Monday, September 9, 2013

The planning has begun - Christmas Family Vacation 2013!

My library card has been getting a workout

To early for a Christmas post? I'm just bursting with excitement to share that this Christmas, we're going to Disney World! Backing up just a bit... remember when I said (twice) that it didn't look like the week-long family vacation was going to happen for us this year? Well a few things happened since then:

- Our neighbours returned from their second (yes second!) trip to Disney this year with their almost 5 year old son. In chatting with our neighbour about how overpriced we heard Disney was, he said it actually wasn't too bad (aside from the flights) and talked it up big time. They are already planning their next trip!

- DH and I were chatting about doing a low-key Florida beach vacation over Christmas holiday but when we looked into condo rentals and compared to Disney - Disney actually came out to around the same price as a condo rental at the beach due to premium Christmas time prices, not to mention extremely limited availability.

- I got a raise at work with my most recent new contract (woohoo!)

Our vacation budget: $3000

Details: 5 nights at Disney, 3 days of Theme Park Passes (including Park Hopper Option), and a whole lot of driving (about 21 hours each way)

How we're making this happen:

- We are driving. Flights alone would cost about as much as the actual Disney Vacation Package whereas gas in the Prius is cheap and a decent motel can be had for $50/night. We are planning on doing the drive in 2 days each way - 12 hours the first day and 8-9 the second with plenty of rest stops. Sarah is my inspiration.

-  We made reservations at a "value resort" after reading many many reviews, we came to the conclusion that this would be perfect for our family right down to the "tacky" character themes. The boys will just love it and for us, we're fine with paying half as much as the the fancier resorts.

- N is still FREE until his 3rd birthday which saves us a whackload on the Theme Park tickets. We also saved by doing 3 days at the Parks instead of 4. I know our guys will need a bit of a break and with so much to do at the resort and in Downtown Disney, we won't be bored.

- We opted out of the Disney Dining Plan after reading several reviews. We are confident we can cover our food for less than $800.  We plan on doing some breakfasts/lunches in our room (which comes with a mini-fridge) since we'll be coming back in the afternoons for naps anyway and taking care of our own breakfast will allow us to get to the parks first thing. We have also budgeted for 1-2 meals out/day. I've been scouring the internet for restaurant reviews etc. Two of my go to sites have been this one and this one.

- We're scaling WAY back on Christmas this year. Rather than our usual $1200, we have budgeted $400. Also, if family and friends ask for gift ideas, we'll suggest trip-related stuff like Disney Gift Cards or fun toys/activities for the boys for the car ride.

- Timing. Yes, Christmas is a very expensive time to travel but it is the only time where DH and I both have "forced" holidays and where I can take vacation without using vacation pay (Stat Holidays and lieu time) to cover my time off which frees it up for spending on the actual vacation.

- Payment plan. Since we decided on the fly, we hadn't set aside any money for the trip. Lucky for us, if you book through Disney, they offer a no-interest payment plan option with a booking deposit of $200 and the balance being due 45 days before your arrival. We've just broken it down into smaller payments that we'll pay from each of our paycheques between now and then. What I really like about this is that it seems really affordable for families who plan, say 18 months, in advance - and who can take advantage of cheaper season rates. If we do plan on going back again we might just go this route.

Most importantly, we have not stopped paying down debt, just took another look at our budget and squeezed some more fun money in which will serve as a great incentive not to waste money. That is one more goal we'll be able to check off for this year!


Martina - GetReal Momma said...

so excited for you guys!!! We have been tossing around the idea of Disney just want to plan it right when they are old enough to take advantage of as much as possible. Since we go to Florida each year anyways (not Disney) we will leave our rental for a few days and head up to Disney....the question is thinking 2015 B will be 6 1/2, T almost 5 and lil miss 19 months
good to know that she'll at least be free!

You have to let me know how it goes, if you were able to stick to the budget as that's another factor in when were going too!!!

Kristy said...

I will definitely let you know how it goes! If it were me, I would almost say go this year if you can swing it since a 19-month old will be a lot more work than a non-walker. If you do go this year you can just push/carry her around and she'll sleep when she gets tuckered. At 19 months she'd be a lot more mobile, naps might conflict - if she doesn't sleep in a stroller she could be overly cranky, and she still wouldn't remember the trip anyway. Might as well let the boys get the most of it. I think they'd be the perfect ages!

Mo said...

What a great plan. Some of our family goes ever year, they fly out of Buffalo to save money on flights. If we ever went, we'd totally drive down too. I love that post of Sarah's, you guys are so inspiring doing that drive with little ones.
I'm with Martina, in that we want to go when they are old enough to do lots of things, and also remember going and appreciate it, so more likely in another 5 years or so for us, lol. Can't wait to hear about the trip, and your reviews of everywhere you stayed!

Kristy said...

Thanks Mo. I think finding the "right age" is really tough. Especially if you have kids farther apart in age (mine are 3 years apart so for us it is really about trying to find the sweet spot where they'll both get the most of the same experience). Part of our decision about taking them this year is that I went to Disney when I was about 7-8 and didn't get the same "magic" factor from the Magic Kingdom as I've seen our friends who have gone with younger kids get. I also went to Universal Studios at the time which was much more memorable for me (I think due to the age). There are so many attractions now at Disney/Orlando it is impossible to get them all in, even in a few days. We'll focus on Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom this visit and then maybe go to Hollywood Studios and Epcot when our kids are a bit older.