Is a Walt Disney World vacation affordable?
How about a trip to Tokyo Disney? Or to Efteling in The Netherlands? How about the new Warner Bros. World park in Abu Dhabi?
I bet that most of you answered with a "no" somewhere along the way there. But maybe some of you didn't. Or perhaps you answered "no" to all of those options. My point is... affordability is a personal standard. That's why I hate getting dragged into debates about the affordability of specific travel destinations. Those debates always start with the assumption that there is some objective standard for "affordable" and the question is whether the destination — Disney, Universal, Six Flags, etc. — falls within or beyond that standard.
If all you want to do is argue about theme parks, that's great. Go ahead and debate away. But if your real goal is to actually visit some of these parks, I think a shift in focus is appropriate.
Forget about whether a park is affordable or not. That's a false equation. Instead, ask yourself if a park is something that you could cover the cost of visiting right now. If not, then ask yourself what you would need to do to be able to visit that park some day.
Don't settle for emotional responses like "win the lottery" and "inherit a million bucks." It's completely free to go to Google Flights and start plugging in dates and destinations to find what it would really cost to visit far-flung destinations. Price tickets from official websites or reputable discounters. Look up hotel rates. If prices are in other currencies, do the conversion. Get real answers on what visiting dream destinations would cost.
Again, don't dismiss places forever just because those numbers exceed what you have in the bank right now. What I am hoping to encourage you to do is to decide which destinations are worth saving to visit. If you know the real cost of visiting Tokyo Disney or Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, for example, maybe you decide to forgo a Disney World trip or two to help save for a vacation abroad. Or you decide that upgrading to a top-level annual pass at Cedar Fair or SeaWorld parks helps you to afford a summer theme park roadtrip. Or that a trip to Williamsburg sounds like more fun that a trip to Orlando this year, and saves you a few bucks for future travel. It's all about gathering more information, shaking things up, then deciding if you want to start making some changes.
Maybe you don't. That's okay, too. But you will have had some fun researching some fresh destinations and you will be able to enjoy the vacation you do take knowing that it really is the very best option for you and your family. It's a win either way.
Let's throw out some numbers to get you thinking. How about a mid-January trip?
Round trip airfare:
Theme park tickets:
Nightly hotel rates (from Hotels.com, mid-January dates):
Of course, prices will vary (perhaps wildly!) based on where you are traveling from, how many people you will be traveling with, how fancy a hotel you want, and your available dates for travel. But I wanted to throw out some numbers to show that ever far-flung destinations don't necessarily have insane prices attached to them.
It's like power-walking through the Magic Kingdom on a summer afternoon. You don't slice your way through the crowd by looking only at the people directly in front of you. You must look far ahead to see the gaps that create your easiest path forward.
Ambitious travel planning is the same. Look far ahead, at a wide variety of options, to find the trips that most excite you and your family. Don't get dragged into someone else's debate whether specific destinations are "affordable." Decide what you're willing to go for and how you can get there, carving your way through your expenses and income to find the best path forward.
Again, even if you don't change a thing about your travel plans, broaden your searches can be a lot of fun... that doesn't cost you a thing. So why not? You might just discover some great new destinations along the way.
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