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Disney's Magic Kingdom on less than $200 for a Family of Five

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Disney's Magic Kingdom on less than $200 for a Family of Five

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Disney's Magic Kingdom on less than $200 for a Family of Five

After living nearly three years in Florida, we figured we couldn't leave without at least one trip to Disney. Nope, none of us had been to Disney before this trip. What really bothered me though, was the high cost of the tickets...and this year in particular, with our foreign exchange student, we have a family of five wanting to go. In the past, we have taken advantage of Busch Gardens Here's to the Heroes, where once a year, a military family of four can get in free to any of the Anheiser Busch theme parks, to include Sea World. We would alternate the parks every year, and it was just enough excitement not to get boring. It's not that we can't afford it, we just have a hard time shelling out that much money for what may or may not be a few hours of fun, considering the heat, the lines for rides and the general push of humanity all around. I guess you can tell, at least, that I'm not a big fan of events with crowds of people. Well, we can finally say we did Disney and to make my frugal self happy, we spent less than $200...that includes park entry for five, lunch, drinks, souveniers, parking and everything in between. So how did we do it? With just a little bit of advance planning.

My planning started weeks ago. Some of you may remember me blogging about our timeshare experience. My husband and I had such a nice time and got two adult tickets for the Magic Kingdom out of that. I then sent my husband to the ITT office on Macdill AFB, where he bought another adult ticket for our student and two children's tickets for our two boys. The adult tickets cost $67.50 each and for children 9 and under, it's $57 each. We were able to take advantage of the Florida resident rate as well as the military discount rate, which is basically not paying sales tax. So there were our five tickets for just over $181.

We did have to pay about $15 for parking, but I must say, the Disney folks are very efficient with their parking system and trams and getting you to the park entrance in a timely mannner, and I thought that was a reasonable amount for that service. We arrived around 9:30 am, and it was perfect timing. No big crowds and getting onto the ferry to get into the park was a breeze. If you do happen to get a Florida resident ticket, remember you will have to turn in your voucher for the actual ticket at one of the ticket kiosks at the entrance. Only my husband had to show his Florida driver's license. The lady was also initially mortified, because she thought we were trying to pass off our 17 year old exchange student as a 9 year old on the child ticket. She didn't see the other two boys playing in the dirt. At the park entrance, they also have a monorail you can take to get in. My suggestion, take the ferry on the way over and the monorail on the way back to your parking lot and your car at the end of the day. That way, you get to try both, and it seems to be less crowded taking the ferry in the morning versus in the evening from what we could see.

Once in the park, don't waste your time on Main Street or the rides near the front. Make your way to the back of the park and to the rides that have the Fast Pass option. These are the rides that will have long lines later on in the day, and the Fast Pass system allows you to skip the lines in a nutshell. Ride these popular rides before the crowds get there, or grab a Fast Pass if there is already a line longer than 40 minutes. For example, we did catch Snow White's Scary Adventures ride first, even though it is geared mainly to little kids (like most of the rides in Fantasy Land), but hey, it was our first time at Disney and this is what it's all about, right? It was a cheesy ride, but it did get us in the spirit. Disney does seem to put a lot of money and effort into their animatrons and rides on "conveyer belts" taking you by a variety of scenes in the dark. When we passed by this ride later in the day, it always had at least a 30 minute wait. Since the other rides in FantasyLand were just like the run-of-the-mill rides you see at every two-bit carnival, we skipped them completely...they also always had the longest lines, most times in the hot sun as well. Unless you have a particular favorite...remember the Octopus or Scrambler?....don't waste your time.

