How much it costs....
I'm not going to bother doing the math here, because Disney Vacation Specials did a good average estimate for a trip for a family of four. These numbers are several years old so the prices would all be more today. Also, your costs of course would vary depending on how many people you're taking, how long you're going for and where you're coming from. This is just a very basic average estimate. Their total estimated cost for a family of four that needs to travel by plane and is going for one week is $5668.92. Your numbers may be much less or much more, but let's use this just as an example.
Now we're not going to take into account in this article babies and toddlers or really kids under 5. Honestly, I don't understand why someone would take a baby to Disneyland. They will neither remember nor appreciate it. Yes, they might squeal with delight on a Donald Duck ride or giggle at Mickey (if they don't scream in fear), but toddlers and young kids are also just as happy with a ride on Dad's shoulders in the grocery store, a cardboard box to play in or a run through the sprinklers. No child under the age of 5 will appreciate the trip to Disneyland anymore than a trip to the local petting zoo or a park with a nice jungle gym and slide. In fact, petting a goat may be even more exciting than a creepy 6-foot tall mouse if you're a three-year-old.
What you could do for the price of a trip or two to Disneyland:
- Send your kid to summer camp. Give your kids a chance to disconnect from the electronics, make new friends, learn amazing skills like horseback riding or archery or rowing. They'll learn social skills and problem solving skills and independence. So they could learn to wait in line at Disney, or they could have a summer of a lifetime. You can find a list of summer camps at www.kidscamp.com.
- Volunteer with your kids around the world. You can teach your kids the joy of consumerism and the importance of filling your car with useless souvenirs that will some day end in up in a landfill. Or you can create an incredible experience for them and role model the importance of caring for others with travel volunteerism. Organizations like the Global Citizen's Network arrange travel for entire families to places like Tanzania, India and Peru. Kids as young as 8-years-old can work side by side with their parents building schools, feeding impoverished families or helping communities learn valuable skills.
- Invest in you're child's future. If you're child is currently 8-years-old, the projected cost of college when they're ready to go is $175,000 for four years of college. That means you need to invest $810 a month from now... until then. How many Disney trips is that? You could even calculate manually how much each spin of the teacups is costing you in terms of your child's college education, but do you want to? How much is that tea cup ride worth?!
- Enroll your child in a year's worth of private music or dance lessons. For every trip for four to Disneyland, you could enroll one child in an entire year's worth of private music lessons. They could learn to sing, play an instrument or tap dance. Music education for children improves language development, increases IQ, exercises spatial-temporal skills, improves test scores later in life and makes your child great entertainment at parties!
- An entire year of hit movies! Do your children love going to the movie theater? For the price of one trip or two trips to Disneyland, you could treat your kids to a trip to the movie of their choice every single weekend of the year.
- Experience real theater. Yes, your child enjoys the costume characters for a few years. So which is better, the experience of a teenager dressed as mickey mouse shaking their hand once a year? Or season tickets to a Children's Musical Theater where they can experience 4-6 shows a year filed with singing, dancing and adventure performed by real kids just like them?
- Create a library for your child. You can buy used children's books for .50 cents to $1 in great shape at a consignment or used bookstore. You could literally by your child a thousand books for the cost of a trip to Disney, and fill an entire wall in their room with it. A thousand books! That's forgoing $10 cheeseburgers, sunburn and cranky tired kids, for the sake of a gift of a lifetime towards the literacy and language skills of your child.
- Teach your child charity. Create a bank account just for your child and withdraw $10 to $20 a week out of it to teach your child charity and goodwill towards others. Break it into small bills and let them decide where they are going to gift it. A homeless man on the streets, dog food for a shelter, a toy for a child in the hospital. Encourage them to pick something different each week and you've taught and reinforced a lesson that will last a throughout their lives.
- Create a superstar. Many children's theaters have summer camps and acting kids for children as young as 5-year-old. In fact, when I was 16 I helped out at a theater camp that included a delightful group of giggling 5-year-olds. The kids all learned confidence, memorized lines, got to dress up in exciting costumes and appeared on stage for their parents. It was an incredible experience for most of them and a lovely memory (and camcorder moment) for their parents.
- Family Campout. This one is far more inexpensive than a Disneyland trip, but it's so memorable for kids that it's worth mentioning. A long camping trip (2-weeks) or more can be an incredible bonding experience for a family and a daily adventure for kids. Combine several cousins or family friends in on the trip for the kids to have playmates and they will literally love every minute of it, from making smore's to nature walks.