Is it still the “Happiest Place on Earth”?

Well I have just returned from what is probably my 45th ish time to Disneyland with Sara and Emily.  We spent a week bouncing around southern Cali from Disneyland to Universal to Knotts.  As usual we had a great time, but this morning as I take the first look at the charred remains of my checking account, I have to start asking myself if it was worth it.  A quick estimate of how much the entire trip cost with airfare (and keep in mind I got free hotel from my Hilton points) puts me somewhere around 3 grand.

Let me just say that we had a great time.  Can I, should I put a price on these faces?

I guess the real question is somewhat of a moral one for me.  Disney is not the greatest company and does it makes sense to let them rape my checking account in exchange for our week of fun? I’ll go one further, did we have fun? We did but I’m not sure that was because we were at Disneyland or if it was just because we were together, laughing, joking and just being generally goofy (pun intended) for a week. Most of our good times came from the silliness that is a certainty when Sara, Emily and I are together without supervision.  Emily constantly giving us the “cheese touch”. Sara and I discussing the lack of attractive men in their 40’s and me addressing every Disney employee by name (much to Sara’s horror) are just a sampling of the hi jinx that we engaged in.  What else could we have done for 3 grand? There are lots of places we could have gone and done. I think we could have done Europe on the cheap for a week if I could have gotten a good airfare.  We certainly could have done Mexico and maybe Hawaii.  Once you spend 3 thousand dollars for a week vacation, there are loads of things that can be done at that price.

Disneyland these days is almost certainly packed to the gills with kids and parents, which means that you are going to stand in lines all day for everything.  The lines for all the good rides were an hour. Soaring Over California was 90 minutes.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, if you want to buy a water to quench your thirst after standing in line for 90 minutes, Disney is going to bend you over to the tune of $4 for it. Want a sweat shirt for the kids $50. Dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant $130.  My god I can eat at some amazing restaurants for that price.  And is the food worth it? Absolutely not. Its mediocre at best.  Insult to injury.  Disney isn’t happy enough to charge you $75 dollars a day to get into their park, they want to make it hurt once you are there.

I have to question the morality of it. Disneyland is supposed to be a place for families. The plaque on the bridge as you enter Disneyland states “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy”. Walt’s vision was a place where all people could come and enjoy a bit of old world fantasy. I’m not sure it was his intention for me to feel like I have been robbed every time I buy a water.

I grew up loving Disneyland and I don’t remember my parents ever complaining about the cost of things.  I remember my mom and dad fighting about how to GET to Disneyland but once we got there, it was one of the rare times my parents weren’t fighting.  Disneyland was always a place where Kate and I connected as well.  There was just something about it that has always held good memories for me, but increasingly as I get older I am just not as happy with this “Happiest Place”.  For the same money I could have given my girls a cultural experience. We could have visited another country. We could have eaten great cheap street food. We could have learned new words in another language. We could have met people that expanded our view of the world and people around us. We could have hiked in a jungle, swam in an ocean or waded in a stream.

As a parent, I need to do a better job of where I spend my vacation dollars. My kids have seen enough Disney for a while. I think next time, I will spend my 3 grand to expand their view of the world around them and not just fill Disney’s grand pockets with my hard earned vacation dollars.