After getting reoriented...it seems we were mesmerized by the Cinderella castle at first and walked all around the thing before deciding to go on some "real" rides...we headed to the back of the park and Frontier Land. We had only 10 minutes of waiting at both Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Splash Mountain was your typical water flume ride, with a nice big drop off into Briar Rabbit's thorn thickets....lots of splashing and some getting wet. Our boys thought the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a very mild roller coaster pseudo "runaway train", was especially lame and only went on it once. We did enjoy the view of the real paddle steamer that makes its rounds around Tom Sawyer's Island, but we wasted time waiting in line to get over to the island, which again, is geared towards little kids. There is only one way over, jammed with other visitors on a makeshift raft. There are some things to climb on and over and a dark cave with an optical illusion walkway that makes you feel like you are walking sideways, but really, I've had more fun in our own backyard. I would recommend though, if you do decide to visit the island, bring your own lunch (bring a backpack with lunch, water and snacks). There are some nice picnic tables up on a hill there, perfect for having a picnic lunch. Otherwise, skip the island.

Adventureland, right door was our next stop. The Swiss Family Treehouse is a nice visual...but that's about it. If there is a long line, skip it, cause it's not worth it. Get in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean. This was probably our longest line, at 30 minutes. The line nagivates through dark mood-lighted tunnels before you ever get to the ride itself. Take photos at some of the treasure chests and skeleton props along the way and peep through the barred windows. This ride is another one of those conveyer belt rides where you hop onto a car and go by animatron scenery...pirates, pirates everywhere...I saw millions of dollars worth of animatrons, all singing, and not just pirates and people, but also dogs, donkeys and other animals. It was very well done and about as realistic as it could get, and we enjoyed the little boats we rode in. At one point, we went down a little dip in the "underground river" and came upon the sight of the Black Pearl pirate ship inside the cave, just like the movie. Speaking of movies, I felt like I was in The Goonies...remember that scene with the pirate ship? That was it. The Jungle Cruise, what looked like a fun cruise down a jungle river, was closed for renovation. Unfortunately, there were no signs anywhere at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom nor anywhere else, telling us it was out of commission...how disappointing.

We decided to head over to Tomorrowland before it got too late. I had heard of ungodly long lines at Space Mountain from some of my friends who were Disney regulars, so off we went. On the way, we did stop by Liberty Square and do the Haunted Mansion...only a 10 minute wait. It was again a conveyer belt ride going by animatrons and also holographic images of ghosts, but not before walking into the mansion and riding down on a giant optical illusion elevator. Our little cars not only went forward but also turned all around, leaned back and went backwards at one point. We even saw a hologram being projected onto some fog, as well as a 3-D holographic image that you could see from all angles. Again, nicely done. One theme that seemed to stand out for me on all the rides...when you thought it was going to end, it didn't. Disney seems to make the extra effort to make the rides a little longer and a little more extravagant than your typical theme park...I guess that's why it's Disney.

Off to Tomorrowland. Now we started seeing more crowds. We did stop and eat our lunch before getting over there. Plenty of benches, shade trees and places to eat. If you want to buy your lunch, if you don't get a hotdog or snacks from a vendor (we saw some of these in Tomorrowland), expect to pay $50-60 for lunch for a family of five. We did bring our own water and refilled our bottles as needed at the plentiful water fountains. Restrooms were also plentiful and well-marked on the map, and we never had to wait in line for those either. Since I knew souveniers would be pricey, we found a Mickey Fantasia hat for $1 at our local Goodwill store (hey, we live in Florida), and my younger son wore it the entire time. I was shocked to see the exact same hat priced at $35 at the Magic Kingdom. My advice, buy some Disney souveniers at home and bring them along in your backpack and dole them out when you get there. Even if you buy licensed items at your local Disney store, they'll still end up being cheaper. We saw kids running around with all kinds of cheap junk their parents probably spent a fortune on....don't get lured in by it. You can have plenty of fun without getting souveniers at the park. We also saw our share of princesses...little girls dressed up in itchy princess costumes with bouffant hair extensions. I must say they looked so pretty, and I bet they did have fun at their little character meals...which can get pricey...but alas, it is every little girl's dream to be a princess...isn't it? So, if I had a little girl, I bet I would splurge on that too. I'm not sure what they do for the little boys?

