra left-over. So we doubt we’ll max out all our budgeted areas. We also plan to use the envelope system. 7 days, 7 envelopes ($50 for the first and last days, $100 every other day). No credit cards, no charging to the room. Only one envelope out of the safe on any given day. At the end of the day, whatever is left can get moved to the next day or later. But once you empty an envelope, you’re done.

Now, for the experienced Disney traveler, our plan might not be ideal. But for two girls going on our first ‘real’ vacation together post college (because spring break doesn’t count…), it’s a pretty good plan with a reasonable budget. It works out to just about one paycheck for each of us.

I’ll definitely agree that the Disney ads are a bit misleading and that if you’re serious about budgeting, double the quoted Disney price is just about what your final cost would be.”

It does come down to choices and how you choose to best afford your vacation.

Chica, please look for me when you are in WDW. It just so happens that while you are there I’ll be there for Mousefest.

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Amy talks about her family’s planning process”¦

“I just wanted to take a moment and say that for our family we find WDW to be a great value for our vacation dollars. We are preparing for our fourth trip and once again, we are really impressed with how affordable it is.

We are staying at a moderate resort (with a discount code) this time and paying out of pocket for the DDP for 8 nights. We don’t do park hoppers – just base tickets because with enough days we just don’t have the need to hop. All said, including airfare, this trip cost us LESS THAN $3000. Breaking that down for our family of 4 we are spending less than $100 per day for food, entertainment, lodging and transportation.

Our last trip we were on the free dining and we stayed at POP (which we LOVED) – that trip we were spent less than $50 per person per day.

We have a very basic theme park and water park here in the Kansas City area and you can’t go to either of them for that little money when you factor in food, gas and admission. When you compare the cost to a trip to a family resort destination like Beaches (which we also LOVE) – WDW is about 1/2 the cost!!

I think that given the magic you are a part of and the memories you create, WDW provides a great bang for your buck. For families that are willing to look for discount codes, don’t mind the value resorts and forgo park hopper options; there are very affordable options for planning a great WDW vacation!”

Hmmm, it seems one way most people are cutting costs is to forego that park-hopper option. At $53.25 per ticket, the savings can be significant for a family of four.

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Jennifer also opts to not include the park hopper option”¦


Great comments on that promotion.

I think things like park hopper are not that big of a deal to leave off if you only get to the parks every few years. I know we skip the hopper option because we don’t like to waste the additional travel time between parks. We get down there every 2 years or so and just set our own expectations that we’ll do one a day and if we get done early (say on our second day at a park) we explore other resorts (free) or Downtown Disney, or our own resort.

The food too can be controlled if appetizers and dessert are left off. We eat almost entirely at table service for lunch and dinner as we use these times as our breaks from heat/being on our feet. We’ve been able to eat at table service restaurants for 25 per person or less 80% of the time and it usually works out to about the same or less than we would have spent a la carte at counter service.

Not ideal for everyone, I know, but I thought I’d concur that it can be done if people are serious about Disney AND serious about having to budget…

Keep up the great blog!! Jennifer”

Jennifer adds another great tip”¦forget the appetizers and desserts. They too can add up quickly. If you crave for something sweet there’s always a counter service somewhere offering a decent snack….like a Dole Whip.


Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the Reader Mailbag on Disney’s $1,696 Commercial!

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