I’ve booked it, but I can’t pay for it

I booked our December Disney trip about a year in advance. We’ve been talking about this trip for a long time—the last trip was three years ago, and we’d love to take our almost 3 and 6 year old this winter. I had a vacation fund and everything.

Then, my spouse was showing symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, so we rushed him to the hospital. The doctors said we were absolutely right to take him in…but it turned out to be nothing. That was a really big bill. Then our car broke down. Another bill. Then our house needed some emergency repairs. Another bill.

We had to use our vacation fund to avoid debt, but I haven’t canceled our trip yet. We wouldn’t be able to save all that much in the three months before we have to pay. I just read that 75% of Americans use credit cards to fund their vacations. I’m normally in the anti-debt camp, but we’ve had such a hard year, and it breaks my heart not to be able to give our kids this experience. Part of me feels like putting it on an interest free credit card and paying it off over the next year.

Has anyone else been in this situation? What did you do?


If we don’t have the funds we don’t go! It’s hard but SO rewarding. We had to delay our 15th Anniversary trip by 6 months because I had emergency gallbladder surgery last year. My DH & I have been picking up extra hours when we can and adding the extra to our vacation fund.


There is no way I would go into debt for a vacation. WDW will still be there next year. It would be terrible to create a debt and then have MORE financial emergencies. It could be devastating.

ETA we cancelled our trip to WY in 2017 because we needed a new minivan and a roof. It stunk big time. But it was 2018 before we knew it and we did a road trip to SoCal and DLR!


The thought of delaying has got to be disappointing, but as a silver lining if you go later your little one may be tall enough to ride more rides, and more of the new upcoming attractions may be open. Disney is great but not worth going into debt for. That would only add to your stress. Maybe you could find an alternate something special to do this December while you continue to look forward to your trip?


I don’t think you will regret postponing your trip and slowly saving enough that you feel good about spending the money on vacation down the road.

I personally, would put the vacation on your credit card especially if you don’t owe that much. Just save what you can before your vacation, and charge the rest. You can start to pay it off when you return. Family vacations are important, and looking forward to one is even more important. BUT if you are going to stress out about the debt, don’t charge it.


Very personal decision. For us, if we don’t have the cash we don’t go. Several years back we had to cancel because of several issues that came up and ate our vacation dollars. It was painful but for us it was the right thing to do.


I would reschedule the vacation for December 2020. That will give you time to get rebuild your vacation fund back up. I know it’s difficult to disappoint your kids but you are not cancelling the Disney trip just reschedule. Schedule something special this December that fits into your budget for the kids. Sorry for the unexpected events & bills!!


Don’t go into debt for a vacation–75% of Americans might be doing it–but this sounds so wrong. The debt will add to the stress of life, which will compound with everything else you have going on.


Not sure what kind of vacation you had planned, but have you considered scaling back based on what you CAN afford? Stay off-site, fewer days, no park hopper, fewer meals out, more cooked meals, bring snacks, don’t book after-hours events, etc…

Honestly, these forums (and the book/site in general) are great for identifying ways to cut costs, but can also sometimes set unrealistic expectations of what you need to do to have fun.


How much is your vacation going to cost as of right now (roughly)?

I’m with @hoopsters here. Sounds like you don’t have any other debt thanks to the sacrifice of the vacation fund and the rush to the hospital probably made you very aware that time is very limited, so if it were me, I’d go. Especially if everyone is currently healthy enough TO go. Worry about that balance once the memories are made and you are enjoying the pictures.

Not to be super bleak but what if that pulmonary embolism turned out to be something serious? What if it comes back? You’re considering canceling right now for what reason… just to avoid being a few thousand dollars in debt for a year? The same amount of debt you’d be technically in anyway should you put the vacation off (I’m guessing money would be regularly diverted into the new vacation fund, at likely near the same rate as the card’s repayment schedule)?

And if the card you’ll be putting it on is interest free, what’s the harm? So if you can feel confident you can pay off the card within the time frame, and aren’t going to stress about the balance, I’d say go for it.

And just to properly don the #enabler cap for a sec: it’ll be cheaper to go now than later. Cause Disney is always raising prices :cowboy_hat_face: (but seriously, this is like the weakest reason to go now)


I am in the same camp most everyone else seems to be. If you can’t afford to go, you should wait.

If you can afford a scaled down trip, then perhaps have a scaled down trip (stay off site, shorter number of days, eating less in the parks, etc).

But, I’d also be careful about not having any kind of emergency fund leftover if you do that. What happens when you return from even a scaled down trip with your finances drained, and then something ELSE unexpected comes up? Or, what if you actually do put the trip on credit and then something else bad happens after the trip? Not only wouldn’t you have funds, but you would have an existing debt sitting there staring you in the face.

I have found that I enjoy vacations orders of magnitude better when they are already paid for before we leave. When I used to have PART of the vacation going on credit card, I had a hard time just relaxing. Ever since going debt-free vacations, I’ll NEVER go back to going before they are fully financed.


I absolutely agree with many of the others. Vacations are a luxury item, and we never finance luxury. Delay the trip, or scale it back to fit within your CASH budget.