Our next stop was Space Mountain, but since it had a 40 minute wait, we grabbed some Fast Passes (you can get one at a time per person, so plan out what you want to do next). We then went on to the interactive experiences of Stitches Great Escape and Monsters Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club. At one point, I thought Stitches was a ride, especially when this bar came down across our shoulders...but I guess it was there to keep us from jumping up and running around...it could be unsafe I'm assuming, plus it did add some drama to the "show". Lots of fog, strobe light, sound, water squirting and even smell jets (to pipe out smells to go with the storyline of Stitch escaping). The younger kids thought this was just fantastic...kind of like being an extra in a movie. The Monsters Inc Laugh Floor even got me laughing. While you wait in the short line, you can text in your jokes, which they say they will use in the show along with your first name and hometown. Once you get in there, it's like a theater with the characters of the movie acting as hosts and stand-up comics, some using the texted jokes. They also incorporate people in the audience, beaming their images up on the screen, getting them to do a few silly things and getting the rest of us to laugh at them and their antics. The kids really enjoyed it.

By the time we were done, it was time to walk right onto Space Mountain with our Fast Passes. Our eight year old was a bit hesitant, but we talked him into it and told him there was no other way to get out, other than getting on the ride. It ended up being a fun ride, and my eight year old's favorite, so I didn't feel too guilty about almost forcing him on there...it's an indoor roller coaster with flashing lights, whirring noises and periods of darkness. Our exchange student said what made it fun was not knowing which way the coaster would go next in the dark....lots of up and downs and curving left and right...watch your neck! Also, if you are really tall or overweight, you may not be able to squeeze yourself into the tiny little cars. I had trouble situating my long legs under the bar myself, and it's a good thing my skort had some shorts under there or else it would've been peekaboo. This ride was easily everyone's favorite.

Our last big ride of the day was up next. All kids and boys, even my adult husband, enjoyed the Indy Speedway. Even though the little racecars sputter along at a snail's pace around the "track", and if you can stand the gas fumes, everyone there was laughing, smiling and giggling. I ended up having to sit in the stands and watch them go around a few times after my one ride (note to self, no driver's license anytime soon for our eight year old)...at that point in the day, the fumes and noise were not my idea of fun. Even the really little ones are allowed to drive, and I saw toddlers steering who could barely see over the dashboard.

We rounded out our day, just strolling around and stood in a short line for Mickey's PhilharMagic. By that time, we were so tired, and it was nice to sit in an air conditioned theater and watch the 3D show and get squirted with water and air in time with the little show. The younger kids were just fascinated by it. Donald Duck and Mickey were adorable in their usual antics.

All in all, we had a fantastic and fun-filled day. Be sure to read my amusement park tips and come with your best walking shoes. If you haven't read enough about Disney, read about our stay at Disney's Ft Wilderness. At the Magic Kingdom, we saw parents with older children who rented the park strollers, just so they would have a place to rest their feet and carry their gear...the parents and not the kids (I saw a 240 pound man sitting in a stroller...guess they are sturdy). There were designated parking areas for strollers all over the park. In one area, I actually saw Disney employees whose main job seemed to be shooing the birds away to keep them from dirtying up strollers and pecking through peoples' snacks...what a job! Disney can be fun, and it can be affordable as you can see. If you do decide to bargain hunt for tickets, stay away from eBay and some of the sellers you may not know much about. I read tons online about people getting hosed out of their money. Disney is very serious about tracking who buys their tickets and who uses them...they are all non-transferable. So please do be careful. Now, our tickets did not have our names on them, but like I said, my husband did have to show his military ID and Florida driver's license, so better to get them from a reputable source than to be potentially disappointed. Do you have any tips for Disney? Please do share them!

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2 Comments:

Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

Look for other frugal tips for this summer at the 127th Festival of Frugality at

http://www.funny-about-money.com/Funny_about_Money/Blog/Entries/2008/5/27_And_the_Beat_Goes_On%3A_127th_Festival_of_Frugality.html

May 27, 2008 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Minako said...

Hi... just happen to cross your site... I see that you also love Disney... me too...

Im planning to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney this Christmas. Hoho and I found some stuffs from Hong Kong Disneyland here as well:
disneycloth.cwahi.net

I will definitely take tones of photos there!!!

July 3, 2009 at 10:31 AM  

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