C saw Mickey dancing by himself and asked if he could join

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First, a disclaimer: We only took this vacation because my parents were incredibly eager to see their grandkids experience Disney. They paid for almost the entire trip. We, as a family, are very fortunate to have all of the things we do and to be able to experience trips like this. Thanks, Mom and Dad! We probably would have taken our kids eventually, but when they were a bit older and certainly at a different price point.

Should I Be Nervous?

Since we decided last summer that we would be going on a February trip to Disney World, I have been a bit apprehensive. The kids, on the other hand, are as excited as can be. They have been keeping a countdown that they run to every morning to rip off the next page. Ashley is excited as well, mostly to see all of her hard work come to fruition. She has been planning each Fast Pass, lunch break, and snack option for months. We’re both really looking forward to seeing the joy on C and B’s faces when they see one of the characters, or Cinderella’s castle or that first trip on Thunder Mountain.

But, for me, while I am eager to see their excitement, the commercialization and consumerism of the whole thing really makes me uncomfortable. It’s not just the cost of the tickets, but the long lines, the fast pass system that needs to be analyzed like an algebraic equation, and the meticulous planning of every meal so we don’t miss out on any of the fun. I prefer more simplistic fun. A trip to the beach, or a hike, or road trip to a national park is more of my thing. I enjoy being a tourist, but not always in the traditional touristy type of ways.

Disney will be an adjustment for me. I know my kids will enjoy it, they love experiences, but will I? And if I don’t enjoy it, will that still be okay because they are having so much fun? And if they are having so much fun, would a more relaxed, laid back type of trip have made them just as happy? These are the questions I was hoping to have a grip on by the end of the week.

An Expensive Start

We were delayed leaving for Orlando and had a stop in Indianapolis, but no plane change. So, we were at the airport at 6:00 am and not touching down in Orlando until after 1 pm. As a result, we needed some breakfast and snacks. I like to consider myself pretty frugal overall, but this was a bigtime frugal fail to start our Disney trip.

There were lots of avoidable mistakes here.

First, we put our reusable water bottles in the checked luggage, so they were unavailable to us. As a result, we ended up buying four bottles of water.

Second, we didn’t have any kids snacks prepacked so we had to buy them at the airport. We woke up at 4:00 am so it would have been way too early to eat breakfast then, but we were hungry by 6:30 am so we were forced to get ripped off at the airport. We ended up buying bagel sandwiches and bananas.

$50 unnecessary and avoidable dollars spent so far.

B was fascinated during the safari at Animal Kingdom

3 Things I Cringed at as a Frugal Minimalist

1. Wait…Wait…and…Wait…

Our first day got off to a tough start. We tried to leave early enough for rope drop at Epcot, but a delayed monorail and a few other glitches put us smack dab in the middle of a wave of early, but not early enough arrivers. We waited forever for baggage and security check followed by another long line to enter the park. When we finally got in, we headed to “Test Track” and proceeded to wait in that line for another hour before getting on. Can a frugal minimalist enjoy Disney? At this point, I was pretty positive the answer was no. As the day went on, however, we had a few fast passes which helped significantly and the lines that we did wait in were more manageable.

So why did the frugal minimalist in me cringe? I can be a pretty patient person, so it wasn’t the boredom of waiting in those lines. The kids were actually very patient as well. There were no “What’s taking so long?” complaints or “Are We There Yet?” whines. I was really just questioning if this was really what we should be using our time doing. Were this park and this ride going to be so much fun that the two hours we just spent were worthwhile?

C and B loved meeting the characters

2. The Crowds

Have you ever been at the grocery store the day before a big storm? The entire half of the state seems to be there with you as you slowly move your grocery cart up and down the crowded aisles, hoping that you can squeeze by the three people searching for salad dressing on one side and the two people reaching for pasta on the other. All the while, you’re hoping you don’t inadvertently flat tire the person in front of you. We’ve all been there.

