So how was it possible for the Barnson’s to go to Disneyland? Holy Cow, I never thought it would be possible. I’m quite the bargain shopper and couldn’t imagine spending the rates to get into Disneyland. Three days for four adults and two children would cost us $1088. Ouch! That’s crazy. Not to mention the cost of a hotel stay for several nights costing another thousand dollars. Then there’s the cost of gas and food for several days as well as souvenirs. Here’s my trick.
Several years ago Matt and I paid off our credit card and switched it over to a “Rewards Visa,” which raised our interest rate by a couple percentage points. We decided we wanted to use it to fly places when the opportunity arose. We used it two or three times and then didn’t use it again for years. Trying to keep our credit card purchases within our usual monthly budget, we charged everything from gas to food expenses on the card. Typically in December the bank offered double points for purchases since people are spending so much extra money for Christmas. When we looked up how we could use our reward points, there were so many options! Gift cards, hotels, air fair, gas cards, tickets to anything you could imagine and Disneyland!
This trip has been a couple years in the planning and the timing was everything. Matt and I are owners of a resort club that allows us to use our points at any of their several dozen locations. We had some leftover points from last year that were about to expire so Matt said to me, “Book something fun.” Well, we’ve had fun at all the resorts we’ve visited, but having points from last year to use, this year’s points and next year’s points available to borrow, it was the perfect time. I got on the website and found one room available that sleeps six at our resort just around the corner from Disneyland. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I booked the room and called Matt. “We’re going to Disneyland!” I had booked it six months in advance so that our trip would be during cooler weather in CA and during UEA so that the kids wouldn’t miss much school.
Then a couple months before our trip, Matt called the rewards company and got us tickets for two days at Disneyland for FREE! Plus $500 cash to cover gas money. They didn’t offer children’s tickets so when we got to Disneyland we wanted to add one more day to our stay. At the ticket counter, they credited me the price of 6 adult tickets for two days and subtracted that from the cost of 4 adults and 2 children for three days. I paid the difference of $274. Woohoo! That still amazes me. Essentially, we got into Disneyland and California Adventure for three days at the cost of $274. Amazing!
That doesn’t cover all our concerns. With four children, plus Matt and myself, we needed a game plan to pay for personal expenses. For FHE the Monday after we told the kids we were going to Disneyland, we decorated plastic bins with Disney scrapbook paper for each person to have a place to stash money to be spent in Disneyland. This gave us approximately six months to save our allowances to have spending money in Disneyland. My younger two boys saved about $50 each, my teenagers saved about $75 each, Matt saved $150, and I saved $250 to spend.
The next concern is meals. The cost of food in Disneyland or CA Adventure is pretty much ridiculous. For example, Matt paid $10 for a cup of coffee and a muffin. Multiply that times six of us per meal, plus 50% for dinner pretty much blows the whole idea of a cheap vacation. Our game plan was created with the help of our FB friends’ suggestions! Staying at a resort allowed us to cook breakfast before we left the condo. We brought tons of snacks to eat throughout the day. Two of the days we took our rolling cooler full of lunch foods. The difficult thing about this is Disneyland has very strict rules against rolling bags in either of the parks. So we ended up renting a locker to the tune of $12 a day. That was cheaper than feeding us all lunch so it was a good option. They provide a nice picnic area by the lockers so you don’t have to go anywhere with your rolling bag. Then we bought dinner. On the third day, we took extra snacks and left our rolling cooler at the condo with the plan to snack more, then have a late lunch/early dinner. Then if we needed more food we could eat back at the condo at the end of the day. This was still pretty expensive, but was a happy medium for us.
We decided for Thursday to be a relaxing day after having spent three days on our feet mile after mile. We decided to go to the beach to watch the sunset and eat at a restaurant that is at the end of a pier so we were surrounded by the ocean! UGH. Another expensive meal to pay for. The resort tries to sell us more points every time we take a long vacation. They give an incentive of an American Express gift card just to listen. This time around the gift card was worth $75, which is what dinner cost! All we had to cover was the tip. Not bad, if I do say so myself!
So I was able to bring the cost of a several thousand-dollar trip down to $1000 or less. For us this may be a once in a lifetime trip. I’m so glad we found a way to do it!