As Cindy and I drove back from a very entertaining 5-day vacation at Disney World (3 actual days at the park over Thanksgiving weekend – this certifies us as crazy), we marveled at the expense of visiting one of our favorite family getaways.  Hotel here, entrance ticket there, Mickey ice cream way over there (who can turn down one of those chocolaty delights? Impossible).  It all started adding up fast – and summing up to be a major financial downer.  Crap, we almost needed to turn around and go back to the Happy Kingdom to get a pick-me-up.  Wait, that would cost a whole bunch more money!  Dang it!

We started to debate what we could have done with the money instead of going to Disney World (a game Cindy usually hates because I tie it to how many hours we had to work to go in the first place). Maybe we could have gone for two weeks camping the Oregon coast, maybe more than a week in the Florida Keys, or maybe a week at Disneyland in California – oops, that’s the same thing.

Costa Rica was finally our destination of choice for the comparison.  Warm, entertaining, beautiful beaches, bananas, and monkeys. I’d kick Mickey to the curb for a chance to feed and get peed on by a monkey.  Yes, I said peed on because when a monkey is happy, it will pee on you. Everyone knows this.

So, the big question everyone is wondering – and no, it’s not what medication I’m on – it’s how much did Disney World cost?

  • Hotel (off site – makes it cheaper) – $550
  • Drive to Florida from Texas and back – $230
  • Disney World 3-Day Passes – $1464 + $60 parking for 3 days – $1524
  • Food/Snacks during travel -$45
  • Food at Disney World – $650 (Gasp!)
  • Souvenirs – $75 (girls actually bought most of their own so this was cheap)
  • Other – $170

Total cost of $3,234 or $1078/day.

Now what did Costa Rica cost us when we visited it several years ago?

  • Beach house for 3 weeks – $625
  • Airplane tickets – $1250 (current airfare from Houston to San Jose thru SouthWest)
  • Car rental for 3 weeks – $660
  • Food for 3 weeks – $650
  • Activities (like monkeys, sloths, scuba certification) – $1560
  • Souvenirs – $250
  • Exit fee – $134

Total cost of $5,129 or $244/day.

Now before you jump to any conclusions about which is more expensive, let me give you more details.  When we went to Costa Rica, the US dollar was in the cellar – terrible exchange rate.  So terrible the Costa Ricans were using US dollars for Monopoly Money because the colored Monopoly money was worth more.  In today’s dollar (exchange rate), the total cost of the Costa Rica trip would have been $4,745 (10% cheaper).  One other modification would be to subtract the $350 for 2 weeks of scuba diving training (by-the-way it changed my life) in order to get a truer picture of the family vacation and it reduces to $4,395.

For $4,395 (or $209/day), we ziplined a volcano, played with monkeys and sloths, watched sea turtles lay eggs, went snorkeling, lived in a beach house, and on and on. I described living in Costa Rica in my book as literally “living the dream.” I still believe that today.

Interjection, Cindy tells me that “living the dream” doesn’t involve eating beans and rice for at least one meal a day with no air conditioning.  She might have a point with the beans and rice but Costa Ricans love their beans and rice and so do I.  And as for the no A/C, we didn’t really need it because we left the windows open at night.  That’s not that big a deal.  What was a big deal was the jungle noise.  This simple act of having open windows allowed us to listen to poison dart frogs chirp as we were going to sleep and to listen to a particularly noisy songbird as we were rising in the morning. Come to think of it, that dumb bird would come every morning to our window and bawk and wake us up. The bird was a masochistic weasel that only wanted to torture us. The poison dart frogs were tranquil and soothing. Funny how the thing that could kill you I wanted to hold and pet, but the thing that should have been musical and beautiful I wanted to strangle. Irony, jungle irony.

I digress, let me get back to the point.

So even though going to Disney World was fun and we would do it again, it’s fascinating that with only a few hundred dollars more we could have spent three weeks in Costa Rica.  And who would pass up ziplining, scuba diving, and beans and rice.  The only thing that could make this whole thing better would be a songbird singing me to sleep at night.

Or a squawky one to wake me up in the morning.  

That’s living the dream!


Note #1:  I had to recreate the plane flights since our RTW trip made Costa Rica a layover and we couldn’t get a proper breakdown of what the actual flight would have cost us. So this is actual costs for current flights to Costa Rica.

Note #2:  Food at Disney World can be outrageously expensive, especially when you eat lunch at one of the World Showcase country restaurants.  We could have made the food price a bit cheaper without two very pricey meals.  In general though, a family of five is going to be $65 a meal in the park.

Want to learn about other crazy things we have done?  

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