Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to be a Tightwad at Walt Disney World

Please welcome guest blogger, Dr. David C. Phillips, author of the riveting, A Comparison of Historic and Modern School Facilities in Rural Northeast Georgia According to Henry Barnard's Principles of School Architecture. Really...you won't be able to put it down!

For those of you who don't know, David is my father.

Take it away, Dad!

I never traveled to Disney World as a youth. My first opportunity to go to Disney was in 1974. I was allowed to choose between four days in Okefenokee Swamp with the Boy Scouts or four days at Walt Disney World. I think we all can see the obvious winner in the situation. My first trip to Disney World was at the ripe old age of 32. I had hair then.

Note the hair.

I'm always impressed with the technology at Disney World. I'm also always pleased with the vision, efficiency, creativity, and cleanliness. Their customer service is second to none, but it does come at quite a price.

I am a world-class tightwad. I am known for pinching pennies. I could give Clark Howard tips on how to save money. So when faced with an impending Disney vacation (after breathing in a paper bag for ten minutes), I always try to find a way to save some dough.

Here are my tips for a tightwad experience at Disney World:
  • The answer at the end of every ride is no. Why? Because there will be a gift store.
  • Food is exorbitant at Disney. On our first family trip, my goal was to sneak sandwiches into the park everyday. That worked until dinnertime the first day. At that time, the spirit of Walt Disney came back to life, pulled my billfold out of my back pocket, and with the proceeds, bought the ABC network.
  • On our next trip, my goal was to split plates. Splitting a plate equates to me getting my own plate and my daughter and wife splitting a plate (just kidding). My success at plate splitting was a dismal failure.
  • I have come to the conclusion that the best value at Disney is the DDP. This meal plan does NOT save me any money, only because the sandwich plan (see above) is the way to go for a tightwad. What the DDP does is take the pressure off. I can actually enjoy a meal at Disney without worrying about Walt Disney World having the funds to buy CBS and NBC after the spirit of Walt Disney (once again) empties my billfold. If you shop carefully, the DDP can be free (it's not really free). The DDP is offered during "value" seasons for "free" two months a year. While making my last deposit at Walt Disney World, we enjoyed a meal at Liberty Tree Tavern. While there (I felt the spirit of Ronald Reagan next to me) we enjoyed a meal which at regular cost would have been over $250 for our family of four. Because the meal plan was an add-on to get my tightwad self in the park, I felt really good about my turkey and stuffing. I also met Frank Luntz at one of our meals. I have petitioned Disney World to have Frank Luntz as a character when I'm visiting Disney from now on.
Frank Luntz, political guru and author of these books.
  • Another tightwad tip: stay on park property. You get extra time in the park. Extra time=maximizing your money. On my last trip, our hotel room was $69 per night. Our transportation was covered, parking was free, and they picked us up at the airport.
  • Stay in the parks as late as possible. Time=money at Disney World. You must maximize your hour per dollar ratio.
  • Ice water is free. NOT bottled water. Ice water in a plastic cup. Bon appetite!
  • Anytime you're on a ride that takes your picture (and if you're at Disney World, that's every ride) have your digital camera ready at the end of the ride. Those picture printouts at the counter are expensive, but taking a picture OF a picture is totally free.
  • Use Fastpasses. The more you ride, the less it costs.
  • For those of you who think you'll enjoy Disney at the same temperature as a Crock-Pot on high, go in the summertime. Once our family went in August. I expected Satan himself to be a character is was so hot. Fortunately, he never showed up. If you choose to travel to Disney anytime other than November-February, you'll need to plan cool down breaks. My favorite? The Carousel on Progress (blog post coming on this attraction).
  • A little downtime helps you maximize your adventure and lower the cost per ride.
  • Go to your local Wal-Mart and stock up on Disney "souvenirs." Your kids won't know the difference. I've even heard tell of Disney outlets down in Orlando.
  • Recycle those Wal-Mart souvenirs. Make your kids take them along on your next trip. No new souvenirs needed!
  • The FREE iPhone app, Walt Disney World Waits will help you plan out your day. I'm developing a .19 cent app for tightwads to undercut all the other apps.
  • Avoid travel during the World Cup, especially qualifying rounds in Orlando. You'll come home not only with it's a small world in your head, but some sort of Brazilian soccer cheer as well.
  • Avoid all other theme and amusement parks in Orlando. Tell your family that nothing can compare to Disney, so you don't need to go to any other attractions. Really though, Sea World isn't that bad.
I often joke with my family that I'd rather go back to the Swamps and maybe hunt some gators than make another trip to Disney World. But it really isn't all that bad. I got to watch my kids meet their favorite characters and see a little real-life "magic" as they grew up. And now my wife and daughter (and even son) are such experts that I don't have to worry about a thing when they plan our next Disney vacation. They just slip my billfold out of my pocket while I'm not looking and six months later we're all enjoying an all-inclusive trip that is almost as fun as a weekend at the Hunting Club.

Outside of Pirates of the Caribbean (which is ALMOST as much fun as gutting a deer).

1 comment:

  1. I prefer the term "frugal" to cheapskate, but either way, it's a true descriptor. Buying treats elsewhere and surprising your kids at the end of the day will save you a ton. Shop Disney Store clearance, it's usually pretty great. There is a Disney Store outlet in Myrtle Beach...major good deals. Always dining plan (although the value of the system decreases each year, it is still the best deal). Get your special occasion button, whatever that may be (birthday, anniversary, etc). You'll usually score something free by the end of the day. If you're not going to DDP, bring granola bars or other portable snacks for breakfast and eat in the room. Trick your kids into being good (you know you do it) by creating "Disney Bucks" they can earn as allowance at home. Then, they can only spend that much in the parks. Send letters to the Disney characters to the Disney fan mail address and get free signed pictures from the characters sent to you all year long. Buy a clearance Disney story book an have your little one use it as their autograph book.


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