How I Went To Disney For Free
If you are looking at this post to find a quick trick to get a free Disney trip then this is not the blog post for you. I definitely know how to go to Disney inexpensively, in fact my family of four went a few months back for only $1300. That included four plane tickets, six nights in a hotel, a rental car for six days, a day at Disney Magical Kingdom, and food. Maybe I will write a post about that trip in the future, BUT this post is about how to live a lifestyle that opportunities like a FREE trip to Disney comes to you.
For those that don’t know me I am Ja’Net Adams. I paid off $50,000 of debt in two years and now I travel the world sharing my story and strategies as an International Speaker, Author, and Consultant. One of those strategies I share focuses on saving money. In fact recently during my “5 Day Money Boot Camp” I did an entire webinar around ten ways to save money in your everyday life. One of those saving tips was to look for free things to do around where you live.
When Times Were Bad
During the two years I was paying off the $50,000 of debt my husband and I did not go out to eat. This was a sacrifice we made to be able to put as much money towards the debt as possible. One day I was looking through one of the free magazines I found at the front of the grocery store and seen a FREE healthy cooking class that was once a month. We used this healthy cooking class as our date night once a month. Experiences like this helped me develop the money mindset I have today. It is the reason why I ended up getting a FREE trip to Disney.
Although I have been debt free for a while now my mindset around money is the same. I still look for ways to save money in my everyday life. An opportunity came up to join a FREE healthcare program in the city I live in. The program “Project Care” is a program designed to help improve the health of the African American community. Their outreach was aimed at African American churches and I was the liaison for the church I attend. My role was to introduce the program to members of the church, get those interested signed up, and then make sure they participated in the program.
Overall the program lasted for twelve weeks and over that time we received a free biometric screening, free gym membership, free weekly health coaching with a personal coach, weekly health tips and recipes, free nutrition counseling, free Garmin Activity Tracker, worksheets around healthy eating, and much more! Project Care went above and beyond my expectations and the bonus was that it was all free!
As a result of the program members who participated seen their weight go down, bad cholesterol decrease, A1C decrease, blood pressure decrease, and overall health improve. On my end it help jumpstart me exercising again and focus more on the food that I was feeding my two children. Everyone that participated in Project Care said they were glad they joined because it showed them that living a healthy life was possible!
Once In A Lifetime Opportunity
A few weeks after the program ended I received a phone call. It was my health coach asking me would I like to run a 5K on behalf of Project Care? In my head I said to myself “Ja’Net you have never come close to running a 5K”, but I wanted to help the program in any way that I could because they had already done so much for me. I responded to her and said that “I could definitely try.”
She went on and shared more about the 5K. That the race would be in a month and that it would take place in Orlando. It was a run put on by Disney and if I decided to run that a foundation would sponsor me to run. In addition to the run I would also be given an all expense paid trip to Orlando and that I could invite three other people! All expense included four FREE flights, FREE hotel stay for four nights, FREE Transportation, $100 each to eat with, and a FREE day at a Disney Park! By the end of the explanation I was glad that I had said YES!
When I hung up the phone I was in disbelief and immediately went in the den to tell my husband! I told him about all the free things I was getting and then at the end I told him that all I needed to do was run a 5K. That is when a confused look appeared on his face and his next response was “you can’t run a 5K!” My husband has known me since high school and although I was a Division 1 collegiate tennis player he knows how much I hated running. He knew I hated to run a mile so how was I going to run three! I told him don’t worry about that because I was determined to be ready in a month, but deep down inside I was also doubting myself.
The Journey Begins
The week after I received the phone call I started to train. Through “Project Care” the church received an elliptical machine so that exercising could continue after the program ended. A couple of days that first week I arrived to the church early so that I could work out before choir rehearsal and bible study. I would run a mile on it, but after the second time I realized that I needed to do something that was more like the run I was going to do. The next week up until the actual race I ran inside a basketball gym and although it was not outdoors it still ended up working out.
On the first day of running/walking I discovered that twelve laps around the gym was a mile. The first day running in the gym my lungs were able to handle six laps running and six laps walking. Two days later I ran seven laps and walked five. This was my strategy until a friend walked in the gym and seen my running technique or lack thereof. Alasha pointed out that the way I was running bent over that I would never make it through a 5K. That running bent over would not allow me to breathe in the air I needed throughout the race. She went on and shared an app that would help me get closer to my goal. This was the same information shared with me by two other people, but this was the first time I understood it was an app they were talking about.
