My $30,000 lunch

Almost exactly three years ago, I was invited to lunch by the mother of one of my students. She mentioned that she owned a home in Orlando and that I was very welcome to use it if I wished. Since my time with her daughter was coming to an end (so there were no conflict of interest issues) I accepted her offer.

That decision ended up costing me around $30,000.

My first trip to WDW was during the last week of August, 2017. I stayed off property at my student’s (beautiful) home, and I went with a friend — for fear that it would be odd going alone. And she did the driving.

Arrival day was perfect.

Our first stop was MK and we got there just before 6pm. Almost as soon as we entered Town Square the Move It Shake It Mousekedance It Party started. It was as if they had been waiting just for us.

We slowly made our way to BTMR and then Splash. From there to the HEA dessert party with Plaza Garden viewing. Even though a young girl’s intrusive dancing during HEA really irritated me, HEA itself blew me away. The projections, the music — and the words. I’d never experienced anything like it.

I’m not going to re-write my entire trip report for that trip, or for the four that followed it, but suffice it to say that being “blown away” by wholly new experiences was to be the theme of the next almost three years.

I was hooked. Almost as soon as I got back home after that first nine night trip, I was desperate to go back. I remember craving the Cobb salad at HBD and the steak at LC.

So I did go back, the following July. Again for nine nights, but this time I spent two on property — one at the Poly and one at YC. But this time I travelled alone. Highlights included dinner at V&A and the WAT — the Wild Africa Trek.

By November of the same year I was yet again experiencing a desperation to go back. It was so strong I booked a Christmas trip immediately. This time staying wholly on property — at Pop. (I felt I couldn’t keep asking my student’s mother if I could use her house, and I wanted to experienced the bubble.)

This was the most magical Christmas I think I’ve ever had. While I had some good Christmasses as a young child, I had become very Bah, Humbug about Christmas as an adult. WDW broke that. This trip was full of magic. It was wonderful. As much as anything it was the unplanned, spontaneous moments that spring to mind — feeling blue for some reason and leaving MK, only to bump into the Dapper Dans as they started up. Exploring WL when a bell-ringing group suddenly started to play their set.

Oh, and this —

Did you ever see anything so beautiful?

2019 saw two more trips — this time June, and again in December. In June I stayed at CSR; in December I was back at Pop.

Two trips were planned for this year — in June and in October.

All told, the five trips that actually went ahead — 37 nights — cost me around $30,000. A big chunk of that was the flights. Nine hours is a long flight and I hate flying. So I flew either in Premium Economy, or in Upper Class — Virgin’s version of business class, which features lie-flat beds. If you know what you’re doing, these flights aren’t as expensive as you might imagine. But they’re not cheap.

(Sadly this cabin no longer exists. COVID forced Virgin to do a restructuring of its fleet and it has abandoned all its 747 aircraft. End of an era indeed.)

And no-one does up-charge events like I do.

As a single man, I answer to no-one. There’s no-one to tell me to hold back or to stop or to dial it back. I’ve done every dessert party (actually, except the ROL one) — the HEA dessert party many times (all three variants). I’ve done MNSSHP and MVMCP (plus dessert party, plus parade party). I’ve done all three versions of DAH (MK, AK, HS) as well as DVAH. I’ve been on the deluxe dining plan. Twice. And, as I said earlier, I’ve dined at V&A and I’ve done the WAT — also twice. I’ve done the non-private VIP tour at UOR three times, as well as the UOR equivalent of DAH — an Orlando Informer Meet-Up.

I have an addictive personality (no? surely not?) and Disney became my cocaine. It wasn’t just the vacations themselves. It was the planning — which spoke to my mathematical side, and to my desire for perfection. I think it’s entirely possible I spent more hours planning my trips than being on them. I got so good at it, I can plan a trip from scratch — fully fledged, all ADRs, all FPPs, the entire trip planned in 15 minute increments — in a single day.

You could frame these and put them up on your wall as art.

I’ve been incredibly lucky, pretty much from the get-go.

My first trip was off-property, so I had no FPP advantage. A liner umbrella’ed me into her trip allowing me to book my FPPs at 60 days.

My first trip was shortly after Pandora opened. My second was shortly after TSL opened. My fourth was shortly after Gran Destino — which revolutionised CSR — opened. My fifth was shortly after ROTR opened. (I rode it three times.)

I made friends with another liner, which led to this —

That would be a Club 33 baseball cap. Yup, I’ve been lucky enough to visit three of the four Club 33 lounges (AK hadn’t opened) multiple times. And I’ve even been on a private VIP tour. The exclusive pins they give you are two of my favourite souvenirs.

Oops. I appear to be showing off my Club 33 magic band. Actually, that one’s a sore point. It’s never been used. It was going to be used for the first time this June.

Clearly my cup has runneth over. Big time.

I don’t think I ever thought it would end.

I wrote earlier this week about the increasingly difficult emotional price of taking trips to Orlando — leaving my soon-to-be-10-year-old dog behind. And COVID has changed what’s on offer so much that I don’t know that I could bear to be part of it. And I wore a surgical mask this week for a couple of hours on a quite warm and certainly very humid day. It wasn’t fun at all.

I continue to believe that this amazing ride is over for now. My personal finances have taken a hell of a beating — $30,000 in three years? Seriously, WTF?

