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We Paid Cash! :: Disney Vacation

We paid cash!

Testimony from Brandi

Two weeks from today my husband and I will be taking our four children to Disney World!

The Background

I am a work-at-home mom of four amazing boys ages 7, 6, 3 and 2. My husband is a sales rep for a wholesale distributing company. We have purposed to live within the means that the Lord provides for us and are so thankful for His blessings. With four boys, it requires creativity, sacrifice and sometimes plain old miracles to make that happen!

By the blessings and grace of God, we are debt-free except for our mortgage. We have six months of living expenses saved and are contributing a very modest amount to my husband’s 401K.

Our Goal

With medical expenses and just “life”, vacation has never made it to the top of our priority list. We decided at the first of the year that we would really love to be able to take our boys on a nice vacation and began to ask the Lord if He would allow us this extra but certainly not necessary blessing.

I’m so happy to say, He has allowed us to save all the cash needed without touching our savings or going into any sort of debt!

How We Did It

  • We are participating in a time-share presentation in exchange for free lodging! (I told them upfront that there is no chance of us buying a timeshare but they still want to give it a shot. Bless their hearts!)
  • We had a yard sale and made $500.00.
  • I sold an old kitchen table on the internet for $200.00.
  • I bought $250.00 worth of restaurant gift certificates for $18 on Restaurant.com.
  • We will be buying groceries and eating in the condo for breakfast and lunch each day.
  • I saved $600 out of our monthly budget over the last four months by couponing, searching sales, freezer cooking and just plain saying “no!” to things. That $600 was the hardest part because we only have a monthly budget of $400 for groceries, eating out, clothing, toiletries, etc.

We Paid Cash for DisneyWhat We Gained

This has been an awesome way for us to teach our children about delayed gratification. We explained each time we had to say no to something that even though we were sacrificing now, the blessing of our vacation was going to be much greater.

We actually saved the cash in a bag so the boys could see it and when we sacrificed something they could see us add to the cash. This has been a great character and faith-building experience!

Brandi Johnson is wife to Brandon and mom to Taylor, Luke, Caleb and Zachary.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  1. Susan says

    I’ve commented a couple times here already but wanted to add a little more regarding the financial aspects of a Disney vacation, and share my experience. It may or may not apply to the original poster, but perhaps others can benefit.

    I took my daughter to Disneyland last November when she was 9. We did the entire trip for under $1000, including airfare.

    – Be open with dates. Set up alerts for airlines and travel sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity, and be willing to jump on cheap tickets when you find them. In my case, I planned on going for 3 days, with a day of travel on both ends, so 4 nights in all, and I wanted to go around Thanksgiving. But I wasn’t picky about the exact dates — I looked for dates that were around Thanksgiving week, and I was able to score two airline tickets for $129/ea.

    – Be willing to stay off property if you want to save money. Some folks will argue that staying at a Disney resort is an important part of the whole “Disney” experience — and it is convenient — but you can have an awesome Disney experience regardless of where you sleep. In Anaheim, there are plenty of nice, affordable hotels very close to Disneyland, some within walking distance, and most with easy access to the parks via shuttle busses that run very frequently. For past trips to Disney World in Florida, transportation was a whole ‘nother issue, but for Disneyland, it’s very convenient to just take a shuttle bus to and from the park entrances from our hotel. If you are flying, you do not need a rental car.

    – While you’re shopping around for flights, shop around for the best hotel deals. You don’t even have to have firm dates — if you find a great deal on a hotel, go ahead and make a reservation. Make sure you can cancel it without charge — usually you can with at least 24 hours notice, but read the fine print before you book to make sure. Also, you can often change your dates but keep the rates that you booked by calling the hotel directly. This is good in case you find super cheap flights where the dates don’t correspond exactly to the hotel dates you reserved.

    With my Disneyland trip (and previous DW trips), it was NOT more economical to book a hotel/flight package. We spent 4 nights in Anaheim, and I was able to find a hotel deal for only $52/night AND buy-3-get-1-free, so less than $200 for a hotel very close to Disneyland, where we were very comfortable. Package deals were a lot more expensive than booking flights and hotels separately and buying meals individually.

    – As others have said, the food in parks is very expensive. I budgeted for just two Disney meals — dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney for the day we arrived and a character breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen for day 3. Great food, very fun, and definately part of the whole Disney experience.

    – For other meals, what we ended up doing was eating a quick breakfast in the room, yogurt or cereal, or such. We had a refrigerator and there was a mini-mart just a block away, so easy to keep milk and yogurt on hand. We packed easy-to-eat snacks, like granola bars, into the parks in case we got hungry. We didn’t have “lunch” per se, just some snacks. I did allow some spending money for a soda or coffee & hot chocolate, ice cream, or popcorn or such in the park. I think we purchased one snack and two drinks in the park each day. They’re expensive generally speaking, but for just the two of us for three days, it wasn’t a huge expense.

    – For dinner — and this wasn’t planned in advance but worked out great for us — each day we went back to the hotel mid-afternoon to swim. The pool was adjacent to the restaurant/bar. They had “happy hour” from 4:00 – 6:00, so we were able to buy an “appetizer” that was plenty enough food for both of us for under $10. We had nachos one night, and pizza the next, with enough leftover pizza for dinner the 3rd night. That was less than it costs us to eat out normally, so I very excited about that deal. In all, I spent about $100 on food.

