By Dennette Bailey

“Freedom, freedom!” Those are the words my 8-year old daughter screamed in jubilation as we rode the Soarin’ Ride at Disney’s Epcot theme park. It was her first time on the ride and my second. If you haven’t experienced the awesomeness of this ride my best description would be to tell you that the only reason we went back to this theme park, instead of going to one we haven’t yet visited, was so my daughter could have the opportunity to ride it and so I could ride it again. You might say our family of four paid $388 just to ride this attraction.

This leads to the explanation of how my husband and I decide where we are going for vacation. My husband’s priority is making his family happy. My priority is budget. My teenage daughter’s priority is fun, but my 8 year old daughter, she specifically asked that we save enough money to stay at the Disney resort. She had me send off for that free Disney DVD that describes the resorts and she watched it practically every day. So we saved and I was determined to give her the Disney resort experience. However, we kept getting those calls. Maybe you are familiar with them? They offer a ridiculous discount on a premier resort if you agree to take a “tour” of the property. What that basically means is you sit through a sales pitch to purchase “time” at a luxury resort. You receive a ridiculously low rate and maybe even some other monetary gifts that they hope will encourage you to buy in. Normally I hang up on these calls but the salesman on this last call was really good and appealed to my view of “freedom”- extra money left over to freely enjoy a family vacation.

DSC00419We stayed at an exquisite resort in a beautiful 2 bedroom suite and surprisingly enough when we told our “tour” guide we were no more interested in paying for our vacation “time” in advance than we were in buying our shoes ahead for the next ten years- our “tour” guide got wide eyes at that statement, but said thank you, in so many words- literally so many words- and let us be on our way.

After our 2 hour tour we were free to enjoy the rest of our trip. Over the week we spent lots of time at the resort, one day at Disney’s Epcot and one day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Here I must give my teenage daughter respect. Disney is pretty techy now and if you want to take advantage of the attractions you need to be able to use the internet to schedule the rides ahead of time. Moreover, you need to have the ability to navigate around the park for your ride appointment without getting lost. For all the complaining I have done about my teenager on her phone –you better believe I didn’t complain one bit that week. She had us scheduled for our rides and zipping around that park like we were in the halls of her high school.

DSC00425You can probably gauge from my willingness to vacation on the dime of a tour that I like to save a couple dollars. I have figured out how to cheap it without ruining the pleasure of a family vacation. That in mind, I make up my own car games. For instance, car jeopardy, in which I make up the topics and they range from things I think my children should know- like history, things I want them to know -like Spanish words and phrases and things I need them to know- like mom’s favorite things. I borrow books on tape from the library –this is a favorite- and then of course there are the music C.D’s. I can’t help it but there has to be singing time even if everyone just listens to me sing.

And just because we are having fun that doesn’t mean we have to avoid a good math lesson. I bought Disney paraphernalia from the local discount stores before we arrived at the parks and I pointed out all the money we saved by purchasing product ahead of time. Disney also allows you to bring food in now so I brought plenty of snacks and some with the Disney characters on them. That way we only needed to purchase actual food and not drinks and candy in the park.

With all our savings we were then free to splurge at an outlet mall in the area. Let’s face it, vacations are good but they are only excellent if they include shopping!

My family has a few day zips and week trips I’d like to share with you this year. Hopefully you pick up some tips that will help you vacation but mostly I hope you simply vacation with the sentiment of freedom. The kind children experience because they don’t have to pay for it and the kind adults experience as a result of good planning.

Stay tuned for more blogs from Dennette coming up this spring and summer!