Disney magic is different for everyone. As I’m planning our return to Disney World, I’ve seen a lot of information on visiting Disney on a budget, cutting costs, and so on. Some of it makes sense, but I’m staring at a hard decision: What’s essential, and what’s not?

Crunching the numbers

I knew when I started this journey that earning enough money above and beyond what I need to contribute to our family budget wasn’t going to be easy. I still don’t know for certain that I’ll be able to pull it off. Freelancing is a high-risk career – I may be drowning in work one week and have nothing to do (except blog!) the next. I won’t know for sure that I can pull off this trip until every last dime is actually in the bank.

I priced out different options recently, and it really hit me – staying at a moderate resort and adding the deluxe meal plan almost doubles the cost of our trip, compared to staying in a value resort and getting the quick-service dining plan. Can I really justify spending twice as much to stay at one resort over another – especially when we’ll be spending the majority of our time in the parks? And the food at the quick service restaurants is certainly quite good!

I’ve read several blogs that point out the cost savings of staying off-property and packing picnic lunches. Note – I have NOTHING against picnic lunches! Except when they happen in the back of the car in a hot parking lot. But don’t tell the kids! I’ve convinced them that “car picnics” are cool ๐Ÿ™‚

It all comes down to priorities. What are you looking for in a vacation? What experience do you want to have? ย What says “relax and enjoy” to YOU?

For me, walking down tree-lined paths with soft music wafting on the breeze says “relax.” Sitting down in a quiet, calm, air conditioned restaurant for a leisurely lunch is a Godsend after a long hot morning in the parks. It’s good for our sensory kids to be able to take breaks, but we’re being honest here. Those things are for me. They are what make a trip into a vacation, at least for me.

Are they worth having no trip at all, or at least postponing the trip for a few months until the next low-crowd window?

I’m going to take a deep breath, believe in myself and my abilities, and say “Yes.” Better to wait a few more months and do it right, than cut the wrong corners and wish things had gone differently.