    After our swim break and early dinner, we went back to the parks again. I would highly recommend taking an afternoon break from the parks, whether for a nap for the little ones, a swim, or whatnot. It really helps to pace yourself, as being in the parks all day can be very tiring. And afternoons are the hottest time of the day plus the most busy, so it’s a good time to take a break. We spent the earlier part of the day at the parks and went on the rides that we most wanted to do, then took a swim/dinner break for a few hours, then went back in the late afternoon/evening and enjoyed the parade and fireworks and took in some more rides. It was perfect.

    – Limit the souvenirs! They are expensive. I gave my daughter $25 to spend as she wanted, and planned on getting just a couple of souvenirs of my choosing. My favorite souvenir is a paper-cut silhouette of my daughter’s head profile. There’s a little shop there on main street where a woman cuts them on the spot. She is SO talented! I framed it later, back home. I also bought a Christmas ornament with the year on it, which will be fun to pull out every year. With her money, the kiddo chose a small plush Minnie Mouse doll and a Mickey flashlight that we still use quite often, which I thought were great choices.

    – A souvenir that I highly recommend — get a autograph book so that you child can collect autographs from the characters. They’re great about posing for photos, so later on you can add a photo of your child with the character along side the autograph. This little book is one of my daughters most prized possessions.

    – Plan for a little splurging. Our only real splurge was a costume and up-do and makeup session at Bippity Boppity Boutique. I thought the kiddo was too old for the princesses and wouldn’t be much interested in that, but once there, she really got into it. And she didn’t beg or whine — she just looked longingly at the boutique and admired the costumes she saw other girls wearing — so I treated her, and I don’t regret spending the money. It was very special for her.

    My advice – take a princess (or other) costume from home. They’re the same costumes you can get at Disney stores, so you can get them for a lot less money on clearance, or possibly ebay or second-hand stores.

    – Apparently there are deals to be had at Disney — with the Bippity Boppity Boutique purchase came a coupon for a blanket for only $15, which I thought was a great deal on a very nice, quality, throw-sized blanket. We ended up using it at the parades and fireworks. It got chilly on those November evenings, so the blanket came in very handy. It was lightweight and easy to carry. We still use it a lot; in fact, it’s “home” is across the back of my sofa. It’s very pretty, with a tasteful Mickey/Minnie print, and it’s a nice decor item in our home.

    – Lastly, be realistic about what you will and won’t be able to do do/see in the time you have. With Disneyland and Disney World both, there is so much to see and do. We couldn’t possibly pack it all into three days, so we chose the things we most wanted to do and made them priorities, and after that, we kept it laid back and just did what we felt like.

    Have fun!

  2. jen says

    Just remember that the resorts are AMAZING – even the value resorts have playgrounds, multiple pools, arcades, etc. Our first trip with the kids was 4 days/3 nights. We visited 2 parks and spent 2 days at the hotel and the pool. We took the shuttle over to Downtown Disney – it is free to just walk around and plenty of FREE things to entertain you for a couple of hours. The LEGO store has a play area where you can build and race lego cars. My kids could stay there for hours. Then there are great stores and photo opportunities and an ice cream shop. We stop there every time we go to Disney (we are FL residents). Most people pack their trip with park visits but the reality is the quiet days by the pool and just hanging out together are just as fun and a great way to keep yourself and the kids from wearing out or getting overstimulated. Our trip for 4 people was $1500 including Disney value hotel, FL resident tickets, souvenirs and all our food (except for snacks). We feel like vacation is our one time to treat ourselves, so we aren’t cooking/making sandwiches on vacation! :)

  3. Jennifer says

    Congratulations on your upcoming trip! Fall is an amazing time to go, and I think that your children are at great age! Be sure to take advantage of the baby swap and fastpass for when your younger children can’t ride the bigger attractions to minimize your separate time. Also, using baby swap, your older children will get to ride the ride twice in a row! Since Disney food is expensive, plan to bring snacks, lunch, and water with you. You can also look at the menus at http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/dining.htm so you can know where the cheaper food is before you get there. At a few places at the magic kingdom you can order a double cheeseburger and an extra bun a la carte which is pretty reasonable for feeding at least 2 people. You also don’t have to buy the meals on the menu. If you don’t want the sides, you can get every item a la carte and save money that way too.

    I also agree with reading a book on Disney World before you get there so you are familiar with all of the attractions before you arrive. Besides knowing where your family wants to go first, some of the rides can be pretty scary and you don’t want to wait 20 minutes to terrorize your children unnecessarily.

    Have a wonderful trip!

  4. says

    Great work Brandi. Hopefully this will serve as an inspiration to many others out there. Even in a time of economic downturn there are things that we can still enjoy if we’re willing to put in the hard yards. 2 big thumbs up.

  5. Sherri says

    Here’s a thought about the timeshare presentation- practice saying “no” as you may have to repeat it often. We did one of these (not at Disney) years ago when we were first married and it was a real headache (literally- I was so hungry by the end of our session that my head started to hurt). We told the gal upfront that we weren’t interested i buying; she went through the whole schpeel anyway; we told her again that we couldn’t afford it; she told us about their easy payment plan; after another “no” she had to go get her supervisor so he could explain it all again to us (apparently we should have been convinced); finally, we were able to leave after one more “no”.

    Now, not every timeshare presentation will be like our experience, but with small children along, you may want to be prepared with snacks and toys. Or, maybe a screaming toddler may be your early ticket out of there!

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