In 2008, we hit Williamsburg/BGE for a week, then hit Holiday World, and SFSTL on the way back home.
Both trips cost my family of five close to $5000 after the smoke cleared and the dust settled.
We saved, and we went, incurring no long term debt in the process. And I am happy with both vacations.
But this year, with all the economic uncertainty, we are staying local.
We bought Gold Passes to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun (Cedar Fair parks). WOF provides a few decent coasters (including a new GCI woodie this year) and OOF is a pretty good water park. Parking is included with the passes, as are a few in park discounts on food and souvenirs. WOF and OOF are about 20 minutes from my house, so we can go pretty much everyday and ride a few coasters, then swim. The total cost for my family of five is $500 for the season, not including incidentals. Considering we spent $300 on a local pool swim pass last summer, I consider this a real good deal.
We also bought season passes to Silver Dollar City in Branson, about 3.5 hours from my house. We expect to go to SDC about three times during the season for a night or two each visit: total cost, about $700, not including incidentals and food.
While neither park is going to satisfy our love for everything Orlando, they will fill the gap while we wait for the economy to (hopefully) stabilize. It is our expectation at this time that we will head back to Orlando next year (provided I still have a job and a savings account) when the discounts may even be better than they are today.
On a side note, we are also big fans of zoo trips, and expect to hit several area zoos this summer including the KC Zoo, the Saint Louis Zoo, and the Omaha Zoo, three of the best in the nation. Zoo trips are generally an inexpensive, yet satisfying excursion, one I highly recommend for those on a budget.
In short, I am not nearly as excited about this year's venues as I was in 2007 or 2008, but I am happy there are enough things locally to feed my theme park appetite for the time being. WOF may not be great, but it has a few great coasters, and SDC may not be Disney, but it is immersive and well themed. I am definitely looking forward to the summer!
Having said this, my family eschews the results. First, because we live in Florida and took a monster vacation to California last summer. Staying at the Grand Californian will jump anyone's budget.
Second, in 2009 we will spend a sizable chunk of cash in the Orlando parks, but that's because my wife is a cast member -- thus allowing us complimentary admissions. So we will easily drop 2K at the parks but only because we pass thorough the gates without paying. If the four of us had to pony up $350 to stroll into the parks it would not happen.
In a related note, this circumstance is mildly related to something I've been telling friends. My wife works part time -- and makes what would charitably regarded as a nominal salary. Facts are, if you did the math, the comp admissions have resulted in a circumstance where we actually SPEND more in the parks than she EARNS from Disney.
Take note, Mr. Iger: If you lay my wife off you will actually LOSE money.
As for my plans, not counting TPI-related day trips and event covers, we took three theme park trips last year: a short week at Universal Orlando, staying at the Royal Pacific, a family day trip to Disneyland and another to Legoland California. Those ran about $3,250 total.
This year, we'll do Disneyland on someone's birthday, plus a summer-long roadtrip that will include Worlds of Fun, Holiday World, Kings Island, Busch Gardens Europe, Dollywood, Universal Orlando and either SeaWorld or Disney World. Now, that trip will include other stops, including family visits, so it's hard for me to estimate just how much of that spending I should attribute to theme parks. But I'm guessing about $500 less, since I'm not planning airfare or Orlando hotels at this point, and we have the free Universal Orlando and Disneyland tickets, too.
Don't worry, I'm not too insane, just a little.....ummm...... twitchy.
And yes, same here Robert, let us know when you are at Holiday World or King's Island. Both are only 2 hours away. I grew up at King's Island so I could definitely show you around and share a little park history with ya.
As far as spending goes, I will have an eye on my wallet this year. I personally tend to cut back on food costs when I'm on a budget. I'll buy a little something at the gift shop and some drinks, but will likely either eat outside the park, or go cheap on lunch inside, and drink lots of water. Of course, how much you spend is directly related to the park to which you go.
I'm jealous of the road trip Robert. I've been wanting to put one like that together for a while. Since you're heading in my direction, maybe I'll see you on the midway somewhere this summer
I don't plan on changing anything this year, although I haven't bought my BGW pass yet because we got Dollywood passes for this summer (bought them last december and already went down last december, we're going again next month and then for a week in august). Since BGW is doing 12-month/24-month passes now, I don't see the point of buying the pass until I need it, so long as they will give me a discount. And as we discussed last week, if I get a platinum pass (which I might this year) I don't save enough per pass to make it worth worrying about the current holder discount ($242 vs $254 for a 2-year pass, or about 1 month's worth of costs).
In fact, if it wasn't for the christmas thing, and the fact that we love the hollowscream stuff, we might skip BGW altogether this year.
I am going to try however to not buy so much food at the parks this year. Partly because of the economy, but mostly because the family is trying to lose weight.