We came home from our honeymoon trip with over $2500 in unexpected home repairs. Had we not had the savings, this would have been a major setback.

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I wanted to follow up regarding this.

Your 3 year-old will have no direct memory of the trip, as much as you hope they do. At best, they will be able to look at pictures of the trip later. Even the 6-year-old will likely forget a lot of details in the years after…at least based on what we’ve found with our own kids. For our last Disney trip, our youngest was 6 years old. Despite the fact that he pores over the photo book we put together of the trip, it is amazing how much he just doesn’t remember.

So, if you really want to be able to “give your kids” this experience, waiting another year or two might actually be a better idea. Just food for thought.


This is very true. I was 17 my first trip and I don’t even remember a lot of that!

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I am in the go-for-it, charge it camp. My family (DH, DD6, DS2) went on a kind of low-key trip to Pennsylvania in July, and we charged most of our meals on my Discover card (extra 5% cash back on restaurants, so hey, bonus). Even if the kids don’t remember it, it was a LOT of amazing together time that is hard for us to find in our regular day-to-day lives. I also have a very different attitude towards money than my husband…he is a saver, I am a spender. I always think of the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when the grandpa talks about money and says “they print more of it every day!” You can make more money, but once the time is gone you can’t get it back. Whatever you decide though, go with it and don’t have regrets! :slight_smile:


I’m of two minds on this one. From personal experience we had to cancel a 2016 trip (well, I went but without the rest of the family) due to an unexpected expense that ate our Disney fund.

I was so sad but over time I realized my kids were a tad young for Disney at that point (they were 3 and 5). Waited and saved and then last year we were able to book the Ultimate Disney Christmas package in October and surprise them. I was glad we waited as it worked out for the best for us as a family and financially.

This year we’ve had so many issues - my dad just finished radiation for esophageal cancer - and it’s just been a really rough year that made me realize how short life is. I was sorely tempted to book a last minute trip to Disneyland this summer with the extended family. What if my dad isn’t here when we plan to go in a few years with my sister and her family? But I just couldn’t do it.

I think you should postpone Disney and book a mini trip somewhere. One thing I’ve done with my boys the past few years is individual trips to see The Nutcracker. It’s performed in the theater of an old school, fancy hotel so we make a day of it (it’s a long weekend for me) and they get to go to dinner or lunch with me one on one and pick out their own nutcracker.

We’ve also gone to Hershey, PA in December and stayed at the Hershey Lodge. Not nearly as much $ as Disney but still so much fun (they have an indoor waterpark - it’s not huge like the Great Wolf waterparks so really good for younger kids).


Go on your trip. You never know what the future holds. You never know if you, your husband, or your children will be around in a year or two. It sucks that you had to dip into your vacation fund, but if I were in the same situation, I’d still go. My most recent trip to Disney was 100% financed with a bank loan. I got a good rate and will only spend very little in interest once it’s paid off. You can’t put a price on the smiles, laughter, and excitement of your children. Whether or not they remember the experience later on, you will remember.


But not everyone.

I’m with @Randall1028 on this.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Randall and I are both single men with reasonable incomes. We can afford to take financial risks.

People with families have other considerations, but . . .

Are they, though?

My parents both worked and constantly worried about money, to the extent that, from after I was around 7 years old, they never took time off work and we never went on family vacations. Literally never. I have zero memories of fun times with my family. Because there weren’t any. Well, other than . . .

I think there’s some truth in this. Except that my family did take one vacation together when I was around six years old — to Canada and the United States. We drove from Toronto to New York. And back. It was awesome. I still have snapshot memories of it. As I type this my mind is filling with pictures of what we did and what we saw.

It’s arguable that trip changed my life. It was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with the US that even led to me living there for a while.

My advice? Make this trip happen. Somehow. Scale it down, cut it back. Minimise. But make it happen, and if that means a thousand dollars on a credit card, so be it. I don’t know about the US, but money’s cheap here in the UK. Almost all my borrowing is at 0%. I have a bank loan at 3%.

Because Randall is right — you could all be dead tomorrow. The clock’s ticking. No-one’s getting any younger. Who knows what the future will bring. Live life now. Don’t put it off.

There is a compromise here. If you know me from my postings, you’ll know I’m the king of upcharge events, but they’re not necessary. They really are luxuries. Still my No. 1 favourite thing to do in WDW is arrive at Main St and look down it towards the Castle. And that just costs the entrance ticket. Or walk into the lobby at GF — and that’s free to everyone.

Everyone gets three FPPs per day. At MK it’s not remotely difficult to get more. At the other parks, many things don’t really require them anyway.

Food? Meh. Take your own. Besides, if the vacation is for the kids, they don’t care about that. Merch? Forget it. Don’t even go there.

Because there’s one point I’m not sure anyone’s made yet — vacations are important for mental health. If your future is nothing but worrying about whether your spouse’s health may decline, then you’re in for some grim times. You need something to look forward to. You need an escape.

And you can do it. Pare it down. Cut it back. It’s still Disney World.


Well, I was in the “other” camp until I read your posts @mousematt and @Randall1028. I would scale back though as much as I could