The app C25K is designed to take someone who has never ran a 5k up to speed in eight weeks. Well I had less than three weeks and so I needed to kick it up a notch. For the next three weeks I ran two miles in that gym almost every other day. Outside of the running I was doing push ups, sit ups, and jumping rope. I even tried cooking meals that would help with training. This 5K journey took me back to the time I was in “Project Care” but I was building on what they had already taught me. I was working out harder, drinking even more water, and cooking consistently instead of eating out. By the end of three weeks I was running/walking two miles in about thirty minutes which I was proud of. I knew that I could do the three miles in under an hour on race day.
Moment Of Truth
Only a select few knew why I was training for a 5K. My husband of course as well as my mother who was going on the trip because my husband did not want to go back to Disney after being their a couple of months earlier. There were about three other friends who knew as well. I kept the secret from my two children because I wanted it to be a surprise the day before we left for Orlando. All they knew was that mommy was training to run for a race. On multiple occasions my daughter would train with me in the gym. She is only six but while I ran two miles she would easily get in one mile! While I ran, my son was in the gym doing basketball training with my husband. In the first time ever all of us were working out for real.
The time finally came to head to Orlando! The night before my 7AM flight I went into my son’s room where he and my daughter were and told them to mute the tv. I said to them “You know that 5K that I have been training for over the last month? Guess where it is?” These two said everywhere, but Orlando. I had to eventually tell them that it was in Orlando and I was leaving the next morning. Then I told them that they would be flying down with their Grandmother the next night. On that news alone they started screaming. Then the screams got louder when they found out they were going back to Disney!
Whenever it is time to participate in a sporting event it is game time! As soon as I stepped on the plane to head to Orlando I knew it was game time. It was time to see if I was going to be able to accomplish what I have been training a month for. I arrived in Orlando a day before the race and as soon as I arrived I jumped on the Disney Magical Express to the hotel. This bus and the hotel fit the definition of the Disney experience! Kindness and hospitality from start to finish. It did not matter who I encountered their demeanor was the same. A big smile and helpful attitude. When I arrived at The Grand Floridian and walked inside I was greeted by a massive Christmas tree.
I only had time to put my bag down because I needed to go to Disney’s Wide World Of Sports to check in. The health expo where check in was had plenty of activities and vendors. I could not wait to come back the next day with my family. I went and retrieved my race number and headed back to the hotel. That night the company I was running the 5K for put on a dinner for the runners and we even had two special guests join us. Afterwards I went out by the water, watched the fireworks at Magic Kingdom and waited for my family to arrive.
When my children arrived that night they could not believe how big the hotel was and that we were going to stay there for four days for free. This hotel was the one they see on the Disney channel everyday and now they were going to get to stay at it! When they reached the room they jumped on the beds in pure excitement. Excitement came to an end fast because it was late and time for bed because mama had to prepare for one of the biggest tests of her life the next morning.
Time To Run
3:30 AM came fast! I got dressed and made it to the bus by 4 AM. The bus took all the runners running on behalf of the company to Epcot Center where the race would take place. The company had their own heated tent with breakfast, drinks, and heat! It was 50 degrees outside and dark which means it was freezing. I had on three shirts and a coat with a hood. When I arrived at the starting line I was able to see how really big this race was. There was at least 500 people in front of me and maybe 1000 behind me. The countdown to start finally came and each group of 100 was released by fireworks. I was in the fifth group and when those fireworks went off I started running!
I had never been to Epcot and now I was running through it. It was exciting looking at all the different parts of the world represented in the park. I seen China, Japan, Canada, Germany, Norway and others all while hearing Disney music in the background. As I neared mile one I saw my first Disney character. There was Donald Duck taking pictures with runners who had arrived there before me. After seeing Donald it was apparent that this was a fun run and that I could relax and just run the race. It was also assuring to know that I was not going to come in last at the finish line and that I actually may cross the finish line before hundreds of people!
I kept running through mile two then mile three only stopping to take pictures of other Disney characters and the Epcot ball. When I reached the finish line I had made it under my goal time of 45 minutes and I was not that tired. A true surprise, because I thought my lungs were going to fall out on race day. I made it. I accomplished my goal! Now that the stress of the race was over it was time to get the family vacation started.
Health Is Wealth
Once the race was finished I needed a two hour nap, but after that it was time to take advantage of the health expo at Wide World of Sports. Going to the expo with the kids was way more fun than when I went alone the day before. We got Disney tattoos, took pictures with Mickey, took advantage of all the free games and activities. We stayed for two hours and had a blast!
Place Where Dreams Come True
The next day it was time to head to Hollywood Studios and the kids could not wait! We jumped on the free bus and made our way there. Traveling this way was much easier than by rental car a few months earlier when we visited Magic Kingdom. The bus dropped you off near the front gate so you didn’t have a lot of walking. Before we entered the gate we took a family picture in front of Mickey so that we could have it later as a memory.
