Disney Rich, Cash Poor and Proud

Grand Cayman ExcursionIt feels incredible to know that we’ve been doing it right!  Well, some of it, anyway.  While we don’t claim to be the best parents ever (there were a few bumps in the road and, just between you and me, we are probably not the parents to come to for potty training advice), it’s nice to know that mixed in with our well-intentioned but certainly not perfect child-rearing decisions, we did one thing right!  We spend all our extra (and occasionally a little more) money on travel.

Disney Rich, Cash Poor and Proud

What makes us right?  Science!  Recent studies have revealed that spending money on experiences is more meaningful than buying expensive or fancy material items.  Most recently, this article caught my eye.  And it got me thinking about our vacations…DSCN3080

In all fairness, it was not all Disney travel.  There was an ill-fated (for me) ski vacation to Park City, short trips to places in nearby states (Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma) that were certainly fun, and wonderful visits to see family in Missouri and Illinois.  During the lean years, we spent many of our summer vacations on the “Red Neck Riviera” (Alabama’s Gulf Coast).  All of those places were great!  By far though, our most amazing vacations were (and still are) Disney ones.RM-Maharajah-Jungle-Stop

Raymond and I honeymooned at Disney World and sailed on the Big Red Boat (precursor to Disney Cruise Line).  Then we were parents with extremely limited vacation resources.  As time passed, we made the conscious decision to spend less on “things” and more on vacations.  The more we saw and did, the more we wanted to see and do!  Disney World became our favorite destination followed quickly by Disney cruises that would carry us as far and wide as we could possibly afford to travel.DSCN2852

So what if we drive our vehicles for 10 years or more?  That outdoor kitchen I’ve been dreaming about can wait a little longer.  Would I like a new washer and dryer? Oh, you bet I would!  But that will have to wait until we can no longer repair what we have.  We need our Disney vacation fixes and the memories they provide – long after the vacation is over.  I suppose the telltale truth in all of this is now that our children are adults, they tell us how much they’re looking forward to traveling with their own children someday.  DSCN3249They now appreciate that while they may have been jealous of their friends’ swimming pools, game systems, and trampolines, those same friends may not have dined with Mickey Mouse, zip-lined in Alaska, kayaked in Norway, or saw Michelangelo’s David in Italy…all things we did on Disney vacations.  Some of these trips took years of planning and saving to achieve, but every sacrifice was worth it!IMG_2025

We’ve taken some flack through the years for how much we spend on travel.  (Let’s not even start on the “You’re going to Disney World AGAIN?” comments.)  At the same time, not a single person ever criticized us for not buying our children the latest video game or most expensive sports equipment.  I’m not saying we are perfect parents or that anyone else is wrong for buying their kids whatever makes them happy – I’m just thrilled that in rearing our children, we got one thing right.  We showed them as much of the world as we possibly could, gave them tons of happy family memories, and wouldn’t trade a single moment.IMG_0263

What vacations have been your family’s favorites?  Where are you planning to visit next?


Top 5 Tips for Raising Disney Children

Our Disney Children - All Grown UpHere at Living a Disney Life, Raymond and I have reached the child-rearing promised land!  The children have both passed the age of 18 and are still alive and well and successfully Disneyfied!

For you young people just starting out, we have no advice for the terrible twos, potty training or meltdown-free bedtime rituals – but we did raise a couple of Disney fans as passionate about the Mouse as we are!  To do this successfully (it’s not as easy as you think, darn you Sponge Bob!), we offer you these pointers:

1.  Our home is our castle and we are the monarchy.  Yes, those darling children get to be prince and princess, but the King and Queen reign supreme – let there be no doubt.  Democracy is great as a form of government and all, but in a Disney home…..the King and Queen RULE!  We have final say on where our vacation dollars are spent.Sweet Megan and Mickey Mouse 1992

2.  Total Disney immersion from birth.  Brainwashing is such an ugly term, don’t you think?  I prefer to think of it as, hmmmm….guidance.  You don’t have to go crazy with the themed décor or anything, but introducing Disney early and often sets the right mood from the get-go.  So, I might have sang a few Disney lullabies, soothed skinned knees with a Disney bandaid or two, served milk with a Mickey silly-straw…where’s the harm? Oh, and if there’s a Disney prize in a box of sugared cereal…it’ll be okay to buy it.  Promise.  What’s wrong with a few Disney Halloween costumes or Mickey-shaped baked goods, I ask you?   Hedging your bets if you’re not sure if you have a girly-girl or a tomboy doesn’t hurt either.  For example:  Megan received both a princess gown and a Buzz Lightyear for Christmas one year.

Pirate Night Costume on Disney Cruise Line3.  Gentle steering towards Disney merchandise, movies, party themes.  When they’re really little, they don’t care what toys and movies they’re being exposed to, why not make them Disney?  As they get older, just take them to those party supply stores that go heavy on the Disney-themed decorations.  Disney bubble bath, pajamas, underwear, sheets, towels, lunch boxes…you don’t have to go overboard, but there’s absolutely no harm in making sure those items are in your home.  Need ideas?  Hello, Pinterest!

4.  Associate Disney with happiness.  The Thanksgiving Day Disney movie tradition is an Buzz Lightyear and Princess Meganimportant one for our family.  Start babies on their way to Disney fandom with some Disney books and bathtub toys.  Disney bedtime stories are a great way to share the Disney love.  Disney sing-alongs on car rides are a lot of fun.  If YOU are calm, relaxed, and happy on Disney family vacations – the memories of quality, joy-filled family time are worth more than you can possibly imagine – and will nearly guarantee your offspring will be very pro-Disney.

5.  Change it up – Disney is easily incorporated everywhere.  The teen years are especially critical – if there’s any hesitation at all about going to Walt Disney World, try something new and different!  Disney Cruise Line sails to many exciting ports and offers incredible opportunities for new adventures all within the Disney bubble!  Don’t forget about Disneyland, Adventures by Disney,  and the Aulani, Disney Snacks at HomeVero Beach, and Hilton Head resorts.  Heck – those foreign Disney parks offer all kinds of new experiences.

Have little ones?  Stay the course, friends…the results are worth it.  If you need me, I’m here for you.

What tips do you have to share for raising Disney children?

Megan (5) and Joseph (4 months)