Our Disneyland Experience: The Planning Stage – Budgeting

We have been home from our family’s first Disneyland vacation for less than a day and I am still experiencing the Disney high.  I’m completely Disney obsessed. It was AMAZING!  Truly the best vacation we have ever had.  It was everything that I had hoped it would be, and then some.

I’m VERY excited to tell you all about it!  Hopefully it will help you if you are planning a trip to Disneyland!

The Planning Stage –

Our Disneyland trip planning began about 15 years ago.  Back in married years 1 and 2, we lived in Southern California.  On our first visit as a married couple, be bought resident season passes (which were a lot more reasonably priced than they are now).  We liked to go to Disneyland just for the evening to people watch, ride a few rides and have dinner.  After observing the harried parents of young, crying children, we made the decision that our children would have to be able to walk on their own without being assisted by a stroller at any time before we would take them to Disneyland.  We figured that would mean that the youngest would be about 5. 

Our youngest turned 6 this summer, and I had been dying to take my boys to Disneyland for a couple of years.  In fact, in December of 2010, I actually started pre-planning a trip.  Of course, back then we still had my student loans and were just starting to get really good at managing our budget.  My husband convinced me to hold off on Disneyland until I paid off my student loans.  That was reason enough to become gazelle intense.

We paid off my student loans (which had a balance in January 2011 of $27,000!!) this March, a little more than a year later.  I worked my hiney off (creating adoption profiles, in my papercraft template shop, and in my cash envelopes Etsy shop) in 2011/12 to get rid of that debt, and this summer my husband suggested that we start planning our Disneyland trip!!  YAY!

One thing that was really important to us was that we be able to pay for our entire trip in cash.  Absolutely NO credit.  No getting ourselves in debt for a vacation.  No, thank you.

We already had a few hundred dollars in our vacation micro account, and our other micro accounts were either fully funded or looking pretty hefty, so we diverted all additional money directly into our vacation fund.  We also put our “debt snowball” that was leftover after the student loan payoff into the fund.  It was amazing how quickly those dollars added up.

It was important to us that we were reasonable in our budget expectations.  We needed a generous budget.

Let’s face it:  Disneyland is expensive.  Plus, this was our first BIG vacation with the kids, and we wanted to do it right.  I have a tendency to be VERY cheap to the point where I practically give myself an ulcer if my husband wants to order a soda at dinner.  Because, you know, that $2.50 (or $3.99 at Disneyland) is really going to kill me.  However, I didn’t want to have to worry about money while on the trip.  I wanted to be able to buy my kids a Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream sandwich ($4.99) without thinking about the fact that I could feed my family for a week on four of those babies.

I did not try to do the trip as cheaply as possible.

I know, I just lost most of you.  But, stick with me, here!  I did do some things right (ie. cheaply)!

This is a quick budget breakdown:

Tickets: $1125
Hotel: $369
Rental Car:  $326 (we decided to rent a car since ours are very old and unreliable)
Gas:  We budgeted $500, but spent less since our rental got MUCH better gas mileage than our old Jeep.
Food and Souvenirs:  $500 (Wahoo!  However, we came in lower!)

Total budget: $2820
We actually spent $2550, and we were VERY generous with ourselves.

I talk about ticket prices in my next post!  Our Disneyland Experience: The Planning Stage: Tickets

Question Time:  How old were your kids when you first took them to Disneyland?  Did you budget generously, or did you save money?  Did you pay cash?  Share with us in the comments so we can all learn from your experience!


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