Well, that’s Disney World in mid-February. I felt like Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon maneuvering that stroller around all four parks. I swerved around the kid walking sideways across traffic, avoided the dad who decided to stop in the middle of the park to look at a map and narrowly missed the oblivious mom with her phone in her face. It was a nightmare at first, but I eventually just accepted the bumper cars mentality and just went with it.

So why did the frugal minimalist in me cringe? I tend to enjoy the more quiet, laid back things in life. I’m not an anxious person at all, except when I enter into these sorts of situations with big crowds. I noticed my shoulders relaxing their tension once I made it through an especially crowded area. This same feeling hits me each time I’m going through security at the airport. I catch myself taking off my watch and removing things from my pockets almost as soon as I walk into the airport, well before I’m even in line for security.

3. The Prices

We were fortunate enough to be on a meal plan, so most of the meals were included. However, the pricing was outrageous. I guess it’s the going rate for any entertainment venue these days, but quick lunch meals costing anywhere from $15 to $25 and over paying $10 for just about anything with alcohol was still hard to accept. We tried to bring as many snacks as possible with us to avoid paying.

So why did the frugal minimalist in me cringe? This is the obvious one. It hurts, a lot, to pay that much for something you know would cost you half of the price, if not more, anywhere else. Disney knows you have no other options, just like when you’re in a stadium for a concert or in an arena for a basketball game.

A great view of the fireworks from our balcony

4 Things I Enjoyed as a Frugal Minimalist

1. Amazon Now

We decided to get Amazon Now to deliver some snacks and other food to our hotel. If you’ve never heard of the program, it’s great! Basically, you just put in your hotel’s address, shop online, and submit your order. We picked up some fruit, a few granola bars, and some other snacks. You can even order beer and wine! This saved us a good amount of money. Disney allows you to bring in your own food, so we just packed up some snacks and kept the kids happy. Any parent knows that a full stomach is sometimes the best deterrent for a major temper tantrum.

2. The Rides, Shows, and Attractions

The rides were great, for adults and kids alike. I had so much fun on so many of the rides. The shows and attractions were so realistic and the technology was truly amazing. I came into this fairly skeptical, but left pretty impressed by the way Disney does everything.

3. Time with Family

This trip was wonderful in the fact that we were able to spend so much time together as a family. We were all together to see my niece’s first trip on “It’s a Small World“, my parents got to witness the jubilation from C and B as we got off “Soarin‘” and we all there to experience the “Happily Ever After” Fireworks Show at the Magic Kingdom on our final night.

C and B loved holding their cousin’s hand

4. Great Memories

The kids are all young, and probably won’t remember too many details of this trip as they get older, but I don’t think they’ll ever forget how much fun they had. They will have fond memories of Disney, even if they can’t remember going on a specific ride or eating at a specific restaurant. Additionally, this is a trip that I know my wife and I will never forget. We loved seeing the excitement on our kids faces everyday, but we also loved being able to share those memories with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. We are so incredibly fortunate to have such a great family.

C and B with their Grandpa

Final Verdict – Can a Frugal Minimalist Enjoy Disney?

Yes!

Ultimately, C and B really did have the time of their lives. I was originally convinced that they could have just as much fun anywhere else. We could be at a pool resort or a beach house or even touring a family-friendly city. However, after seeing their faces and the random, involuntary leaps of excitement, I really have to admit that there is no place like Disney. The cost is outrageous. The sheer amount of people everywhere we went was exhausting and frustrating at times. So, Disney was neither frugal nor minimal. But those kids were as happy as they have ever been, and that lasted throughout the whole trip. It’s really tough to question that. To top it off, our entire family was together, and there are only so many times that we will be lucky enough to have that.

Disney is done, now I need a drink and a vacation!

What about you? What were your Disney World experiences? Any suggestions for the readers on how to keep Disney as frugal and simple as possible? Please comment below.

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