Sep 29, 2009

Putting a Price Tag on My Dream Vacation

Last week, I shared my revised dream vacation: a Disney Cruise to Alaska. The prices for the cruise (first sailing in 2011) came out yesterday. The rock bottom price is just over $5,300. Add in airfare and other costs for us to get to the departing port of Vancouver and my low-end guesstimate of $6,000 is looking overly optimistic.

One thing I hadn't considered in deciding that 2011 would be too early for us was that if the Alaskan cruise isn't popular enough, Disney might discontinue them before we get a chance to go. That possibility is disheartening, but it's not enough to make me rush into something we're not ready for.

However, I have started researching the types of discounts available to see what I might realistically expect to pay. Right now, there are some "kids sail free" deals, which would take $1800 off the price tag. Obviously, that would be awesome. But I don't expect to see a deal like that for a while, since I'm guessing Disney will want to evaluate the popularity of the Alaska option without offering any major incentives.

During my research, I found a nice summary of how Disney Cruise fares work and suggestions on saving money. The article helped me understand some of the lingo when looking at the Disney booking site. It also made me realize that (1) it really is best to book early; (2) using an experienced travel agent can have significant advantages; and (3) I'll have to plan for cruise insurance.

I think the bottom line here is that unless something changes dramatically in the next couple of years, we won't be taking this vacation until our four-year-old is closer to being 10 rather than 5. The cost is just too high to justify when there are so many other financial priorities – things like paying off the mortgage and sending the kids to private school if we decide that would be best.

But, by saving a nominal amount every month in a specially designated account, we might be able to take our Disney cruise to Alaska in five years or so without suffering any financial pain at all.


Kacie said...

I've commented in the past how I went on an Alaskan cruise for my honeymoon. Well worth it!

I hope that you'll make this trip a priority for your family.

Keep on saving that money!

Christina said...

I know you are very interested in the Disney brand, but you may want to consider Princess and Holland America. They both have great kids programs, nice new ships and the price tag is much lower on their fares, probably enough of a difference to pay for tickets to Disney world. We cruised Alaska on Princess in 2002 and had a great experience. We have also sailed with Holland America three times and will probably go on one of their ships to Alaska in the next 5-7 years with our kids. I think a cruise ship is so unique and fascinating to kids they will not care if it's a Disney ship or not. All that being said, I would love to take my kids on a Disney ship someday if I can find a deal, it's just hard to justify the extra expense when there are so many other great choices that are the same level of quality for less money. I love dreaming about vacations!!

Christina said...

Ok- just one other tip. I noticed the Disney cruise does not include cruising Glacier Bay or College Fjord, which are a HUGE part of the experience of cruising Alaska. I don't think Disney has obtained permits for those areas. You don't want to miss getting up close to those glaciers. Make sure whatever Alaskan cruise you go on includes one or both of these areas. Ok, enough unsolicited cruise advice, I just couldn't help myself : )

Chief Family Officer said...

@Kacie & Christina - Thanks for reminding me why the Alaska cruise is my dream vacation :) Christina, thank you for your recommendations, I will definitely consider doing the cruises separately!

Kelly said...

I would also recommend a Princess cruise to Alaska. We went a few years ago during the week of July 4th, and it was perfect! No rain and in the 70's all week! They have a lot of fun things for the kids to do!

Anonymous said...

No money could ever replace the chance of bonding among family members during vacations. I hope you continue with your plans. Good luck! My Well Of wealth

Mama Bird said...

I agree with Peter Luke Baptiste...years down the road you will have lovely memories and photos of a wonderful experience that you were able to share with your family. I say, take advantage. Start a travel fund now so you can do this sooner rather than later. Life has a way of getting in the way of things if you let them...especially for people who have strong financial goals. We often put the finances ahead of life experiences. I think this would fall under the category of 'striking a balance' that I've seen you write about before. Just my two cents...good luck.