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Childhood Memories: Life & Vacation on a Budget

My husband thanks my parents often for raising a daughter who is thrifty.  Don’t get me wrong; we have everything we need, but if I had a lot to spend, I could find a way to spend it.  But overall, I’m just like my mom.  Bless us all.

We never knew it, I guess, but she bought a lot of our Christmas gifts at garage sales and thrift stores.  She worked side jobs so our family could have “play money,” or to surprise my dad and contribute to buying him a “new” old car. (an Oldsmobile; the “Boat” as we affectionately called it).

We waited until my youngest brother was old enough (4 or 5 maybe?), and then it was time for THE DISNEY TRIP.  The coveted, once-in-a-lifetime, driving in the green-station-wagon-with-a-peach-fender trip.  If you take a look at Disney vacations now, you can probably assume that the cost 30 years ago was pretty comparable based on a salary in the 80s. But my folks were committed to showing us a good time, family budget style.

There are 4 things I remember most about that trip: (not kidding)

  1. I loved the Peter Pan ride.  My little brother did not.
  2. My little brother loved It’s a Small World.  I did not.
  3. These shirts… (Please forgive the scan-of-a-scan of a photo album under cellophane. And the hair.  And the shorty-shorts. And tall socks.  Just forgive all of it.)  That’s me in the middle of 3 brothers, with my bangs cut straight across.
  4. Potatoes in our hotel room. (and yeah, let me explain that one) 

So, 1. and 2. don’t require much explanation.  Brother, sister, you get it. We’re friends now, but basically any photo of us together before 1990 has him looking like, “I think my life is in danger.  Please get me outta here.”

No. 3, I include because of this: my mom wanted us to have the full Disney experience, but not at Disney full prices.  Instead, I’m pretty sure she got our matching tees at Kmart rather than pay for them at DWorld. (Y’all know Kmart, or are you too young for that? It was basically the “please don’t let my friends catch me shopping here” store.)  In any case, she did what she had to do to make it fun on a budget.  I’m sure my teenage brothers loved the matchy-matchy.

No.4: Potatoes.  My other distinct memory from this trip is cooking potatoes in an electric skillet in our hotel room. What? I think we had some other stuff with it, but I remember sliced potatoes.  Taking 4 kids to Disney ain’t cheap, so my parents saved money where they could.  My mom now says that it’s because there weren’t as many fast food places or even restaurants back then  (WAY back in the 80s), but I think it was mostly because it’s dang expensive to eat out, we were on a budget, and kids are fickle about what they order and will actually eat at a restaurant.  

And here’s the deal.  There was no Pinterest.  We used Kmart for tshirts. And there was no Disney Travel Cruise travel agency to book us a room in Cinderella’s castle for $6 bajillion… per night. And – potatoes.  

But you know what? We had a BLAST.  I remember that trip to this day: the whirling teacups, and that blasted song inside It’s a Small World, and all sleeping in one hotel room, and driving across the country in that old station wagon, and my dad’s killer mustache…  

So, if you’re planning a family vacation this summer, go all out if you want.  Just remember this: good memories can be made no matter the price tag.  I’m 36 years old and I still remember those were some darn good potatoes.

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