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Majority of you know how I feel about Disney. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that it’s so stinking crowded and expensive. Being the cheapskate that I am, it’s hard to justify paying so much money for one day admission when I could get yearly passes to Legoland for the same amount. But the problem is, my kids love Disney. And I love my kids.
I’ve written quite a few posts on this topic and compiled them in this aptly named round-up: No, I do not hate Disney If you have small kids and are thinking about going, I recommend you check out my unbiased, non-sponsored opinions. Disney will never be contacting me about hosting giveaways, I guarantee it.
Honestly, I will be the first to admit that Disney parks, especially Magic Kingdom are very impressive. There is a reason why they keep on raising the prices yet people are still coming in droves.
I think every family should visit Disney (specifically Magic Kingdom) at least once. However, if you are on a tight budget, I recommend you wait till the kids are a bit older. It’s hard to say in advance how they will handle crowds, stress and potential heat. Same goes for parents.
Everyone is always happy in Disney parks, or are they?
Sure, there is always that one perfect family who took their 6-month old and a toddler and everyone had a marvelous (marvelous!) time. Those are the type of spouses who never (never!) argue and whose kids are champions in every sport under the sun. But I’ve seen so many miserable families in Disney that I know what I’m talking about. You will spend a lot of money and may end up regretting it. Or maybe you won’t, it’s impossible to say in advance.
If you have a lot in savings, by all means go for it. But if it will take you several years to save up for this trip, make it count. Check out my Disney round-up for some ways miles and points can help you reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
My kids are 5 and 8, and I think it’s a good age to consider a Disney trip. In fact, I’m thinking about taking them to Magic Kingdom next January. The weather is usually nice during that time and Spring Break crowds haven’t yet arrived.
What gave birth to this idea is the fact that I booked a 2-night stay at the newly remodeled Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites-Waterpark (former Nickelodeon resort). It costs 25,000 IHG points per night, and looks like a fun place for small kids. So I was thinking, since we’ll be in Orlando anyway, why not go to Magic Kingdom?
Of course, then I remembered what it costs to get in. Since Disney now uses dynamic pricing, this is what the tickets will run for a family of four in January of 2017:
Gulp! Disney is the “Hyatt Vendome” of amusement parks. We would probably drive our own car, so would have to pay extra for parking. Then, of course, there is overpriced food and souvenirs. There is no way we would leave the park without shelling out at least $550 total. For one day. Let me repeat it: $550 for just one day!
Of course, as Florida residents, we have access to special discounts. But even those have been “weak sauce” lately. Here is a deal for 3 days, though there are blackout dates and you have to use your pass within 6 months:
Obviously, this is a better deal, but only if you want to visit Disney parks three times within six months. Personally, I’m OK going once every three years. Plus, if you plan on buying a 3-day pass, you might as well get a 4-day deal:
This is very clever marketing. Basically, Florida residents get a 4-day pass for the price of 2-day admission. You would be crazy not to take them up on it. Well, I guess I’m crazy because if we go, it will only be for one day. Like I said, the price of the ticket is only part of the equation.
There is parking, food, toys and of course, you need a hotel if you want to get your money’s worth. We live 1.5 hours away from Magic Kingdom and with small kids, it’s a bit far to do a day trip.
A possible compromise
But how in this world can I justify dropping over half a grand on one day in an amusement park? Well, after thinking about it some more, the only way I’ll consider it is if my husband and I end up getting Chase Disney Visa (you can find referral link for it at this DoC post).
The regular sign-up bonus is pretty small, only $200 Disney gift card. But if there is nothing else available, I’ll consider it. I got a targeted mail offer of $250 Disney gift card awhile back, so maybe it will show up again. Of course, if I’m going to use up a Chase application, I should probably go for British Airways Signature Visa instead.
It comes with 50,000 Avios miles, and for now is not subject to 5/24 rule. Even though I don’t have specific plans for BA Avios for the next few years, getting 50,000 miles rather than $200 gift card is still preferable to me. Note that the annual fee of $95 is not waived.
Remember, we are not talking cash here, though I guess I could sell gift card at a loss. If you shop at Sam’s Club, you can buy Disney gift cards at 5% discount. If you have Chase Freedom, you’ll also earn 5 points per dollar on top of it. If you happen to have Costco membership, through July 4th you can get a free trial at Sam’s Club. Details here
There are a few credit card bonuses that might also be a good fit. Among them are Wells Fargo Propel, Capital One Venture Rewards and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. See details here When buying your Disney tickets, you can go through sites like Orbitz to make sure your purchase is coded as travel. See this page for more details. Be aware, you can’t buy 1-day tickets via Orbitz or Expedia.
Disney can be a magical place, no question about it. If you plan everything ahead and do your research, a visit there could make for an unforgettable experience. But it comes at a steep price. Right now I’m working on beefing up our emergency fund, so will have to shelve the idea for the time being.
If I end up getting Chase Disney Visa bonus X 2, I’ll consider it. If not, I’ll probably wait another few years before going back to Magic Kingdom. This time around, we’ll just enjoy the waterpark at the hotel and maybe splurge on a Rainforest Cafe. My kids have been to Disney before, so I don’t feel the pressure when it comes to this family “rite of passage.”
Readers, what are your thoughts? Are you like me, as in too cheap for magic?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.