Disney, Universal, money, and me — an oversharing thread

The point of this post is really to help me put my own thoughts into some kind of order. I find writing things down very helpful. I guess it’s the same reason some people are into journalling. I’m not, incidentally, looking for sympathy, though some understanding wouldn’t go amiss.

I spent some time last night with my beloved spreadsheets and I had something of a reality check. My income right now is down about 25% compared with this time last year. That is bad. I’m not clear on the reasons why, though there are a number of possibilities.

Last year, I was fully booked by the end of August. Given that my year starts in September, to be fully booked before the year even started was extraordinary. This year? We’re midway through October and I’m at 75%. It’s never been this bad before. I’ve been tutoring on my own account since 2006.

Perhaps it’s the economy. Things are bad in the UK and they’re getting worse. My domestic fuel bills have risen by 60% in the last year. Until today, the government had promised to keep the rise at that level for two years. Today they announced they were reducing that to six months. This causes uncertainty and anxiety. There had previously been talk of increases amounting to perhaps another 60%.

In June my landlord raised my rent by 7% and I agreed / was forced to agree to further increases of that amount for the next three years. (Finding a landlord who will accept a tenant with a dog is almost impossible. I did a search around renewal time to see what my options were. There were 80 properties in my price range. When I filtered by “pets allowed” that dropped to 4. And none were places I’d want to live.) Meanwhile, inflation is pushing 10%.

(Interest rates are rising, which actually benefits me as I’m a saver, not a borrower, but it’s hitting homeowners hard. We don’t have long-term fixed rate mortgages here. People are being hit with monthly repayment increases averaging around $500. Less money for them to spend on tutors, perhaps.)

TL; DR Income down a lot. Expenditure up a lot.

It’s not yet a disaster. I’m a reasonably good boy and I have savings. But the budgetary imbalance is ripping through them at a rate of about $1,000 a month. Something’s got to change.

My December trip is budgeted for. Everything is paid for, except food, drink and merch. This trip is about friends and friendship. It’s very important to me. I apologise to no-one for taking it.

But I have two other trips currently booked, with flights non-refundably paid for. One in April, one in June.

While I’m going to take steps to try to increase my income, I’m also going to need to make some choices about those trips. If I cancel the flights I do get something back: all the taxes and fees are refundable and they amount to a surprisingly big chunk of the overall fare. If I don’t cancel the flights, I’m committing myself to extra expenditure. How can this be minimised?

The simple answer is: Cut Disney out of the deal.

I am an Annual Passholder at UOR. I renewed a few weeks ago for another year. It cost me around $600 for the two park, Premier pass. That gives me a range of benefits, including 15% off pretty much all food, drink and merch, and Express Passes after 4pm every day. As well as the standard AP access to passholder discounts on UOR hotel rooms.

Disney is not even selling annual passes to out-of-state residents. UK guests only get offered one ticket type to buy, and it costs around $550 for seven days. Add G+ and LL$ to that for another $25 a day? Let’s say a total of $700. The cheapest hotel rooms on-property are more expensive than their equivalents at UOR. And, as I was recently reminded, ADR booking is hugely stressful and table-service dining is astonishingly expensive. I eat differently at UOR because I don’t see food as an important part of the experience.

So, given that the flights are paid for, and UOR entry is free to me, why not book the cheapest room I can find on-property, and have seven nights there? There’s a bit of sunk-cost fallacy going on here. Even this plan costs more than cancelling. And seven nights just at UOR? Will that not get pretty boring?

I don’t know. And I don’t need to decide now. AP hotel rates tend to be released within only a few months of arrival, so I could make a very last-minute decision for each trip.

So, for now, Disney has priced me out. I am unfavourable to them. Am I sad about this? Well, I’m damned sure going to make the most of the December trip. But what will I miss out on next year? Tron, for sure. But what else? They’re ditching my beloved Harmonious. What are they adding? Some nonsense stuff from the dirt pit at Epcot? Moana’s Journey of Water? WTF is that?

When does Epic Universe open? 2024? That will be the priority for me. Maybe I’ll skip WDW that year, too.

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Summer 2025 is the current expected opening, although they are slightly behind, so it might get pushed back a bit.

Anyhow, I’ll admit, our trips to Disney right now, aside from December, are minimal over the next few years. My wife and I will be going on a cruise with some friends on January 2024, and we are planning 4 night at WDW due to our DVC points (but only ONE actual park day at this point). After that? We don’t have any firm plans for another return to Disney. Yet, we have a 7 night trip to UOR in May 2023 with the whole family, and hope to return to UOR with the whole family in December 2025. So…next Disney trip after that may not be until 2026?

With inflation pretty much everywhere right now, the financial pressures are certainly real. You throw on top a lot of dissatisfaction with Disney’s direction at the moment, it becomes easy to see why dropping Disney out of the mix for the short term makes sense.

One thing you aren’t including in your description of the situation above is your own mental well-being. You’ve made it clear in the past how much these trips kind of ground you, mentally. Assuming that is still the case, is the reduced cost plan worth it for that reason alone? Sunk cost fallacy aside, is there value in the trip for you? Something to keep in mind.

On the other hand, perhaps you can find a suitable replacement for that which is much lower cost. (No idea what that might be for you, but perhaps now is the time to start looking/considering that.)

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I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but COVID hit me hard. The two trips I took in February and March this year were “necessary” and I don’t regret taking them at all.

