Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why we AREN'T taking our kids to Disney

Back when I found out my family would be moving to lower Alabama, I told my kids that we would go to Disneyworld sometime during our time at Fort Rucker.  Going to Disneyworld seemed like a no-brainer because Orlando was only 6 hours away, and we'd get a military discount on admission to the park.

However, after we moved I started to rethink that plan.  Eventually, my husband and I decided that we aren't going to take our kids to Disneyworld or Disneyland or any Disney cruises anytime soon. This decision has shocked a few people since going to Disneyworld is such a common thing around here. So I thought I'd take a minute to explain our reasoning.

First, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have nothing against Disney.  I like most of their movies, I'm just fine with Disney Princesses (in moderation), and I've been to Disneyland and loved it.  In fact, I once wrote a report on Walt Disney, and I consider him to be one of the most visionary people of the 20th century.

So why don't I want to take my kids to any Disney parks?  Well, there are a variety of reasons. It's a combination of financial concerns, the ages of my children, and the fact that great vacations can happen anywhere.  Here's my list of 5 reasons why my husband and I aren't taking our kids to Disney.

1. It's expensive
The biggest concern is money.  Even with a military discount, a trip to Disneyworld is expensive.  The 2016 military discount for Walt Disneyworld is $196 plus tax for a 4 day park hopper ticket.  Now, I know that is an AMAZING deal for Disney, but let's do a little math here.   $196 x 6 people = $1176. Actually, my youngest would get in for free because she's under 3 years old so it would really be $196 x 5= 980.  But we are still talking about spending nearly $1,000 just on the price of admission.  Add in what we'd spend for the hotel, food, and gas to drive down there and this "great deal" could easily cost us $1,500 to $2,000.

Or let's say we just wanted to go for a day or two.  A one day ticket is a little over $100.  That's $500 right there.  In comparison, last month we went on a 5 day vacation to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama.  We spent about $500 total on gas, food, our campsite, and activities.

To put it simply, Disneyworld is nowhere near a 51 Cent Adventure type of destination.

2. The opportunity cost of the money
My husband's income is high enough that, with a little time to save up, we could afford a trip to Disneyworld.  However, we also have to consider the opportunity cost of that money.  To put it another way, what else could we do with $1,500 to $2,000 dollars?  And I can tell you right out what we could do with that money- we'd put it toward paying off my husband's student loans.

My husband has quite a bit of student loan debt. If we just make minimum payments we will be in debt for the next 9 years - or more if we can't stay ahead of the interest.  That's not cool.  So we are trying to pay it all off as quickly as possible. Right now we make double payments every month.  At our current payoff rate we will be out of debt within the next 5 years. Putting money toward Disneyworld would take away from those extra payment for 3 to 4 months.  That may not sound like much, but getting out of debt is a huge priority for us, and I'd hate to lose our momentum.

The idea is that once we are free from our debt we'll have a lot more wiggle room in our budget.  We'll be able to do things like go on trips to Disney theme parks much more easily than we can now.

3. My kids' ages
If money was my only concern I'd probably consider going to Disneyworld in the near future.  But I have a bigger concern - I have four very young children.  I have 5 1/2 old twin girls, a 4 year old boy, and a 2 1/2 year old girl.  My oldest wasn't even three years old when my youngest was born.

All my kids are are all really young. They still get tired easily on big days, and they still whine a lot when they get tired.  And meltdowns still occur when the kids have been over stimulated.  Heck, we put them to bed at 7:00 pm because they are up grumpy for days if they stay up too late.

I know how upset I would be if we paid all that money for admission to the park, and then my kids start whining about something, or threw a big tantrum, or spent forever napping at the hotel.  It would drive me crazy.

Before we moved to Alabama I always said I wouldn't take my kids to Disney until they were tall enough to ride all the rides.  I still stand by that.  I've also added that they have to be able to go all day without a nap - even on the busiest of days. And they have to be moderately good at waiting in lines without whining.  I don't feel like going on a Disney vacation would be worth the money until they can do all that.

4. Great memories can be made anywhere 
Most of my conversations about why we aren't taking our kids to Disneyworld involve the other person saying, "but you're missing out on making some great memories with your kids."

That's partially true.  Yes, we are missing out on great Disney memories with our kids, but that doesn't mean we can't make great memories somewhere else.

Somehow Disney has us all convinced that going to their theme parks is the penultimate vacation that anyone could ever have.  That if you don't go to Disneyworld then somehow you aren't a happy family.

But guess what? That simply is not true.  Disney does not have a monopoly on family happiness. Families can make great memories anywhere. Great vacations can happen anywhere.  And - gasp - great vacations don't have to cost a lot of money.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share amazing places that are also inexpensive.  For example, on our recent road trip we spent the last day at Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama.  We were able to ride a small train as much as we wanted, visit a petting zoo, see pioneer era buildings, explore interesting rock features, see a waterfall, and hike down to a alcove behind the fall,  We spent over 6 hours in the park, The kids were happy and exhausted by the time we left.  And how much did it cost us?  $18.  Not even $18 a person.  Just $6 for adults and $3 for children over 4.

5. My kids enjoy simple things
I first started thinking that maybe Disney wasn't for us when I took my kids to Yellowstone last summer. My twins were always pretending to visit Yellowstone. So when we went to Utah I'd thought it would be fun to take a side trip to visit Yellowstone for real.

We did have a great time, but when it was time to watch Old Faithful erupt I couldn't get my kids to come wait at the benches.  Instead they played in the crushed rocks on the other side of the boardwalk.  I was like, "hello, it's Old Faithful.  Who knows when you'll see this again."  And they were like, "hey look at these cool rocks, who knows when we'll see these again."

They did eventually watch Old Faithful erupt, but guess what the kids remember better? Yeah, those dang rocks.

The next day they played for hours on the shore of Lake Jackson in Grand Teton National Park.  Just throwing rocks and enjoying the beautiful scenery.  That's when I knew that my husband and I didn't need to take our kids to Disney to help them have a great childhood- they already were having one.

Thoughout the next few months I noticed the kids enjoying simple things all over the place.  Things as ordinary as the ornate stairway in front of the library in Selma, Alabama; a patch of sand near a lake on Fort Rucker, the magnolia tree next to our house.  In fact, as I write this the twins are out in the backyard pretending that the long grass is a field of oats.

I began to suspect that if I took my kids to Disneyworld they'd probably have the time of their lives playing with something like a fountain.   Something that they could play with at someplace much less expensive. So we should just skip the Disney part, and go find the fountain.

* * *

Those are my 5 reasons that my husband and I aren't taking the kids to Disneyworld - at least right now. Even though we do live close, and we would get a discount, a trip to Disneyworld isn't a priority for us.

However, that doesn't mean well never go to Disneyworld or Disneyland or go on a Disney cruise. I can see a time in the future when we will take the kids to Disney and have a blast.  That will be when we are out of debt, and when the kids are older and so can handle a whole day of adventure.

But you know what won't change? Our ability to have fun as a family and enjoy simple things, because those things exist with or without Disney.

1 comment:

  1. I especially like reasons 4 and 5. Honestly, I'm not sure we'll ever take our kids to Disney anything, but I guess you never know!


I would love to hear what you think. Did I get it right, or was I dead wrong? What was your experience like?


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