The time when my ego overtook my brain…

When I learned that FinCon’20 will be at Long Beach, California, my first thought was that this would be the perfect opportunity to go to Disneyland with Mrs. T and the kids the week after FinCon. 

I pitched the idea to Mrs. T and she was totally up for it. Back in 2015, we had a great time at Disney Sea in Tokyo when Baby T1.0 was almost two years old. By FinCon’20 later this year, the kids will be six and four, and they should be able to enjoy more rides and attractions at Disneyland.

The other day, I was putting on my trip-planning hat and started doing more research about Disneyland. Since I’m an Excel nerd, I put together a trip budget Excel sheet to estimate how much a week-long vacation in Disneyland/LA would cost. 

Given that we plan to be gone a week, I thought spending three days in Disneyland would give us plenty of time to check out the different attractions and not feel rushed. When I checked out the cost of Disneyland tickets, I was shocked. I knew Disneyland tickets were expensive, but I wasn’t expecting $100 USD per person type of expensive. As it turns out, 3-day, one park per day tickets for two adults and two kids would cost $1,160 USD or around $1,500 CAD. 

Disney

My next shock was how expensive flights were. At the time of search, return airfares were around $450 CAD per person, or $1,350 for Mrs. T, Baby T1.0, and Baby T2.0 (I’m not counting mine since I’m going to FinCon anyway). 

If I wasn’t shocked by how expensive things were already, my next shock came in the form of hotel cost. If we stayed at a Marriott property close to Disneyland, it would cost us anywhere from $800 to $950CAD for four nights of stay. Originally, I was planning to stay with family friends in LA for the rest of the week, but they weren’t available that specific week. This meant we would need to stay at a hotel for the other two or three nights. Three nights hotel in LA could cost around $200 CAD a night. 

With 3-day Disneyland tickets for four people, four nights hotel at Disneyland, three nights hotel in LA, and airfare for three people, the cost of the trip added up to $5,500 CAD. This amount, of course, doesn’t include any food or local transportation cost. 

When I saw $5,500 CAD in the Excel sheet, I felt a knot in my stomach.

“Wow, $5,500 CAD, that’s a lot of money,” I thought to myself. 

Given that we spent $54,906.02 in 2019, $5,500 would account for 10% of our 2019 expenses. 

10% of our annual expenses in seven days!!!

“No way, we are not going. That’s too much money!” I told myself.

I immediately felt really terrible for saying that. I wanted my kids to have the chance to visit Disneyland, the magical place on earth. Having a week-long vacation in LA after FinCon’20 would be the perfect opportunity, since we probably wouldn’t get that opportunity again (i.e. combining business and pleasure trips together). The kids would be so disappointed if we didn’t go to Disneyland. Mrs. T would be so disappointed too. I wanted to be able to provide to my family. I wanted to make my family happy.

All these thoughts were going through my head. I felt terrible. 

When the kids were sleeping, I talked to Mrs. T about the trip estimate. She agreed that $5,500 was too much money to spend for a week in Southern California and that we should do something else instead.

I told her that I felt terrible and about all the thoughts that were going through my head.

“Isn’t this your ego talking?” she asked me.

Right away, I realized that Mrs. T was right (as usual). 

I was feeling terrible because of my ego. My ego was telling me that I had to take my family to Disneyland after FinCon. My ego was telling me that if I didn’t, I would be a terrible father and fail to provide a good vacation for my family. And it was my ego that was telling me that I would disappoint Mrs. T and the kids if we didn’t go to Disneyland.

Truth be told, Mrs. T could care less if we went to Disneyland or not. All she cared for was if we could spend quality time as a family. Whether that be at Disneyland or at home, it doesn’t matter for Mrs. T.

The kids could also care less if we went to Disneyland or not. In fact, they probably wouldn’t have a clear understanding of what Disneyland is anyway, especially for Baby T2.0. They probably would have just as much fun spending three days at a playground (side note, the kids spent about three hours going down a cool slide by Osaka Castle when we went to Japan last year).  

For some reason, I had put Disneyland on the pedestal, thinking that going to Disneyland is something that I must do to make my family happy this year.

As I stepped back and reflected on what had just happened, I realized that this is no different than Financial Independence Retire Early. Some people put FIRE on the pedestal, believing that only when they are FIRE’d, they can finally be happy. 

