Friday, 13 March 2015

Saving While Splurging

It's that time of year - March Break!

For our family, it means a week at Walt Disney World. A full week of family fun in the Florida sun, the culmination of a year's worth of saving and six months of planning and endless weeks of website surfing and poring over brochures and pulling out photos from previous years; a week at a Caribbean-themed resort in a pirate-themed room filled with sunshiney days on the beach, swinging in hammocks under the palms, laying on lounges trailing toes in the sand, watching the kids splashing in the water and supervising sandcastle construction, afternoons at the shipwreck splashpad and the Spanish fortress pool, evenings of big-screen movies by the water under the stars; nightly fireworks shows and marshmallow roasts; magical days at the Magic Kingdom and endless joy in the happiest place on earth.

It's the kind of luxury we once only dreamed of. It's the kind of luxury we know many will never experience. We feel so lucky and so proud that we can give our kids this vacation every March Break. It's the experience of a lifetime - and we experience it almost every year.

We save like crazy all year long for this luxury, this indulgence, this experience. And we save enough to make it absolutely amazing.

But there are still ways in which we save while splurging.

We drive from Toronto to Orlando instead of flying. It adds an extra two days to the trip and means an extended road trip with three kids, but with a family of five it also means saving thousands. We make an adventure of the road trip with state trivia and licence plate challenges in between movies, activity books, card games and surprises - and the excitement of the vacation keeps everyone buoyed up through the drive.

We opt out of the Disney meal plan now and buy our own restaurant meals. American-sized portions are absolutely ridiculous - ridiculous - they are not normal human-sized portions. It's easy enough when paying for a Disney vacation package to just book resort rooms, theme park tickets and meal plans all at once - but if you're paying for food you can't and won't eat it's just throwing your money away.

This year, we're bringing food for the car ride - dinner rolls and meat and cheese, dried fruit and nuts, veggie slices, granola bars, bottled water. Maybe we can save a few dollars on fast-food stops.

This year, we're stopping at the grocery store just across the street from the resort gates before we check in - a few bags of fresh fruit and vegetables and a few cartons of milk and juice (and a couple of bottles of wine for Mom and Dad) will save us a fortune in resort-priced restaurant snacks and drinks.

This year, we combined our Disney Dollars and loyalty points and movie rewards to put toward the one big themed character dining experience we do every year, cutting the cost by almost half. This year, we booked our boys' Pirate League experience far enough in advance that the rate was discounted by a third. This year we've planned ahead and we're going to be smart about how we spend.

By the time this article is live we will already be on our way, already indulging in our family's biggest splurge of the year.I can't wait to spend a whole well-earned week off making memories with my four favourite people on the planet in the happiest place on earth.

Happy March Break!

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