Guest Author Sunday
Meet this week's guest author Christy Dudley. Christy is a single mom who still manages to make magic happen for her daughter, all while staying on a budget. We are so excited that Christy had a chance to dust off her journalism degree and put it to great use by sharing her story with us. Here's hoping this is the first of many posts to come!
The Exploits of a Single Mom With Lots of Love and Little Money!
Hi! When I define myself to those that don’t know me; the words Single Mom almost always escape my lips first. For me, it is a way of saying that I am highly organized, able to multi-task, live on a shoe –string budget, have to be creative and think outside of the box and always looking for affordable and fun activities for my daughter – all in one breath!
I have been to Disney numerous times as a single adult. All of those times I stayed off site and thought I was being wise with my budget and for those that punch numbers; I’m sure that the cost can be less when staying off site. However, when I chose to take my daughter, then 4 yrs. old for her first Disney trip, I decided I wanted to do it big and do it all!
So I went online to Disney’s website and let my imagination run wild. I must have planned and re-planned a dozen trips. I played with dates, resorts, dining packages, ticket options until I was sure I had just the perfect, magical vacation. Finally, sucking up a great deal of courage (and sneaking a peak at my bank account) I picked up the phone and spoke to my first CM (Cast Members who are really genies sent to grant wishes.) I do not remember the gentleman’s name that assisted me but he stayed on the phone until I was completely happy with the trip. I sure hope he gets paid hourly.
(FYI: I knew my budget would only allow for a Value Resort and I chose the POP Century. It was the perfect choice. We both loved the theming and I loved that it didn’t share buses with the other Value resorts! I also chose a time of year where Disney was offering free dining. A major bonus!)
Now for my all my lamenting of the price of staying at a Disney Resort; I must admit that only putting down a small deposit ($200 for me) and being able to pay on the trip as I wished, was the start of a wonderful relationship! I’m a planner and booked this trip 6 months in advance and was happy to pay it off in chunks here and there. I even went so far as to extend my trip by one day! Plus the benefit of knowing that everything was accounted for and there would be no “surprises” was a true sigh of relief. I don’t want to step on any toes; but I feel fairly safe in saying that many of us living on a very tight budget often hold back from these sorts of trips because we are always concerned that something will come up that we can’t pay for. Well, making sure to include my dining, tickets and resort all in one bundle kept this fear at bay for me.
The reaction I received from family members when I told them that YES- I was taking my daughter alone to Walt Disney World for 9 days and NO – we were not renting strollers was hilarious to say the least. Please don’t get me wrong. If you are someone that loves your little, mini baby SUV, then go for it. However, I am someone that travels light, I’m talking bare minimum. Camera, money, water bottle and if I can shove it in my small pouch, a brush to touch up for those magic pictures!
Knowing that I had planned a demanding and busy trip and that my 4 yrs. old (who would be turning 5 at the WDW) was close to perfect but still prone to melt down if need be; I decided some stage rehearsal was need. No, we are not street performers. But I like to plan for every possible situation. So.. my daughter , Kaitlyn, and I role played. “What do we do if we get really tired and hot Kaitlyn?” Slight smile and big eyes, “We grab an ice cream and cool off!” Hmmm too easy..had to get harder on her. “Ok, what do we do if there is a super long line and we are really tired and grumpy?” “Call Grandma and tell her what I’ve done today!” You might be shaking your head and laughing…but that role playing came in handy! Preparing a small child for the possibilities of heat, waiting and even some disappointment can really come in handy.
Another way to stave off a grumpy and irate parent, err, I mean child is to build in down time in your vacation. Even for a Type A personality such as myself, I could easily see the error of being on the go all the time. So for every super busy day at the parks, I planned for the next day to be more relax and calm. Perhaps just lounging at our resorts pool (Pop Century for us), going to water park (we did both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) or going to Downtown Disney and window shopping or playing at DisneyQuest. This is a great way to stay in the vacation spirit while recharging your batteries.
My last little tidbit of sanity when doing Disney alone with a child; is to plan reservations (ADR’s) for character meals. If your little princess or prince loves a certain character that is known to be at Disney; finding a meal where you can sit and wait in the air conditioner and enjoy a good meal is the perfect way to get quality time with the character, have your autograph book signed and take memory making pictures! Did I mention my princess’s birthday is in June, so I was all about finding ways to cool off!
So that’s my story. I still travel as a single Mom and on a budget. We are headed back in 85 days! We will be staying at another Value Resort- The Art of Animation this time and excited to try Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for the first time. We will still be using snack credits as meals (muffins and cereal are snacks and oh so filling!) We will still plan in down time to relax. My now 8 yrs. old girl is more vocal about which character meals she wants to do but agrees; she still doesn’t need a stroller. J