But life doesn’t work that way, does it? When we are happy because of a singular event, that happiness is typically short-lived, and we’d end up having a quest for another event to make us happy again. In essence, if happiness is externally driven and stimulated, it is not sustainable. We need to find happiness from within.  

After talking to Mrs. T, I was relieved. I realized that nobody except me had the expectation of going to Disneyland later this year. If we do end up going, great. If we don’t, that’s great too. 

Regardless of what we do, life will go on…

PS After additional number crunching, I realized that the cost of the trip can be much cheaper than previously estimated. First, Disneyland has a 20% discount for Canadian residents, so the tickets will be slightly cheaper. Since we’ve been travel hacking and collecting Marriott Bonvoy points, we have enough points to stay five nights in a Marriott Disney property for free, then use the free-night certificates we get from the Amex credit cards for a two night stay elsewhere in LA. In other words, the hotel accommodation cost will be $0. Then, by finding cheaper airfare and applying for the WestJet MasterCard to get $350 WestJet dollars, we should be able to reduce the airfare cost to less than $500 for three people. That means the total cost of the trip can be around $1,500 CAD (plus food and transportation), a decent price for a week in LA, I think. Maybe we will end up going after all? We will see…

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33 thoughts on “The time when my ego overtook my brain…”

  1. I live within a half hour of Disneyland and haven’t been there for a long time. It is way more expensive than it is worth. Might I suggest Knott’s Berry Farm. It is is closer to Long Beach and has the distinction of being America’s first theme park.

    Reply
      • I was gonna suggest that you can buy your tickets in advance for Knotts berry off their website and sometimes the savings is real good. Or you can prepurchase your tickets in advance at like $65.00 a day, good any day of the week. You can do one day of each park and the third day go on a fishing excursion lol. Long beach also has an aquirium i think

        Reply
  2. Thanks for sharing Bob. This post is a good reminder of how we can all get way too caught up in our own heads and end up over analyzing the situation.

    It’s great you have Mrs. T to help you see the situation in another light. That’s very important.

    -DGX Capital

    Reply
  3. Like the process you used and your reasoning in the end. I don’t think we ever gave that much thought about taking trips. Our rationale was, do we want to go and if so, let’s try and find a way to make it reasonable (as you did by looking for some cost savings).
    The actual cost, as compared to a budget never entered into our decision. If we could afford it and wanted to make it happen, we did. As long as you are not giving up something you don’t want to or taking funds from areas you need, go for it.

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    • Yea we usually think like that too but this was a bit of an exception due to the length of the trip. Like mentioned, we’re looking at travel hacking our way there to reduce the overall cost.

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  4. There are lots of websites and blogs about saving money at DisneyLand and DisneyWorld. You just have to google them and learn from the people who are fanatics about Disney and have all the savings and scheduling tips.

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  5. $5,500 is a lot of money just to visit Disneyland. Mrs. RB40 wants to take our son too, but I don’t really want to go. I’m thinking they can go when I’m at FinCon. Actually, I think one day would be enough for them. We’ll see…

    Reply
  6. Hey Bob, I’ve been reading for a long time but never comment, more of a lurker these days on PF sites… Sort of got out of the blogging thing when I started liking my job or something like that 🙂

    I’m going to give you the argument for the other direction you probably don’t want to hear. First is that going to long beach could be written off as a business expense I’m guessing which would be more financially within your favor than not. So flights, some food, and some hotel days could be written off. I’m not saying this isn’t money that might be better allocated elsewhere by not going but at least some of it could be. Next would be that Disneyland prices will continue to remain the same (if not go up) so if you ever plan to go, then that cost is somewhat fixed (unless you make friends with an employee of the park). Also, your kids are probably coming into the prime age that Disneyland is geared towards. While your kids will be perfectly happy not going, what I learned by going with my niece and nephew was that half of the trip is for the parents getting to see how much joy it brings them. Also to be clear, there will be tears and frustration when tiredness kicks in, but when your kids aren’t tired they will be on top of the world.

    Anyways, my point is, if you’re planning on going to long beach for something that could be considered a work expense that you could write off parts of, it will be the cheapest opportunity to do it. Money comes and goes, don’t put that on a pedestal either.

    Reply
    • Good point. Yes my portion of the trip (FinCon) will be written off as a business expense so the calculation was only for the rest of the family. You’re right, my kids are around the prime age for Disneyland, I think they’d really enjoy a trip there.