My current thinking is that I won’t return to Orlando again until after that very dark day when Calvin and I are parted. And that — when that day does finally come — I may well return very swiftly indeed as a way of trying to deal with it. We’re talking booking a flight, booking a hotel and leaving home within days.

I still can’t quite bring myself to cancel what’s left of my October plans. Financially there’s no advantage in doing so. The refundable parts don’t need to be cancelled until the week before I’m due to depart. Who knows what will happen in the next four months.

But it is time to step away from all things Disney for now. It’s too addicting. I need to find new things to focus on. I need to give my attention to other things that deserve it.

I leave you with this. It’s an appropriate picture to end with, and one of my favourites.

I’ll be back. One day. God willing.

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To WDW?
To the forum?
Or both?

I hope it’s not meaning goodbye. I hated not reading your trip planning dilemmas the last times, not being on FB. Without those the trip reports seemed less exciting somehow, not knowing the constant “refining” that had gone on.

But good luck if this was a farewell post. Hope to see you back soon.

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I think both, alas.

I need to try the impossible task of forgetting about Disney World.

Well, I’m not about to sweep the souvenirs off my mantlepiece into the bin. And my favourite souvenir of all, is staying on my desk for sure. In my mind it represents me and Calvin.

Also, I bought this for myself for my birthday. The Imagineering Story really inspired me to think about the other parks.

But yeah. I’m off. For now.

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Actually, I may do one last thread — just photos. I would like to curate the many photos I’ve taken and make an album of the very best and most significant.

I keep using the analogy of a break-up and that’s how it feels. And like in a real break-up, you have to have some space between you and your ex before you can become friends again, if being friends makes sense to the relationship.

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:disappointed_relieved:

I hope to see you back on here again soon. I think a pause from Disney sounds like a healthy decision, especially given the uncertainty with travel and park experiences in the near future. Hopefully the time away will allow you to save up for an epic return!

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@mousematt - I’m genuinely sorry to see this “friendship” go on hiatus. Strange as that sounds, since we’ve barely exchanged words to each other, but have probably read thousands of each other words (make sense?). I’m in the same boat as you and will probably be “social distancing” from WDW and this forum myself. It is just too hard on me to keep going back and forth on decisions, both big and small. Only compounded by the complex issues going on at home, locally, and globally. :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:
Cheers, Jordan

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That’s a terrific Mickey/Pluto!

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@mousematt thank you for sharing your story here and throughout the last couple of years. all the best to you and calvin.

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Just in case you need to hear this today: Don’t goooooo!!! I love your posts, and I’d hate for you to leave the forum. Just sayin…

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Hi MouseMatt!
I hope you are back long enough to read this. I have not been on this site for a while and logged in today for some reason, and there was your post! I was moved by your story and would like you to know you cheered me. What is a bit sad for one person, may make the day or another. You have given me a positive look at doing things you may have not thought possible. You gave me some magic when I truly needed it!!! The best to you!!

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This was actually very interesting to read, I’ve read many of your posts but this gave a good background story.

I recognize and share some of the qualities you mentioned regarding your personality and traits. I’ve had to walk away from things that I got pretty obsessed with, I won’t go off topic and into detail but I spent a lot of money on certain hobbies. It was difficult and I needed help to focus, but it worked out and I now have a healthier approach to those things.

I guess what I’m trying to say is (and you probably know this), it’s possible to rebuild your “relationship” with these types of things, whether its WDW or anything else. I wish you all the best.

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Wow, your post felt all too familiar. Our Disney obsession started with surprising our 5 kids with a trip for Christmas that same year (2017). We spent late feb-early March '18 on a week long trip (also off-site) and were instantly hooked. Driving home was depressing and I made it to summer before coercing my husband (it wasn’t hard, he was hooked too) to take a trip sans kids for my birthday in August. We then surprised the kids with a trip to Universal that Christmas and of course snuck over for MVMCP, because we couldn’t be that close and not visit the Mouse. By February I had booked a week at AOA to take advantage of free dining and our last chance to stay in a family suite before we outgrew the occupancy. Come September and we spent a fraught-filled week watching and debating if our trip was canceled from Hurricane Dorian. We decided to go for it and had an excellent experience with low crowds despite missing some park time with the limited hours as the hurricane passed. I had just discovered I was expecting #6 so we left sad, expecting a disney break would be necessary. Well, I just can’t stay away. I had the hubs convinced to take a “babymoon” and celebrate our 15th anniversary (which happens to be today : ) before the baby was born. I spent so many hours planning a perfect trip. Despite my ride limitations, I had dvc properties booked that we could never afford with the kids in tow, yummy dining reservations planned, fastpasses I had rearranged and modified to perfection. I was juggling hotel rewards, southwest points, credit card miles, gift cards, etc to make it happen. We were set to fly out March 17th… Days before our trip the world shut down. That was some serious darkness for me. We had said goodbye to our beloved family dog of 12 years just a few weeks prior.

I say all that to express that even though we have very different situations, my story mirrors yours in so many ways and I completely understand how you are feeling. I also have had to distance myself from all the blogs, youtubers, forums, etc that I had spent so much time obsessing over. It hurts so much to even think about planning anything right now, even though I desperately need something to look forward to, because there’s so much uncertainty about when the Disney I love will actually be back. Until then, take care Comrade.

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What day planing software did you use?

YES! We hate the last day of a trip… well the day before last… it is depressing. hmmmm, sign of addiction? I don’t care!

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I use Excel.