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Ambergris Caye vs Disney World

With Disney’s central florida location guaranteeing great weather and easy access it might seem like the obvious place to visit, especially when you consider everything there is to do in the area.  And don’t get me wrong, Disney is a lot of fun…  especially if you like to walk for miles only to stand in line for hours waiting for a brief 90 seconds of exhilarating (or not-so exhilarating) fun.

But when you really start to look at the economics of the vacation, the cost of a Disney vacation really isn’t worth it.  Let’s compare a week at Disney to a week on Ambergris Caye.

  1. Travel – Sure airfare to Disney from most US locations is about 1/2 the cost of airfare to Belize and as such it would seem that Disney is the clear winner here.  And fi you are staying at one of the Disney resorts, travel is usually free between parks and the airport.  But if you decide to rent a car or take a few cabs so that you can visit some of the other Orlando area attractions, the travel advantage lessens greatly.  Add in the fact that getting anywhere in the Disney bus system is a timely affair and that you often have to stand the entire time, holding on for dear life as the bus drivers whip around Disney’s streets to beat the red lights and I’d prefer to pay the small price of a Belize cabbie any day.  Overall though, the cost of airfare alone requires that we give the point to Disney.
  2. Hotel – Hotels on the Disney property are insanely expensive. $500 a night gets you concierge floor in a property far away from the action with a room marginally better than a Days Inn or Ramada  and with no view to speak of. You can find cheaper rooms in kitschier hotels or on lower floors, but the cost is still in the high hundred range. On Ambergris Caye, the nicest resorts on the island aren’t much more than $200 a night for a comparable room and $500 a night will get you a monster suite. And you can find terrific accommodations for as low as $50 to $60 a night, some even have swimming pools and on-site bars and bars or restaurants.  Also, considering that on Ambergris Caye, your hotel options are almost always close to everything unless you specifically desire otherwise, the point clearly goes to Ambergris Caye.
  3. Attractions – Tickets to Disney’s parks are insanely expensive.  A family of three costs about $1000 for three days of fun between the four main parks.  If you want to visit one of the water parks, plan to shell out more.  And then don’t forget that you’ll want to spend a couple day’s at the other great parks in the Orlando Area.  Throw in a couple days at Universal Studios or Sea World and your price of fun goes up over $1600, and that still leaves you with 2 days to fill.  For that kind of money on Ambergris Caye, you could swim with the sharks, snorkel the longest barrier reef in this hemisphere, go cave tubing, visit a jungle zoo, explore some mayan ruins, rent a golf cart to explore a caribbean island and still have money left over to ring the bell at Pedro’s.  Not to mention that you have to pay for your food and drinks at Disney while most tours include snacks or meals and drinks. Given the authenticity and cost of the entertainment, point goes to Ambergris Caye.
  4. Service – Disney prides themselves in the training they give their staff members in customer service.  In my experience at Disney, customer service is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Sure the staff is always smiling and seemingly happy, but they know nothing about the grounds or the parks and they would rather give you false or misleading information that let you in on that fact.  Not to mention that they are way too busy to actually service your needs as a customer, after all you are one of tens of thousands of guests for the day.  Hotels on Ambergris Caye are usually less than 10 or 20 rooms with a small staff willing to get to know each guest.  They are always knowledgeable enough to get you what you need when you need it and direct you on the path to get the most out of your vacation.  A front desk agent at your local Ambergris hotel might not be as smiley as a Disney mind-numbed robot, but they have ten times the info and are always going to help you out. Point most certainly goes to Ambergris Caye.
  5. Food – Food at Disney is shockingly expensive.  A dinner for three at a fast food stop will run at least $60 with sit-down service running over $100 and upwards of $200 for the better restaurants.  You can mitigate this somewhat by buying one of their “meal plans” but generally this is a waste of money.  The meal plans are regulated such that you get so many sit down meals, quick service meals and snacks.  Heaven forbid that you decide one night you want to sit down to eat after you’ve used up all your sit down meals.  They also neglect to mention that several restaurants are “Double Points” meaning that it costs you two of your meals from the plan to eat once. Between that and the inevitable case of leaving the park without using all of your meals, any savings you expected to receive are out the window.  Meals on Ambergris Caye are traditionally viewed as expensive but considering that a family of three can eat fast food for $15 USD or less and a great sit-down meal for $45-$60 USD, the Disney experience really puts things into perspective. Point goes to Ambergris Caye.
  6. Marketing and Brainwashing – Three days after visiting Disney, our 1.5 year old daughter is still chanting Mickey Mouse, Micky Mouse.  The entire time from when you step foot on the property until you leave, you are bombarded with advertising for the Disney brand.  Impressionable minds can’t help but be programmed to fall in love with the corporate icon rodent.  Even some of the most educational rides at Disney are simply vehicles for collecting marketing data on it’s riders.  Ambergris Caye is refreshingly void of corporate influence and the education you receive is not propaganda for an oversized rodent. Point overwhelmingly goes to Ambergris Caye.

Conclusion

Even with the cheaper airfare traveling to Disney, the overall cost of the vacation will far exceed that of a trip to Ambergris Caye thanks to the savings you will see in food and hotel costs. There however is a hidden cost to Ambergris Caye.  One trip to Disney and you won’t care if you ever go back.  One trip to Ambergris Caye however and you’ll be planning you next trip before you get home.



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