      Reply
  7. Hola! Like you, the first time I looked into taking my twins to Disneyland, my eyes bulged at the cost.

    One thing that saved me some money on the park entrance was buying the tickets from Costco Canada. The rate arbitrage made it the cheapest tickets for our family of 4 at the time. Also look at the Marriott hotel that’s right across the street from the entrance (can’t recall if its a Fairfield or a Springhill now) but it was cheap, our family of 4 could book a room and it was a 10 minute walk to the park gates.

    Reply
  8. Tawcan –

    You are one lucky man and bless your wife for keeping it all in check : )

    I also am a big fan of – you can always find another way to do it – and your brain is already working on seeing if it’s possible by thinking differently – i.e. reward nights, miles, etc..

    Keep us updated, please!

    -Lanny

    Reply
  9. Another fun place to go for a short trip from Long Beach is Catalina Island. You can take a ferry from Long Beach and get to the island to explore the small seaside town of Avalon. They have restaurants, bars, hiking (up the mountain), snorkeling, parasailing… lots of fun things to do away from the hustle and bustle of the big city (LB).

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  10. This is a great example of why it’s so important to take a breath before making a big expense — doing so, you were able to make an informed, not ego-driven choice; and you were able to find some savings options. I think Disneyland and other big brands have so much marketing to make everyone feel like their activity or product is a must-do and that somehow you’re a failure if you don’t do it. That’s just good marketing for them, but we don’t have to fall for it! That said, I returned to Disneyland as an adult a few years ago, and the Star Wars ride was really fun. If you do go, I highly recommend that one!

    Reply
  11. We’ve done that trip a couple times. Your kids are really at a great age. Some things that helped us. Stay near park (we stayed at Marriott Fairfield), so you can walk back for a mid afternoon rest if the littles need a break. Then head back for late afternoon and evening. The crowd seemed to thin. We took plastic bowls and spoons and had cereal and brekkie in our room every morning (hotel likely has bar fridge). One less meal out every day. We know families that go every couple years. That’s wasn’t for us, but def a great family memory. I would highly recommend going in conjunction with work trip…kids at perfect age in my opinion. Mine now 15 and 17 and they still remember it. Yes, it’s $$$….but price never goes down for Disney. Our kids also enjoyed Legoland (geared for smaller kids). Have fun!!

    Reply
    • Staying close to the park entrance seems to be most people’s recommendation. Makes sense so you can take a quick rest in the afternoon. Finding a hotel that has free breakfast is also important. 🙂

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  12. Sometimes we tell ourselves a story and then we forget that it’s a story that WE narrated, not one that everyone else necessarily believes! I do that sometimes. It’s a good thing you talked it over and realized that before committing too deeply or feeling terrible about it.

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  13. I say if you can afford it and it’s within your budget, then go for it. While we strive for FI, it’s important to enjoy life (with reasonable expenses) along the way. I no longer believe in scrimping and saving, living frugally for over 10 years just to reach FI. I save along the way while enjoying a modest life.

    Reply
  14. I know we’re in the minority here, but our family tends to find Disneyland way over-rated. We live in LA and have never felt the need to visit with the kids. My parents wanted to come down for a Disney trip with us recently, but we had the exact same experience of total shock when looking into how much tickets + hotel would be – ESPECIALLY if you want to go to both Disney and CA adventure. We ended up talking them out of that. However, if you do end up going, I’m sure you could save yourself some points/costs by staying in an AirBnB in a town a little farther away and not close to the beach.

    Reply
    • Hi Elise,

      Yea, I definitely had a price shock myself. It’s an expensive trip and that’s why it makes so much sense to invest in Disney stocks. 🙂

      AirBnB is a great idea, will look into that. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Reply
  15. We are Disney fanatics, but agree that the cost is prohibitive! It sounds like you’ve found lots of great hacks to get the cost down—nice work.

    One more I’d suggest is to use Air Miles—Disney tickets are one of the better redemptions for AMs. I believe around $0.17/mile. (But it’s been a while since I checked, and I’m not sure how it works out when you factor in the discount for Canadians.)

    Reply
    • Good point on Air Miles… we don’t collect AM though, never found it to be that great of a deal to collect these miles. Something to think about in the future for sure.

      Reply

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