Right now, I feel in a much better place. That being said, I am surrounded by negativity in terms of our political and economic situation. But I’m also enjoying improved friendships with Anthony and Stuart and my renewed friendship with Paul — he and I have done a number of simple, fun days out recently and I expect they will continue.

So the need to escape feels much less right now.

(Of course, life is much easier now that I’m only working 75% of my regular hours. When that gets back up to 100% I’ll have fewer money worries, but more work stress.)

And there’s always that dark day when Calvin finally leaves me. We celebrated our twelfth anniversary last week. I’m aware of the statistics. I’ve always said, the second he goes, I’m getting on a plane and flying to Orlando. That may now mean an Airbnb near UOR. Gotta love that AP.

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My expenses have increased more than my income, primarily due to my now exorbitant rent, so I completely understand money concerns. One question - would it be possible for someone stateside to purchase different types of Disney tickets (like 1-2 day tickets or even convention tickets) and then assign them to you so you’re not locked into the only UK option?

Ok I lied, actually 2 questions. I know your flights are nonrefundable, but are changes allowed? If so, and you’re worried about 7 days at just universal being boring you could potentially shorten your trips as that could also save money

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Maybe wait and decide after your December trip, which sounds epic. As mentioned above, maybe you can push the other trips out a bit, or make them shorter. After I came down with Covid I jumped on the do what makes you happy bandwagon. Adulting is so serious most of the time - we really need to give ourselves a break.

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I knew I’d forgotten something.

The collapse in the value of the pound means that trips to Orlando are now about 20% more expensive than they were when I first started five years ago. And that’s not taking into account the fact that Disney has jacked up all the prices. That ticket I was talking about? It’s 34% more expensive now, or 41% if you take the exchange rate into account.

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Yes, and I may do that. But even those tickets are quite expensive. And I have to Uber there and back from UOR. I might do a day. Two at the most.

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I don’t think they are. But I’m not certain.

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I’ve done 5 trips to Orlando with my family since September 2019, and only 2 of those were staying on Disney property. The other 3 were staying at Universal and taking 0,1, and 2 day trips, respectively, to Disney. The 2 trips where we stayed at Disney were 30th birthday trips, so they were intentionally designed to be special (read: expensive), but for regular trips we just couldn’t argue against the more cost effectiveness of UOR

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This may sound off-topic, but I wonder if the UK has changed its educational testing. Here in the States, college testing requirements have changed, especially for higher level math. My impression is that testing in your country will be coming back which I hope means that your business picks up to a more comfortable level where you have less economic stress without more daily stress.

As others have said, the drive to go to WDW changes over time. You are finding more joys in your regular life, which is so much better than finding it at WDW. You have an amazing trip planned for Dec which I recall is your favorite time to go. For me, even keeping a running plan for what I’d want to do “next time” is enough to keep me going until whenever that next time is, even if it’s a couple years down the road. I really like the suggestions of exploring options with your plane tickets in case they could be changed to something that more suits your current needs.

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@mousematt first I want to say thanks for the recent trip reports and anticipatory report, I’m really enjoying them and looking forward to your December trip and finding out how your friends react to everything!
I can totally empathize with your predicament as far as future trips. I’m in a similar boat as far as funding being severely limited for some similar and some different reasons (2 kids in college as of this year). I’m planning a delayed-from-2020 trip to take my younger kids who have never been to Disneyland in April but beyond that I have no future trips even in back of mind for WDW. Prices are getting ridiculous, and I’ve been plenty the last few years so am happy to sit back and watch from here for awhile. I do plan to take my DD9 who is reading Harry Potter to Universal sometime in the next year however but just for a long weekend. I love the HP stuff but otherwise just don’t love Universal as much.
I was wondering regarding your spent airfare, if you think that those trips would be more time than you’d like to spend in Universal, have you given any consideration to doing other things in the Orlando area such as a cruise (sometimes cheap last minute fares can be had) or some beach time? Or even flying on from Orlando to visit somewhere else in the US?

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There’s always KSC. I could probably even charge it as a business expense :wink:

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I confess I’ve only read your posts and not everyone else’s.

The flying to FL is a sunk cost, but could you do non-theme park things here? A cruise? Miami? Palm Beach? Do you like art museums? Seafood? I’m just throwing things out there…

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Would you consider sleeping in and doing a resort day or two? There are free things you can do in the area.

We have tended to pack our days during vacation to get our best value. This year, when we went to Hawaii, we did a resort day and slept in a couple other days! As such, it was a relaxing and very enjoyable trip. Of course, getting older means we don’t quite have the energy to be on the go constantly! :wink:

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you see to be pretty active to me :wink:

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If you want to keep next year’s trips Disney-focused, would you consider:

  • pretending the WDW food choices are as lackluster as UOR’s? You could skimp on food and concentrate on the nongustatory attractions.

  • forgoing Genie+ and ILL? You’d still probably be able to do most of what you want since you’d have 7 park days.

  • using rideshares only when absolutely necessary, and sticking with Disney transport otherwise?

  • skipping the merch?

ETA: I keep editing to add more bullet points.

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:laughing:

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Yeah I’m going to call foul on that one :rofl:

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Um - you do know to whom you are speaking, correct?

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I know Matt has spent a lot of time stateside, but it has been some time, hasn’t it, Matt? This could be a less-costly trip with more ROI…

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