So for a short-term Disney fix, I drove the two children to Reading, Pa. - a town that's about the farthest thing on earth from the Magic Kingdom - yesterday to see Disney on Ice: Princess Classics.
I opted for $25 tickets, wanting to ensure we'd be able to actually see some Princesses from where we were sitting. A $2 facility charge is tacked on to the price of each. (One wonders: What, exactly, is a facility charge, and how is that different from, um, a ticket?) Anyway, the arena looked to be only about a third full, and I felt smug for eschewing Ticketmaster and buying at the box office, thereby eliminating another $18.30 in fees. On the other hand, I frittered away $8 on parking and another $8 on concessions.
It was worth it, though. As the show started with Jasmine leaping around the ice, Leah, 5, kept muttering, "Whoa" and "Look, Mom!" She didn't notice that Ariel bore a striking resemblance to Kathy Griffin, Belle moved like she was carrying the Beast on her shoulders, and all the skaters were lip-syncing. Leah was enthralled. I shouldn't have been surprised. This is a girl who, when asked to set the table for dinner, often sighs dramatically and says, "My dreams will never come true."
(My son's favorite part of the show was the Zamboni clearing the ice during intermission, and for his $27 ticket he selected a seat on my lap.)
Still, it was a much more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than, say, a kid birthday party at Bounce U. Jasmine could skate, as could Prince Charming, who landed a triple jump. And some of the best entertainment at Princess Classics is from the little gals who come to the arena dressed in their princess garb. Leah was vaguely peeved I didn't alert her to this custom. She's got a rockin' Cinderella costume, gloves and the tiara and the whole bit, and why on earth was it back home in the closet?
My personal victory was steering my own prince and princess away from the souvenir stands, which were set up conveniently at 2-foot intervals around the concourse, with all the merchandise at eye-level for a preschooler. As I was trying to hustle my kids past the tables and into the bathroom, best I could tell everything was $12 at least - starting with the stuffed Flounder, and going up to $24 for the princess dolls. My kids were drooling over the $20 whirring Cinderella flashlight and $10 buckets of popcorn. Call me a mean mom; but I figured the experience of the show was fun enough. If they want souvenirs, they're going to have to make sure they've got one of their grandmas with them next time.
Total for the excursion was still a king's ransom: $97, not including the gas for the 80-mile round trip drive. There's no way we can do trips like this every weekend. On the bright side, I thought, as the two kids were snoring in the backseat on the way home, if we do even a few more Disney-inspired outings, maybe my husband will realize he'll actually save money if he takes us to the real thing one of these days.
More on MoneyWatch: