Monday, January 18, 2010

Disneyland for Free

This is not one of those posts where someone tells you all about this great site that gives you free stuff, just as long as you accept five of their offers and allow them to spam your inbox every 45 seconds. And it does not require you to sit in a boring one hour presentation about some resort you would never pay to stay in and then endure another hour of torture listening to a salesperson drone on about how timeshares save you on vacations while his "manager" attempts to strong arm you into buying one of them. No. This is simply a stay at home mom's tips on getting to the happiest place on Earth, for free. If you follow my four easy steps you too can be breaking bread with Goofy while relishing the reality that it did not cost you a dime! If this is something that you would enjoy, please read on.

Step #1: This is quite possibly the most important step to follow so forgive me for going into such detail explaining it. Find yourself a husband or wife, whatever the case may be, that is not only charming, but who is also willing to go the extra mile to get what they want. Think car salesman of the month gone bad.

Let me give you an example. When my husband and I were dating, we went for appetizers and a movie one night. The restaurant bar where we ate was perfect. Quiet, relaxing, and comfortable, with a gorgeous view of the ocean. I ordered one of my favorites, oysters on the half shell, and proceeded to down several of them before we headed out to the movies. We were having a nice time watching the movie when all of a sudden I felt that feeling. This food was going to make a reappearance and fast. I ran to the theater bathroom and made it just in time to vomit on the floor. And then it happened again on the drive home, on the side of the road. Unfortunately, I spent the entire night vomiting.
The next day I did some research and discovered that oysters sometimes carry bacteria that can cause food poisoning like symptoms in some people when eaten raw. That was explanation enough for me. I got up and got ready to attend a friend's BBQ after speaking with my guy.
Despite the explanation I gave him he insisted on phoning the restaurant and letting them know what had happened to me. They apologized for my illness and offered us a free dinner in their restaurant. Now, any normal person would have accepted the offer and been happy to eat for free. But not my guy. No. He wanted the big prize, an ocean view room with balcony hot tub at the hotel adjacent to the restaurant. The manager explained that he was not at liberty to offer such a large compensation and told him dinner would be all. My guy spoke to the manager and after several phone calls and threats of spreading the word of their poor customer service, we got a one night stay in one of their ocean view rooms, with the hot tub on the balcony and a free dinner.
And we came to get free passes to Disneyland in much the same way. While enjoying a nice day there a couple of years ago, my guy got stung by a bee while crossing a bridge on Tom Sawyer's Island. We got the stinger out but his hand swelled up anyway. He felt sick the rest of the day and so off we went to the medical station. They offered ibuprofen and a list of local hospitals. As you can imagine this did not sit well with the guy who always expects the best. He complained that our trip was now officially ruined because he would either have to suffer with his large arm or leave the park and forfeit the rest of our day. We stayed and hoped that the swelling would be gone by the next day. It wasn't and this only made my husband more annoyed.
This time after getting the brush off from the medical station staff we headed to city hall, Disneyland's city hall that is, to file a formal complaint. The employee there tried to be sympathetic to my husband's plight. He listened to him rant on about controlling the bee population and how can they call themselves the happiest place on Earth while allowing bees to run rampant through the park. The cast member, as they call themselves, offered to pay for our day there. But we had yearly passes so there was no way he could really reimburse us for this one trip. My guy suggested that the employee offer us passes for the family to use on a return trip the following year. The cm gave him a look of disbelief and said that was impossible. Impossible is not something the big guy likes to hear. So my guy shot back that what was impossible was firing a gun at his job the next day should the need arise, since his hand was three times its normal size. He stated how much money he would lose for having to take a sick day maybe even two and then went on to ask for a higher up. The cast member, looking more than a little defeated, gave my husband a phone number for their corporate guest claims administrator.
We left and over the next several weeks my tenacious husband was able to verbally work his way up through the corporate office. He got through to the senior guest claims admin and within a few days of speaking with him, we received a letter offering us four 2 day passes for a return trip. And an apology. Apparently my overly passionate husband also mentioned the possibility of filing a personal injury claim, since the letter stated directions on how we could go about that, should we so choose. All this for a bee sting. Seems like a long process to undergo for free tickets and for most of us it is. But not for the obstinate husband or wife. For them, it's all in a days work.
Do you see why this step is so important?

Step #2: Sign up for a Disney Visa card and spend like there is no tomorrow!

We recently remodeled our home and due to the failing economy we were unable to cash out as much equity as we needed to complete the remodel. Our solution? We bought all of our fixtures, appliances, and a good chunk of our building materials on the Visa. Of course now we are out $500 a month to pay it off but it was well worth it. Or it will be. Someday. Once the economy improves. We hope.
In the meantime we have a whole $250 to spend on food and souvenirs at Disneyland. Oh yah.

Step #3: Spend many, many hours on the internet searching for good hotel deals.

In order to find a nice hotel for a cheap price, you need a few things such as eyes that do not tire for the countless hours spent scouring the travel websites, the ability to hold your bladder for several hours at a time, and dumb luck. Oh, and that Disney Visa.
I have found that the best website for good deals is Expedia. But you have to be fast and you cannot blink. Literally. One day while checking out a lovely Hilton in the Anaheim area, I watched the price change right before my eyes, from $59 a night to $109 a night. What? I am convinced that there were several customer service reps sitting in the Expedia office giggling to each other while imagining thousands of potential travelers pounding fists on their computers as amazing deals slipped through their fingers all because they took too long to type in their credit card number, grab a drink, or use the bathroom.
In order to get the best deal you have to move fast! But fast at the right time. Confused? Join the club. Thankfully my husband is never confused when it comes to saving a buck. I found this nice little place in Anaheim that included a made to order breakfast for two in their restaurant, a suite with an extra room and TV for the kids, a family pool, and all within walking distance of Disneyland. I almost jumped at it because of my previous knowledge regarding the lightning fast price hike with the Hilton, but my ninja husband said...wait. So we did. A full day. And guess what? It dropped to almost half the price, but only for a short time. I booked it as soon as he said go and the next day, POOF! It was back to full price. How did he know?

Step #4: Have things to sell to pay for the hotel.

Since we racked up so much debt remodeling we really should not be going on any trip, any where. At least that is what my husband believes. But if you have things to sell then it's like you are getting money for free. Especially if what you sell are things you really do not need anyway. Like pygmy goats. Or children. Okay, maybe not children. But definitely children's clothing. And their toys and all the baby items that you need for about one month and then shove into your already overflowing storage. I got the stuff selling idea from Dave Ramsey. He says to sell stuff to pay for debt, which is great. But it also works for funding your vacations! The ones he says you really should not be taking when you are in so much debt. But seriously, how fun would that be?

So there you have it, a seems-like-it-but-not-really-free vacation in only four semi-easy steps. This type of traveling might not be for everyone but unfortunately I have no choice. In the words of the younger set, that's how we roll.
Anyway, I know I will be thinking about how much money I am not spending when we visit the happiest place on Earth this year. Will you be too?