Should you cheapen a vacation?

A friend recently took her family to Walt Disney World over the holiday break, as many families do. (She gave me permission to write about this, by the way.) Hurricane season is over, and, well, it’s cold in a lot of the country. It’s usually not cold in Florida this time of year.

And a Walt Disney World vacation isn’t known for being on the inexpensive side. Everyone who’s gone down there that I’ve talked to has enjoyed themselves, and forged a lot of good memories with their children, though.

A vacation at Disney … but cheaper?

My friend is also quite the bargain hunter. She’ll save money when it makes sense, and by all accounts she did save quite a bit on the hotel. A six-person Disney room would have set her back $430/night. That’s a chunk of change. But she managed to get a ten-person room for less than a quarter that at a hotel a bit from the park: $105/night. Only three nights saves nearly a grand, and they were down there over a week.

The posts began two days before Christmas. As we were going up to my parents’ house, my wife gets a Facebook update that the hotel didn’t have them coming down. They said that they had come down a couple of months earlier. Not the way to start a vacation.

Eventually they got into their hotel — with elevated blood pressure, no doubt.

For the first week they were in the park, they got on one ride. Part of this was that it was Christmastime and the park was ridiculously overcrowded. But in the same comment, she also talked about sentence, she also talked about changing cabs, riding badly, and charter buses “that go to odd places.”

But an important moment of clarity came when she had another friend coming down to meet them. Her friend (also a friend of ours) is legally blind. Prior to her arrival, our friend alerted customer service that she would be arriving, and asked them to help her get to her room.

Customer service’s response? “Ma’am, we can’t make any promises.”

I imagine the customer service at the Disney hotel would have been far more accommodating than this.

At this point she said: “I will NEVER again cheapen a vacation.”

You pay one way or the other

I think our friend was a little too hard on herself. She’s not cheap. She’s frugal. Frugality is wise use of resources, while cheapness indicates saving money at the expense of everything else. I have no doubt that she carefully considered where to stay. I don’t believe that she set out to get through this with the smallest outlay possible.

But there are always trade-offs.  We might not spend as much money, but we pay for this in other ways.  We are virtually guaranteed to pay for it in other ways.  Sometimes we may hit a good deal with the trade-off, or we may just get a raw deal.  If I were in the same situation, I would have considered the trade-off as well.  And it might have gone bad for me as well.  It’s hard to know.

Some things that are traded off for money in these kinds of situations are below:

  • Money for time. This is the most important one, because time is not money.  Getting to/from the park took longer. This means less time in the park.
  • Money for comfort. For the extra $300+ per night there likely would have been more comfort. More amenities. More five-star treatment. Fewer back-breaking cab rides.
  • Money for frustration. The extra $300+ per night almost certainly would have reduced stress levels. People go to Disney World for the experience. They don’t want that experience to be stressful.

After all was said and done, though, she did say that the best part was being with her children. And no amount of mishaps can take that away.

Letting the window of opportunity for memories like these to pass wouldn’t have been frugal.  It would have been cheap.

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize life's good deals.

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Comments

  1. John, these are always tradeoffs, but at a certain point your time is just too limited and valuable and it pays to have more conveniences that maximize your experience. Having said that many must economize and that is understandable. Tough tradeoffs here.

  2. There are definite trade offs when it comes to looking for ways to save money on vacations and the actually experience you can expect. Sometimes it is just worth spending a few extra bucks to get the experience that you expect.

  3. Great article, and even though I do not have kids, I do love to vacation. And in my opinion, I go all out on vacation. You work hard. Therefore, you deserve to live the good life for awhile. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What you have to keep in mind is that you really don’t spend much time at the hotel when you have an exciting holiday. They would have spent most of their time at Disney. So, I wouldn’t mind saving some money on the hotel and use it for other things my family enjoy. This would also please my wife. If we spend too much on holidays she is reluctant to go again because of the money.

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