I didn’t take my children to Disney World until my oldest was 7, despite knowing many people who have been visiting yearly since their kids were in diapers. To be honest, Disney just wasn’t very high on my list of places to go, so instead of visiting there, we opted to take our kids to national parks and other parts of the country. But eventually, I caved, saying we’d go once to give our kids the experience.
Well, it turns out there’s a reason so many people talk up the Disney magic — my kids had such an amazing time there that I wound up taking them back a second year in a row. Seeing how much joy a Disney trip gave my kids made me glad we got to go twice. But pulling off those trips wasn’t easy. To swing them, we had to buckle down and save — a lot — because the last thing we wanted to do was take on debt in the course of a vacation.
Still, a lot of people do rack up debt to visit Disney, and that’s not surprising, with the typical trip costing $6,033, according to Insider. If you want to go to Disney but can’t afford the cost outright, you may be thinking of taking out a vacation loan. But here’s why you shouldn’t — and how you might manage to avoid one.
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The stress of debt isn’t worth it
I know a lot of people who talk about the wonderful memories they made at Disney. At the same time, some of those people were also left with the memory of nagging debt following their trips.
Carrying debt can be very stressful, so as a general rule, if you have a nonessential expense you can’t afford, then you shouldn’t rack up debt to pay for it. And that extends to taking a vacation.
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While Disney World may be a wonderful place to visit, if you take out a personal loan to pull off a trip there, that vacation will end up costing you more in the form of interest. And also, you may have debt payments hanging over your head for years, eating up a chunk of your income and stopping you from achieving other financial goals. A better bet may be to find another destination your family will enjoy that isn’t nearly as pricey.
How to go to Disney for less
That said, your family might really have its heart set on a Disney trip, and understandably so. But the good news is that there are steps you can take to make your trip more affordable.
The two times I took my kids to Disney, we drove 16 hours each way because the cost of fuel and a hotel stay along the way was much cheaper than flying. Not everyone has the patience (or the time off) to spend that many hours on the road, but if you’re willing to do so, it could lower the cost of your trip substantially. My family, for example, saved well over $1,000 by driving rather than flying.
Another thing that made it possible for us to go to Disney two years in a row was having a friend who owned property nearby that he let us use for free. Most people don’t just have access to a Disney-adjacent house, but if you stay outside the resort and eat outside of the parks, you could save a lot of money in the process. On our end, we always ate breakfast at the house we were staying at, packed our lunches, and mostly ate dinner at a local restaurant rather than one inside the park system itself.
Finally, our first year at Disney, we were pretty generous with souvenirs, but our second year back, we got stingier. Disney has stores and souvenir kiosks everywhere you look, but if you limit your children from the get-go, you can keep your costs down.
Disney World can be a truly wonderful experience, especially for kids. And after the year we’ve all had, you may be eager to treat your family to a visit. But before you take on debt to make that trip happen, consider other options, like taking a low-key vacation this year and saving for a Disney trip next year. That way, you can enjoy your time at Disney without ending up with a pile of debt — and stress — afterward.