Costs at: Disney: 6 Nights at Kidani Village in December 2010 with 40% discount= $1002.50
Split total cost of $2005 with my parents
Deluxe Dining Plan: 72/night/adult= $432
7 Day Hopper Park Ticket=$301.00
Total Cost= $1735.50
My Daughter was 2 at the time, so she did not require a park ticket and I could not buy her a dining plan.
Costs at Williamsburg:
Timeshare Extra Vacation Getaway=$363.00
Williamsburg Annual Pass=$58.00
Zoo Tickets= $26.00
Virginia Living Museum Tickets=$65.00
Additional Expenses= $100.00
Total Cost= $1062.00
Difference between two vacations= $672.00
I know initially that number seems big, but it shrinks as we move along. In addition, originally we had planned to go to Disney in September of 2010 with my husband and daughter and stay at Port Orleans Riverside with the Deluxe Dining Plan and that trip total for the 3 of us was $1600. So, in reality the Disney trip could have cost a lot less but my mother had a stroke and we had to reschedule and she wanted to stay in a condo on the rescheduled trip, so we did. But onward...
I'm not going to go into a great deal of detail about the costs of lodging. I'm going to focus on the "park/museum" and food costs. We went to Williamsburg in April, just last week and it is considered the off-season. We wanted to go to Busch Gardens for a day, lunch with Elmo, but it was closed during the week and we did not want to spend $68 for a one day ticket. There is a pass available for 7 days that has unlimited admission to Williamsburg and Busch Gardens for $102.00 (online, advanced purchase), if you happen to go when Busch Gardens is open. We purchased the Annual Pass for Williamsburg because it was the only ticket that could get us into Williamsburg for the length of our stay. (I had never been there and I assumed that we would want to be there every day of our trip) They sell either one-day, two-day or the Annual Pass. Initially this seemed like the right thing to do. If you have never been to Colonial Williamsburg you must have a ticket to enter any building. You can walk though the streets without a ticket but to go in you must have a ticket and there is someone outside of each building to make sure you have a ticket. As I said, this was the off-season so there was less going on at Williamsburg than during peak season but we caught the Fife and Drum Parade on Saturday, the only day it was scheduled. During our entire stay there were no Redcoats on the Green or other major activities during the day. There were multiple guided walks and lectures, watching re-enactment of trials and government debate but not really anything suitable for a two year old. At night there were programs for families. And here is where the "value" piece of this comes into play. The pass to Williamsburg only costs $58.00 but for almost every activity there is a charge. So, for the 15 minute carriage ride at $12.50 person x 4 people= $50.00. The evening dance program was also $12.50 person x 4 people= $50.00. And before I get any nasty e-mails I'm not saying these programs were not worth the cost, I'm saying that they were an additional cost. So, our original gap was $672.00 minus the additional $100 in programming, we are now at $572.00
Do you see where I am going with this? By the time I tally all my receipts from my vacation the difference between the two trips ended up being like $150.00, conservatively. I can't find some of our restaurant receipts so the gap was probably smaller than that. I didn't even count gas in the cost. So, in reality the vacations cost nearly the same.
I think Williamsburg is s great place. I was a history major, I love museums but there was no way we could have spent our entire vacation at Colonial Williamsburg. So, one day we went to the Zoo in Norfolk. Another day we went to the Virginia Living History Museum and we also spent a day at the beach. These were at least an hour from Williamsburg and while they were well worth the trip it was time in the car. additional money and gas. We could have gone to Jamestown and Yorktown for closer trips but I have a two year old. And while she loved being able to roam Williamsburg I didn't think another museum day was in the cards. So for three days of our trip we were away from Williamsburg.
Now, we went to Disney in the off-season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We were there during one of the slower times of the year and every day there were parades and fireworks. In addition, my $301.00 in park tickets allowed me access to FOUR theme parks. The parks are huge, they kept us busy during our stay and we didn't see everything. The shows we saw were amazing, and no one charged anything extra. One night we watched the Electric Water Pageant and there was no charge. Another day we were at Downtown Disney. My point is this, there was enough to do on property to keep us busy and not having to drive anywhere else. While at Disney I never once paid for any additional entertainment.
I have also reached a point in my life where time and money are important, but time might be more important. And when you're on vacation the last thing I want to do is drag my two year old around in the car. At Disney it was a short bus, tram, monorail ride to our destination. She thought that the transportation was part of the fun. (Really, she kept yelling wheee this is fun) It was less fun for her to be in the car in Virginia. So, to me the value of the Disney system was worth any extra cost.
I know that these are two completely different types of vacations. I know my child will appreciate the Williamsburg trip more when she's older. This really isn't about that. It's about my money and where the return on my investment was greater. Did Disney initially cost more? Yes! But in the end I ended up spending about the same amount and I spent more time in the car, more time figuring out what to do and feeling like I was being nickel and dimed by Colonial Williamsburg. Our entire trip I kept muttering to myself, "And people think Disney is expensive." I know there are vacation spots beyond Disney. I have an extensive bucket list that doesn't include a Disney Park, so this isn't about my believing Disney is the greatest vacation ever. It's about the consistent myth that Disney is SUCH an expensive vacation. It's not. To me the cost seems about average and I think the value is far greater.