Our first ride was the most popular ride in the park and that was Slinky Dog located in Toy Story Land. My six year old daughter sees this ride on the Disney commercial everyday and was disappointed that it was not at Magic Kingdom when we went months earlier. I didn’t care how long the wait was we were going to get on that ride! It was scheduled to be only forty minutes so the waiting period began. My mom who had not been to a Disney park since I was a child had forgotten about the busyness and crowds at the parks. She could not believe that it would take forty minutes to get on a ride. When we finally made it to the front of the line we split in two different cars and prepared for the rollercoaster.
My family screamed the entire time while I laughed. This was a rollercoaster, but it was not a massive rollercoaster that I was used to. We went to other rides like Toy Story Mania, Star War and Tours, but the best part of the day was the live experiences. Of course there were various characters throughout the day that the kids took pictures with such as Daphne Duck, Doc McStuffins, BB-8, Chewbacca, and Princess Sophia. There were performances in the streets by the Toy Story Soldiers and Star Wars Stormtroopers that kept us entertained throughout the day. Although those performances were great it didn’t come close to the performances that were yet to come!
Lights, Camera, Action
We decided to check out the Indiana Jones live stunt show mainly because it is a movie that both my mother and I know. Also we could introduce it to the kids. We arrived pretty early so we were able to sit in the second row. After about thirty minutes the show started and Indiana Jones came out and did a few amazing stunts. When the scene was done the “assistant director” appeared and said “cut!”. She welcomed everyone and let us know that we were about to see an amazing show. She then paused and said “before we bring Indiana Jones out again I need a couple of volunteers.” In my head I was thinking that a lot of people were going to jump up so it didn’t matter that I stood up and yelled because there was no way that I would be picked.
I was one of the first two volunteers picked. As a volunteer I actually became an “extra” in the Indiana Jones movie! The assistant director told us what we were supposed to do in each scene and we were involved in three different action scenes. One scene even had a car exploding and gun fire! When it was all done I couldn’t believe I got to do it and the cherry on top is that my kids thought it was so cool that their mom was a part of the movie!
Next it was the children’s turn to try out their acting skills. I signed them up for the Jedi Training where they were able to dress up as Jedi warriors and fight Dark Vader! Before they reached the stage they walked through the park. Once they arrived at the stage they were part of a twenty minute show. They both enjoyed it even though my eleven year old tried to act like he was too cool for it.
Save The Best For Last
After the Jedi performance the sun was beginning to set and the weather was getting colder and colder. We grabbed dinner and then headed to see Fantasmic which is Hollywood Studios firework show. We were lucky to get down in the front so that we could be close to the action. I thought it was going to be like the firework show at Magic Kingdom, but it was completely different.
Fantasmic was a performance and told a story. The story was around Mickey, but involved Disney characters from decades ago until now. My children kept asking me “who is that?” I enjoyed sharing with them movies and cartoons from when I was their age. The performance had floats with characters on it and water shooting out towards the audience. It was non-stop action for over thirty minutes! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day!
Time To Relax
Our last day at the Grand Floridian Resort was spent with us having family time. After breakfast we went and found the basketball court so that my son could shoot some shots. Then after that we went to the room, put on our swimming suits, and headed to the pool. The hotel had games for the kids at the pool where they could compete with other kids. After the pool we went to dinner and then out to the fire pit for smores. We ate the smores two of the nights that we were there and it was absolutely delicious.
Once the smores were done I played giant Jenga with my kids and then Jocelyn and I went to the movie on the lawn. That night’s movie was Moana and while she watched the movie I looked over the water at Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show. It was the perfect last night of a perfect vacation.
The next day we headed home on our free flights and realized how truly blessed we were to get this opportunity!
Paying off the $50,000 of debt in two years created my current mindset around money. It is fun to me to find ways to save money or to get things for free. It is that mindset that put me in position to join the free healthcare program that led to the FREE trip to Disney! Now that I have been able to get a four free flights, four nights in a hotel, $400 dollars in gift cards, free transportation for four people, free food for four people, and four free tickets to Disney Hollywood Studios I now know that anything is possible. What is even better than that is my children now are developing the same mindset and can see what is also possible!
BONUS: HOW TO DEVELOP A MONEY MINDSET
1. Decide that you don’t care about what other people think- This will free you up to make hard financial decisions so that you can be financially stable and grow wealth going forward.
2. Determine what you want most out of life- Write down your dreams/goals and keep them in front of you until they are accomplished.
3. Look at your monthly expenses to see what you can cut back on- Bringing in more money should always be your goal and cutting back on your expenses will help you achieve that. You can use that money to pay off debt, save, or invest.
4. Over the next two weeks when you are about to buy something see if you can find a way to not pay full price or at least save money on that purchase- This will develop a saving money mindset that will add more money to your bank account each month.
5. Learn to say the word “NO!”- Saying no to those around you will keep more money in your pocket.