In January, Audrey told me she wanted to go to Disney World. I told her that Disney World costs a lot of money. So she ran to her room, found some coins she had been saving, and told me I could use her money to pay for Disney World. So sweet! But then I had to explain to her that Disney World costs A LOT more than a few coins.
So we started a Disney World savings jar. Here was the jar on the first day we started it.
And here's what the jar looks like now. So, there's some progress! (We do have more money dedicated to our trip in our real savings account at the bank too, because I don't think our loose change is going to be quite enough!) I think it has been a good lesson on saving money for Audrey (and Isla too!). She has been really patient, much more patient than I expected, as the jar slowly fills up.
Once we started the savings jar, I knew we had to eventually book a trip or else we would just be lying to the girls. So I've been keeping my eye on the deals Disney offers, hoping a good one would come my way soon!
While browsing the MANY internet sites dedicated to all things Disney, I learned that a free dining offer was going to be released today. However, those Disney fanatics are crazy...and after reading their posts, I was persuaded to get up at 5:00 am in order to be first in line to snag the free dining deal. There are only a limited number of rooms available, and the talk on the internet was that those rooms would sell out fast!
The deal was supposed to go live on the website at 5:00 am, and I set my alarm for 4:55 to be up in time for it. Except the deal was NOT on the website at 5:00 am. I just sat there and refreshed the page every 10 seconds for an hour. At 6:00 am, Disney offices opened up. So I decided to call and make a reservation instead. I knew that people from all over the world (really...I saw people from Australia, England and Canada all talking about booking this offer this morning) would be calling at 6:00 with me, and rumor was that getting through to a real person at Disney was very difficult. People were talking about being on hold for HOURS! I decided that I would call and only stay on hold until the girls woke up (probably around 6:30). At that point, I assumed I wouldn't be able to get it.
I was so surprised when a Disney cast member picked up my call at 6:08! And then I was able to book the resort we wanted (Caribbean Beach) for the dates we wanted and get the free dining. And it was so easy! Later in the morning, I checked the Disney message boards again; a lot of people were on hold for hours this morning. Somehow, I got lucky and managed to get through in just 8 minutes! I also checked the Disney website (which did finally start to work) at noon today. Caribbean Beach was sold out for the date we wanted (and most of the dates offered). So I guess it was a good thing I got up so early to make our reservation as the available rooms were snactched up quickly!
I am really excited about getting the free dining deal. Like most "deals" out there, it's not REALLY free. Yes, all four of us will get all of our meals free (at the restaurants of your choice for the most part) for five days. But I also had to pay full price for our room. Sometimes, Disney will offer room only discounts and for various resorts and families, sometimes the room only discount is a better deal than the free dining.
But for us, free dining is the perfect deal and the greatest amount of savings. After calculating everything and comparing it versus a room only discount, I'm estimating that the free dining will save us at least $600 for our trip. My girls love the character meals, which are really expensive (some are $150 for our family to eat just one meal). With the dining plan, I'm planning to eat five of those expensive character meals, making the most of our "free" dining plan!
Plus, I really like that we shouldn't have to spend much money at all while actually at Disney. The food is free, and I'm not really one to buy souvenirs, so we should spend next to nothing while there. The airfare, room and tickets will all be paid for in full before we leave. So even though it is not a cheap trip, I love that we won't come back feeling like we spent too much money. I can be really good at budgeting before vacation, but once I'm actually on vacation, I don't care about money anymore! The dining plan will be great for keeping us on track with our spending. And it does make me happy to think of all the food we will get for "free."
My next phone call to Disney will be next Wednesday at 6:00 am to try to get all of our dining reservations. If you want to get into popular restaurants, you often have to book your reservations 180 days in advance! And even then it can be hard to get what you want. Craziness!!! Though the vacation planner in me really loves it. I think I missed my calling in life...I should have been a travel agent!