By: Kris Banas
Have you ever tried to keep a Disney trip a secret from anyone? No? Well, it’s a lot harder than you think! If you have, you know what I am talking about. In this story, I am going to start with the beginning of the secret and end the story with the big reveal to the recipient, my husband.
We begin this story almost one year ago. With a big/special year coming up for my husband Paul and myself, I wanted to do something in grand Disney style befitting of the celebrations at hand. Yes, I said celebrations, plural.
This year, 2014 Paul and I had some wonderful things to celebrate. First is his three year anniversary of being cancer free on May 10th. WHOO HOO! Second, was our fifth wedding anniversary on May 16th! Yippee! (He put up with me for 5 years already!) Last, but definitely not least, was his 60th birthday on June 9th. Three VERY big reasons to plan a VERY BIG surprise.
Last July I made the decision to book a cruise for us, which is cruise #2. Our first one was on the Disney Dream in October of 2012. This time, I booked a cruise aboard the Disney Wonder which will leave on October 31st.
We will be sailing out of Miami. When I booked this cruise back on July 10, 2013, I had a somewhat general idea of airfare costs, but was shocked at the cost of flying to Miami vs. flying into Orlando. First off, Southwest (our airline of choice) does not fly into Miami. It does fly into Ft. Lauderdale, but after reviewing transportation cost of getting that 28 miles, and then back again, it was just as cost effective to fly right into Miami. We will have to fly Delta on this trip.
I did not really worry about the airfare right away, but kept checking prices and watching for drops (hopefully) in the amounts. The secret part was tough. There were so many things I wanted to share with Paul about this cruise. Planning is part of the fun after all. It’s more fun when you can talk about it together, and throw suggestions back and forth about excursions and dinner reservations.
I had a garage sale over the 4th of July weekend last year. The money from the sale was going to be put toward our deposit. Unfortunately, I didn’t do as well with the sale as I had hoped, partly because of the holiday I think. Fortunately, I had some money saved up already, so with the money from the sale and the extra, I had the $250.00 for the deposit ready to go by July 10th. I had to get clearance from work about taking time off at the end of October into the first week of November. In retail that is kind of a no-no. I got the ok from my boss, so I was good to go. I budgeted out how much from each paycheck I needed to put in a secret savings account I have. Paul and I have separate checking accounts, and this is how I was able to pull off the surprise without him catching on. If we had a joint account, there is no way this would have happened.
I opened the savings account and then started taking about $35.00 per week from my check and transferring the money into the savings. I was shocked at how fast the money added up. I had all the money for the cruise by January, and was then working on the air portion. Besides just putting the money in the account, my bank has this special savings called “round-up” savings. Each time I use my debit card (and I use it for everything!), they take my purchase amount and round it up to the next dollar and put the excess into my savings. I was able to save an additional $150.00 by doing that! Best move I ever made.
As for the airfare part of the story, like I touched on earlier, flying into Miami is costly. I was checking all sorts of travel sites like Expedia, Priceline, Hipmunk, etc. I use Expedia frequently and get email alerts from them so I put my dates in, and they would send me alerts for different flights for our dates. I wanted to fly out the day before as I am one to not take changes on flights being delayed, or anything happening to delay our arrival at the ship on time. So, this meant booking a hotel in Miami as well. Disney Cruise Line has transportation that will pick you up at Miami International, or three different hotels in Miami. (I will get back to this in a moment.)
One Monday morning at the beginning of March I got an email from Expedia telling me that a new flight had been added to the Delta schedule. The price not only dropped by over $150.00 a person for a round-trip ticket, but it was leaving out of Midway in Chicago instead of O’Hare. Midway is only about 35 minutes from home vs. over an hour to O’Hare. This was a no brainer! My big problem... I didn’t have the money all saved for that part. I was close, but was not quite there yet. I could not use our credit card because Paul would see the charge, and it would ruin the surprise. So, I called my Mom, and said I needed her help. She graciously allowed me to borrow her credit card, and then I paid the bill when it arrived. So, I booked the flights and also booked a hotel using Booking.com. They have some super prices on that site!
Getting back to the hotel story. After researching some different hotels and finding out which locations DCL would pick us up, I decided on the Conrad Miami on Brikell Ave. It’s a beautiful place, with very high ratings from Trip Advisor and also on Booking.com.
I made the final payment on the cruise back in May, as I wanted it all paid for when I gave it to Paul for his birthday. I had also been buying different things on eBay, the Disney Store and Amazon that were related to our cruise ship. First I wrapped the paperwork showing everything is all paid for in a small box. I tied the papers with a ribbon and then wrapped it. I put that in a bigger box with one of the items I purchased in that box, and wrapped it. In the end, he had 7 boxes to open, each getting bigger. It was a pretty big box he had to open! I had things like a DCL tee, a baseball hat, a model of the ship, postcards and such in all the different boxes.
When he got to the final box, he looked at me and said, “What did you do?” and “Who is paying for all this?” I said, "I am taking you on a cruise, and it’s all paid for already! Mr. I always worry about money.”
As we have learned the hard way, life can be too short to worry all the time. It gets you no place. With Paul and his cancer, we learned to appreciate and cherish life, as it can be fleeting, and can be taken away in a heartbeat. Friends that have passed on too early, taken by accident or disease in the prime of their life, makes you appreciate the time you have and not delay in doing the things you want to do. If you wait, you will never do it. We know too many who have retired and were never able to do what they wanted to do because they became ill, or passed away shortly after. I say do things when you have your health. My sister-in-law (young-only 69) has, and she and my brother had wanted to travel after retirement. Well, now that is not happening. So, again I say, do it when you can!
We will be sailing to Grand Cayman and Cozumel on this five night western Caribbean cruise. Now we are both excited about it, and we can take the time to choose our shore excursions after we talk about them and make decisions together. We are planning a countdown here at the house starting with day 100! We have fun with these. We have already made the decision to do brunch and a dinner at PALO.
In closing, it’s fun to surprise someone with a Disney trip. It’s just hard to keep that secret when you want to share the magic and the joy.