Disney on a Dime - Chris Carlson

Disney on a Dime
Chris and Kristal Carlson

This book is an interesting mix. First off, it's short. There are just over 200 small pages. It sends mixed messages. "No childhood is complete without a trip to Walt Disney World". How's that for guilt for poor parents? Then it says "It is likely to be one of the most expensive trips you will ever take." I suppose they're trying to convince you to buy the book, but it bothered me a bit.

A lot of the tips here are common sense. Make a budget. Their sample budget shows that tickets (just entrance fee, no food or anything else) cost a family of 4 $710 - but lodging is only $160 for the exact same time period. That's a really scary statement, but it's true. They say to have a penny jar and to open a savings account. Use coupons at the store, have a garage sale. So far I'm not seeing the real value of this. I knew these things.

They talk about not buying souveniers. They say to take all hotel freebies you can get your hands on. They say to take the plastic cups your drinks are served in. Again, not quite tips that I want to know or need a book to think up. There's a section on what to pack - no tips on saving money there.

Now of course many of the tips are helpful. Send for the free Disney planning DVD that Disney offers. Get a hotel with free breakfast. Get a Disney Dining Card if you want to eat at restaurants a fair amount. Sign up for every official Disney mailing list on the web so you can get news of discounts and coupons. On the other hand, they push you taking food into the parks, something against Disney policy. When I go somewhere, I don't deliberately plan my family's health around rule breaking.

The lodging has a good amount of detail on Disney hotels, then lumps all non-Disney places as "off site" even though some are right in the Disney system. It also gives hardly any details to choose between them. Some of the information is simply wrong.

There are sample budgets and menus which might help if you've never, ever taken a trip before - but most of us know how to do a chart that has a line for transportation, one for food, one for lodging and so on.

There's an end section on 101 free tips. Sample tip - ride a bus. Sample tip - shop in the stores. I suppose these are free, but they aren't very appealing to me. In fact, the Lego store gets 4 different tips there alone. A few of the tips were neat, but a substantial block of them were not what I would call freebies.

I have to say I was very disappointed. I was expecting real tips that would directly save me money - on lodging, on food, on things to do. In a very few cases it was true - but in those cases like "get a Disney Dining Card" that is already trumpeted on every site and book you read. None were new tips. Most were silly tips. You can do much better with a regular book on Disney that mentions money saving advice while it fills you in on all the main details.

NOTE: I wrote this review after a thorough study of the book, and felt it to be fair. When I posted it, I immediately received a 2,241 word response from Chris Carlson. I took the time to answer each of his questions, in detail, to help explain my stance. I received messages in response with phrases such as "I can see by your extreme comments you are plainly stuck on your opinion even if it means thwarting the truth."

Here is an example of what Chris is complaining about:

Disney Policy: no outside food

Disney on a Dime: "There is absolutely nothing wrong with ... brown bagging your theme-park meals. ... you will save a lot on food by packing your own to eat in the theme parks instead of buying all your meals at the theme park restaurants and counter-service establishments. You'll need to pack your food and drinks in a cooler that you can leave in a park locker until you want it."

Me: "... they push you taking food into the parks, something against Disney policy."

Chris Msg 1: "No one that we talked to said that it was strictly forbidden." (acknowledging that they did encourage it)

Chris Msg 2: "[you are] accusing me of encouraging people to ... "sneak food in" ... you start throwing these lies around. None of these statements are mentioned in our book."

This is just one example.

My core complaint with this book was and still is that it has *very* few "Disney" tips. There are lots of tips on coin jars and garage sales. There are lots of tips on travelling cheap. However there is only a tiny amount on *Disney* savings. My secondary concern is that I gave a fair review - and have since received numerous messages from Chris pressuring me because of it.

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